It used to be a four-month period. Now fires are starting earlier and burning more intensely amid extreme conditions
It’s only October, and 2021 has already been a horrendous year for wildfires in the American west. The Dixie fire leveled the town of Greenville. The Caldor fire forced the evacuation of tens of thousands in Lake Tahoe. Some fires sent plumes so high into the atmosphere that the toxic air reached the east coast thousands of miles away.
Fire is an important part of life in the American west and essential for the health of the landscape, but as the climate has changed so have wildfires in the region.
What the US Forest Service once characterized as a four-month-long fire season starting in late summer and early autumn now stretches into six to eight months of the year. Wildfires are starting earlier, burning more intensely and scorching swaths of land larger than ever before. Risks for large, catastrophic fires like the Camp fire that leveled the town of Paradise in 2018 are rising.