While at the CalFire website there are only 4,499 total acres listed as burned in what CalFire describes as 'major incidents' this year, those fires listed began on Jan 1, 2014.
Today, April 20,2014, the first multi-acre fire in Tuolumne County is declared fully contained. The fire was able to be held to only 3.3 acres and caused no damage to structures or property other than the brush and trees burned.
For the residents in Tuolumne County however, the memory of the Rim Fire last year was an immediate thought when the smoke was seen on the horizon. The Rim Fire, at 257,314 acres is now the 3rd largest fire in California since reliable records began being kept.
The fire which began last Friday, April 18, 2014 was not a serious fire in the sense that homes in nearby Sierra Village, Ca. were being threatened, because they weren't. The residents in that area though, were understandably nervous when they saw the smoke and numerous fire trucks heading 'up the hill'.
The portent of the fire is the threat which comes from the rain cycle in the foothills this year. Early rains, then warmer weather, then a bit more rain, more warm weather, then a bit more rain two weeks ago with showers on the way again on this coming Tuesday.
All the rain we can get is great to have when the state sits in the middle of a drought situation, the cycle of the rain however, has set up a 'perfect storm' for fire fuels in the wildland areas.
The cycles of wet then warm weather have produced a bumper crop of tall grasses throughout the Mother Lode Foothills. Two weeks ago, the terrain had a green velvet blanket covering it, today the grasses are already starting to turn brown where the soil is thinnest over the underlying rocks. In some areas, the grasses have already turned brown and are waiting for either next winters rains or a careless camper to finish their life cycle.
All of the local fire agencies have been reminding citizens to provide a defensible space around their homes, 100 feet is the law and the advice being given. For those used to life in the foothills, the advice was hardly needed.
Weed trimmers and lawnmowers can be heard nearly every morning when the humidity is highest and the likelihood of starting a fire in the process of removing the weeds is lowest.
It seems the fire season has begun early and the rural residents are doing what they can, while there is still time to prepare...and waiting for the first signs of the CalFire Air Attack planes to point the way to what none of us want to see.