‘We got really lucky’: Why California escaped another destructive fire season in 2022
As California prepared for yet another year of destructive wildfire season, many residents remained confident that they had dodged a bullet.
On Tuesday, firefighters in the southern Sierra Nevada completed 17 days of relative quiet in a series of blazes that burned 3,500 acres and forced about 180,000 people to evacuate.
But some residents have been bracing for the next few weeks of fire season, and all the evidence points to the need for the state to prepare for it.
“We are going to be in the fire season,” said James White, a retired Cal Fire captain who is now a member of the local fire council. “That’s no joke.”
The forecast for the rest of the summer, for now, is for steady rain, rising fire danger and more frequent and intense blazes.
But it’s the next several years that matter most, said White, who recently returned to his job as a pilot at the local airbase where he retired.
In three years, he said, fire season could get so bad that some communities may be forced to close their businesses and schools. He added that he expects the next fire season will likely get even worse than the one last year.
“This isn’t like we’re putting out fires like you would in the past,” he said. Instead, he expects to see more dry vegetation that will burn faster and at higher temperatures.
With temperatures expected to rise another one to three degrees in the coming months, fires of any size will only get worse, said Michael Bello, a professor of fire science at Colorado State University and the director of the center’s Fire, Smoke and Fury Project.
“We shouldn’t get into what’s going to happen next month or next year,” said Bello, an expert on wildfire science. “I’d rather prepare for the worst than the best.”