In the United States, Northern California has become the epicenter for wildfire activity in the country. In Northern California, Lake County has seen the most fire activity than anyone else.
A Los Angeles Times analysis found that 53 percent of the county has burned since 2012, a significant indicator in the 850,000 acre county. For the residents whose houses have been spared from the flames, they wonder why still live in such an active fire area.
The current Mendocino Complex Fire, the largest fire in California’s history, accounts for much of the burned area, currently sitting at 361,562 acres burned and 67 percent contained. But Lake County residents have recently endured devastating fires year-after-year.
Earlier this year, the Pawnee Fire burned through 15,000 acres, destroying 22 structures and evacuating multiple communities. Many of those same communities were evacuated just over a month later for the Mendocino Complex Fire, which burned all the way to the charred areas of the Pawnee Fire.
Just two years ago, the Clayton Fire blazed through the Lower Lake area, burning 4,000 acres and destroying 300 structures, including a 150-year-old church and a Habitat for Humanity office. In 2015, three fires burned the area including the Valley Fire, which destroyed more than 1,300 homes and killed at least four people.
The county consists of 64,000 residents, most of which live in small communities along the shore of Clear Lake. While southern areas of the county are considered parts of Wine Country, much of the county does not afford the same affluent lifestyle as Napa and Sonoma.
Twenty-years ago, it was Southern California counties like Orange and Riverside that felt the largest burden of fire season in California. Now, it’s Northern California, and the fires are larger and more destructive than ever.
For many residents of Lake County, these fires signal a time to leave the area. Is the safety of their lives and personal belongings worth it? It’s difficult to predict the nearby future of fire season in Northern California, but to some, these massive fires signal the end of an era. It might not be worth living in these high-risk fire areas anymore.