Disaster Discourse: The Hagerty Blog

Thousands of California Structures Damaged or Destroyed as the State Surpasses 7,000 Wildfire Incidents This Year


There have been over 7,000 wildfire incidents in the State of California in 2021, burning approximately 1.97 million acres, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE). Fires have damaged or destroyed more than 3,000 structures, with one confirmed fatality. 

Active fires include the Alisal Fire, which started on Monday, October 11 and spans over 15,000 acres in the Santa Ynez Mountains. Containment for the Alisal Fire is only five percent, with the National Wildfire Coordinating Group (NWCG) reporting the number of firefighters combating the blaze has grown to 1,731, with more wildland firefighters expected to join in the coming days. Powerful northwest winds propelled the fire south over Highway 101 and towards the Tajiguas Landfill, and crews were also sent to protect Rancho del Cielo, the ranch belonging to former President Ronald Reagan, according to CNN.

AccuWeather: Twitter

Wildfires bring with them a host of other problems, including rolling electricity blackouts, air pollution, and transformed landscapes. Since late July, customers of PG&E Corporation (PG&E) have endured more than 400 blackouts, affecting an estimated 460,000 homes and businesses, according to a spokeswoman from the company. Generally, customers are given about two days’ notice before a public safety power shutoff; however, PG&E have enabled the circuit breakers on large areas of the grid to automatically shut off if there is an issue, leading to blackout with no warning for customers. PG&E says it is attempting to fine-tune the system to reduce the size and duration of blackouts. California Independent System Operator (ISO) CEO Elliot Mainzer (which is responsible for managing the flow of electricity for 80 percent of California) said that climate change is “forcing us to do things we never imagined,” including possibly ordering California utilities to spread power outages of a short duration to extend available electricity. 

Planning an evacuation route in case of wildfire: Ready.gov

Wildfires often strike communities with little notice, which is why the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) urges individuals to plan ahead. This includes learning and practicing your household’s evacuation routes, as well as preparing an emergency supply kit. To stay informed about wildfire events, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric (NOAA) National Weather Services (NWS) provides the latest alerts in your area in the form of “Red Flag Warnings,” which indicate when critical fire weather conditions are occurring or will occur shortly. Another way to stay updated is taking advantage of real-time alerts available via the FEMA Mobile App and other local and national communication systems. FEMA encourages individuals to adhere to the guidance of local authorities in order to stay safe during wildfire events impacting their community.

The Hagerty Blog Team will continue providing information and updates on current events and disasters impacting the nation. Visit Disaster Discourse for the latest information.

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