There’s always a risk of wildfires, but local agencies have announced that danger is significantly less with winter settling in.
On Monday, the Santa Barbara County Fire Department will transition from “high fire season” to “low fire season,” lessening its resources in response to the decreased risk of fire.
Andrew Madsen, spokesman for the Los Padres National Forest, said the nearby forest would be moving into the low-fire-danger category early next week.
Similarly, last Monday Cal Fire reduced its seasonal wildland firefighting resources, and declared the start of open burn season in San Luis Obispo County.
During open burn season, residents can conduct agricultural and backyard burns with permits from the county Air Pollution Control District and while following guidelines.
Madsen said that the Los Padres National Forest was in a “good spot” in terms of conditions that would discourage fire, with a substantial quantity of rain falling this week.
“I think we’ve got enough moisture out there on the ground that we’ll be OK,” he added.
Madsen that while there’s always mudslide concerns in the forest, there hadn’t been a deluge of rain that would worsen the threat.
Capt. David Sadecki with the Santa Barbara County Fire Department said the decision to declare the start of low fire season takes into account the amount of moisture in vegetation, the current weather and the expected weather.
“We had some rains early in the season, but we still had the low fuel-moisture levels,” he said.
With the rain having returned, this time with cold weather and an unlikelihood of warm winds, county firefighters determined the time is right to end high fire season.
In addition, those with a valid permit may resume burning in the county.
Officials cautioned that despite the decreased risk, wildfires are still possible during the winter months.
County firefighters said that staffing could be increased based on need.
“It seems like during the winter months, we have a different type of a fire threat,” Sadecki said.
He warned that bringing live Christmas trees indoors, and fires in fireplaces, bring potential fire danger.
A tree should be kept away from fireplaces and heaters, should be kept in water and should only be decorated with lights in good condition.
Fireplaces should have screens in front of them, and chimneys should be kept clean inside, Sadecki said.