Firefighters stress safety as wildfire season peaks in October


REDDING, Calif. - Northstate firefighters are on standby for any outbreak, while a Red Flag Warning remained in effect during the month of October, a time when historically we see the worst wildfires.

Redding Fire Chief Gerry Gray said the department had already seen an above average year for wildfires and worried the worst was yet to come.

"This north wind, three days of it now has brought the fuel moisture down critically low and so we need to be careful," said Gray.

While the light showers in September helped to reduce the overall threat for a short time, Gray said it was not a season-ending event and would like to see even more rainfall.

"We're very much in fire season right now. Until the rains come don't let your guard down. I prefer to see at least an inch, maybe several inches, with the promise of long term wet pattern before we consider fire season over," said Gray.

The potential strength of any fire is measured by the Energy Release Component (ERC) and helps to show how hot a fire could burn. That measurement typically peaks during September or October as the weather pattern shifts and the dry north winds become more common.

"It just couples for a very bad combination on fire season. When ERCs are high we're going to see very fast moving and very violent wildfires that will spread quickly," said Gray.

Red Flag Warning are determined based on temperature, humidity and winds in the region but Gray said only two of those stand out the most for fire behavior.

"The irony is the temperature has a very minimal impact on fire behavior. Where the lower temperatures benefit us is it has an easier impact on our firefighters," said Gray.

The Jones Fire in October, 1999 in Shasta County is among the most destructive fires in the state. October fires also hold the top spot for deadliest and largest, which is why Gray stressed safety even when temperatures start to fall.

"Most of our fires are caused by humans whether intentionally or unintentionally. So if we can eliminate at least part of that factor out we'll be off to a good end to fire season," said Gray.

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