Local and national agencies prepare for wildfire season


REDDING, Calif. - Local and national agencies are working to get ready for wildfire season through training and keeping a close eye on weather conditions. Friday marked the last day of a week long training for students learning to be fire investigators. Students came from New Hampshire and Illinois to earn their certification.

"I've got some prior fire experience, but not on the investigation side of things," said U.S. Forest Service Officer Paul Widowski.

"Any opportunity to learn from more experienced officers, from individuals from different agencies and learn different ways to get things done, it's been a great experience," said U.S. Forest Service Officer Diron Thompkins.

They aren't the only ones gearing up for fire season. Meteorologist Stephen Leach with the Bureau of Land Management is keeping a close eye on weather patterns.

"We try to predict the potential for large, costly fires based on weather and fuel conditions," Leach said.

His outlook helps serve as a second set of eyes for firefighters.

"The more we can do to keep them safe and give them the best information so they can plan their strategy, the better," Leach said.

He said they look at short-term conditions along with weather that would affect ongoing fires.

"Of course, the more critical conditions are dry, windy weather, but we also want to know where the fuels are, dead fuels and live fuels, at any given time," Leach said.

These fuels can be dead debris, trees, needles on the ground and more.

His forecast also predicts a later fire season, reaching the peak in late July or August.

"Now it's slow. We have a very heavy snow pack at the upper elevations, so that's going to have to melt and run off before any drying can occur up there," Leach said.

However, there's a higher risk once everything dries out.

"The potential for large wildfires at the lower elevations where you have a lot of grass and brush will be greater later in the fire season," Leach said.

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