Wildfire fuel moisture at record low: SJSU fire experts warn


SANTA CRUZ, Calif. (KRON) – The landscape in parts of the Santa Cruz mountains and elsewhere across northern California is a tinder box. 

There’s tons of dead brush and grass, and even the live fuels look dead.  A pine bough that should feel a little spongy feels more like sandpaper. 

Live fuel moisture levels are at an all-time low in some areas, says San Jose State University Fire Weather Research professor Craig Clements.

“That has to do with the fact that we had this drought year. We had a low rain year, this past winter.”

San Jose’s State’s mobile weather lab is currently analyzing data collected from 2017’s devastating Tubbs Fire, which has striking similarities.

Wind, heat, topography, and what’s known as “spotting,” where embers are blown downwind starting spot fires in the dried out and easily ignitable brush and grass.  

It’s not just the North Bay.  Clements and his team have been measuring live fuel moisture in the Santa Cruz mountains and other fire-prone areas across the state.

Many areas are seeing fuel moisture levels that would not normally be seen until October.

“We’re in the core of our fire season. October’s usually the month where we have the lowest fuel moisture and the strongest wind,” Clements added.

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