This publication has been updated.
In August, we wrote that California was experiencing the largest fire in its history and created a map showing how much the state had burned in the last five years. A few months later, we are updating our knowledge, as November has brought the Golden State the deadliest and most destructive fires in its history.
Even in August, the fire season was already at its worst level since 2008. Today, the flames have destroyed the entire city of Paradise, countless homes on the beach in Malibu and surrounding area, and a record 42 deaths. 200 are still missing. The Camp, Hill and Woolsey fires have already burned more than 190,000 acres collectively.
Unfortunately, this has become a common practice for Californians. The state is so thirsty that massive fires occur all the time and that climate change does not help. In recent years, huge bands have dried up, caught fire and left blackened earth to try to recover.
Most of California's hottest fires have burned since 2000, 13 out of 20 in total, as higher temperatures have made forest fires more likely and destructive. In the last five years alone, that's all the state has burned.
It can be difficult to get an idea of the extent of the state of these tasks, so here's a rough idea. CAL Fire estimates the number of acres burned each year, both in their own jurisdictions and in those covered by the US Forest Service. If we add the total area from 2013 to 2018, we get 5,395,088 acres. California has about 100 million acres, which means that about 5.4% of the state has burned in the last five years. This may not seem like much, but as the map shows, the same areas tend to get hit again and again. Some parts of the state are completely desert, while others are snowy mountains, so it is the intermediate parties that tend to cause fires. And unfortunately, it's also where people tend to live.
"California is built to burn and burn explosively," said Stephen Pyne, a fire historian and professor at the School of Life Sciences at the University of Arizona State. Popular science. Dry heat, droughts, expanses of land that depend on regular wildfires to regenerate – it's a deadly recipe.
Of course, it's not just the west coast. The wildfires burned all over the world last year. South Africa, New Zealand, Russia, Canada and Brazil were all on fire at different times.
Officials say they hope to contain the fires by the end of the month. The fire on the hill is already 85% controlled, but the much larger Woolsey and Camp flames are controlled by only about 30%, even after the destruction of several thousand houses and buildings. But they will certainly not be the last to rage in California. If you are near or in a fire-exposed area, consult these tips for staying safe. Unfortunately, global warming will make it more and more difficult to prevent and control fires. Until we solve this problem, we will be much more hot.