‘This is Crazy.’ A Record 2 Million Acres of California Has Burned This Year

September 8, 2020

As predicted last year…

More than 2 million acres of land have been burned by wildfires in California as of Monday, according to state fire agency Cal Fire, surpassing the all-time record of 1.9 million set in 2018. Cal Fire and climate scientists predict that the number of acres burned this year will continue to grow with upcoming weather conditions, including continued heat and offshore winds.

“This is crazy. We haven’t even got into the October and November fire season and we’ve broken the all-time record,” Cal Fire Capt. Richard Cordova told CNN on Sunday.

A Monday statement by Cal Fire said it and fire departments across the state remain prepared for potentially more significant wildfires due to critical fire weather.

In a Friday tweet, climate scientist Daniel Swain of the University of California, Los Angeles, and the National Center for Atmospheric Research, predicted Monday’s new record. He tells TIME the prediction was not very impressive “since we were 95% of the way there on Friday.”

The state is experiencing another wave of record-breaking heat this weekend, and offshore winds beginning around this time of year—the Santa Anna winds in the south, and the Diablo winds in the north—are expected to spread fires further towards the coast of California, according to Swain, where most people live.

“All indications are that this fire season is going to continue to be worse than average,” Swain says.

With the large number of fires burning already, stretching firefighting resources, and the combination of a heat wave and offshore winds, “you don’t even need new ignitions, new sparks,” Swain adds. “These winds will push those fires in places where we don’t want them to go, close to where people live.”

On late Sunday, Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency in five California counties, including Fresno, Madera, Mariposa, San Bernardino and San Diego counties. The largest un-contained fire, known as the Creek Fire near Fresno, Calif., has burned more than 78,000 acres as of Monday, according to Cal Fire.

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