Since the wet season began on Oct. 1, 2019, the majority of California has received below-average precipitation, and as vegetation dries out across the state, there’s been a significant increase in fire activity through June and July.
There have been 4,465 wildfires as of July 26 – a more than 65-percent increase in the number of fires as of this time last year. At least 401 of those fires have started over the past week, according to Christine McMorrow, Cal Fire resource management communications officer.
As wildfire teams continue to set up basecamps throughout the state, Cal Fire has implemented strict Covid-19 safety measures for firefighters. In order to allow for social distancing, camps are larger than usual. Morning briefings are done in smaller groups with everyone six feet apart, temperatures are taken daily, coffee and food is no longer self-serve, masks are required and sleeping quarters are housing fewer people to allow for social distancing.
“Morning meeting is usually jam-packed, but now it’s all spaced apart and there are chairs for everyone to sit in and there are signs all over reminding people of social distancing,” says Stacey Nolan, Cal Fire public information officer at the Mineral Fire, which was fully contained on the evening of July 26.
Pacific Gas & Electric inspects every mile of their distribution and transmission overhead electric lines annually, checking areas with greater risk twice per year. The company – which emerged from Chapter 11 bankruptcy on July 1, after declaring bankruptcy based on wildfire liability – is now in its second year of an eight-year plan for additional safety measures in what they call “high fire threat districts,” addressing trees and branches that overhang equipment.
According to PG&E spokesperson Katie Allen, so far this year the utility company has cleared approximately 20 miles of high-voltage line in Carmel Valley, five miles in the Monterey Peninsula area and three miles in the Toro Park area.