'Like Armageddon': California's 2021 wildfire season could be extreme, state officials warn

LAFAYETTE, Calif. -- This week's unusually early Red Flag Warning is just a sign of things to come, according to California's top emergency and fire officials, who gathered for an event in the East Bay to kick of Wildfire Preparedness Week.

With dry warm winds swirling above, California's top fire officials are sending a loud warning, that this upcoming fire season could quickly become the worst on record.

RELATED: Bay Area faces heightened fire danger with Red Flag Warning in Solano County and Central Valley

"Every acre in California can and will burn someday," said CAL FIRE Director Thom Porter. "I need not say here in the Bay Area how devastating it is when your hillsides are on fire, some of your communities are on fire, and you're deep in smoke that looks like Armageddon for a week on end."

The new concerns come just as California endured its worst fire season ever -- more than four million acres burned, with six of the most destructive events in the state's history.

"Since it was such a monumental fire year last year, we saw 32 counties fall under a major presidential disaster declaration," said CAL OES Director Mark Ghilarducci.

RELATED: Critical fire conditions: 1,000 acres of dead trees in Bay Area parks pose yet another threat

Now, after an extremely sparse rainy season, with temperatures already soaring into the 90s in the East Bay, there's deep concern about future disasters.

Not only are the grasses already turning brown, but many of the trees are an alarming shade of red.

"There are millions of dying trees and all of those pose hazards across California for all of us," said Robert Baird, chief for the U.S. Forest Service Pacific Southwest Region.

CAL FIRE is staffing up early, bringing in hundreds of additional firefighters along with five new helicopters, but beyond that, state officials are pleading with the public to do their part.

RELATED: How to prepare for a wildfire evacuation

"You need to prepare as if it's going to happen today. Do your hardening of your structure, do your defensible space," said Porter.

CAL FIRE has a list of steps the public can take to prepare for wildfire season, including affordable ways to "harden" one's home and and property at their website.

RELATED: Damage from California's wildfires estimated at $10 billion, experts say
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Can this continue year after year without a major change in policies and forest management? Climate change experts at Stanford have been studying the problem.


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