Looking for a relationship…between Precipitation and Fire in California

English: CATALINA ISLAND, Calif. (May, 11, 200...

Firefighters assigned to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CalFire) survey the remains of a business on Catalina Island that was ravaged by a wildfire. U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Third Class Daniel A. Barker (May 11, 2007) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

With limited rainfall and moisture levels already resembling the state’s peak fire season, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE) has hired 125 supplemental firefighters in Northern California and extended seasonal firefighting forces in Southern California due to dry winter conditions.

The Governor’s drought State of Emergency directed CAL FIRE to “hire additional seasonal firefighters to suppress wildfires and take other needed actions to protect public safety during this time of elevated fire risk.”

“We can’t make it rain,” said Governor Brown, “but we can be much better prepared for the terrible consequences that California’s drought now threatens, including dramatically less water for our farms and communities and increased fires in both urban and rural areas.”

But does a drought, or a wet year, mean “increased fires in both urban and rural areas”? The graphs below show the number of fires (1987-2012), the total acreages (1987-2012), and statewide in precipitation in California (1895-2012). If there is a correlation between increased fires and precipitation, it does not jump right out.

Acreage burned in CA 1987-2012 (Source: http://calfire.ca.gov/communications/downloads/fact_sheets/AllAgenciesAcres&Fires.pdf)



Number of Fires in California 1987-2012 (Source: http://calfire.ca.gov/communications/downloads/fact_sheets/AllAgenciesAcres&Fires.pdf)




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