With summer behind us, long-term forecasts suggest California’s 2023 fire season will remain mild. The state’s wildfire season unofficially runs from June to October.
Yes, but: California’s fire season is changing to year-round. In recent years, several devastating wildfires erupted in late fall and early winter.
- The deadly Camp fire, which destroyed the town of Paradise and killed 85 people, broke out on Nov. 8, 2018.
- One of the ten largest blazes in terms of burn area, the Thomas fire began on Dec. 4, 2017, in Ventura and Santa Barbara Counties.
By the numbers: At the end of October, 315,599 acres have burned in the Golden State. For comparison, the city of Los Angeles spans 321,000 acres. By this point in the previous five years, Cal Fire data shows wildfires scorched an average of 1.57 million acres.
Zooming In: California experienced an exceedingly wet winter and an unusually cool spring and summer in 2023. Statewide precipitation is 141% of normal, according to the Department of Water Resources.
Unusual summer rains from Hurricane Hilary helped reduce fire danger for Southern California.
Experts have warned that this year’s rainfall has spurred so much plant growth that there will be ample fuel to burn when the conditions become suitable for fires.
What they’re saying: “We know that there’s a lot of fuel available, but we also know it’s really wet, and so it would take a pretty big, bad-luck-convergence of factors to create fire this year,” Park Williams, a climate scientist at UCLA, told The Los Angeles Times.
“Fire season is not over,” Nick Schuler, Cal Fire’s deputy director of communications, told the LA Times. “The important thing that people recognize is living in California, we live in a Mediterranean climate where wildfire is always a threat.”
The big picture: Even if 2023 remains a mild wildfire year, experts say that, in general, a warmer climate increases the threat that wildfires will burn bigger, hotter, and faster.
Go Deeper: Read more from the New York Times about California’s fire season.