Rainfall totals well above normal during recent months have increased moisture levels in the local vegetation, making it less likely to burn.
But the abundant rain season also yielded an abundance of tall grass that wildland fires thrive on.
During a press conference Thursday at Hans Christian Andersen Park in Solvang, local firefighters and weather experts urged Santa Barbara County residents to take measures to safeguard their homes and property against wildfire as the season in which the risk of fires is greatest rapidly approaches.
Strong winds affecting the Central Coast have buoyed the fire danger. Even so, firefighters are predicting a light fire season.
Fire agencies in Santa Barbara County have declared June 6 the start of high fire season for 2011.
High fire season is a period during the warmer and drier months when firefighters are more concerned about wildfires igniting than at other times of the year.
Due to the declaration, all burn permits issued for hazard reduction will be suspended, said Capt. David Sadecki of the county Fire Department.
He added that the Fire Department will be increasing the number of resources available, such as engines, bulldozers, crews and helicopters.
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County Fire Chief Michael Dyer said that firefighters are preparing for high fire season, noting that officials have upgraded the countywide communication system with additional channels.
Inter-agency communication is critical, Dyer said.
“As firefighters, we realize that we’re all in this together,” he said.
With the wind arriving, “We’ve got to be on our toes,” Dyer said.
Eric Boldt, warning coordination meteorologist with the National Weather Service, said fire season would likely get off to a slow start because of the high rain totals.
Sadecki encouraged area residents to create defensible space around their homes, free from flammable vegetation or debris, and to be prepared to evacuate quickly if necessary.
Should a fire occur, there will not be enough firefighters to protect every home, Sadecki said, and the responsibility of home protection falls on the residents.
“You must become part of the solution,” he added.