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‘It’s year-round fire season here’: Orange County’s Jim Fire covers 550 acres

Crews were making progress against the Jim Fire in Orange County on Thursday, but officials said the blaze’s rapid growth offered a grim glimpse of what the 2022 wildfire season may have in store.

The fire started around 11:20 a.m. Wednesday in the Holy Jim Canyon area of ​​the Cleveland National Forest and quickly spread upstream, feeding on sun-scorched vegetation that saw little rain. since the beginning of the year.

As of Thursday morning, the fire had burned 553 acres and was 15% contained.

Officials said no homes were threatened and no evacuations had been ordered.

Nearly 100 personnel — including crews from the U.S. Forest Service, Orange County Fire Authority and California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection — were attacking the blaze from the air and the ground, the spokesman said. Cleveland National Forest, Nathan Judy.

“Our firefighters were able to get out and put more boots on the ground overnight,” Judy said. “Today we will have more crews in the line of fire, building that containment line, but of course it will take us a while to get a line around this fire.”

The fire encroached on the burn scar from the 2018 holy fire, which helped slow its spread with overhead water and retarding drops, he said.

Holy fire caused by arson consumed more than 23,000 acres and destroyed 18 buildings.

Ground firefighters had to traverse steep terrain to reach the front lines of the flames, Judy said.

The fire’s rapid growth – from 10 to 400 acres in its first three hours – could spell trouble for the coming fire season. A record-breaking dry start to the year in California, coupled with extreme temperature swings, is setting the landscape up for burning.

“Nowadays is fire season all year round here in Southern California,” Judy said, noting that crews have already battled several unusually early wildfires this year, including the blaze 154-acre Emerald Fire near Laguna Beach and the Sycamore Fire near Whittier, which burned just 7 acres but destroyed two homes.

“Not just the Forest Service, but every agency has fires in California — no matter what time of year,” Judy said. “If the fuel is receptive, which it is, all it takes is a spark to start a forest fire.”

Although January and February are usually the heart of California’s rainy season, this year’s two-month period was the driest on record for most of California.

Additionally, parts of Orange County have seen record-breaking heat in recent days, including 90 degrees in Anaheim on Monday, when the city was the hottest place in the nationand again on Tuesday.

Crews were banking on an incoming cool weather system to help quell Jim’s fire from Thursday through Friday.

The National Weather Service said the system moving in from the Gulf of Alaska could significantly lower temperatures and bring the chance of rain and snowfall to the mountains.

The cause of Jim’s fire remains under investigation, Judy said.




Los Angeles Times

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