Is California’s Fire Season Over?

What’s next depends on what part of the state you live in.


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Firefighters trying to stop the oncoming Dixie fire in Lassen National Forest in August.Credit…Brent McDonald/The New York Times

You probably know that California’s recent torrential storms were not enough to end the drought. The state has been so parched for so long that the rains, while welcome, did not provide much more than a few drops in the metaphorical bucket.

But the downpour did help quash two of the year’s worst fires and nourish lands that had been tinder-dry for months. So, you might be wondering, did the showers at least save us from a severe fall fire season?

Before we dive in, here’s what our state has already endured this year:

Nearly 2.5 million acres have burned in California through early November, nearly double the amount scorched on average over the past five years, according to CalFire, the state’s fire agency.

This year’s fire season started early, after a dry winter and amid unseasonably warm temperatures. Similar conditions made 2020 the worst fire year on record.

The biggest blaze in 2021, the Dixie fire, broke out in July and burned for more than three months, wiping out a town and growing to become the second-largest wildfire in California history.

What’s next for fire season depends on what part of the state you’re in. Though California fires typically peak in the summer, major blazes have erupted in December and January in recent years.

Many experts say that last month’s rains probably mean no more major fires in Northern California for the rest of the year (though, of course, there are no guarantees).

In Southern California, the situation looks less rosy. The recent rainstorms lost steam by the time they moved south, so places like San Diego and Los Angeles didn’t get quite the same kind of downpours as those that fell on Northern California.

Plus, a La Nina weather pattern is expected this winter, which typically means below-average rainfall for Southern California. In short: The region is dry and will probably stay that way, so fires could very well happen.

While the seven-day fire outlook from the National Interagency Fire Center shows low or no fire danger across most of California, parts of Imperial, Riverside and San Bernardino Counties are predicted to be at moderate risk this week.

In the coming months, a harbinger of major fires may be the arrival of strong winds, such as the dry Santa Anas that tend to sweep through Southern California in the fall and winter.

There’s some thinking that California experiences two distinct fire seasons: a heat-driven one in the summer that primarily affects inland areas, and a wind-driven one that begins in the fall, hits coastal urban areas harder and has the potential to inflict far more damage because of how quickly the flames move.

On Nov. 8, 2018, exactly three years ago today — and beyond what I then believed to be the end of fire season — two major blazes broke out in California.

One, the Woolsey fire, tore through the Santa Monica Mountains and, whipped by fast-moving winds, destroyed hundreds of homes in Malibu on both sides of the Pacific Coast Highway.

The other, the Camp fire, ripped through the mountain hamlet of Paradise aided by strong gusts and killed more than 80 people. That November blaze became the deadliest fire in California history.

For more:

Why does California have so many wildfires?

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Track wildfires in the West.

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The new, extensive infrastructure bill passed by Congress won’t benefit any other state as much as it will California.


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The rest of the news

What we know about the Astroworld tragedy: Before the show, Houston officials were already worried about crowd control.

It’s just the sniffles: Is it just us or does everyone have a cold right now?


Highest minimum wage in the country: Starting next year, West Hollywood will begin raising salaries until they hit $17.64 an hour by July 2023, LAist reports.

Varsity Blues: Donna Heinel, a former University of Southern California athletic administrator, pleaded guilty to accepting bribes in exchange for a spot at the college.

Bike stops: An investigation found that Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies disproportionately stop Latino bicyclists for minor violations, The Los Angeles Times reports.

Pot licensing subpoenas: Federal agents are investigating pot licensing in Baldwin Park and nearby cities, The Los Angeles Times reports.


Fresno rent spike: Long regarded as one of the most affordable places to live in California, Fresno has had rents rise significantly in the past year, The Guardian reports.


Oroville: The town near Sacramento has declared itself a “constitutional republic” to separate itself from state and federal Covid-19 rules, The Guardian reports.

Birthday party shooting: Two men were shot and killed at a birthday party in Oakley over the weekend. Two others were injured, The Associated Press reports.

“Cloverleaf Rapist” identified: A man accused of committing a series of violent sexual assaults between 2013 and 2014 was identified and arrested using DNA genealogy techniques, The Sacramento Bee reports.

The racists next door: A new church headquartered in the foothills of Sacramento preaches a whites-only gospel, The Sacramento Bee reports.


Credit…Evan Sung for The New York Times

What we’re eating

Your easy, no-sweat guide to picking wines for Thanksgiving.


Credit…Jim Wilson/The New York Times

Where we’re traveling

Today’s tip comes from Colette Garrison, who recommends Yosemite National Park:

Mother Nature’s Work of Art. It takes you breath away every time I visit, no matter what time of year. Mountains, meadows, waterfalls, rivers and lakes, and wildlife too. So much beauty in one place.

Tell us about your favorite places to visit in California. Email your suggestions to We’ll be sharing more in upcoming editions of the newsletter.

What we’re recommending

How to buy nothing new this holiday gifting season.

Tell us

I recently wrote about the rise of TV shows set in Los Angeles.

Tell us your favorite shows set in California and why you love them. Email me at


Marta, the 3-month-old Amur leopard cub.Credit…Santa Barbara Zoo

And before you go, some good news

In early August, a rare leopard cub was born at the Santa Barbara Zoo. But for months, Marta was kept out of the public eye to give her time to bond with her mother.

Marta is an Amur leopard, the most endangered big cat species in the world with fewer than 100 remaining in the wild.

On Thursday, the now 3-month-old cub made her first public appearance as she bounded around her new home. See a video of Marta (and her stunning blue eyes) from USA Today.

Thanks for starting your week with me. I’ll be back tomorrow. — Soumya

P.S. Here’s today’s Mini Crossword, and a clue: Like the morning after an all-night party (5 letters).

Mariel Wamsley contributed to California Today. You can reach the team at

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