Wildfires in California this year have scorched 3 times more land
13 Jul 2021
Embers blow across a field as the Sugar Fire, part of the Beckwourth Complex Fire, burns in Doyle, California, Friday, July 9.
(CNN)A severe drought, coupled with human-induced climate change, has resulted in a fire season that has already seen more than three times as much land burned in California so far this year than during the same time span last year, officials said Monday.
The state recorded its worst fire season ever in 2020, with more than 4.2 million estimated acres burned.
As of Monday, 142,477 acres have been scorched in the state, which is 103,588 more acres than during the same time period last year, Cal Fire said in a tweet Monday.
An air tanker drops retardant to keep the Sugar Fire, part of the Beckwourth Complex Fire, from reaching the Beckwourth community in Plumas County, California, on Friday, July 9.
"While wildfires are a natural part of California's landscape, the fire season in California and across the West is starting earlier and ending later each year," Cal Fire said. "Climate change is considered a key driver of this trend."
Cal Fire data shows fires this year have damaged or destroyed 119 structures but no fatalities have been reported. Last year, more than 10,000 structures were damaged or destroyed and 33 people were killed.
There have been 4,991 fires in California since January, mostly due to extremely hot and dry conditions, according to Cal Fire. By this time last year, roughly 700 fewer fires had burned across the Golden State.
Warmer temperatures in the spring and summer paired with reduced snowpack and early snowmelt are creating drier seasons, according to the agency. This causes a decrease in moisture on vegetation, making forests and plants more susceptible to wildfires.
"The length of the fire season is estimated to have increased 75 days across the Sierras and seems to correspond with an increase in the extent of forest fires across the state," according to Cal Fire.
Severe drought remains in the forecast through the west and northwest for the next week, according to the 3-7 day Hazard Outlook from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Weather Prediction Center.
While much of the area will continue to be hot and dry, parts of the southwest, including Arizona and New Mexico could see excessive rainfall, the agency said. However, it won't be enough to quell the raging fires that continue to burn throughout the US.
Fire issues across the country
The National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC) said currently, 59 large fires have burned nearly 864,000 acres across 12 states.
More than 1.9 million acres burned in 33,772 fires from January 1 to July 11 this year, according to the NIFC, surpassing the previous year's tally for the same period.
A fire in northern California has already burned some structures and threatens at least 600 others, officials said Monday night.
The River Fire in Mariposa and Madera counties grew to 9,000 acres after sparking Sunday, the Cal Fire incident page shows.
The fire is burning west of Highway 41, which is a route that leads to Yosemite National Park, Cal Fire spokesperson Jaime Williams told CNN early Monday morning.
The Beckwourth Complex Fire, the largest burning in the Golden State, has charred 91,200 acres and is 26% contained, according to InciWeb. The complex comprises of the Dotta Fire and Sugar Fire burning in the Plumas National Forest, which were both ignited by lightning nearly two weeks ago.
Nearly 2,000 residences are threatened, according to fire information spokesperson Mike Ferris.
But California is not the only state experiencing a devastating drought and fire season.
The Bootleg Fire in southern Oregon grew more than 100,000 acres in a day and has now charred more than 153,000 ares, according to InciWeb.
Further north, people in an area near Bend, Oregon, were ordered to evacuate as the Grandview Fire raged in Deschutes County late Monday night.
"This is a Level 3 (Go Now!) Evacuation Notice for all homes north of Holmes Road due to a wildfire. There is immediate and imminent danger and you should evacuate immediately. Leave immediately and as quickly as possible," the Deschutes Sheriff's Office said in a post on Twitter.
The Grandview Fire has burned 4,500 acres and was 5% contained as of early Tuesday morning, according to InciWeb.