Cal Fire on weather watch before hiring more seasonal firefighters; drought has made for unprecedented conditions

Cal Fire will evaluate when to start increasing seasonal firefighters in Humboldt County in the coming weeks as weather conditions continue to transition into spring.

"Seasonal firefighters are typically hired in May. Last year they were hired at the end of April and this year 10 were hired in the county in January, which is unprecedented," Cal Fire spokesman Daniel Berlant said. "With the rain we've had in March, the hires have met needs so far. We'll base our need for increased staffing on whether or not conditions dry out and our evaluation of fire activity."

Berlant said the fire that broke out just south of Berry Summit on Jan. 4 and burnt 333 acres of land was unheard of in the normally rain saturated Northern California.

"Humboldt County does not get fires of that size and magnitude during winter. It just doesn't happen, which goes to show how dry conditions have been," Berlant said.

National Weather Service meteorologist Alex Dodd said the vegetation is currently in a fairly moist state -- that is even higher than normal for this time of year -- due to recent rains and cooler temperatures.

"There don't seem to be concerns for fire this month. Still, as a result of the dry conditions earlier this winter, even if we have a normal spring and summer without abnormally wet conditions, we're still looking at a potentially dangerous fire season," Dodd said.

It's really important for people to start thinking about fire season, which in Northern California is typically from June to October, Berlant said.

"Residents should have 100 feet of defensible space around their house, which means dead or dying vegetation in that area should be removed because come fire season, that becomes flammable and allows a fire to spread right up to a home," he said.

Jillian Singh can be reached at 441-0509 or

On the Web: To learn more about how to prepare for fire season, visit