Fires are already breaking out in Southern California as outlined in the Washington Post (Fire Crews Aided by Calming Calif. Winds) and it's only February! Across the southwest, millions of acres of scrub and forest are bone-dry tinder just waiting to ignite. The fire in Malibu was caused by a burning SUV on a dirt road, according to the article. The much more massive fire in Orange County was the result of smoldering embers from a control fire that reignited. Add dry lightning and arsonists into the mix, and this looks to be shaping up to be a landmark year for wildfires.
But at the same time the chance of wildfires is increasing, air-tanker companies like Hawkins & Powers that fight them as contractors are going out of business; the FAA keeps many heavy air-tankers grounded; contracts for heavy air-tankers are cancelled by the feds; and rural firefighter and firefighting reserve funds are eliminated by acts of Congress. All of this appears to be setting the stage for a perfect storm - a firestorm! One can only wonder what the tally of acres burned, homes destroyed, and lives lost will be by the end of the 2006 fire season. Let me know what you think at: firstname.lastname@example.org.