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The Guardian

Parts of California see May’s red flag fire warning for the first time since 2014

Temperatures are expected to be 15F above average Monday and Tuesday in the drought-parched Sacramento area A dry lake bed at Folsom Lake in Folsom, Calif., Near Sacramento. Photograph: Getty Images Hot, dry weather and strong winds have triggered a ‘red flag’ fire warning for parts of northern California, the first time the National Weather Service has issued such a warning for the region in the United States. months since 2014. Temperatures in northern California and the Bay Area are expected to peak 15F above average on Monday and Tuesday, with wind gusts of 20 to 35 mph expected in some areas, prompting the NWS to warn of dangerous fire conditions in the Sacramento area. The red flag warning is expected to expire after 11 a.m. on Tuesday. The peak fire season in California generally runs from summer to fall. But strong winds and unusually warm weather this spring have created critical fire conditions in a drought-parched landscape that has been prepared to burn. Conditions have fueled small grass fires in parts of northern California in recent days. And in Southern California, the state fire agency Cal Fire worked to contain a 5,100-acre wildfire near San Diego. About 500 residents and many backcountry farm animals were evacuated. Responders also contained smaller fires in the San Joaquin Valley, in the north-central region of the state. The climate crisis has intensified droughts across the region in recent years, and dry soil and vegetation have helped ignite more intense and destructive forest fires. This year, large swathes of California, including most of the north, the length of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, much of southern California, and the Mojave Desert, experienced their driest rainy seasons since over 40 years. Due to global warming, the state is also warmer than it was during its deep drought in the late 1970s, or during the last extreme drought that took place from 2011 to 2017. The last month, state leaders announced they would allocate $ 536 million to hire more. firefighters, improve forest management efforts, thin out vegetation that feeds fires, and make homes more fire resistant. The sweeping plan came after the state saw five of the six largest fires in state history last year. Experts expect the coming year to bring more major fires. “The areas of the state that have experienced the most severe snow and precipitation shortages are the ones that you would expect to see the greatest fire risk,” said Chris Field, climatologist at Stanford University, at the Guardian last month. “But there are always a lot of unknowns that determine how the fire season will play out.” Drought conditions across much of the western United States also caused premature wildfires in the southwest. The first major wildfire of the year in New Mexico was started last week, and firefighters are still working to contain the 1,200-acre fire that ravaged the dry mountains of Hualapai in western Arizona he over a week ago.

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