San Diego County in for a more volatile and longer fire season - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

San Diego County in for a more volatile and longer fire season

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SAN DIEGO (CNS) - San Diego County is in for a more volatile and longer fire season because the drought has made native plants, trees and grasses either extremely dry, dying out or dead Cal Fire officials announced Wednesday.

"Five years of below average rainfall is definitely increasing die-off of our shrubs in the foothills and mountains," Cal Fire forester Eric Just said. "When you have dead fuels, it will give us more of a fire issue."

San Diego County is about 10 percent below average for live fuel moisture -- not quite a historic low, but on track to get there.

Once plants get below 65 percent of fuel moisture in their live portions, they are in a critical stage and are more likely to burn easily. San Diego vegetation is holding fuel moisture now in the high 40s, low 50s, Just said.

Just and his staff check on various sites to test the moisture content in a native plant called chamise, which is abundant throughout the state. The results are then entered into a national database, which allows firefighters to compare conditions and give a regional picture of the fire risk.

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