2018 gave California a run for its money. Over 8,500 fires burnt a total of 1,893,913 acres. This is the largest area of burnt land ever recorded in a single fire season, marking it as a serious moment in California’s history and a major natural disaster.
Now, as 2019’s fire season ramps up, the real question is this – are they prepared for how bad this season is going to be, or will we see even more loss of life? Is the state doing all it can to keep its citizens, and firefighters, safe?
How Bad Was 2018, Anyway?
At the beginning of May 2019, the total amount that insurance claims related to the fire season was over $12 billion in the state. It’s estimated that the few months of raging fires cost the state over $3 billion, not to mention the economic impact that the fires had.
97 civilians were killed, with some being trapped in their homes when the fire approached or unable to leave the towns as fire closed off the roads and exits. 6 firefighters fighting the blazes also lost their lives during this time. Well over 80 people were treated for injuries.
The worst of the fires that year was the Mendocino Complex Fire, which burned more than 459,000 acres of land to be classified as the largest complex fire in California’s history, surpassing previous fires in 1889 that held that record.
2019 Will Be ‘Active’
Experts have already said that the 2019 fire season is going to be ‘active’, but they aren’t expecting anything as intense as the previous year. Even still, just one poorly placed fire could cost millions of dollars and innocent lives.
Luckily California had a wet winter and a moist, cool spring that delayed snowmelt at higher elevations. This slow, easy melt means that the ground stays wetter longer, making it harder for a fire to catch and burn.
It doesn’t mean they’re out of the woods, though – heatwaves are expecting through August and September, and this intense blast of warmth could start some serious damage, according to climate scientists. They say that a heatwave now is a lot more dangerous than it was 100 years ago.
If late summer and early fall are especially hot, we can expect more severe fires burning for longer, just like we saw last year. It’s too soon to know for sure.
California is taking all the precautions it can this year, with drought warnings coming earlier than before and regulating water usage more closely. They are also training firefighters more intensely for fighting wildfires, and many counties are prepared at a moment’s notice to travel for the fires.
Residents can only hope that it is enough.