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Officials brace for impact as recent surge in fire activity raises concerns about upcoming wildfire season: 'August to October could be quite active'

"We have lots of extra fuel with two wet years in a row."

"We have lots of extra fuel with two wet years in a row."

Photo Credit: iStock

An early summer surge in California wildfire activity could signal that this fire season will be worse than forecast.

What's happening?

The Corral Fire that flared up in early June burned more than 14,000 acres between San Francisco and Modesto. The blaze injured two firefighters. Just two weeks later, firefighters were trying to contain the Post Fire in Los Angeles and Ventura counties, which had burned over 15,000 acres. NBC Los Angeles said it was about 83% contained as of June 23.   

Two wet winters in a row have helped new grasses grow. The hot and dry weather pattern in May and June is drying out the grasses, providing fuel for fires. It's already been an active start to the wildfire season, and there is still a long way to go.

"We have lots of extra fuel with two wet years in a row, so August could become active, especially if we get the expected warmer-than-normal month of July," Alex Tardy with the National Weather Service in San Diego said, according to The Washington Post. "We are also looking at less monsoon activity for the West, so combined with repeated heat waves. … August to October could be quite active."

The National Weather Service's forecast for the summer favors all of California for above-average temperatures overall. A hot summer would be one ingredient that would make California more conducive to wildfires this year.

Why is wildfire activity during June in California important?

California has seen a significant uptick in wildfires over the past nearly 30 years. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, summer burned areas in the northern and central parts of the state increased fivefold from 1996 to 2021 compared to 1971 through 1995. 

An international group of researchers concluded in Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences that nearly all of the observed increase in burned areas over the past 50 years was due to human-caused climate change.

The recent fires in California could begin another long, challenging wildfire season. A warming world is increasing the aridity of forest fuels during the fire season, which translates to longer and more active fire seasons. 

What's being done about increasing wildfire activity?

The National Park Service says 85% of wildfires are caused by people. The U.S. Department of Interior's tips for preventing wildfires include only building a campfire in an open location, far from flammables, and dousing your campfire when finished until it's fully cold.

Cooling the planet by reducing the amount of heat-trapping gases in our atmosphere addresses the main cause of the increasing wildfire activity.

The biggest thing we can do is get more involved in climate issues to advocate for broader change, but we can all help in small ways with steps such as changing the way we use electricity. Unplugging "energy vampires," switching to LED bulbs, and weatherizing our houses can also help to drive down carbon dioxide pollution while saving some money along the way.

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