Every year on the west coast of the United States, California seemingly gets wildfires as much as Washington State and Oregon get rain. But, in 2020, it got even worse, with The Golden State setting a new record with over 2.2 million acres of land burned…and the year isn’t even over with yet.
The California Department of Forestry Fire and Protection (the agency that protects over 30 million acres of the wild lands of California) says that at least eight people have died from these fires this year, and that over 3,300 structures have been destroyed because of them.
There are many ways that wildfires can get started according to experts, and about 85% of the time it’s the fault of human beings. When a wildfire occurs, it is majorly because of intense drought, which can cause green vegetation to actually turn into burnable fuel. When that happens, all that’s needed is a small spark, such as someone carelessly flicking a cigarette, a campfire being left unattended or not extinguished properly, or an old, worn power line starting a flame.
Which Locations Have the Biggest Risk of Wildfires in California?
When examining the Wildfire Map that’s provided by the Los Angeles Times, at first look it may seem as if almost everywhere in California is at risk of suffering a devastating wildfire. Places where wildfires are prone to develop during the year are color and symbol-labeled on the map, and the origins of the fires on it are marked with X’s. Hot spots are in purple, and the places that will suffer from air pollution are marked with curvy, grey lines that resemble smoke. Warning and mandatory evacuation zones are also marked.
The U.S. Drought Monitor releases a weekly report, and found that over 45% of the State of California has at least moderate drought conditions. Most of this area is above Fresno (a city that sits in the middle of the state), and it seemingly gets drier and drier as you go north. According to recent reports, the Fresno area is just abnormally dry. When you move north you enter county’s that experience moderate drought, then move into areas that are prone to severe drought, until finally you reach the northern tip of the state above Eureka, California where extreme drought was the weather condition for much of the year.
What Were the Worst California Wildfires to Date?
Believe it or not, wildfires do actually have natural benefits to nature. For example, National Geographic points out how they can destroy “disease ridden plants” and return natural soil nutrients to the earth when they burn away “dead or decaying matter”.
Still, there have been some horrible ones in California in the past. According to ABC News Channel 7 in San Francisco, number three on the top worst California fires list (judged by the number of structures that were destroyed) was 1991’s Tunnel Fire in Oakland Hills, which incinerated close to 3,000 structures. Number two on the list was in 2017, and was called Tubbs Fire. It occurred in Napa and Sonoma Counties, and took out over 5,500 structures.
The worst fire in California history by far was 2018’s Butte County Camp Fire. It burned over 18,800 structures that year.