Why are California wildfires getting worse?

California wildfires are not close to being over yet. According to the California Department of Forestry and Fire protection, more than two million acres have burned across the state so far in 2020, surpassing the 2018 record.

High temperatures and strong winds have made the situation even worse. Death Valley recently reached 130 degrees, which would be recorded as the highest temperature ever recorded on the planet.

Residents have to weigh the risks involved in seeking refuge in evacuation shelters amidst this coronavirus pandemic while those living beyond the burn zone are struggling with smoke.

Here are some of the reasons why California wildfires are getting worse;


The ever-changing California’s climate had made wildfire worse. As long as stuff is dry enough and there is a spark, then it burns out.

California gets most of its moisture in the fall and winter. The vegetation slowly dries out during summer due to a lack of rainfall and warmer temperatures. Hence this vegetation serves as kindling for fires.

The relationship between climate change and bigger fires is inseparable. Warmer temperatures dry out fuels. In areas with abundant and very dry fuels, all you need is just a spark.


Although all the conditions may be right for wildfire, there has to be someone to ignite it. Although nature may trigger the fires like the unusual lightning strike that set off the LNU Lightning Complex fires in August, humans are responsible most of the time.

Downed power lines have been known to start many deadly fires. Some bad decisions start other fires. For instance, a fire was ignited by smoke-generating fireworks at a gender reveal party, which consumed thousands of acres east of Los Angeles.

People also contribute to wildfires in their choices of where they live.  Urban- wildland migration has increased as people increasingly moving into areas near the forest that are inclined to burn.

Fire suppression

It’s contradictory, but the United States’ history of suppressing wildfires has made them worse. Over the last century, we fought fires pretty well, and every fire fought successfully meant a bunch of stuff that would have burnt didn’t. Hence, over the last one hundred years, there has been an accumulation of plants in many areas.

In California, when the fire starts, it burns through places that have a lot more to burn than they would have if we had been allowing the fires to burn over the last hundred years.

However, in recent years the United States Forest Service has been trying to rectify the previous practice by using prescribed or ‘controlled’ burns.

The Santa Ana winds

California has two distinct fire seasons. One season starts from June to September and includes both warmer and drier weather.  Those wildfires are more inland and in higher elevation forests.

 The second fire season runs from October through April is driven by Santa Ana winds. These fires tend to spread faster and burn closer to urban areas. Santa Ana winds are responsible for 80% of economic losses over two decades since 1990.


There is no silver- bullet solution to California wildfires folded into them, but the main answer is climate change. The world needs to substantially reduce emissions and eventually go to an entirely renewable energy system. Being carbon-free is the ultimate end goal, and the sooner we reach there, the better it will be for nature and people.