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Data: CAL FIRE and US Forest Service, NOAA; Note: Lines of best fit created using LOESS smoothing; Chart: Harry Stevens/Axios

The fires that wiped out the town of Paradise, California, and burned all the way to the Pacific Ocean in Malibu are the latest in a 13-month string of the deadliest and most destructive blazes the state has ever seen.

The big picture: These fires have parameters in common — unusually warm and dry preceding conditions, strong winds that caused the fires to spread rapidly, extreme fire behavior and populated areas that are difficult to evacuate on short notice.

Between the lines: No single factor — not climate change, forest management or building practices — is responsible for the deadly blazes the state is now seeing, experts tell Axios.

  • Instead, it's their combination that's making an already dicey situation far worse. And the outlook in coming years, as climate change continues, is foreboding.
  • The state's fire season now stretches later into the fall and starts earlier in the spring.
  • “Fire season in California doesn’t have a well-defined boundary anymore, that’s been true for some time."— Brenda Belongie, US Forest Service meteorologist

Driving the news: Longer-term climate change and population growth are combining to increase wildfire risk in California and more broadly across the American West.

  • One of the starkest changes firefighters are contending with is an uptick in instances of extreme fire behavior, such as the massive EF-3 fire tornado that accompanied the Carr Fire in July.
  • The biggest climate change-related impact is manifested in the increased dryness of vegetation.

“The warming equals drying equals more explosive fire growth," said Neil Lareau, a researcher specializing in fire weather at the University of Nevada at Reno.

The housing factor: Another major factor in the impact of these fires is the increasing number of people living in the so-called wildland-urban interface, or WUI, where communities sit next to lands that typically burn. But simply stopping building in such regions is not necessarily a practical solution."Almost everywhere we live in the West is wildland-urban interface," said Lareau. "It's overly simple to say we shouldn't be building here."

The bottom line: The recent, deadly fires are the new normal in California, and residents of other Western states should be paying close attention, because they could be next.

Go deeper: A 30-year alarm on the reality of climate change

Go deeper

Gallup: Party preference swings dramatically in favor of Democrats

Photo: Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images

Americans' political party preferences have swung sharply from a 2-point Republican advantage in January to an 11-point Democratic advantage in July, according to Gallup's monthly averages of telephone polls in 2020.

The big picture: The dramatic shift is more a product of fewer people identifying as Republican or Republican-leaning (down 8% since January) than gains among those who identify as Democratic or Democratic-leaning (up 5%).

Nancy Pelosi: "I yearn for other Republican presidents"

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) called on President Trump Thursday to exercise "the full power" of the Defense Production Act to meet coronavirus equipment needs and accused him of engaging in a "massive dereliction of duty" by ignoring science during the pandemic.

What she's saying: "I yearn for other Republican presidents," Pelosi said at a press conference. "While we may have disagreed on many points, but at least we had a shared commitment to the governance of our country."

1 hour ago - Technology

T-Mobile debuts free robocall-fighting service

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

T-Mobile announced Thursday it will offer ScamShield, a free scam-blocking service, to all T-Mobile, Metro and Sprint customers.

Why it matters: Robocalls remain the scourge of the industry, with billions of unwanted calls pummeling customers last year.