By Rachel Wulff

SIERRA COUNTY (CBS13) — Unseasonably dry conditions this year are making more work for fire crews.

Last February was one of the wettest on record, but this year, Cal Fire crews are looking at June staffing levels now.

The Antelope Fire burned approximately 120 acres in Sierraville in the Tahoe National Forest on Monday. Cal Fire crews helped get it under control, in what has already been a busy February.

Cal Fire Battalion Chief Steve Mueller says low humidity, windy conditions, and no rain has ramped up response.

“For this week we’ve had 10 fires for two and a half acres in Nevada-Yuba-Placer Counties and that is for the second week of February, pretty rare,” Mueller said. “You would normally in the summer get four engines, air tanker, air attacker, a helicopter and a dozer, two hand crews to that fire.”

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Crews have already cleared more than 800 acres between Colfax and Applegate. It’s one of three dozen state projects approved by the Governor to reduce fuels heading into wildfire season. 

“Hundreds of thousands of personnel hours have gone into this fuel break,” Mueller said. 

Crews cut and clear vegetation down low in the north fork of the American Canyon before it spreads higher and becomes difficult to control.

“Once it gets into the canopy, then it starts throwing up embers and spots and then not only do we have the main firefight, then we have spot fires and then if it’s windy, those spot fires carry ahead of the main fire two-three hundred, maybe even a quarter to a half-mile ahead,” Mueller said. 

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About 15,000 people who live in the area are grateful for the protection.

 “We’ve already experienced two power outages because of wind and how crazy it gets,” Tyler Ricco said. 

Ricco is clearing defensible space around his home to help out, knowing the best way to fight a fire is before it begins.

“If we didn’t have this clearable space, we would be trapped up here,” Ricco said. 

Cal Fire is hoping for a Miracle March in terms of rain, saying they have seen more fire between 1,500 and 4,000 feet because there is no snow there this year.


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