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California's wildfires are outpacing last year's record-breaking season

The number of wildfires in California to date this year is greater than the amount recorded in the same time period in 2020 — a year which saw more burned acreage than any recorded year in history, according to data from the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. 

Between January 1 to July 11 of this year, approximately 4,163 fires have burned in California, the department said. During the same time period in 2020, 3,645 fires were reported by the department. 

"It's now more critical than ever that all Californians are prepared for wildfires," fire officials said. 

Last season's fires were some of the biggest that the state has ever seen, provoking thousands of evacuations, a statewide emergency order, fatalities, and dangerous air quality conditions. 

And in 2021, California's wildfire season is forecast to be even worse. 

APTOPIX California Wildfires
Fire consumes a home as the Sugar Fire, part of the Beckwourth Complex Fire, tears through Doyle, California, on July 10, 2021. Noah Berger / AP

Hot and dry conditions — which contribute to wildfires — in states like California have already neared world records this year. Last week, Death Valley reached 130 degrees Fahrenheit — just four degrees shy of the hottest recorded temperature on the planet. Cities like Las Vegas broke local records with scorching temperatures as well. 

Multiple areas throughout California are under excessive heat warnings issued by the National Weather Service, and according to the National Integrated Drought Information System, approximately 85.4% of the state is experiencing extreme drought. 

California Governor Gavin Newsom has issued a regional state of emergency because of drought conditions. He also issued an executive order asking residents to voluntarily cut down on water usage by 15%. 

"The realities of climate change are nowhere more apparent than in the increasingly frequent and severe drought challenges we face in the West and their devastating impacts on our communities, businesses, and ecosystems," Newsom said in a statement

Current fires include the Beckwourth Complex Fire with more than 92,900 acres burned, the Lava Fire with at least 26,203 acres burned, and the Salt Fire, which has thus far burned 12,650 acres. The Bootleg fire, which is currently the largest in the county, has burned more than 201,000 acres in Oregon and has also affected Northern California, threatening the state's entire energy grid

Under excessive heat warnings, the National Weather Service advises people to stay hydrated, stay out of the sun, wear lightweight and loose-fitting clothing, and know the signs and symptoms of heat exhaustion and heatstroke. Amid the wildfires, the California Independent System Operator has issued "flex alerts" to residents, urging residents in the state to conserve as much electricity as possible during peak hours. Fire officials advised residents to create wildfire action plans to be prepared for potential evacuations. 

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