How many acres of land have burned in California this year? (2024)

California has a long history of wildfires, some of more significant blazes date back to the end of the 19th Century and beyond. Every summer multiple blazes are reported dotted across the state. It’s logical considering the climatic conditions and terrain - hot, dry summers make many zones tinderboxes and steady breezes and high winds blowing in from the Atlantic can quickly make a relatively small fire spiral out of control, engulfing forests, marshland and residential areas.

California's largest wildfire so far this year was 75% contained today after scorching more than 22 square miles during the weekend, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection said.

— Spectrum News 1 SoCal (@SpecNews1SoCal) June 3, 2024

In years gone by, wildfires tended to ignite in remote, rural forest land, but that trend has now changed. The ever-expanding urban sprawl is one of the factors that has only exasperated the problem during the past 30 years. Rather than being a natural phenomenon, many of the fires are down to human activity - carelessness such as dropped cigarette butts, barbecues or fit pits left unattended or abandoned... and some fires are started deliberately.

#RT @CAL_FIRE: Dry leaves & pine needles scatter all around the yard. Also, they accumulate at the base of buildings & on the roof. This debris is combustible & all it takes is a flying ember to ignite a fire. The Zone 1 motto of “lean, clean, & green” s…

— CAL FIRE PIO (@CALFIRE_PIO) May 19, 2023

What percentage of land is damaged by fire every year in California?

California rural land area totals 100 million acres, of which, between 90,000 and 1,590,000 acres has burned every year for the past 25 years with 7,000 to almost 10,000 fires. Data, such as the frequency, location, duration, acres damaged... etc has been monitored more closely since the start of the new millennium and involves several agencies such as the National Interagency Coordination Center (NICC) and National Multi-Agency Coordination group (NMAC/ MAC).

Almost all of the most destructive fires have claimed lives, although curiously, the largest fires have not been the deadliest. The largest fire in California on record, the August Complex Fire - a group of 38 separate fires, raged for nearly three months in the summer/fall of 2020 and burned a total of 1,032,648 acres - around 1 percent of the land mass.

Firefighters battling the August Complex Fire in California performed ‘burnouts’ on Tuesday, which is a technique where brush and other wildfire fuels are intentionally set aflame to strengthen the fire line:

— AccuWeather (@accuweather) October 8, 2020

The deadliest fire was the Camp firestorm of 2018 - which was much smaller in comparison but immeasurably more devastating - 85 civilian fatalities and a dozen requiring hospital treatment; 52,000 residents displaced, 18,661 properties destroyed and 675 suffering fire damage.

In terms of the largest wildfires to have hit California, eight of the 10 biggest blazes occurred during the past decade; while four of the top 10 deadliest fires happened over the last seven years.

How many acres of land have burned in California this year? (1)

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How many wildfires are currently ablaze in California?

So what is the panorama this year? According to CalMatters, California has been hit by 60 large wildfires in 2024, each one affecting areas over 300 acres. That is is 341 percent rise on the five-year annual average. In total, 178,295 acres have been burned across the state since the start of the New Year - a 420 percent rise compared to five-year average of acres burned each year.

CalMatters report that 113 structures have been damaged or destroyed by wildfires so far this year - a fraction of a the damage caused by the 2018 Camp firestorm. As of today, there are currently 10 ongoing wildfires of 300 acres or greater - the largest is the Lake fire which has destroyed 16,452 acres in the two days it has been active.

The number of smaller fires is obviously bigger. California’s Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE) combines state and federal data to track the number of fires and acres burned in the state in rural and urban areas. In 2024, it has listed a total of 3,311 woodland fires, which have affected 150,082 acres of land - both of those figures represent an increase in the five-year average.

How many acres of land have burned in California this year? (2024)


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