Why are there so many fires this summer?

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(Sacramento, CA)
Monday, August 27, 2007
To understand why there have been so many fires so early this year, you have to start with fuel.  Not gasoline fuel, though … 
“What we mean by fuel is the timber that’s available in an area to burn…”
That’s the National Weather Service’s Jim Mathews. 
“And also the organic matter close to the ground: dry grasses and smaller branches, fallen trees.”
When those fuels dry out, Mathews says, the risk of fire is highest.  And as Ed Miller with the North Tahoe Fire Protection District points out:
“This is the driest fire season that we’ve had – the driest year we’ve had, actually – since records have been kept.”
Normally, the trees and brush don’t get this dry until September or October.  But since we’ve had so little rainfall over the last year, Mathews says: 
“That created critical fire conditions much earlier in the season than what would normally occur.”
So unless the rain starts earlier than usual this fall, those bad conditions will stick around for another couple of months.