How much of California is still unburned?

It seems that every summer, more than just a couple of wildfires are reported as covering hundreds of square miles of California. For example, this article blames the current fire for scorching 164 square miles.

After many years of this, sometimes I wonder how much of California remains still unburnt. I’d like to see a map of California which has a splotch showing how much was burnt in this fire, another colored area showing how much was burnt in that fire, and other markings to show how much got burned in other fires.

Anyone know of a good website which shows this sort of cumulative data visually?

I don’t have a website for you, but you must remember that after a while, the vegetation recovers and the area becomes susceptible to burning again.

Wildfires are a natural part of the landscape here. In fact, there are some native plants that only reproduce when exposed to wildfire. In any case, we have millions of acres of wildlands, and in any given year, only a very small percentage burns.

Here is an interactive map of wildfires. Click on the map to zoom into southern California. You can click on “historic fire perimeters” on the right to view all the fires in the last eight years.

Thanks, Fear Itself, that’s exactly what I was hoping for!

Stan Shmenge, yes I do realize that it grows back after a while, but one must multiply the number of years it takes to grow back times the fraction that gets burnt every year. If too much is burnt per year, there won’t be enough time for it to grow back before the whole state is gone. But I see from Fear Itself’s map that the fraction is small enough that eventually it will turn over okay. Thanks!

(Grammatical hijack: Should I have been using “burned” or “burnt” in this thread? I try to be correct, and my apologies to anyone who I’ve annoyed.)

We are a huge state, and TV coverage can be very deceiving- you would think the entire state is on fire. It’s not. :slight_smile:

Actually, the fires have not scorched 164 square miles. That number comes from aerial and satellite surveys taken nightly to determine the fire perimeter. Every large fire has unburned areas within the perimeter. And even in a large fire, what is “burned” is also not always “scorched.” For example, the Station Fire in SOCAL that is in the news is occurring in very rugged country. It is impossible to obtain an accurate assessment of actual acres burned so hot spots are connected in a “connect the dots” manner to determine a fire perimeter.

Of course, explaining the finer details of wildland fire is too much for the media to digest and regurgitate so round numbers are used.

Cal Fire gives a 5 year average of about 123,000 acres/year. Obviously, that’s incredibly variable. 2008 was 374,000 acres, 2007 was 53,000:

Given the state’s entire area of around 105 million acres, that isn’t a very big percentage. Taken over the forest and chaparral areas that generally burn, it’s probably in keeping with a reasonable rate for the fire-adapted native plants.

What I don’t get is why people keep building/buying the multimillion dollar homes that are on the fringes of L.A. and most susceptible to these fires. The news doesn’t tend to mention that these aren’t just “ordinary people” who are getting their homes destroyed, most of them are filthy rich (by my standards anyway) and have dumped huge amounts of money into these homes. I would never want to take such a big risk with that kind of investment. I mean sure, you can buy insurance, but you still lose your home when it inevitably goes up in flames.

We have friends who live in a canyon right outside of Malibu. Not filthy rich, but not exactly poor either. They own land right up to the top of a hill which looks to me like a fire danger if there ever was one. I worry about them whenever there is a fire around there, which is fairly frequent, but they’ve been there nearly 30 years and haven’t burned yet - so it is not that inevitable. And it’s a great location.

No forests anywhere near where I live, so I’m fairly safe. Just the Hayward fault to worry about.

For the same reason why people insist on living in New Orleans or anyplace that has regular hurricanes, tornados, and floods: its their home and they like the area. I’ve been up to some of these places when they’re not on fire and the area and the houses are beautiful. You’d think that LA doesnt have such a tranquil place but the moutains can be stunning.

Most of them are not filthy rich. That is a very, very ignorant thing to say.

My step-sister lost her home in the Tea Fire in the Santa Barbara area last year. She was renting a very modest home. At the time she had new born twins and wasn’t working and her husband was working as an accountant. They as well as most in their neighborhood, which was almost entirely destroyed, are very middle class.

Even renting a “modest” home in Santa Barbara costs wayyyy more than most “middle class” people in other parts of the country would ever be able to afford. Like I said, it’s based on my own standards for rich. I am poor, so my point of view is admittedly skewed.

Exactly. Costs of living are extremely high in these areas and so their numerically high salary doesn’t translate to the fantastic buying power you’re envisioning.

Of course, California itself covers about 164,000 square miles; thus, the percent of the Golden State left unburnt in this current fire is 99.9%. Cumulatively, I’d say a reasonable WAG is as much as, oh, 3%-4% of California’s territory has been scorched by one wildfire or another.

Yeah, but trust me- all of those areas have “bad neighborhoods.” There are plenty of folks living there who make less than $50K per year. There is low-income housing in just about every city in CA.

What are those plants that need fire to reproduce?

He’s going to define rich however he wants to define it. My step-sister and her husband are a one income family right now albeit it’s a white collar professional income. They have two toddlers and lived in a two small two bed room house. They’d be surprised to be described as rich.

Lodgepole pine, for one. From the wiki article on fire ecology:

Redwood forests are also adapted to periodic fire. If you hike them, you know that trees bearing evidence of old fires are a common sight.

Thats interesting, so these plants attract fire to reproduce. Are they ever the sole cause of a wildfire?

“sole cause”? Something still has to start the fire, however flammable the foliage is. In the absence of humans, that would be lightning strikes, which still cause a majority of western wildfires. They also tend to be the ones in remote areas that don’t cause any property damage, and don’t make the news.