It's going to be a long, hot summer, with a chance of fire. Make that a long, hot, dry summer, with a high probability of devastating wildfires.
That weather report should come as a surprise to no one. Still, it's important enough that those who work to ensure public safety are underlining the facts in a bid to get hillside residents around Northern California to help out with fire-prevention efforts.
As California endures its third year of a drought, fire officials have had to drop the old model of beefing up their staffs and efforts for the late summer and early fall, when hillside forests and chaparral have dried out and Santa Ana winds start kicking in. Their new model is to consider it to be fire season all the time.
That was underscored by the fires burning this week in rural Napa County. Given the devastation we saw last year with the fire on Mt. Diablo, no on eshouold need reminding.
In fact, already this year firefighters have battled more than 2,300 wildfires, which burned more than 17,800 acres.
Our region has received far less normal rainfall in the past year, and the severe drought has turned most of California into a tinderbox. The National Weather Service announced June 19 that 33 percent of the state faces exceptional drought conditions.
"In the national forests and wildlands, conditions are exceptionally dry," said Bill Patzert, climatologist at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in La Canada Flintridge.
"The situation is extremely serious -- I'd say incendiary," he said.
The state budget that Gov. Jerry Brown signed includes an extra $90 million to battle wildfires, plus $13 million for fire fuel and plant management by the California Conservation Corps and $10 million in grants for local agencies.
But it's up to homeowners who live in or near the fire prone areas to do their parts as well, to protect their own property and that of their neighbors.
Officials urged residents to set up a "defensible home," which means brush cleared to at least 100 feet. Don't store woodpiles or even brooms -- just about anything that can catch fire -- within 100 feet of homes.
Rooftops and gutters should be cleared of leaves and pine needles that could catch fire from blowing embers.
Avoid using brush-clearing machinery on hot, dry afternoons.
And, of course, every household should set up an evacuation plan that includes getting children, seniors and pets out of harm's way.
Visitors to recreation areas need to be especially careful this summer and fall and personnel there must be especially vigilant as must we all. In these difficult times we must all do what we can to lessen fire danger as much as possible.