2021 fire season could be extreme, CA officials warn

"Every acre in California can and will burn someday," said CAL FIRE Director Thom Porter.

Video Transcript

--fuels in the area are where they normally are in July. We could potentially see fires today like we wouldn't see until July.

- Hot, windy, dangerous, a red-flag warning in one Bay Area County. The fire season off to a really early start. Good afternoon. Thanks for joining us. On Larry Beil.

- And I'm Kristin Zee. Today's unusually early red-flag warning is just a sign of things to come. ABC 7 News reporter Laura Anthony is in Lafayette with a look at the dire predictions from officials. Now, Laura, this event usually comes weeks before any serious concerns about fire danger. But this year is different, right?

LAURA ANTHONY: Right, this year is different in many ways, Kristin. Wildfire Preparedness Week is always in early May. What's different this year is all this. Check this out. These grasses, these conditions out here are way ahead of schedule. Fire season now is 75 days longer than it used to be. And now we are expecting peak fire danger as early as June.

THOM PORTER: Every acre in California can and will burn someday.

LAURA ANTHONY: With dry, warm winds swirling above, California's top fire officials are sending a loud warning, that this upcoming fire season could quickly become the worst on record.

THOM PORTER: I need not say here in the Bay Area how devastating it is when your hillsides are on fire, some of your communities are on fire, and you're deep in smoke that looks like Armageddon for a week on end.

LAURA ANTHONY: This comes just months after California endured its worst fire season ever. More than four million acres burned, with six of the most destructive events in the state's history.

MARK GHILARDUCCI: Since it was such a monumental fire year last year, we saw 32 counties fall under a major presidential disaster declaration.

LAURA ANTHONY: Now, after an extremely sparse rainy season with temperatures already soaring near the '90s in the East Bay, there's deep concern about future disasters. Not only are the grasses already turning brown, but many of the trees and alarming shade of red.

ROBERT BAIRD: There are millions of dead trees. And all of those pose hazards across California for all of us.

LAURA ANTHONY: Cal Fire staffing up early, bringing in hundreds of additional firefighters along with five new helicopters. But beyond that, state officials are pleading with the public to do their part.

THOM PORTER: You need to be prepared as if it's going to happen today. So do your hardening of your structure. Do your defensible space.

LAURA ANTHONY: Now, defensible space is all about weed abatement, getting rid of grasses and fuels like these that may be around your home or property. Here in Contra Costa County, the deadline to get rid of this stuff is the end of this month, May 31st. But I can tell you that local and state fire officials want folks to get on it right now. Kristin, Larry.

- All right, Laura, besides creating defensible space and the like that we always talk about, what else can people do right now to help this fire season?

LAURA ANTHONY: Well, Kristin, they said a lot of it is up to the public, up to us. They said 9 out of 10 wildfires in California are started by people. So they're asking folks out in the wilderness, don't light fires. Watch out if you're having a chain drag behind a trailer, that sort of thing. Also, you can harden your home. Cal Fire has a lot of tips for that on their website. And then finally, no matter what you do to prepare, you may find yourself in the path of a wildfire. And they are asking folks if they are given an evacuation order to please comply.

- All right. Laura, thank you so much for that information.