Rain not enough to prevent wildfires in Glendale area

The unusual summer rain that dampened Glendale earlier this week will do little to quench parched hillside brush that continues to pose a high fire risk, officials said.

For all the gloom and humidity, the light rainfall was simply too little too late to make up for drought conditions in winter and spring, said Frank Vidales, acting chief of the Los Angeles County Fire Department's Forestry Division.

Brush in the hills above Glendale and most other parts of Los Angeles County is unusually dry — so dry that results of recent vegetation moisture tests resemble the norm for late August or early September.

"This is a very dangerous fire season. Usually we have our worst fire danger in October, but we're there right now in terms of [brush] moisture," Vidales said.

The winter of 2012-13 was the sixth driest in the Los Angeles area since record-keeping began with the 1887-88 season, Jet Propulsion Laboratory climatologist Bill Patzert said.

This week's drizzle produced less than one-twentieth of an inch of rainfall in the area, with most of its moisture remaining high in the sky or evaporating before it reached the surface, National Weather Service specialist Stuart Seto said.

And because hillside shrubs and grasses have entered a dormant summer cycle, they won't be actively absorbing even the tiny bit of moisture that did reach the soil, Glendale Fire Department spokeswoman Brandy Villanueva said.

Similar conditions prompted the U.S. Forest Service to raise the fire-danger level in the Angeles National Forest from "high" to "very high" — the second-highest warning level — on July 2.

Not long after the clouds pass, dry grasses and shrubs will go right back to being as dry as they were last week, enough so that they would burn as if they were dead, Angeles National Forest Fire Information Officer Nathan Judy said.

While some of the 160,000 acres that burned in the 2009 Station fire remain denuded beyond significant fire risk, other areas have grown back — and dried out — to the point where it's become a concern, Judy said.


Follow Joe Piasecki on Twitter: @JoePiasecki.


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