California wildfire activity significantly lower in 2019, so far

The only drought California has had this year is, thankfully is a wildfire drought.

Let's take a look at the remarkable if not the shockingly low number of acres lost so far this year.

On this day last year, California had already lost 972 square miles to wildfires.

This year we've lost just under 80 square miles so far. That's an astonishing 92% less scorched earth than last year.

Why? "I have no idea. I guess, it's been hot here, so I'm not really sure," said East Bay resident Bill Daniels.

Experts say several key issues made the difference.

"First and foremost, we had a large rainfall year, a lot of snow and very late into the season," said Cal Fire Battalion Chief Jonathan Cox.

Only now is the massive snow pack winding down, which has kept a lot of land and vegetation in the mountains virtually fireproof.

Down below, rivers and streams have kept vegetation very moist, minimizing fires.

Because we've had so few fires this spring and summer so far, that's given both full time and seasonal firefighters a lot more time to clear brush and debris.

And, that means, when those hot winds come, later on, there should be less severe fires and fewer of them.

"So, this year we have been very lucky that we've had those resources down here, and we are, in fact, putting those folks to work fighting those fires before they can start down here," said Dennis Rein of the Moraga-Orinda Fire District.

But there's a lot of fire season still ahead.

"I would hope that the state or whoever is in charge is making the appropriate concessions to keep us all safe from the fires," said resident Daniels.

As never before, we've had the time and state money for critical clearing efforts statewide.

"Thirty-five priority projects going on statewide right now as a part of the Governor's Executive Order." said Chief Cox.

Finally, a lot of home and property owners are paying attention to the term, defensible space.

"We've seen just overwhelming kinds of engagement with communities and organizations to figure out ways that everybody can a) reduce their fire risk but b) reduce the changes of fire," said Cox.

"Everything that we can do before the winds that wind starts blowing and the humidity gets down into single digits is really, everything we do is important," said Rein.

All that said, consider this.

Traditionally, the large and destructive fires we see: the Oakland Hills, the Camp Fires, the Woolsley's, they take place in the fall," said Cox who pints out that means especially September and October.