Fire ecology expert Jon Keeley says this is the beginning of an even deadlier fire season

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Chula Vista firefighter Rudy Diaz monitors the LNU Lightning Complex Fire as it engulfs brush in Lake County, California, U.S. August 23, 2020. Photo by Adrees Latif/Reuters.

Hundreds of wildfires were ignited across California in recent days. In Los Angeles County,  the Ranch 2 fire in Azusa has burned 4,237 acres and was 39% contained as of Friday. The Lake Fire near Palmdale has burned nearly 29,000 acres and is not expected to be fully contained until September 2. Resources are stretched thin, and fire season is just getting started. 

Jon Keeley is a research scientist with the U.S. Geological Survey who studies fires, and he says the fires we are seeing are part of the first of two fire seasons.

“We have summer fires, and then we have these autumn fires and the causes are very different and the impacts are very different. The summer fires that we're seeing right now typically occur more in the inland areas, they're more often fuel driven,” he says. “The autumn fires, which are the one where we experienced the worst losses in terms of lives and property, those are wind driven fires, and they tend to occur more in coastal areas.”

Keeley says that fires have also been helped along by ongoing heat waves that dry out brush and chaparral, creating the perfect fuel. And come autumn, he says that those fires are impossible to contain. 

“Firefighters will tell you that when a fire begins at the Santa Ana wind event, they simply evacuate people ahead of the fire spread. They try and control the edges of the fire and then they wait to the wind side down.”

Keeley advises homeowners to not have plants near the home, and to increase spacings between structures and vegetation to at least 100 feet.  He says the most important thing is clearing off dead leaves and litter that accumulate on roofs, because when they are ignited, they can contribute to the entire home catching on fire.

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Host:
Larry Perel

Producer:
Cerise Castle