Peak wildfire season in California is usually in September and October, but the Pfeiffer Fire now raging in Big Sur apparently didn’t get the memo.
The fire, which is believed to have started Sunday night has destroyed at least 15 homes so far and scorched 550 acres in this mountainous resort region along the Golden State’s central coast. 100 people have been evacuated. As of Monday night, the fire was five percent contained. No injuries have been reported.
Firefighters believe the blaze broke out around midnight on Sunday on a hiking trail called Buzzards Roost Trail in Los Padres National Forest. Investigators suspect it could have been caused by an illegal campfire, but aren’t ruling anything out just yet.
Martha Karstens, Big Sur Fire Chief, was just one of the people who lost a home in the blaze.
In the summer of 2008, lightning sparked a wildfire that forced the evacuation of Big Sur and charred 250 square miles and a dozen homes before it was contained.
The historic drought currently gripping California and, indeed, most of the West, is blamed for the extremely active 2013 wildfire season.
Back in March, after one of the last surveys of the season, the California Department of Water Resources reported that statewide, California snowpack was at just fifty percent of the long-term averages. By early May, a dozen wildfires had broken out across the state. The summer burns culminated in August with the massive Rim Fire in and around Yosemite National Park that burned over 250,000 acres, becoming the third-largest wildfire in California history. At the fire’s peak, over 5,000 firefighters were part of the fight to contain it. Overall, CalFire, California’s state fire agency, reported that it responded to 2,000 more fires in 2013, than in an average year.
2013 is well on its way to becoming the driest year in California since record-keeping began in 1895. 2012 was the previous record-breaking dry year.
California is not alone in its parched predicament. The drought that has been afflicting most of the Western states for the past 13 years was recently dubbed a “megadrought,” by scientists presenting their research at this year’s American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting. A megadrought is a widespread drought lasting for two decades or longer. The researchers predicted that the likelihood is high that this century would witness a multi-decade dry spell like nothing else in the past 1,000 years.
Drought or abnormally dry conditions are affecting every state west of the Mississippi River, with much of the Southwest under long-term severe, extreme or exceptional drought conditions.