The 2017 wildfire season in California was among the worst on record, punctuated by deadly late-fall blazes in both the north and south parts of the state.
This year has been far worse.
With the Camp Fire in Butte County, already the deadliest in the state’s history, and the Woolsey Fire in the Malibu area, California has lost a total of 1,627,652 acres to wildfires so far in 2018, according to Cal Fire statistics. The figure, which is complete through Monday, includes acreage on land where the U.S. Forest Service instead of Cal Fire takes the lead on firefighting efforts.
By contrast, wildfires devoured 1,248,606 acres in all of 2017, according to Cal Fire, including the horrific wine country fires and devastating blazes in Southern California.
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The increase makes 2018 the worst fire season in California in at least 15 years, eclipsing the 1,593,690 acres consumed in 2008, with fires still burning and six weeks left in the year. Full containment on the Camp Fire is not expected until the end of November, and Cal Fire estimates the Woolsey Fire will be contained by Nov. 19.
In 2008, notable fires included the Bear Wallow Complex in Siskiyou County, which burned 192,038 acres, and the 162,818-acre Basin Complex in Monterey County.
State officials such as Gov. Jerry Brown have cited climate change as a factor in the increasing severity of California’s fire seasons. President Donald Trump’s administration has been reluctant to discuss climate change but Trump’s Interior secretary, Ryan Zinke, acknowledged on a trip this week to Paradise that climate conditions are worsening.
“The fire season has gotten longer and the temperatures have gotten hotter,” Zinke said. He also said state and federal officials have to work more closely together to thin out overgrown forested areas.
This year the Mendocino Complex Fire set a record for the most acres burned: 410,203. The Camp Fire has chewed through 142,000 acres as of Friday morning.