California's Wildfire Threat Is So Severe That The Season Started Early

04/16/2014 05:16 pm ET | Updated Apr 16, 2014

Don’t let the recent rains and green hillsides fool you -- the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection says the fresh growth is only covering up months of dry, dead grass, putting California at risk for one of its most severe fire seasons ever.

Warnings issued to homeowners in the state’s most wildfire-prone areas urged them to prepare earlier than ever for the summer fire season in light of California’s historic drought, ABC News 10 reported.

“Over the next couple of months almost all of Northern California's gonna be at an above average potential for large and damaging wildfires," Cal Fire spokesman Daniel Berlant told the station. “These drought conditions that we're seeing are absolutely playing a huge factor in the size and the number of wildfires we're responding to.”

The dangerous season ahead will follow what has already been a wildfire-packed year, the agency's director, Chief Ken Pimlott, said in a press release. Since the start of the year, the department has responded to around 900 wildfires charring almost 2,400 acres, nearly triple the average number and acreage for the same time period in years past, Cal Fire announced.

Amid the ominous conditions, Cal Fire has launched a hiring spree to beef up its force, with nearly 100 additional seasonal firefighters stationed from Shasta County to Santa Cruz.

“The drought conditions have necessitated staffing up resources much earlier than normal,” Pimlott said.

To create a defensible space around homes threatened by wildfires, the department urges residents to remove all dead grass and vegetation from their yards, clear dry leaves from rain gutters and trim trees so that branches are a minimum of ten feet from other trees and not hanging over a roof, among other safety precautions.

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