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Above-Average Rainfall On Central, South Coasts Could Fuel Tough Fire Season

A helicopter used to fight brush fires swoops down onto a hillside in Simi Valley, dousing it with water. Two dozen firefighters are using hand tools to create a fire break on the hillside behind the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, in Simi Valley.

But, there’s no fire. Firefighters are trying to raise awareness about the potential for big brush fires.

The heavy, above average rainfall during the last few months which eased drought concerns for the Central and South Coasts has helped create problems as well: A bumper crop of brush, which can provide a start for major brush fires.

Firefighters say one of the key issues they are trying to stress right now is that people who live in areas which are known as urban-wildland interfaces, where homes are near hills and mountains, should be doing brush clearance on their property. When neighborhoods are threatened by large fires, overwhelmed firefighters have to make difficult decisions which include focusing on the homes they have the best chance of saving. It sometimes means focusing on properties which have good brush clearance, because it gives them more of an ability to stop an oncoming blaze.

While the weather has been overcast and cool this week, sustained hot weather is not far away this time of year. Eric Bolt, a warning coordination meteorologist with the National Weather Service, says we historically see heat waves in May, and then of course that leads into the hot summer and fall months. Fire officials say the fuel moisture content of brush in the region is not far from the danger zone, and some hot weather will push it over the line.

Firefighters admit they sometimes feel like they’ve been saying the same things for the past few years. It could be a potentially dangerous few months as far as brush fires are concerned. But, they say the rain was like adding fuel to the fire. The new brush is adding to an already explosive fire potential for the Central and South Coasts.

Lance Orozco has been News Director of KCLU since 2001, providing award-winning coverage of some of the biggest news events in the region, including the Thomas and Woolsey brush fires, the deadly Montecito debris flow, the Borderline Bar and Grill attack, and Ronald Reagan's funeral. 
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