About one in every eight acres of California land has been burned by wildfires in the past decade, according to an analysis published this week.
An analysis by reporters from the Bay Area News Group found that since 2012, a total of 12.7 million acres have been burned in California, which is also double the 6.4 million acres that burned in the state in the previous decade.
It comes as blazes threaten communities across the Golden State and officials warn of worsening conditions to come.
Federal and state fire officials have warned that fires are not only becoming more frequent amid hotter temperatures and more dry conditions, but they are also increasing in intensity and length, thus resulting in much more damage than previously seen.
The reporters noted this week that 9 of the 10 largest California wildfires since 1932 have occurred in the past decade.
The largest recorded fire in the state’s history was the August Complex fire from last year, which burned roughly 1.03 million acres and destroyed an estimated 935 structures.
To give a better idea of scale, the reporters noted that the city of San Francisco is 30,016 acres in size.
The second largest recorded blaze is this year’s Dixie fire, which began July 13 near the northern California city of Chico and is still burning, currently at 960,000 acres in size.
Craig Clements, director of San Jose State University’s Fire Weather Lab, told the Bay Area News Group that the growing intensity of wildfires across the state is due to “a combination of everything — climate change, decades of fire suppression and drought.”
Clements predicted that the trend of fires larger than 100,000 acres, known by some fire experts as “megafires,” will likely continue.
“There’s a lot of area that can still burn,” he said.
One of the most recent blazes, the KNP Complex fire, which has burned 48,000 acres around Sequoia National Park and is just 8 percent contained, has forced the park to temporarily close, with firefighters working desperately to keep the blaze away from the world's largest tree, General Sherman, which is more than 2,000 years old and 275 feet tall.
U.S. Forest Service Chief Randy Moore said in testimony before the House Subcommittee on Conservation and Forestry Wednesday that “fire seasons have now become fire years,” adding that lawmakers should work to help address staffing shortages among federal firefighters “to ensure a robust year-round workforce available to respond at any time.”