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California fire season could last until December

A firefighter douses flames from a backfire during the Maria fire in Santa Paula, California on November 1
A firefighter douses flames from a backfire during the Maria Fire in Santa Paula, California, on Nov. 1. Photo: Josh Edelson/AFP via Getty Images

California could continue to endure wildfires until December as a late start to the rainy season looks increasingly likely — particularly in the south of the state, the Southern California Geographic Area Coordination Center warns in a new report.

QuoteThis may be a long fall and winter across California for both the fire-fighting community and the general public in terms of coping with the threat of fires."
The Predictive Services section of the National Interagency Fire Center map issued for its Wildland Fire Potential Outlook for November.
The National Interagency Fire Center's Predictive Services map issued for its Wildland Fire Potential Outlook for November. Image: Predictive Services, National Interagency Fire Center

Why it matters: California Gov. Gavin Newsom has declared a state of emergency over a series of wildfires that have plagued the state for weeks. The fires have posed the most dangerous conditions since the 2017 wine country fires that killed 22 people.

The big picture: The bleak outlook comes on the heels of last month being confirmed as the warmest October ever (though by a slim margin) and some 11,000 scientists labeled climate change as an "emergency" for the first time.

What to expect: Southern California is predicted to have a higher-than-usual chance of big fires until December, with little rain in sight. The north of the state is set to see "offshore winds occurring over fuel beds that are primed for burning," the report said.

Yes, but: Retired NASA climatologist Bill Patzert told the Los Angeles Times that fire season predictions were largely dependent on "a race between the start of the rainy season and the Santa Ana winds: which one dominates and at what time of the year;" a good downpour could quell wildfires, even in strong winds.

But, but, but: Per the LA Times, "Southern California hasn't had significant rain in seven months, and meteorologists say there’s no clear sign of rain anywhere in the forecast through at least mid-November."

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