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All Those Wildflowers Could Mean An Earlier Fire Season This Year

Ezra David Romero
Valley Public Radio
The Sierra Nevada foothils are full of color earlier than usual this year, but that might not be a good thing come fire season.
Credit Ezra David Romero / Valley Public Radio
Valley Public Radio
Mountain foothills near Dunlap, California.

California needs as much rain and snow as it can get. So far this year El Nino caused storms have watered the hills of the Sierra Nevada so much this winter that as a result they’re bursting with color earlier in the year than usual.

“If you actually go up and look at those grasses you’ll see that they’re already starting to flower,” says Sequoia National Forest Supervisor Kevin Elliott. “So it means that they’re coming at the end of their lifecycle.”

Elliott says even before spring rain ends grass and flowers could turn brown.   

"Roll the footage forward a month, now you've got this really thick carpet of dead fuel. State and private land below the forest are probably going to see some real flashy fuels." - Kevin Elliott

He says then all it will take is a lightning strike to set the area ablaze. MahaliaLomele lives in a part of the Sierra Nevada where the foothills become mountains. She’s afraid that dry grass and brush plus all the dead trees killed by bark beetles will put her community at risk.

“In Pinehurst some of our houses are kind of close together,” Lomele says.” If one house starts on fire it’s possible that it will go to another house if you’re house isn’t protected by that clearance.”

For now Lomele is encouraging her neighbors to think ahead by removing potential hazardous material like tall grasses, debris and dead trees from around their homes. 

Ezra David Romero is an award-winning radio reporter and producer. His stories have run on Morning Edition, Morning Edition Saturday, Morning Edition Sunday, All Things Considered, Here & Now, The Salt, Latino USA, KQED, KALW, Harvest Public Radio, etc.
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