Rare fire danger in December threatens Bay Area

Bay Area

SANTA ROSA, Calif. (KRON) — Gusty offshore winds are expected to return to the Bay Area Sunday night, raising the threat of wildfires.

A Red Flag Warning and Wind Advisory has been issued for much of the region, particularly in North and East Bay Hills — which is rare for December in Northern California.

In Santa Rosa, firefighters are worried about the strong winds expected to whip through the night. Residents are asked to secure or take down holiday lights.

A potential hazard that could turn even the most festive of times into a fast moving fire.

“I don’t think that we’ve ever thought that we would be telling people to prepare for a Red Flag Warning and take down their holiday decorations at the same time so we’ll see,” Paul Lowenthal said.

A Red Flag Warning in December due to Diablo winds expected to return to the Bay Area Sunday night, coupled with dry conditions and low humidity.

Paul Lowenthal, assistant fire marshal with the Santa Rosa Fire Department, knows all too well how dangerous the conditions can be after the devastating 2017 North Bay fires, and most recently the Glass Fire – both burned down homes.

“We will have additional firefighters on staff for the duration of the Red Flag Warning and that’s something that you’re going to see not only here in Sonoma County but across the Bay Area as additional departments continue to ramp up for Red Flag Warning events,” Lowenthal said.

It was quiet in the East Bay Hills Sunday afternoon, but that is expected to change.

The National Weather Service also issued a Wind Advisory anticipating gusts up to 45 miles per hour above 1000 feet, 60 mph in the higher peaks.

Meteorologist Gerry Diaz with the National Weather Service Bay Area office says it’s rare for Northern California to deal with dangerous fire conditions during this time.

“In terms of Red Flag warnings in the month of December, we’ve had two other instances over the last 10 years,” Diaz said. “The previous one was actually back in 2017 and then the one before that was in 2013 so those were also particularly dry years and we had some pretty historic fires during those years as well.”

Diaz says while the North and East Bay received light showers last month, it wasn’t enough.

And there appears to be no relief in sight.

“Most of the models have been showing very limited chances of precipitation,” he said. “There are a couple of moisture plumes that we’ve noticed on some of the longer range models but really for the next at least through the first half of December we’re not seeing any notable precipitation possibilities.”

Normally this would be a time we would transition to wet weather by now. In the meantime, with strong winds expected through the night, firefighters want you to have a plan, have a go bag and an escape route in case a fire erupts.

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