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California's wine regions at risk of fire caused by extreme drought

Published:  08 July, 2014

The entire state of California is now in the worst stages of drought according to new figures released on July 3, 2014 by the US Drought Monitor.

The entire state of California is now in the worst stages of drought according to new figures released on July 3, 2014 by the US Drought Monitor.

According to the monthly statistic published, over one third (36.46%) of California is now in the most severe stage of 'exceptional' drought. 

California's wine counties threatened by drought and increased fire dangerCalifornia drought reaching critical levelsSource: US Drought Monitor is produced by the National Drought Mitigation Center at University of NebraskaThe California drought is worsening and is increasing fire danger across the state.

The US Drought severity classification scheme defines the category D4 or exceptional drought status as "exceptional and widespread crop/pasture losses; shortages of water in reservoirs, streams, and wells creating water emergencies".

The lack of water is increasing fire danger in dry areas and two wild fires in the last seven days have come close to wine areas in Napa County. The Monticello Fire, which is located off of highway 128 near Lake Berryessa started on July 4 has burned over 6,488 acres, and as of yesterday afternoon was only 35% contained. Additionally, the Butts Fire which started on July 1 and burned on the border between Napa and Lake Counties in a wine-producing region called Pope Valley, has destroyed 4, 300 acres and is 90% contained.

CAL FIRE, the state's fire agency, is telling California residents to be extremely cautious due to increased fire danger due to extreme drought conditions

According to Cal Fire, the state's fire agency, the dry conditions are a major reason for the high fire danger.

Chief Ken Pimlott, Cal Fire director said: "This winter we began experiencing conditions that we would usually see in August. In Southern California we never really transitioned out of fire season and in Northern California we began hiring seasonal firefighters several months earlier than normal. We have increased our personnel and now we need the public to make sure they, too, are prepared for early fire season conditions." 

According to the Cal Fire website between the start of the year and June 7, Cal Fire responded to over 2,100 wildfires that charred over 17,000 acres compared to 1,250 wildfires for just over 10,000 acres in an average year for the same time period.

The website cautions residents to use extreme caution due to the fire risks: "With the current weather conditions and elevated fire danger, individuals enjoying the holiday (Independence Day) weekend are asked to use extreme caution."

Governor Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency in January due to the drought conditions affecting California.