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Forest Fires Ravaging California...In January (UPDATED)

Drier-than-average conditions are exacerbating the blazes.

by: Trent Knoss

image: USFWS
image: USFWS

It's been a nutty January in California. First bears on the ski slopes near Tahoe and now a series of fast-moving forest fires in what is typically the coldest, wettest month of the year. The Colby blaze, currently burning northeast of Los Angeles (and may or may not be arson-related) has spread across more than 1,700 acres as of this writing. Further north, a separate fire in Sequoia National Park is up to 130 acres.

California experienced its driest year on record in 2013, a pattern that has carried over into the new year. From The Weather Channel:
Even the nation's driest location, Death Valley, Calif. (2.17") picked up more rain this year than the following California locations:

Paso Robles, Calif. (1.92"...yearly average is 12.78")
King City, Calif. (1.98"...yearly average is 12.06")
Hanford, Calif. (1.99" at the airport site...yearly average is 10.10")

The paltry total in Los Angeles (3.60") was only slightly wetter than the nation's driest city, on average, Yuma, Ariz. (3.42") in 2013.

UPDATE: 1/17, 10 AM: The New York Times and other outlets are reporting that three campers, all men in their early twenties, have been arrested in connection with the Colby fire. The men allegedly started a campfire in an unauthorized location and lost control of the fire when strong winds scattered the embers. The suspects are described as being "apologetic," but could still face potential fines or jail time if the county decides to press charges.

The wildfire's forward progress appeared to halt late last night thanks to a fortuitous change in weather, firefighters told the Times.

Read more: Los Angeles Times

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