Disaster Discourse: The Hagerty Blog

West Coast Experiences Worst Wildfire Season in 70 Years, with a Threat of New Fires Cropping Up Due to Incoming Heat Wave


2020 has been an unprecedented year and this year’s wildfires have been no exception. Wildfires have been plaguing the United States (US) West Coast for many months, marking some of the most severe fires in 70 years. In total, wildfires this year have burned over 5 million acres of US land. California experienced the greatest  impact with over 3 million burned acres and 30 fire-related deaths. In total, at least 40 people have died from wildfires and over 7,000 structures have been destroyed.

In California, the largest active wildfire is the August Complex fire which started on August 16. So far, it has burned 938,044 acres and is 43 percent contained. Fires across the state continue to force evacuations, most recently a Marine Corps base, Camp Pendleton, had to be evacuated due to a brush fire that started on base. Additionally, across the State of California, the power company Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) have left over 87,000 people without power. According to the Los Angeles Times, the company “preemptively de-energized some of its equipment to avoid sparking wildfires and shut off power at other locations because of blazes already burning”.

Unsplash: Nikolay Maslov

On October 1 the National Interagency Fire Coordination Center reported the ignition of 53 new wildfires nationwide, and 42 uncontained large, complex fires. The majority of these new fires have started in Northern California, with several in the Pacific Northwest (WA, OR), Rocky Mountain (CO, WY, SD), and Great Basin Area (ID, UT, NV). As a result, large regions from Oregon to Mexico are experiencing moderate to unhealthy air quality. According to the California Independent System Operator (CIASO), the smoke has also decreased solar power generation.

Glass Fire Timelapse from Mount St. Helena: NWS Bay Area Twitter

California Air Resources Board (CARB): Twitter

Additionally, the threat of new or worsened wildfires remains as a heat wave and abnormally dry winds blow into California this week, and communities are being told to remain vigilant as wildfires can ignite unexpectedly and burn quickly. It is important to follow state and local warnings, and those in fire-prone areas should consider signing up for community alerts. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) recommends building an emergency supply kit or “GoKit” using this ready.gov suggested Emergency Supply List ahead of a potential fire. Additionally, with regard to COVID-19, consider including hand sanitizer and face masks in your GoKit. 


To get a breakdown by State and County of public advisories, NOAA’s NWS has provided a list in decreasing order of severity:


  • Lake County
  • Southern Mendocino County
  • North Bay Mountains
  • East Bay Hills and the Diablo Range-Santa Cruz Mountains


  • Carquinez Strait and Delta Region
  • San Francisco North Bay – Interior Valleys to North Bay Mountains
  • San Francisco Bay Shoreline – East Bay Interior Valleys
  • East Bay Hills and the Diablo Range-Santa Cruz Mountains
  • Santa Clara Valley, including San Jose
  • Southern Salinas Valley/Arroyo Seco and Lake San Antonio
  • Santa Lucia Mountains and Los Padres National Forest
  • Mountains Of San Benito County and Interior Monterey County, including Pinnacles National Park
  • Northern Salinas Valley, Hollister Valley, and Carmel Valley, including the cities of San Francisco, Santa Rosa, South Santa Rosa, Napa, San Rafael, Petaluma, Novato, Rohnert Park, Angwin, Lagunitas-Forest Knolls, Woodacre, Oakland, Fremont, Hayward, Daly City, Berkeley, Concord, Antioch, Livermore, Walnut Creek, Pleasanton, Pittsburg, San Ramon, Blackhawk, Scotts Valley, Boulder Creek, Day Valley, San Jose, Greenfield, King City, and Salinas


  • Coastal Waters from Point Arena to Point Reyes


  • Lake County
  • Northern Humboldt Interior
  • San Joaquin Valley
  • Eastern Curry County
  • Josephine County
  • Jackson County
  • South Central Oregon Cascades
  • Jefferson County
  • Wasco County
  • Siskiyou Mountains and Southern Oregon Cascades
  • Klamath Basin
  • Northern and Eastern Klamath County and Western Lake County
  • Central and Eastern Lake County


  • Southern Lake County
  • Northern Lake County


  • Remember, Ready.gov provides information on how to prepare for Wildfire and how to keep you and your family safe.
  • The Los Angeles Times regularly updated tracking of California Wildfires: California Wildfires Map.
  • The National Fire Protection Association provides wildfire preparedness tips: link.
  • Marin County provides a wildfire evacuation checklist: link
  • FEMA provides an information video about how to be prepared for Wildfires: link.