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Santa Rosa Fire Department declares city fire season over following weekend rain

Much-needed weekend rain prompted Santa Rosa Fire Department on Monday to declare the fire season over for its territory.

Battalion Chief Jason Jenkins said that means Santa Rosa firefighters have removed some wildland fire equipment from engines and replaced it with swift-water rescue gear to prepare for winter floods. In addition, the department now will dispatch fewer firefighters to any reports of wildfires.

While the city fire department declared the end of its fire season, the weekend storm that passed over much of Northern California wasn’t enough rain to convince Cal Fire to call the close of the season for the broad area, agency spokesperson Tyree Zander said.

Before making that declaration for both the northern and southern halves of the state, Cal Fire officials are gauging how much moisture is currently held within wildland vegetation following a scorching summer and fall, Zander said.

City firefighters will turn their attention to getting ready to respond to potential mudslides triggered by heavy rains, particularly around the Walbridge and Glass fire burn areas.

“Obviously we’re in drought conditions and need the rain,” Jenkins said. “ … At the same time, it would be nice to have that come in constant bands, rather than downpours that have the tendency to loosen up debris and cause mudslides.”

On Friday and over the weekend, Santa Rosa got about an inch of rain, according to the National Weather Service. Meanwhile, in western Sonoma County, Venado ― typically one of the wettest spots in the county ― reported over 2 inches.

Ryan Walbrun, a weather service meteorologist, said another storm is expected to arrive in the North Bay on Wednesday, dropping a half-inch of precipitation inland and 1 inch to 2 inches near the coast. The rain is not expected be strong enough to cause mudslides in Sonoma County burn areas.

Still, total rainfall in the county this rain season remains well below that of an average year, Walbrun said. In Santa Rosa, the weather service has recorded about 2.5 inches of rain since Oct. 1, a fraction of the 9 inches expected by now.

Walbrun said the warmer, dry weather has been in line with a La Niña weather pattern pushing storms north toward the Pacific Northwest.

Meanwhile, Cal Fire will continue staffing its seasonal fire stations in the North Bay and elsewhere to respond to any new blazes.

As recently as Nov. 24, a brush fire ignited in Lake County near Seigler Springs but was quickly contained to seven acres, Cal Fire reported.

In Southern California, there have been a series of wildfires burning in December, including the Bond Fire in Orange County, which torched close to 7,000 acres and over 30 buildings before firefighters gained full control of the blaze by Dec. 10.

You can reach Staff Writer Ethan Varian at ethan.varian@pressdemocrat.com or 707-521-5412. On Twitter @ethanvarian

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