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When Is Wildfire Season in California?

California’s natural environment encourages the spread of wildfires. Low humidity, lack of precipitation, dry vegetation, high temperatures and hot winds create ideal conditions for a fire to spark and spread. Several months during the year are referred to as California’s “wildfire season,” typically from summer to fall. This time of year tends to have conditions that are the most conducive to wildfires. Wildfire season generally falls between July and October but has become longer in recent years.

When Is Wildfire Season?

California’s wildfire season does not go by exact dates. Instead, it refers to the period of time each year where the weather creates peak conditions for wildfires – the time of year when hot, dry winds and high temperatures are frequent. Typically, this is early summer through fall: May or July through October or November. However, experts have recently suggested that California’s wildfire season is elongating due to higher global temperatures and drier weather.

Many people assume that wildfire season coincides with the hottest part of the year in California – summertime. However, autumn is historically the worst season for wildfires. According to statistics from CAL FIRE, 13 of the top 20 most destructive wildfires in California’s history (65 percent) took place from September through November. One even took place in December (the Thomas Fire).

Although fires may be less frequent in fall, they cause more damage overall in terms of acres burned. September and October are the most vulnerable months for California, mainly due to the high winds that blow across the state. Fall also tends to have drier vegetation due to little to no rain in a hot and dry summer. Rain typically does not return to California until October or November. This, too, has changed in recent years.

Why Have Wildfire Seasons Gotten Worse in California?

California has seen a trend of delayed precipitation, with rain waiting until late November and December to fall over the last several years. This has led to drier vegetation and an extended wildfire season. In addition, an overall increase in global temperatures has contributed to drier vegetation, creating more fuel for wildfires. Now, experts believe that California’s wildfire season is most likely from May to November. 

Not only have wildfire seasons gotten longer in recent years; they have also gotten worse in terms of fire severity and the amount of destruction. For instance, 15 out of 20 of the most destructive wildfires in California have taken place in the last 10 years alone. All but 2 of the top 20 occurred in the last 20 years. The worst fire in the state’s history, the Camp Fire, destroyed 18,804 structures and killed 85 people in 2018 – a significant increase from the second-most deadly fire, the 2017 Tubbs Fire, that destroyed 5,636 structures and took 22 lives.

California’s wildfire season of 2020 was one of the most severe in history, with 4.3 million acres burned, 10,000 structures destroyed and 33 victims killed (source: CAL FIRE). Unfortunately, 2021 is shaping up to be even worse. Experts are predicting a grim wildfire season due to statewide droughts, one of the driest springs on record and higher-than-usual temperatures. These elements make for dangerous conditions, with dry fuel and wind to spread wildfires rapidly.

How to Prepare for Wildfire Season

Prepare for this year’s wildfire season by creating an evacuation plan and knowing how to execute it quickly with your family and pets. Pay attention to weather reports and listen for warnings about wildfire hazards in your area. Always evacuate immediately if told to do so. Make your home more fire-resistant by using flame-retardant materials. 

Create a defensible space around your house that is free from flammable materials and vegetation, if possible. Keep your gutters clear and remove any tree limbs or shrubs that are touching your home. Stay informed about the latest wildfire alerts using tools such as the news, radio and the Frontline Wildfire Defense app from at least May to November. If you are in need of representation, our Dixie Fire lawsuit lawyers are prepared to help you and your family recover.