Nature and Biodiversity

California’s wildfires are causing more and more damage

Wildfire spreading in a town.

California’s continuous battle with high temperatures has contributed to devastating wildfire seasons. Image: Unsplash/Michael Held

Anna Fleck
Data Journalist, Statista
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  • Firefighters in the US state of California have been battling a wildfire for almost two weeks.
  • The amount of land burned by wildfires in the state has risen steeply in the past five years.
  • This is costing California more and more money – up from $61 million in the 1990s to more than $400 million in the 2010s.

The Washburn Fire in California has burned at least 1,591 acres of land and is edging ever closer to Yosemite National Park’s ancient grove of redwood trees, or giant sequoias. Firefighters have been battling the blaze, which started on July 7, and have evacuated 1,600 people from the area.

Fire seasons play out differently every year. While it’s too early to tell what this year’s damage will be, a look at the five-year rolling averages of acres burned by wildfires in California shows that, despite a quiet 2019, the average area of destruction is growing. With an exceptionally bad 2020, the figure will remain elevated for a while.

California’s continuous battle with drought along with unusually high temperatures and dry vegetation has contributed to devastating fire seasons. The cost of mitigation has been rising quickly - from $61 million in the 1990s to more than $400 million in the 2010s.

A bar chart showing the number of acres burned by wildfires in California.
Growing danger of Californian wildfires. Image: Statista.

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