It's clear the next wildfire season has arrived and as fire departments get ready to respond, weather scientists at the United States Geological Survey are working on forecasting fires.
The deadly CZU Lightning Complex Fire roared through Santa Cruz and San Mateo counties last summer, destroying more than 85,000 acres and more than 900 homes.
An image from the USGS shows the conditions on August 15, the day before the fire started. The orange colors indicate very high fire danger in the Bay Area, and a map was created using information from the USGS Fire Danger Forecasting Project.
“We want to predict conditions where large fires might occur,” said scientist Kurtis Nelson.
In the Bay Area Monday, fire danger was ranked as “moderate.”
Scientists use satellite images to monitor conditions and also look at at live and dead vegetation and the historical record of the region to assess fire danger.
“We combine that with precipitation and wind readings and use those in a model to predict the probability of a fire escaping that initial attempt to control it and rolling into large destructive wildfires like we've seen,” said Nelson.
The goal is simple -- to give firefighters a better idea when to prepare for disaster.
Cal Fire, the U.S. Forest Service and other agencies use the information to position additional firefighters, strategize responses and launch fire detection flights.