Red Flag fire danger warning for Nevada County |
Matthew Renda
Staff Writer

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Red Flag fire danger warning for Nevada County

Water levels of Scotts Flat Lake Reservoir, along highway 20, look unseasonably low in this photo taken in early January. The National Weather Service has issued a Red Flag warning for fire danger in Nevada County.

While not unprecedented, the National Weather Service made an extremely rare move Wednesday in issuing a red flag warning for Nevada County and the surrounding region.

Dry conditions abetted by a lack of rainfall, high winds with gusts of up to 25 mph and a dearth of overnight moisture have combined to create conditions ripe for a wildland fire — in January.

"It's been decades since a red flag warning has been issued in January," said Lynne Tolmachoff, a spokeswoman for Cal Fire. "In the long run, if the weather pattern continues, it's going to create a longer and more extreme fire season for this summer."

Cal Fire has reacted to the atypically dry January by increasing staffing and enlisting 26 more fire engines throughout the North State. The state fire agency is in the process of hiring back 125 firefighters, an action not usually taken until May.

Residential burning has been suspended until the weather system featuring high winds passes through the region, Tolmachoff said.

Stephanie Henry, forecaster for the National Weather Service, said while the winds may decrease in intensity over coming days, there are no precipitation-laden systems in sight.

"A high-pressure system continues to sit above us," Henry said.

When weather systems coming off the coast strike the high-pressure system, the clouds scatter before reassembling in the interior of the North American continent. These systems continue to dump precipitation in eastern portions of the country while leaving Northern California bone dry and unable to slake its considerable thirst.

Temperatures, which have recently evoked any season apart from winter, are 10 to 20 degrees above normal, largely due to the absence of a snowpack, Henry said. The mercury will continue to soar relative to the season as long as the snow stays away.

Until the high-pressure system encamped above Northern California disperses, there is no reprieve in sight.

To contact Staff Writer Matthew Renda, email or call 530-477-4239.