Tuesday, September 14, 2021

California keeps burning over and over and over


More than 1 of every 100 acres in the state are part of an active wildfire

...It is not new that California would be on fire. The state has a very experienced agency generally referred to as CalFire that is tasked with preventing and combating the regularly emerging conflagrations. It has robust documentation of where fires have emerged over time, records that have gotten more precise and detailed over the past several decades. That data shows us how common fire has been in the state over the past 150 years, like so.

Areas depicted in gray are cities and other urban communities. The red splotches, obviously, are the fires. The darker the red, the more fires in a place over time. So you can see that there have been a lot more fires in the outskirts of the cities in Southern California than, say, on the eastern side of the San Francisco Bay area. That’s in part because the Bay Area is better insulated from the worst droughts California faces than is the more desert-heavy southern part of the state.

CalFire’s data on wildfires gives rough windows for when parts of the state burned, allowing us to roughly estimate how much of California’s land area was on fire in any given month. Its data indicates that, through June, about 2.5 percent of the state had burned over the prior 12 months.

Since June, though, the state has recorded two of its largest fires in history. At the moment, more than 1 in 100 acres of California’s land area are part of an active wildfire. That includes the still-burning Dixie Fire, the second-largest in state history. The largest on record began in August of last year. In 2020 and 2021, more than 5 percent of the state’s land area has burned. In 2018, Popular Science estimated that the same acreage had burned over the preceding five years.

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