Smoke from California’s wildfires choked people on the East Coast. Flames wiped out a Gold Rush-era town. The acreage burned would dwarf the state of Rhode Island.
Images of homes engulfed in flames and mountains glowing like lava would make it easy to conclude the Golden State is a charred black landscape.
That’s hardly the case, but the frightening reality is that the worst may be yet to come.
California has already surpassed the acreage burned at this point last year, which ended up setting the record. Now it’s entering a period when powerful winds have often driven the deadliest blazes.
“Here we are — it’s not the end of August and the size and distribution and the destruction of summer 2021 wildfires does not bode well for the next months,” said Bill Deverell, a University of Southern California history professor who teaches about fire in the West. “The suggestion of patterns across the last two decades in the West is deeply unsettling and worrisome: hotter, bigger, more fires.”