At any given time between June and October, a good portion of California is on fire. With so many flames in the headlines and so much smoke in the air, you could be forgiven for thinking that this year’s fire season has devoured a record amount of land.
But it hasn’t. Not yet anyway.
Take a look at how much of the state has burned in 2017 so far. These 1.2 million-plus acres make for a big fire season to be sure, but not an unprecedented one. The size and severity of recent fires may be on an upward trend—the product of drought, overly exuberant fire suppression, and a changing climate—but by and large, twas ever thus.
What makes this year unusual—and unusually tragic—is that this season’s largest fires didn’t burn in remote corners of California, far from population centers and garnering little state-wide attention. This year, unluckily, they started where so many of us live.
The result is the most destructive and deadly wildfire season in recent memory. Of the top 20 most deadly fires in California history, four are burning right now.