California wildfires: 95 percent caused by humans
A recent study examined the key drivers of wildfires in California and came to the harsh truth that the vast majority of wildfires in the state are caused by human activity.
Researchers from various institutions across the U.S., including George Washington University in Washington, D.C., the University of California Berkeley, and the U.S. Geological Survey, studied wildfire occurrence across California. The results: humans are responsible for igniting nearly 95 percent of wildfires in the state. So, more than 9 times out of 10, a California wildfire is caused by human actions.
While human influence on wildfires is wide-ranging, the researchers classified human interaction in three categories: increased ignitions, fire management practices, and the modification of land cover. Increased ignitions could be anything from starting a lawnmower, to building a campfire to smoking a cigarette.
What the researchers found was that even low levels of human activity in a specific region can have a measurable effect on the prevalence of fires in the region.
California fire officials warn of dangerous fire season to come
Back in May, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) released a warning that predicted a "significant 2016 wildfire season. The USDA release specifically mentioned Southern California, and parts of Nevada, the Southwest, Florida and Hawaii as especially at risk of a severe wildfire season this year.
"The 2016 wildfire season is off to a worrisome start. Southern California, the Great Basin in Nevada, portions of the southwest, and even Florida and Hawaii are particularly vulnerable this year. In California, more than 40 million trees have died, becoming dry fuel for wildfire." -- Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack
Southern California 'ripe' for a terrible wildfire season
Even more recently, various fire officials in California warned of how the state -- especially the southern region -- could be looking at perhaps its worst wildfire season ever.
Riverside fire Chief Michael Moore said that, due to dead trees and other vegetation issues, they're expecting one of the worst fire seasons ever, while Los Angeles County Fire Department Chief Daryl Osby said that early-year El Nino rain allowed for vegetation growth that could end up driving fires later in the summer months when wildfire season is in full force.
CAL FIRE operates a website devoted to fire safety in the state. The site offers tips for residents on how to prevent wildfires and how to be prepared if one does occur.