Fire threats not diminished

Dark clouds form over Garner Valley bringing a strong rainstorm to Idyllwild Saturday afternoon.
Photo by JP Crumrine

The dry summer was temporarily abated this weekend yet the rain here never approached the hurricane levels that drenched Texas and now are inundating Florida from hurricanes Harvey and Irma.

“The rain helps slow the fire and its spread if we do get a start,” said Idyllwild Fire Chief Patrick Reitz. “There’s still a lot of dry fuel — weeds and brush — and dead fuel that’s not taking up the moisture. It’s still a high-to-extreme fire threat.”

From Friday night through Monday, the Idyllwild Fire Station recorded 0.64 of an inch of rain. Pine Cove received less rain, slightly more than half an inch. But a little further south, at the U.S. Forest Service’s Keenwild Ranger Station, nearly an inch of rain was recorded in that 24-hour period.

While this is the most rain on the Hill since May, the long-term average rainfall for September is 0.87 of an inch and Keenwild has exceeded that volume before the middle of the month.

Still, the totals since July 1 remain far below the historic average through the end of August, which is nearly 1.5 inches. Idyllwild Fire Station has recorded 0.8 of an inch and Pine Cove has recorded 0.86 of an inch. The greatest amount of local rain since July 1 has been at Keenwild, which has received 1.1 inches through Monday, nearly half an inch less than the historic average through the end of August.

“One inch of rain will have an impact; it will probably lessen the fire behavior for about one week, although a hot spell could lessen that period of time,” wrote Cal Fire County Fire Chief John Hawkins, who assessed the rain’s value about the same as Reitz.

As Saturday’s heavy rain began, a power outage occurred in a small area of Idyllwild. At about 3 p.m., power was lost for almost three hours to homes along Idyllbrook Drive. Southern California Edison said the cause is unknown, according to Susan Cox of the SCE Media Relations Office.

However, in recent weeks, all of the power poles have been replaced in this stretch.