By Sam Shane

SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — A dry winter in California following an already busy fire season means the worst could be yet to come.

In the first month of the year, Cal Fire has already battled a staggering number of fires. In addition, wells are running dry in the region.

READ MORE: Electra Fire: Firefighters Strengthening Control Lines, Some Amador County Evacuation Warnings Downgraded

With 32 years under his belt, Cal Fire Chief Andy McMurry calls this dry year unprecedented.

“Right now, we’re in the process of picking up and getting everybody back in place to meet the need,” he said.


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That means hiring 125 seasonal workers months ahead of schedule.

The need is clear. So far this year, Cal Fire has responded to more than 400 wildfires that have burned more than 1,000 acres. The five-year average for this time of year is 70 fires and 130 acres.

It means firefighters are in for long, exhausting hours, and time away from their families for weeks at a time.

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“What i worry about is when people get tired, and they get fatigued, they get hurt,” McMurry said.

Instead of waiting until June, he recommends homeowners in wildland areas start clearing their defensible space now, and hinted they might start inspections earlier this year.

State parks are already taking action, clearing anything that could fuel fire around trails at Empire Mine.

Because 94 percent of wildfires are caused by humans, McMurry says the public needs to know how serious a threat the drought is.

“The minute the fires stop burning, well we’re getting ready for the next time,” he said.

Another major worry is wells. People living in rural areas that don’t have access to municipal water are already running dry.

Drilling companies like Rumsey Lang are getting emergency calls from homeowners in desperate need of new water sources.

“It’s the busiest I’ve seen in the last probably five years,” said Nick Rumsey.

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The state has already identified 17 communities that could run out of water in the next 60 to 100 days. Three are in our area:

  • The Jackson Valley Irrigation District in Amador County
  • The Washington Ridge Conservation Camp in Nevada County
  • and Ophir Gardens in Placer County.