“The one correlation we find with a lot of fire activity is drought. This is not a recent phenomenon,” Keeley said.
Drought means there’s less moisture in the grass and woodlands to combat small ignitions. This lack of moisture turns grass, trees, and other vegetation that has the capacity to burn into “fuels” for fire. Though we’ve seen drought conditions on and off for nearly 20 years in California, Keeley says that our current drought state is not indicative of future droughts, it’s just what we’re faced with right now.
Keeley says that the fast population growth we’ve experienced in California over the last few decades could be a contributing factor, “urban sprawl has pushed people out into these landscapes where they are more vulnerable,” he said. More people in more places means a higher likelihood of fire, especially in a drought year.