Fewer acres burned this year, but the need for fire mitigation and the dangers posed by the climate crisis have not vanished
In California, a state that’s grown accustomed to months of smoky skies, mass evacuations and the ever-present fear of wildfire, 2022 felt unusual.
Summer came and went, the weather warmed and the hillsides yellowed across the state, while residents held their breath. But a giant blaze or siege of simultaneous infernos – the events that have defined recent fire seasons – failed to appear.
By the time November rains brought relief to the drought-stricken landscape, slightly more than 360,000 acres had burned. That’s a strikingly low number, compared with the 2.2m that burned on average annually in California during the past five years, and only a fraction of the record 2020 season when more than 4.2m acres burned.
This is a function of being in a Mediterranean climate. Winter rains, spring dieback of plant life, dry summers full of tinder, that nervous bit Aug to Oct waiting for the winter rains again. This is just how this ecology works.
How much burns depends upon how much tinder there is. Not – repeat not – how hot the summer is, but how wet the previous winter was. The more rain there is, the more plant growth, the more tinder.
The more winter drought there is the less there is a fire problem. And guess what? This simple fact – a well known one – simply is not mentioned at all in this long piece about fire risks in California.
Ms. Canon is ignorant of the subject she writes about.