Wildfire briefing, May 8, 2015

Fighting wildfires from the air — Is it cost effective?

An article at KCRA in Sacramento raises the question about the effectiveness of using aircraft to fight fires, and mentions a study being conducted that is collecting data that may help provide answers.

Firefighters on Coronado National Forest prepare for the fire season

Nogales International profiles two 10-person hand crews on the Nogales National Forest in Arizona, that when combined form the only 20-person crew on the Forest.

California drought kills 12 million trees

Below is an excerpt from an article in The Guardian:

An astonishing 12.5m trees have died in California, unable to survive a harsh fourth year of drought, according to a US government study. The news of the massive tree die-offs came this week, after the United States Forest Service, a Department of Agriculture agency, released the results of an aerial survey it undertook in April over 8.2m acres of forest. The survey was organized three months ahead of schedule.

“The special early season aerial survey was prompted by knowledge of the worsening drought situation and reports from field crews that copious amounts of new mortality had appeared after the regular survey was flown in July of 2014,” explained Jeffrey Moore, a biologist with the agency who was one of the surveyors on the expedition…

Another copy of the May 5 Drought Monitor that we posted earlier today:

Drought Monitor May 5, 2015

California snowpack lowest on record since 1950

CA drought

California’s snowpack has reached an all-time low since 1950, the California Department of Water Resources announced last week.

Like most states in the West, the department takes regular snowpack measurements, which are used to predict the amount of water California can expect to see in its reservoirs. The measurements are also an indicator of how dry and possibly fire-prone California’s landscape has become.

California’s snowpack accounts for 30 percent of the state’s water, once it melts, the release said.

Snowpack measurements are taken against an average — at 100 percent — making anything less than 100 less than average. California’s snowpack has been on a steady decline since January of this year. The latest measurement was 8 percent of the historical average. Typically, snowpack is at its peak in California by April 1.

The state is going into its fourth year of extreme drought, following three of its driest years on record.