Special Report: California's emerging drought crisis

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All this week, KCBS Radio is taking a look at California’s emerging drought crisis. In part one, Kathy Novak looks at how the dry conditions are affecting one region of the Bay Area.

Two years of underwhelming rain totals and snowpack means California is now going through another drought.

Combine that with record high dry vegetation growth, and the state could be looking at a potentially highly destructive wildfire season ahead. Sonoma County was one of the first area officially declared to be in a drought emergency, with rainfall at less than 40% of the average in some parts.

"The grass is pretty dry for mid-May. The grass is almost completely cured," said fire ecologist Dr. Sasha Berleman on a recent aerial tour of the region, pointing out areas that burned over the last few years.

Dr. Berleman is the Director of the Fire Forward Program at Audubon Canyon Ranch, which works to educate landowners about stewardship measures such as fuel management, as they face wildfires, climate change and drought.

"Absolutely drought is also worsening our fire seasons," she said. "And where we haven’t been doing successful stewardship for 100 years, we have way too many trees competing for very limited water."

Just last week, the conditions prompted Gov. Newsom to extend the drought emergency declarat