The first day of summer Saturday is a day many look forward to, but it’s a date that firefighters in the Bay Area and across the state have been anticipating with great concern.
Just before summer’s official arrival this weekend, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, or Cal Fire, has issued a “burn ban” covering 31 million acres, or nearly 50,000 square miles, across California.
In issuing the ban for nearly one-third of the state, Cal Fire Chief Ken Pimlott warned:
“The increase in fire activity this year, coupled with record-setting drought conditions, requires us to take every step possible to prevent new wildfires from starting.”
The ban comes with California already experiencing a dramatic increase in fires.
Cal Fire officials say their crews have responded to 2,118 fires this year — an increase of nearly 70 percent in the average number of fires for the same time period.
And firefighters have been especially busy so far this month.
In the department’s weekly “Fire Situation Report” Cal Fire spokeswoman Lynne Tolmachoff noted that Cal Fire crews had been called out to more than 200 wildfires over a seven-day period, saying:
“Several of those fires expanded into major wildfires before fire crews were able to contain them.”
The burn ban — which goes in effect on July 1 — includes the burning of brush and debris by homeowners, forest management burns, hazard abatement, and other industrial-type of burns that are usually allowed with permits.
Campfires may still be allowed in designated campsites.
Meanwhile, weather officials report the drought that has been gripping California for months continues to intensify.
The latest “Drought Monitor Update” released Thursday shows even in the last week alone drought conditions have become more severe.
The monitor, administered by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, shows the entire state ranges from at best “abnormally dry” to its worst rating, “exceptional drought.”
The exceptional drought area covers 33 percent of California. including a wide swath of the Bay Area, stretching from San Francisco to the East Bay and to the South Bay, extending into the Central Valley, and south all the way to Santa Barbara County.
Though forecasters say a slight cooling trend is expected for the Bay Area this weekend, there are no expectations of any immediate help from Mother Nature.
After the weekend cooling trend fades, temperatures are expected to rise above normal next week.