California “no longer [has] a fire season — it’s a fire year,” Brian Fennessy, chief of the Orange County Fire Authority told reporters Thursday. An exceptionally wet autumn did little to alleviate drought’s tight hold on the state, and January brought above-average temperatures and barely one-tenth of an inch of rain in what is typically one of the rainiest months of the year there. With National Weather Service heat warnings in effect for the Super Bowl in Los Angeles, the Sycamore Fire erupted in the tinder-dry hills of a Los Angeles suburb and burned two homes yesterday.
The Emerald Fire ignited earlier Thursday in a wilderness area near Emerald Bay and forced temporary evacuations. “This is supposed to be the middle of winter, and we’re anticipating 80- to 90-degree weather. Even though the hillsides are green, it doesn’t take but low humidity and wind to cause fires to occur.” Fennessy said. “If this is any sign of what’s to come throughout the rest of the winter and spring, we’re in for a long year.” (Fires: LA Times $, Washington Post $, AP, Mercury News); Emerald Fire: CNN, The Independent, ABC; Sycamore Fire: LA Times $; Climate Signals background: Drought, Wildfires)