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What to know about this year's raging wildfires

The Dixie wildfire is the largest in the US so far this year.

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It's wildfire season in the US.

Philip Pacheco/Bloomberg/Getty Images

More than 5.5 million acres have burned in the US this year due to wildfires. That's about 500,000 acres less than this time last year. California's Dixie fire is the largest wildfire so far this year; it has burned over 900,000 acres and is currently 75% contained. Drought is a major driver, as large regions of the West are currently dealing with the most severe level of drought, according to the US Drought Monitor. On July 20, the National Interagency Fire Center listed the US at preparedness level 5: "This is the highest National Preparedness Level. At this level, the majority of firefighting resources are committed due [to] the large amount of wildland fire activity throughout the country." 

2020 was a devastating year for wildfires in the US: 10.1 million acres burned. California was particularly hard hit, losing over 4.2 million acres to wildfires, setting state records. This year's wildfire season will break records again, according to predictions from AccuWeather meteorologists. 

But drought is only part of the problem. Strong winds, high heat, low humidity and lightning also create conditions for wildfires to more easily start or spread. Others, like last year's 7,000-acre El Dorado gender-reveal party fire, were started by humans by accident. All of these factors, including how to manage wildfires once they start, are compounded by the climate crisis.

Wildfire season doesn't have an official start date. It begins with the first wildfire of the year and ends with the last. Historically, wildfires are most likely to happen between May and October. Lately that paradigm has shifted -- wildfires raged well into late 2020, burning a record-setting 735,125 acres in December.

Predictions for this year's wildfire season are concerning. We'll be regularly updating the section below with resources on how to protect yourself, your family and your home if you live in a wildfire-prone area, as well as how to be more aware if you travel to an area prone to wildfires:

There's a lot more to come to help guide your emergency planning and preparedness, so be on the lookout for new stories right here. In the meantime, keep an eye on InciWeb for current information on wildfires in the US.

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