By Jim Schmidt
Of the 32.1 million acres of forestland in California, approximately 2.1 million acres (6.6%) burned in wildfires in the 2002-2011 time period. In the following decade (2012-2021), that figure more than tripled to 7.9 million acres (24.7%).
National Forests in California were particularly hard hit. 10.1% of 12.7 million acres of forestland managed by the USDA Forest Service in California burned in 2002 – 2011 time period. In the 2012 – 2021 decade that figure increased to 38.8%. Excluding areas that re-burned in the last 10 years, 44.5% of the forestland in California National Forests has burned in the last 20 years. In contrast, only 22.6% of National Park forestland in the state has burned in the same time period. About 14 million acres of forestland in California are in private hands. 17.0 % of private forestland has burned since 2001.
The following maps display the forestland areas and the areas that have burned in California in the last two decades. Fires were concentrated in Southern California in the 2002-2011 time period and in Northern California in the last 10 years.
The article was edited September 7 with revised figures to account for areas that reburned, which account for about 5% of the forestland burned on National Forests in the last 20 years.
Jim Schmidt retired from the Stanislaus National Forest where he worked as a GIS specialist.