San Diego

Lack of Rain Contributor to Winter Wildfire Season

As wildfires rage in Ventura County and San Diego county braces itself for strong Santa Ana winds, there’s concern the overall threat of fire could extend into winter.

“This is not something that we’re not used to seeing, it’s just not typical,” said Cal Fire Captain Jon Heggie.

According to the National Weather Service, December is typically Southern California’s coldest month, but that usually brings rainfall. 

The difference this year is lack of rain. 

“So now, you combine that with the high wind that we’re expecting, and all the dry brush, really that is a dangerous situation for everybody here in San Diego,” said Heggie.

A climate expert at UC San Diego says Santa Ana winds typically peak during the coldest months of the year, adding to the concern of fire danger extending late into the year.

“It’s the combination of all these conditions that cause this catastrophic event,” said Janin Guzman.

San Diego County has seen its share of October wildfires, including the 2002 Cedar Fire and 2007 Witch Creek Fire, and Guzman says that could lead many to incorrectly believe Santa Ana winds peak in October, which is not the case.

Historically, San Diego has had several winter fires, including the January 2001 Viejas fire, and February 2002 Gavilan fire in Fallbrook.

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