close
close
Record number of acres burned on national forest lands in California

Record number of acres burned on national forest lands in California

Record number of acres burned on national forest lands in California

A Marin County firefighter uses a drip torch during prescribed burn training on June 21, 2024 in San Rafael, California.  (Getty Images)

A Marin County firefighter uses a drip torch during controlled burn training on June 21, 2024 in San Rafael, California. (Getty Images)

The US Forest Service has burned more land than ever in California’s national forests.

Preemptive burning, or prescribed burning, has burned 63,878 acres of forest land, eclipsing the previous record set in 2018, when 63,711 acres were “treated” throughout the year.


Fires are intentionally started by trained crews as a means of reducing the amount of vegetation that acts as fuel for wildfires.

“We are fully committed to increasing the scope and pace of our hazardous fuels treatment work in California, and it shows,” said Jaime Gamboa, fire director for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Pacific Southwest region. ” “Restoring natural fire in these ecosystems not only helps mitigate threats to communities, but also improves overall forest health.”

Despite the risk they pose to homes and communities, wildfires can act as a vital part of the natural cycle necessary to maintain the overall health of an ecosystem. Without them, forests often become overcrowded and unhealthy, trees become stressed, and plant species that depend on fire disappear.

“The reintroduction of fire also minimizes the spread of insect pests and diseases, recycles nutrients to the soil, and improves the natural conditions of native flora and fauna,” a USDA statement states.

Ultimately, however, prescribed burns are intended to mitigate the potential risk of severe fires that can devastate communities and uproot lives.

These intentional fires involve intense planning, with USDA officials evaluating the density and type of vegetation, elevation, location, proximity to communities, and the natural frequency of landscape fires.

Temperature, humidity, winds, and smoke dispersion are other factors considered when planning a prescribed burn.

Conditions for a planned burn are typically better later in the year, when temperatures are lower and precipitation is more likely, but the USDA says the decision to start a prescribed burn is made “shortly before the burn.” .

For an interactive map showing where these fires are occurring in the US, click here.