U.S. Forest Service

Losing Paradise: The “New Normal” of California Wildfires

On the morning of November 8, 2018, Don Peck awoke to the sound of bombs going off.

“It was boom, boom, boom,” recalls the retired jeweler, who had slept in late after a bout of insomnia the night before. Now, as the 70-year-old struggled to gain full consciousness, he realized it was propane tanks, not bombs, he heard. His town, Paradise, was on fire.

Peck knew that he had probably lost everything—his home, his belongings, his cat.

From the Spring 2019 issue of California.

High-Risk Housing Developments Fan the Flames for Wildfire

The world certainly seems more flammable these days. Thousands of homes were lost last year in Sonoma County alone, and wildfires have raged across California all summer. And not just in California: Records from the federal National Interagency Fire Center show that U.S. acreage burned in wildfires leaped from 1.8 million in 1995 to 10 million in 2017.

I Thought I Knew What It Was Like to Be Displaced. I Was Wrong.

As the late, great Tom Petty put it, you don’t have to live like a refugee. Except, of course, when you do, as I recently found out.

Or at least, like an evacuee, which can feel distinctly refugee-esque to a citizen of a developed country who has never been forced to leave home and possessions due to conflict or natural catastrophe.

Feel the Burn: To Avoid Year-Round Wildfires, California Needs to Up Its Forestry Game

If you have the feeling that “wildfire season” is anything but seasonal these days, you’re right. Drought and climate change are combining to make wildfires a year-round phenomenon in the Golden State and much of the West, a trend that already is changing the character of our forests and straining government budgets.

Fire Fallout: Cal expert sees “cascading” loss of wildlife

From Mount Diablo to the Sierras, a significant portion of California’s woodlands are going up in smoke. The impacts on humans are, of course, distressing. And as we’ve reported, the trend of bigger, hotter wildfires bodes to change the essential composition of California’s wildlands: Mixed coniferous forests are likely to contract, while grasslands, chaparral and oak woodlands will probably expand.

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