October Brings Much Beauty as Risk of Wildfires Peaks

Raging fire, howling winds, harrowing escapes. While the rest of the country prepares for cool autumn weather, Californians worry about bone-dry grass hills and the potential for strong Santa Ana-style winds; winds which blow through the mountain passes; winds which can easily exceed 40 miles per hour.

October is a dreaded time of year in California because the peak fire season is associated with late summer and early fall.

While some believe the hot summer weather in June or July would spark more fires, fall is the most destructive. September and October are California’s most vulnerable months for wildfires.

Climate Change

California has been experiencing extreme drought in recent years. Jon Keeley, a USGS scientist, based in Sequoia National Park, reported to Nasa.gov, “The current drought is unprecedented,” said Keeley. “Each of the past three decades has had substantially worse drought than any decade over the last 150 years.” 

Image from US Drought Monitor

Ninety-four percent of California is currently experiencing severe drought, according to the National Integrated Drought Information System. Climate change has brought less rainfall and higher temperatures. The heat draws moisture from vegetation, leaving parched ground that makes it possible for wildfires to burn hotter and longer. 

The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection reports that eight of the ten most destructive fires in California’s history occurred in the past five years.

Homeowner protective actions

Firefighting experts agree that planning and preparation are vital to surviving a wildfire. Windborne drifting embers cause 90% of wildfire-destroyed homes.

Prepare your home:

  • Keep vegetation, mulch, and outdoor furniture, a minimum of five feet away from structures.
  • Clear flammable materials from gutters at the roofline and under decks.
  • Pack a go-bag containing medications, face masks, a set of clothing, and other necessities, so if you need to evacuate, you are ready.

If authorities in your area issue evacuation orders, get out as quickly as you are able. Calmly follow the instructions to leave the area. Dress in long sleeves, long pants, and heavy shoes—this will help keep embers from burning your skin. Stay away from the area until authorities issue an all-clear notification.

This author survived a fire in Sonoma County which destroyed over 5,000 structures. Our warning to evacuate came via cell phone at 1:30 am; by 2 my home was nothing but ash. If you are ordered to evacuate, just do it.

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