Is California on Pace for a Massive Wildfire Season This Year?

The year is already off to an alarming start

Firefighters in California
Firefighters battle a vegetation fire in the area of the 91 and 241 Freeways on June 21, 2024.
Qian Weizhong/VCG via Getty Images

Depending on the circumstances, the effects of a wildfire can be wide-ranging: one might be devastating to a community, while another might be part of a natural cycle of renewing the landscape. A drier climate and hotter temperatures can make wildfires more likely, regardless of the effects; unfortunately, that’s also precisely what California and much of the Southwest are experiencing right now. And, wouldn’t you know it — wildfires are also on an alarming pace in the Golden State.

That’s one of the big takeaways from an incisive analysis by the Los Angeles Times‘ Grace Toohey. Data cited in the article revealed that, between January 1 and June 19 of this year, significantly more acres have burned in wildfires than in any of the last five years. Cal Fire spokesperson Isaac Sanchez told the Times, “We’re concerned — we’re always concerned, though.”

As of this writing, 99,544 acres have burned in California this year. Cal Fire’s website took a measured approach, observing that “[t]he season’s outlook calls for vigilant monitoring and preparedness, as these varied weather patterns may lead to differing fire risks across regions.”

Other experts are more concerned. A recent New York Times report on California’s wildfire season quoted UCLA climate scientist Daniel Swain. “I think we’re going to see a greatly increased level of fire activity this year, compared to the last two years,” Swain said.

What to Know Before Visiting the Sierras During Wildfire Season
Plan ahead, check the weather and know your escape routes

If past history is any indication, wildfire season is just getting started. Erik Scott, captain of the Los Angeles Fire Department, told the Los Angeles Daily News that fire season runs from June through December. That could make for some harrowing scenes of the California landscape in the coming months.

The InsideHook Newsletter.

News, advice and insights for the most interesting person in the room.