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‘We got lucky’: inside California’s strangely quiet wildfire year

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In California, a state that’s grown accustomed to months of smoky skies, mass evacuations and the ever-present fear of wildfire, 2022 felt unusual.

Summer came and went, the weather warmed and the hillsides yellowed across the state, while residents held their breath. But a giant blaze or siege of simultaneous infernos – the events that have defined recent fire seasons – failed to appear.

By the time November rains brought relief to the drought-stricken landscape, slightly more than 360,000 acres had burned. That’s a strikingly low number, compared with the 2.2m that burned on average annually in California during the past five years, and only a fraction of the record 2020 season when more than 4.2m acres burned.

A Joshua tree stands in front of the Bobcat Fire on Sept. 19, 2020, in Juniper Hills, California. More than 4.2 million acres burned across the state that year, the most in California’s history.
A Joshua tree stands in front of the Bobcat fire on 19 September 2020, in Juniper Hills, California. More than 4.2m acres burned across the state that year, the most in California’s history. Photograph: Marcio José Sánchez/AP

The number of fires sparked remained similar to past seasons, indicating most were stopped before they ballooned in size. Resource…



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