News Flash

Fire Department News

Posted on: May 20, 2021

Wildfire Ready: Understanding High Wind Advisories and Red Flag Events

Hire Fire Danger Flag being raised on Red Flag Day

The recent warm and breezy conditions have continued to dry out drought stressed vegetation in and around Santa Rosa.  Following the declaration of Fire Season on Monday, May 17, 2021, the recent weather conditions have caused concern amongst residents.  Winds can spread a wildfire quickly and can make it difficult for firefighters to control. During fire season, the Fire Department receives many questions about winds and we are always willing to help residents better understand how winds contribute to wildfire and explain how we can all be better prepared for those windy, hot summer days. 

There are generally two types of wind flows locally, offshore and onshore. The offshore flow occurs when air moves from land to sea and is usually associated with dry weather. The onshore is bringing air from sea to land.  We’re accustomed to the coastal influence locally when the fog pushes in off the coast and brings moister and higher humidity with a cool breeze to the area. Last week, the National Weather Service (NWS) issued the first Red Flag Warning of the year for our area. The Warning was for the upper elevations of Sonoma County and didn’t include Santa Rosa. Regardless, warm and dry north to northeast winds were felt around the area. Earlier this week, a Wind Advisory was issued for Wednesday night into Thursday morning.  The advisory was issued for ALL of Sonoma County and was for Northwest winds of 15 to 25 mph with gusts up to 40 to 50 mph. The NWS can also issue alerts for high winds. These stronger winds become more concerning as we push further into fire season. In Southern California, strong gust offshore winds are often referred to as Santa Ana Winds.  In the Bay Area, these conditions can be referred to as Diablo Winds. No matter what you call them, winds can not only increase fire spread, but they can fan embers.  Ember cast led to significant damage and destruction in Santa Rosa during the 2017 Fires and the 2020 Glass Fire.    

The Santa Rosa Fire Department encourages all City of Santa Rosa residents in and around our Wildland Urban Interface (WUI) to take steps to prepare for fire season, winds and potential Red Flag Warnings by following these steps: 

  • Maintain defensible space and improve your home hardening by visiting 
  • Focus on maintaining a 0-5 foot free and clear zone around your home by cleaning all fallen leaves and needles, removing vegetation and wood chips/mulch. 
  • Replace or retrofit vents if the screens have ¼” openings with vents designed to prevent embers from being blown into your attic or crawl space. 
  • Learn more about weather alerts 
  • On hot and windy days this fire season, try and avoid outdoor activities that could spark a wildfire.  If you’re working to maintain seasonal grasses, we recommend it be done before 10am and never on excessively hot, dry and windy days.

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