The burnt Northern California town of Paradise should be expecting rainfall in six months this week, a forecast that would at least disturb one of the most horrifying fire in the history of california.
From the forecast, Paradise could see up to 4 inches of rain Wednesday to Friday, AccuWeather senior meteorologist Kristina Pydynowski said.
Pydynowski said “Once you get the first real rain, the fire season comes to an end “The fire threat falls significantly. But it is a double-edged sword.”
Cal Fire officials explained that the changing climate conditions means that the fire season never fully ends. Still, the rains this week are expected to provide a huge boost for firefighters battling the historic Camp Fire, which has contained by 70 percent as of Monday night.
The rainfall introduces new issues. Hundreds of workers scoured the burnt shells of once beautiful homes in a desperate search for the charred remains of victims before rain washes them away.
The job is huge. The Camp Fire, which has burnt 151,272 acres since Nov. 8, has wrecked more than 11,000 homes, more than 400 businesses and thousands of barns, sheds, garages and other structures. The confirmed death toll stood at 79 as of Monday night, but 699 names are on the “missing” list, down from nearly 1,000 the previous.
The searchers are equipped with masks for breathing, sticks to thrust through the wreckage and cadaver dogs trained to locate human remains. Checked houses are marked with bright orange paint.
Sheriff Kory Honea said it’s likely that the exact death toll will never be known. The search for remains may not be completed before the rain, he said.
Honea said “As much as I wish that we could get through all of this before the rains come, I don’t know if that’s possible,”
A spokesman for the U.S. Forest Service, Brian Ramsey said downpours and slippery roads can limit movement of firefighters, trucks and other equipment.
The numbers of fire evacuees who are in tents are also a concern. On Sunday, officials tried to shut down a tent city outside a Walmart in nearby Chico because of cold temperatures and the forecast of rain. Many campers were shuttled to a shelter at the Butte County Fairgrounds.
Some of the evacuees unwilling to move to the indoor shelters.
Guido Barbero, who helps organize services for the evacuees said “There is a crisis now, and if we don’t get this taken care of now, we’re going to have another crisis”.
Flooding, ash flows and mudslides could present another problem. The blackened earth will be useless in absorbing the rain.
Pydynowski said “The one thing on everybody’s mind is the landslide threat,”.
She said most of the land around Paradise is not really steep, but localized slides and flooding are likely. Areas burnt by previous fires have yet to heal and will be vulnerable, she said.
She said “Any recently scarred area is vulnerable, “The Mendocino Fire area hasn’t had a chance to recover, even areas around the Ferguson Fire.”
The Mendocino Complex Fire, which started in July, burned more than 700 square miles ranking the largest fire in state history. The Ferguson Fire started a couple of weeks earlier and forced the closure of much of Yosemite National Park.
Pydynowski said that the long-range forecast calls for slightly increased rainfall in Northern California this winter. That will be good for dousing fires and bad because it feeds vegetation that will dry out next summer and fuel the fires of 2019.