TODAY   |  January 18, 2014

Calif. battles drought, wildfire as state of emergency declared

The state of California is officially in a drought emergency, which comes as firefighters continue battling a rare January wildfire outside of Los Angeles. NBC’s Joe Fryer and TODAY’s Dylan Dreyer reports.

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>>> residents are dealing with one of the driest winters they've ever seen, and now the governor of the state is stepping in, asking people to conserve water for the time being . and joe fryer is following this for us this morning. joe , good morning.

>> good morning, lester . this morning, california is officially in a drought emergency. this comes as firefighters continue battling a rare january wildfire outside of los angeles . the santa ana winds that were fueling the flames have died down, but the larger issue, extreme dry weather , is still a huge problem. in fact, the governor is urging everyone in the state to cut back on their water use by about 20%. it's not a mandatory demand, but if things get worse, it could become one. water restrictions are already under way in some cities. the drought's impact is being felt by farmers and by ranchers. the lack of rain means less grass for cattle to graze on, so some ranchers are actually selling parts of their herd to stay afloat. even some california vineyards are seeing a slight impact. fewer grapes could mean less wine, something consumers would see a few years down the road. bottom line, experts say, even though this drought is taking place in the western part of the country, if the fruits and vegetables that are grown here end up costing more, everyone across the country could feel the impact. lester .

>> all right, joe . thanks very much.

>>> dylan is tracking the situation out west. dylan , any relief in sight?

>> no relief in sight. that's what's unfortunate about this whole setup here. and you know, this is the driest they have seen since 119 years ago. that's how bad this is. this is something we haven't seen in quite some time. and looking at drought monitor for this week, you can see most of california is under this extreme drought. 62% of california is seeing extreme drought conditions , all because of this huge ridge in the western half of the country, an area of high pressure producing these easterly winds. that east wind is a very dry wind. a closer look shows you the santa ana winds are producing conditions that are very favorable for fires to spread. we're not going to see any rain any time soon because this wind coming in over the mountains just helps fuel the fires, and they can spread very easily, because not only is the wind dry, but without much rain recently, the vegetation is very dry as well. and conditions are very favorable for rapid fire growth. and unfortunately, with that high pressure in control, it's not going to allow for any rain any time soon. so, really, it is going to stay dry through the upcoming week, and really, there is just no relief in sight. lester ?

>> all right, dylan . thanks very much. we'll get your full forecast in just a few minutes.