It’s about that time of year in Healdsburg when we all start bracing for fire season. We’ve been lucky these past few years to avoid some of the more massive, destructive wildfires that tore through local hills, valleys and towns during the summers of 2017 through 2020. The super dry, drought conditions of recent years have begun to ease; our water reservoirs, Lake Sonoma and Lake Mendocino, are filled to the brim right now. And the fire departments that protect Healdsburg proper and our rural outskirts have grown progressively larger, smarter, quicker and better-funded. The Press Democrat published a preview earlier this month of what to expect this fire season, based on interviews with local fire officials and the state’s Wildfire Forecast and Threat Intelligence Integration Center. We’re looking at “normal to below normal” fire potential over the next four months, the experts say — with some big caveats. “The rains over the past two years have almost eliminated drought conditions in the state and have kept larger fire fuels, like trees, damp for longer,” the Press Democrat reports. “At the same time, lighter fuels that can lead to flashier burns, such as grasses, thrived in the conditions and grew. This was the same case last year, when there were no large wildfires. But that’s not a 100% guarantee big fires won’t pop up. The North Bay experienced a similarly wet winter before the 2017 North Bay firestorm that killed 40 people in Sonoma, Napa and Mendocino counties in November 2017.” Basically as Cal Fire spokesperson Jason Clay tells the paper, everything can change “with the drop of a lightning strike or a whip of a wind gust.” Air temperature-wise, we could be in for one of the hottest summers on record, according to the long-range forecast from Farmer’s Almanac and a UC Davis weather scientist who spoke to the PD. And if dry La Niña winds start blowing midsummer, which is looking like a 50/50-plus possibility at this point, wildfire risk could rise significantly by August. So the resounding message from officials is still to stay vigilant. Healdsburg native and State Senate President Mike McGuire hosted his yearly wildfire-themed town hall a week-and-a-half ago, to kick off National Wildfire Preparedness Month. On the call, Santa Rosa’s fire chief said: “We can’t rest on the fact that we have had rain. We can’t rest on the fact that we have had a few years to get some really solid vegetation management, defensible space, fuel reduction work done. We all have to be prepared. We all have to be ready. We have to be prepared for this. It takes everybody for us to be successful.” As it happens, the 4th annual Fire & Earthquake Safety Expo will be popping off at the Citrus Fairgrounds in Cloverdale tomorrow, with all the usual draws — helicopter demos, rescue simulations, free lunch and enough education on best practices in wildfire country to last you another year. (Source: Press Democrat & Press Democrat & KRCB & KRCB & Senator Mike McGuire & Fire & Earthquake Safety Expo)

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Simone Wilson was born and raised in Healdsburg, CA, where she was the editor of the Healdsburg High School Hound's Bark. She has since worked as a local journalist for publications in San Diego, Los Angeles, New York City and the Middle East. Simone is now a senior product manager and staff writer for the Healdsburg Tribune.


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