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Fire seasons play out differently every year. Yet, a look at the five-year rolling averages of acres burned by wildfires in California shows that, despite a quiet 2019, the average area destroyed annually is growing.
After fires have caused much harm and destruction in the state this fall, it is yet to be seen if the current season will surpass the devastating 2018 toll since numbers by the state government remain preliminary.
In 2018, the Camp wildfire roared through the state. It was the deadliest wildfire in California’s history, causing 86 deaths. The fire destroyed about 7,100 structures, most of which were homes, and drove up acres burned to almost 2 million. In 2020 so far, CalFire and the Forest Service alone have registered around 1.4 acres burned. At least 26 people died.
California’s continuous battle with drought along with unusually high temperatures and dry vegetation has contributed to devasting and destructive fire seasons. The cost of mitigation has been rising quickly – from $61 million in the 1990s to more than $400 million in the 2010s.
This chart shows the acreage burned in wildfires across California annually between 2008 and 2020.