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California Dealing With Unprecedented Fire Season

United States Marine Corps, flickr

U.S. Marines and fire crew on Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif., are responding to wildfires ablaze in southern California May 14, 2014.

United States Marine Corps, flickr

Cal Fire says it’s responded to more than 4,800 fires since January. That’s about 1,000 more fires than normal this year. Cal Fire’s Dennis Mathisen says most of the larger fires have occurred in Northern California. But Mathisen says that could soon change.

“Commonly this time of year, as we get into September, October, even into November, we start seeing some of the larger and more devastating fires particularly in Southern California,” he says, “due to the weather conditions, the drying out late into the summer and Santa Ana winds.”

Mathisen says there are smaller fires burning throughout the state.

“It’s one of our goals to keep 95 percent of the fires that we respond to to 10 acres or less,” he says. “You typically don’t hear about those very often, although they happen. They’re happening every day.”

And all these fires cost money. Since July 1, the state has spent more than $177 million on firefighting. That’s nearly all of its allocated budget. But state officials say they’ll dip into reserves if needed.

More than 87,000 acres have burned so far this year. Mathisen says 95 percent of wildland fires are caused by humans.