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Energy & Science

Fire Suppression Fueled California’s Destructive 2020 Wildfires

Researchers find the record amount of area burned was in line with historic rates and say officials should prioritize making fires less severe. 

A hillside burns during the Glass Fire in Napa County, California, Sept. 27, 2020. 

A hillside burns during the Glass Fire in Napa County, California, Sept. 27, 2020. 

Photographer: Philip Pacheco/Bloomberg

The 2020 wildfires that incinerated a record 4.3 million acres in California harken to centuries past when huge swaths of the state burned annually, researchers have found, but today’s climate-driven conflagrations are far more destructive to the environment and human health.

“California is in for a very smoky future, and the continued resilience and even persistence of numerous terrestrial ecosystems is not assured,” concluded a new study published in the journal Global Ecology and Biogeography.