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Wildfires in the West  The New York Times

The New York Times

Wed, May 19, 2021 11:05 PM PT


2020 California wildfires

The 2020 California wildfire season, part of the 2020 Western United States wildfire season, was a record-setting year of wildfires in California. By the end of the year, 9,917 fires had burned 4,397,809 acres (1,779,730 ha), more than 4% of the state's roughly 100 million acres of land, making 2020 the largest wildfire season recorded in California's modern history (according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection), though roughly equivalent to the pre-1800 levels which averaged around 4.4 million acres yearly and up to 12 million in peak years. California's August Complex fire has been described as the first "gigafire", burning over 1 million acres across seven counties, an area larger than the state of Rhode Island. The fires destroyed over 10,000 structures and cost over $12.079 billion (2020 USD) in damages, including over $10 billion in property damage and $2.079 billion in fire suppression costs. The intensity of the fire season has been attributed to a combination of more than a century of poor forest management and higher temperatures resulting from climate change.On August 18, Governor Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency, and on August 19, 2020, reported that the state was battling 367 known fires, many sparked by intense thunderstorms on August 16–17 caused by moisture from the remnants of Tropical Storm Fausto. Response and evacuations were complicated by a historic heatwave and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. On August 22, President Trump issued a major disaster declaration (DR-4558), which provides Individual Assistance and/or Public Assistance. In early September 2020, a combination of a record-breaking heat wave and strong katabatic winds, (including the Jarbo, Diablo, and Santa Ana) caused explosive fire growth. The August Complex became California's largest recorded wildfire. The Creek Fire expanded in the Big Creek drainage area, temporarily trapping hundreds of campers near the Mammoth Pool Reservoir.


2021 California wildfires

The 2021 California wildfire season is an ongoing series of wildfires that have burned across the state of California. As of November 16, 2021, a total of 8,367 fires have been recorded, burning 3,083,507 acres (1,247,851 ha) across the state. At least 3,629 buildings have been destroyed by the wildfires, and at least seven firefighters and two civilians have been injured battling the fires.The wildfire season in California experienced an unusually early start amid an ongoing drought and historically low rainfall and reservoir levels. In January 2021 alone, 297 fires burned 1,171 acres (4.74 km2) on nonfederal land according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, which is almost triple the number of fires and more than 20 times the acreage of the five-year average for January. The January fires were exacerbated by unseasonably strong Santa Ana winds, and some of them burned in the same areas as previous fires like the CZU Lightning Complex.The long term trend is that wildfires in the state are increasing due to climate change in California. In terms of the amount of fires burned, the 2021 season has been outpacing the 2020 season, which itself was the largest season in the state's recorded history. As of July 11, more than three times as many acres have burned compared to the previous year through that date, with drought, extreme heat, and reduced snowpack contributing to the severity of the fires. The state also faces an increased risk of post-wildfire landslides.As of August 18, 2021, the state of California was facing "unprecedented fire conditions" as multiple fires including the Dixie Fire, McFarland Fire, Caldor Fire, and others raged on.On October 18, 2021, the state of California, especially in the Northern regions where the majority of the fires had been located, received its first rain in over 200 days. Wildfire risk has lowered substantially in Northern California but remains high in Southern California where the Santa Ana wind season has remained mild so far.


Camp Fire (2018)

The Camp Fire was the deadliest and most destructive wildfire in California's history, and the most expensive natural disaster in the world in 2018 in terms of insured losses.Named after Camp Creek Road, its place of origin, the fire started on Thursday, November 8, 2018, in Northern California's Butte County. Ignited by a faulty electric transmission line, the fire originated above several communities and an east wind drove the fire downhill through developed areas. After exhibiting extreme fire spread, fireline intensity, and spotting behaviors through the rural community of Concow, an urban firestorm formed in the foothill town of Paradise. Drought was a factor: Paradise, which typically sees five inches of autumn rain by November 12, had only received one-seventh of an inch by that date in 2018. With the arrival of the first winter rainstorm of the season, the fire reached 100 percent containment after seventeen days on November 25.The fire caused at least 85 civilian fatalities, with one person still missing as of August 2, 2019, and injured 12 civilians and five firefighters. It covered an area of 153,336 acres (620.5 km2; 239.6 sq mi), and destroyed more than 18,000 structures, with most of the destruction occurring within the first four hours. The towns of Paradise and Concow were almost completely destroyed, each losing about 95% of their structures. The towns of Magalia and Butte Creek Canyon were also largely destroyed. By January 2019, the total damage was estimated at $16.5 billion; one-quarter of the damage, $4 billion, was not insured. The Camp Fire also cost over $150 million in fire suppression costs, bringing the total cost of the fire to $16.65 billion.


List of California wildfires

This is a partial and incomplete list of California wildfires. California has dry, windy, and often hot weather conditions from spring through late autumn that can produce moderate to severe wildfires. Pre-1800, when the area was much more forested and the ecology much more resilient, 4.4 million acres (1.8 million hectares) of forest and shrubland burned annually. California land area totals 99,813,760 or roughly 100 million acres, so since 2000, the area that burned annually has ranged between 90,000 acres, or 0.09%, and 1,590,000 acres, or 1.59% of the total land of California. During the 2020 wildfire season alone, over 8,100 fires contributed to the burning of nearly 4.5 million acres of land.