Wildfire season forecast depends on the weather

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RENO, NV (KOLO) - Live here for a summer or two and you know what wildfire season can be like. Big destructive fires, blackening hundreds, even thousands of acres before being stopped. It's a cycle we've come to expect and prepare for.

But every spring, it seems we also ask the question. What will this one be like? How bad will it be?

Easy to ask, hard to answer.

Certainly the potential is there. A wet winter means a lot of fresh fuel, much of it growing on burn scars from past fires.

"The other plants will grow into where the sagebrush was," says Eric Guevin, Fire Marshal for the Tahoe Douglas Fire Department. "The sagebrush won't be able to recoup. We get cheat grass."

The cheat grass still seems to be green in most places, not yet the instant flash fuel it can quickly become.

The trigger is the weather. At the moment we've seen sporadic, but generally slow warming. Guevin says that's having a direct impact on the fire danger.

"The valley down here, the fuels are drying out and we're seeing wildfires. Up on the mountain it's still moist so we're not seeing those conditions. So we're about a month behind in the mountain regions."

A week or two of above normal temperatures could speed things up.

In the meantime, we should be getting ready. Each year, members of the local media attend training sessions designed to prepare us to report from the scene accurately and safely. We got that training Wednesday.

Our viewers of course, don't get this kind of preparation, but some of you are likely to find yourselves in the months ahead in the path of a wildfire. You should prepare as well.

"Knowing safe areas to go, safe areas and refuge. Just getting out in a timely fashion. Be smart about it. Prepare your home for fire. Wildfires happen."

Copyright KOLO-TV 2019