The Bay Area is a Tinderbox Again This Weekend

It'll be extra dry and windy, a wildfire's favorite weather.

A fire burns in the remnants of a building destroyed in the North Bay, Oct. 9, 2017 (Jessica Christian)

It’s been a bad year for wildfires in California, but don’t pack up your N95 masks — it might not be over yet. Dry conditions and lots of wind return to the Bay Area this weekend. From 10 p.m. Friday to 10 a.m. Sunday, the National Weather Service warns that we’ll be in an “elevated” level of fire danger — though conditions will not be quite as bad as they were last October when the North Bay fires erupted.

“A dry system will drop down from the north and move across our region late on Friday,” writes the NWS. “This will lead to gusty winds from the north along with very low humidity values, especially for higher elevation areas. Conditions will improve later on Sunday.” The areas most at risk for high winds are the North Bay and East Bay hills. 

 

Very low humidity combined with winds that may reach 50 mph hour gusts make a perfect fire environment, and it’s expected that a red flag warning will be in effect. 

This year is the worst on record for fires statewide. In October, the Tubbs burned 5,642 structures, nearly doubling the previous record of a 1991 fire in the Oakland hills, where 2,900 were destroyed. In fact, five of the 20 most destructive wildfires ever in California took place between October and December of this year. Tubbs led, with Nuns at #6, Thomas at #10, Atlas at #11, and the Redwood Valley Complex at #17. 

But “destructive” doesn’t always mean biggest. The Thomas fire down south may become the state’s largest wildfire ever. As of Thursday morning, it encompassed 240,000 acres, making Tubb’s deadly 36,000 seem measly in comparison.

In light of the recent weather report, the normal fire cautions are in effect: Don’t have campfires. Extinguish cigarettes completely. Clear brush and debris from around cars and houses. Check your smoke alarms to make sure they work. And maybe have that grab bag handy — just in case.

 

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