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2020 Wildfire Season Expected To Get An Early Start

California National Guard
California National Guard soldiers train at Camp Roberts, California, in 2017. They practiced digging trenches, chopping logs and cutting fire lines with hand tools.

Fire season may start early this year in Northern California. And fire experts predict it’s also likely to be especially severe.

Several factors are contributing to the concerning wildfire season predictions by the National Interagency Fire Center.

First, California is firmly in drought territory. Last month was drier than usual, and experts expect that to continue through August.

The drought has caused the snowpack in the Sierra Nevadas to be unusually small—about 60 percent of normal. California gets most of its water from this snowpack as it slowly melts over spring and summer. With May looking to be warmer this year, climatologists expect the snowpack to be completely gone by June, which is several weeks early.

Another factor? High pressure is building in the west, and will likely replace the familiar May and June gloom with drier conditions. That’s allowing brush and undergrowth to dry out faster than normal, leaving lots of fuel for fire season.

Scientists say that over the past decade, fire seasons have been trending earlier and lasting longer, and this year is no exception.