Drought v.s. Rain Showdown for Increased Fire Risk in California (It’s Both)

Drought increases the risk of fire, but so does rain.

After five years of drought, we all prayed to the rain gods to do their worst. The rains came, but it won’t be the end of our wildfires.

In the past few years California’s seen some crazy fires. If you live here, you may have experienced evacuations or maybe some disruptive hiking trail closures. There was one night my sister texted me from outside of Los Angeles saying that the wildfire nearby look almost apocalyptic.

Fire seasons are getting longer. Because of climate change, the risk of fire is also increasing due to drier conditions and more available fuel from beetle infestations and weakened trees from drought.

So, thank god for all the rain this winter, amirite?! Nope.

When it rains like it did in the winter of 2016–2017, it gives grasses and brush all the nourishment they need to get a good start at growing. But, again #BecauseClimate, the dry seasons in California are getting longer. The brush and vegetation dries out too, and then they’re perfect kindling to the 102 million trees that have died due to drought and bark beetle infestation.

Photo: Max Whittaker

There are many things you can do to protect yourself and family from the dangers of forest fire, like removing dead/dry plants from your own property and especially near your house. On a larger scale, some counties are working hard to remove dead trees in order to reduce fire risk to their residents.

Tuolumne County even won an award for their efforts. The 2017 Achievement Award in the category of risk and emergency management from the National Association of Counties recognized Tuolomne County for protecting county-maintained roads and structures from the risk of fire by removing dead and dying trees by the truckload.

Spring weather is slowly making the transition into summer. Soon we might forget what it feels like to have a rainy day. Warnings about fire safety and wildfires are going to start popping up in the news, but we’ll remember the role of the warming climate in both the drier and at times wetter weather that increases the risk for wildfire. Even if it isn’t mentioned.


Because Climate wants to tell personal stories about how climate change is affecting the lives of Californians.

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