The recent warm and breezy conditions have continued to dry out drought stressed vegetation following late season rains in and around Santa Rosa. Winds can spread a wildfire quickly and can make it difficult for firefighters to control. During fire season, the Fire Department often receives questions about winds and our goal is to help residents better understand how winds contribute to wildfires and explain how we can all be better prepared for those windy, hot summer days.
There are generally two types of wind flows locally, offshore and onshore. The offshore flow occurs when air moves from land to sea and is usually associated with dry weather. The onshore is bringing air from sea to land. We’re accustomed to the coastal influence locally when the fog pushes in off the coast and brings moister and higher humidity with a cool breeze to the area. The National Weather Service (NWS) issues Red Flag Warnings and Fire Weather Watches for our area along with wind advisories and high wind warnings for winds. A wind advisory was issued by the NWS last week for the upper elevation of eastern Sonoma County. Often, the wind advisories or high wind warnings are for the North Bay mountains and don’t always affect the valley floors or lower elevations. Strong winds become more concerning as we push further into fire season. This year’s season is set to be declared locally in Santa Rosa on June 6. In Southern California, strong gust offshore winds are often referred to as Santa Ana Winds. In the Bay Area, these conditions can be referred to as Diablo Winds. No matter what you call them, winds can not only increase fire spread, but they can fan embers. Ember cast led to significant damage and destruction in Santa Rosa during the 2017 Fires and the 2020 Glass Fire. Winds fanned several fires in and around Santa Rosa last season that ranged from a few acres to fifty acres.
The Santa Rosa Fire Department encourages all City of Santa Rosa residents in and around our Wildland Urban Interface (WUI) to take steps to prepare for fire season, winds and potential Red Flag Warnings by following these steps to help limit the spread of fire and to help make our community safer:
- Maintain defensible space and improve your home hardening by visiting srcity.org/WildfireReady
- Focus on maintaining a 0-5 foot free and clear zone around your home by cleaning all fallen leaves and needles, removing vegetation and wood chips/mulch.
- Replace or retrofit vents if the screens have ¼” openings with vents designed to prevent embers from being blown into your attic or crawl space.
- Learn more about weather alerts srcity.org/WeatherAlerts
- On hot and windy days this fire season, try and avoid outdoor activities that could spark a wildfire. If you’re working to maintain seasonal grasses, we recommend it be done before 10am and never on excessively hot, dry and windy days.
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