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California officials warn fire season could be worst in 100 years

Southern California fire officials warned Monday that the state should take caution during a brutal fire season that projections suggest could be the worst to hit the region in a century.

“We’re going to have a very volatile fire season,” Los Angeles County Fire Chief Daryl Osby said at a Monday afternoon news conference, who noted it could be the worst in 100 years.

The warning comes nearly a week after a monstrous wildfire began to cut a deadly path through Colorado Springs, killing two people and destroying nearly 500 homes. The Black Forest Fire – the most destructive blaze in Colorado history – was 75 percent contained Monday.

California officials advised that projected weather conditions – a menacing mix of warm, dry Santa Ana winds and scant rainfall – may make the looming fire season the most devastating in 100 years.

“Fire conditions in southern California are at levels we have not seen in many, many years,” California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection Director Ken Pimlott said Monday. “That is the case across all of California.”

The blazes on the forecast are expected to wreak extensive havoc across wide swaths of the state, endangering lives and natural resources, Pimlott said.

“These aren’t fires that just burn out in the forest and in the brush lands,” Pimlott said. “These are fires that directly impact the state’s natural resources and the very water that we drink and the air that we breathe.”

Officials are bracing for roughly 2,600 fires across 51,000 acres – a 75 percent increase from the annual average over the last five years, according to Pimlott.

A 30,000-acre drought-fueled powerhouse blaze ripped through the region in early June, forcing thousands of evacuations and threatening thousands of buildings. The fire destroyed at least six homes.

The devastation wrought by the massive Colorado wildfire should serve as a “wake up call” for Californians, Pimlott said.

“All we need to do right now is look on the news and see what’s occurring in Colorado and Colorado Springs,” Pimlott said. “The exact same conditions exist in California.”

“We all need to be prepared,” he added.