Despite a few fires currently burning throughout California, CalFire is reporting the best start to wildfire season in 25 years due to the recent historic winter.
According to CalFire, there have been 3,380 wildfires, burning 95,948 acres, and resulting in 4 structure losses and no fatalities so far this year. These numbers are the best the state has seen in over two decades, bringing encouragement to a state ravaged by wildfires over the past decade.
July typically marks the onset of fire season in California, but this year, officials and residents are cautiously optimistic about a milder season. The reason lies in the historic snowfall California received during the past winter.
The National Park Service reports that areas like Yosemite saw their snowpack at a remarkable 244% higher than average, while Kern River in Sequoia recorded a snowpack at an astounding 326% higher than average. The melting snow and water throughout spring and summer have led rivers and lakes to return to normal levels for the first time in years, keeping the ground moister than usual and reducing the chances of wildfire ignition.
Looking ahead, the 2023 fire year seems promising, as the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection notes that the significant remaining snowpack in mountainous areas should help mitigate fire potential in higher elevations until later in the summer. The late rainy season has led to above-normal vegetation growth in mid and upper elevations during early summer.
There is also a ninety percent likelihood of El Niño developing by July, which may lead to increased lightning and thunderstorm activity, potentially impacting fire activity.
Historical data shows that milder fire seasons have been associated with wetter-than-normal winters, as seen this year with statewide average rainfall at 140% of normal. However, caution remains as the most dangerous wildfire months, September and October, are yet to come. Stay vigilant in your wildfire safety, NorCal.