American River Watershed Institute
Fire Safety Project | Problem: Fire in California

Fire: Fact of Life in California

"When we choose to live among nature, we must learn to live with fire. California's wildland ecosystems are fire dependent; they need fire to survive. Fire thins the vegetation, giving plants room to grow. It cracks seed casings and replenishes the soil, allowing new life to thrive. Fire is a fact of life in California."
Much of California has moderate to high fire hazard.
California map of fire risk
(Click image to see larger view)

California's climate features long, hot, dry summers every year. This is often made worse by heat waves in the summer, and north or east (Santa Ana) winds in the fall and winter. Because California has the potential for serious fires every year, the state has a long history of wildfire.

The history of early California demonstrates that these problems are not new or unique. Living in California's combustible wildlands was just as much of a concern for Native Americans and missionaries as it is today.

Read more about the fire hazard in the West in the Living with Wildfire special report (Sunset).