Despite rain, fire danger still high

As much as 1.3 inches of rain fell in the Mammoth and Crowley area earlier this week, but it wasn’t enough—and it wasn’t widespread enough—to lessen the fire danger facing the region.

“It would have to rain for a week, a good steady rain, to really change the situation,” said Mammoth Fire Department Marshall Thom Heller.

“This rain did moisten the smaller fuels, like small branches, but if you look under any tree, it’s still dry.”

The storms that hit the region last weekend and into Monday could have been much worse. Although lightning strikes were common, there was enough rain to prevent major fires. Lightning started a small fire near Bridgeport and a few other isolated ones.

When it comes to alleviating fire danger, it is more about how the rain falls than how much falls, according to Heller. A hard rain that dumps several inches might not do as much good as a lesser rain because most of the water will run off the dry ground and end up in drainage ditches rather than soaking into the ground or dampening tree branches enough to resist fire.

There is little in the forecast that will significantly change the dry conditions for the next week or so, according to the National Weather Service. Dry and warm weather are predicted for at least the next week, according to Scott McGuire, a meteorologist with the Reno-based National Weather Service.

Both the NWS and Mammoth’s self-styled weatherman Howard Sheckter agree there might be another chance at rain.

“We might see something in the first week of August,” Sheckter said. McGuire, who said the patterns are pointing toward a higher chance of storms after Aug. 1, echoed his words.

Although the weather mimics patterns usually associated with late August, McGuire said the Eastern Sierra has had a relatively normal summer—especially compared to large swaths of the country suffering through epic drought and heat conditions.

“It’s been mostly seasonal, other than that there have been a few less thunderstorms than are typical for your area,” he said.