Fire Season Slow to Ramp Up. Big Norcal Fires Still Expected.

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As of July 28th, the Western U.S. fire season continues to be a quiet one by recent standards.

A survey from the National Interagency Fire Center shows that in terms of acres burned, 2020 is running behind all but one year (2014) in the last ten.  This despite a near average number of fire incidents.

2020 (1/1/20 – 7/28/20) Fires: 30,760 Acres: 1,942,015
2019 (1/1/19 – 7/28/19) Fires: 25,357 Acres: 3,149,811
2018 (1/1/18 – 7/28/18) Fires: 35,752 ,Acres: 4,242,621
2017 (1/1/17 – 7/28/17) Fires: 37,987 Acres: 5,279,990
2016 (1/1/16 – 7/28/16) Fires: 33,035 Acres: 3,231,673
2015 (1/1/15 – 7/28/15) Fires: 34,995 Acres: 5,569,671
2014 (1/1/14 – 7/28/14) Fires: 32,164 Acres: 1,618,732
2013 (1/1/13 – 7/28/13) Fires: 27,323 Acres: 2,257,949
2012 (1/1/12 – 7/28/12) Fires: 36,683 Acres: 4,046,445
2011 (1/1/11 – 7/28/11) Fires: 43,651 Acres: 6,032,386

Here in California, Cal Fire also reports that 2020 has been relatively calm by recent standards.  Although the number of incidents is running higher than prior years, the total acreage burned is well below the totals of recent years (last year was an exception).


January 1, 2020 through July 26, 2020 4,465 59,170
January 1, 2019 through July 26, 2019 2,678 22,860
5-Year Average (same interval) 3,037 95,585

As of July 28th, the largest fires burning in Northern California are a group of lightning-caused blazes near the Oregon border, including the 22 thousand acre Gold Fire, and the 9.5 thousand acre Hog Fire.

As we know well in California, the most dangerous part of the fire season begins in the fall, when warm, dry offshore winds tend to drive fires through wildlands parched by months of hot, rainless weather.

Due to these factors, and a rainy season that delivered half or less of normal rainfall across the northern half of California, fire experts expect big, dangerous fires to ramp up until fall rains finally arrive.

The long range forecast models offer little guidance at this point, hinting at a warm few months ahead, and average rainfall.




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