Dry vegetation offers troubling outlook for wildfire season

Experts at San José State University's Fire Weather Research Laboratory say they are concerned about dry vegetation and the growing risk of wildfires.

Video Transcript

CRAIG CLEMENTS: A lot of plants are just stressed because we're in our second year of drought.

BILL WADELL: Vegetation is dried out across the Santa Cruz Mountains. Researchers at San Jose State University say there's little new growth so far this spring, and they're concerned.

CRAIG CLEMENTS: We go out every two weeks and we sample these same plots. And so what we do is we clip with clippers these plants, and we take it back to the lab and dry them.

BILL WADELL: Craig Clements and the team at the Wildfire Interdisciplinary Research Center found moisture content levels to be the lowest recorded in a decade, with much of the state facing severe drought conditions.

CRAIG CLEMENTS: That's kind of what we're anticipating, is these plants will be in critical condition, not in October or September, but likely July.

BILL WADELL: Drier fuels for wildfires can mean more erratic fire behavior.

CRAIG CLEMENTS: We might have bigger fires earlier in the season than we typically would if we had more of a wet year.

BILL WADELL: The Golden State is still recovering from last year's historic wildfires. Cal Fire says 4.2 million acres burned, 10,000 buildings were damaged or destroyed, and 33 people lost their lives.

CRAIG CLEMENTS: Be prepared for state park closures, and no campfires, and it could be really smoky again, unfortunately.

BILL WADELL: Clements is urging families in fire-prone areas to be prepared for another dangerous summer.

CRAIG CLEMENTS: Make sure that the vegetation around our homes is cleared, and that we don't have pine needles on the roof for those that live up in the forest and in the mountains.

BILL WADELL: For AccuWeather, I'm Bill Wadell.