Wildfire season is upon us. Here’s what to know and how to prepare (2024)

Good morning. It’s Tuesday, June 18. Here’s what you need to know to start your day.

  • Here’s what to know and how to prepare for wildfire season
  • L.A. will pay $300,000 to settle lawsuit over undercover police officer photos
  • Get high (legally) at the massive new weed oasis inside the California State Fair
  • And here’s today’s e-newspaper

Wildfire season is upon us

If the last couple of years of fewer rampant wildfires and less smoke choking our skies eased your wildfire concerns, let this week’s Post fire be a wake-up call.

The blaze near Gorman has scorched more than 15,000 acres to become the largest wildfire so far this season. It’s burning in northwestern Los Angeles County but has crossed into parts of Ventura County. Firefighters put containment at 8% as of Monday afternoon.

As of this morning, 18 fires are burning across the state, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, or Cal Fire. Wildfires are a fact of life in the Golden State — especially as we approach the hottest months in what are becoming increasingly hotter years.


It’s true that California experienced notably milder fire seasons in 2022 and 2023 when compared with previous years. Cal Fire reported about 331,000 acres burned across the state in 2022, and nearly 325,000 acres burned last year. That’s a significant drop from the prior two years, when wildfires consumed a record-breaking 4.3 million acres in 2020 and 2.5 million in 2021.

But that recent downtick does not negate the last few decades, during which wildfires have grown more intense, according to research.

Wildfire season is upon us. Here’s what to know and how to prepare (1)

Firefighters work against the advancing Post fire on June 16, 2024, in Gorman.

(Eric Thayer / Associated Press)

So what should we expect this fire season?

To understand that, I asked Alex Wigglesworth, who covers wildfires and other environmental issues for The Times. She said she’ll be monitoring the state’s grasslands and desert areas, which are particularly vulnerable to fire right now.

“Two consecutive wet winters have helped ensure that there’s plenty of vegetation to act as kindling, and it’s all been drying out as the weather warms,” Alex said. “But unlike last year, when conditions were so wet that the moisture essentially moderated fire activity all season long, precipitation was closer to normal this year, so those winter rains may not have the same effect.”

How bad could it get? A lot depends on how hot it gets in the coming months. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s latest seasonal temperature outlook points to above-normal temperatures in June, July and August across California and most of the U.S.


Other high-risk weather conditions could affect fire season, Alex noted, like “bursts of dry lightning or fierce winds [that] can quickly turn unremarkable fire seasons into dangerous and deadly ones.”

And as she reported last month, recent research shows wildfire weather is becoming more frequent in the U.S. — and especially in California.

Fire risks are heightened by three key ingredients: hot temperatures, dry air and high winds. Those factors prime the landscape, but the most common source of ignition is human activity (and the fires we start tend to be more dangerous).

So what can you do to stay ready for fire season?

For many Californians, smoke will present the biggest hazard, making the state’s already dirty air even more unhealthy. Experts advise people to stay indoors and avoid strenuous physical activities when smoke advisories are in effect. You can explore this Times guide for more do’s and don’ts.

If you live in areas prone to wildfires, explore this guide on getting prepared. And if you’re looking to fireproof your home, check out this Times primer.

There’s also an effort underway to change how the federal government defines and responds to deadly heat and dangerous wildfire smoke. The Federal Emergency Management Agency does not include those two events in its definition of a “major disaster.” Changing that could open the door to more funding to provide heat relief and other emergency preparedness.


Today’s top stories

Crime and courts

  • L.A. will pay $300,000 to settle lawsuit over undercover police officer photos.
  • Two women are brutally attacked on Venice Canals, forcing debate on crime, homelessness.
  • When prosecutor is defendant: L.A. D.A. George Gascón’s legal battles with his own staff.
  • An inmate awaiting trial on attempted murder charge escapes San Bernardino County jail.
  • He stole millions from a mentally ill Malibu doctor. Now he’ll spend nearly 16 years in prison.
  • Maxine Waters tells judge of ‘nightmares’ after Texas man threatened to cut her throat.


  • Poll: Many California voters get their info from social media, even if they don’t trust it.
  • Biden helps immigrant spouses of U.S. citizens: What to know.


  • Angel Reese says Caitlin Clark gets ‘special whistle.’ It blew after Reese’s blow to Clark’s head.
  • Four ways the Mookie Betts and Yoshinobu Yamamoto injuries affect the Dodgers.
  • Dodgers GM: Betts and Yamamoto injuries shouldn’t affect trade deadline plans.

More big stories

  • ‘Unprecedented time’: Hollywood slowdown brings peril for talent agencies and managers.
  • Cal State L.A. encampment is shut down days after takeover of building with administrators inside.
  • Only 8% of California rivers and streams have gauges measuring flow, a study finds.
  • A new threat to cannabis users: Smuggled Chinese pesticides.
  • ‘Inside Out 2’ box office smash plays head games with movie theaters.
  • Fast-food chains launch ‘value menu’ war after cost complaints. Will it last?
  • A piglet on the lam. An escaped mini pig leads police in California city on a frenzied pursuit.
  • A tiny fern with a big secret just got into the Guinness Book of World Records.
  • A watchdog group files IRS complaint against Epoch Times Network.
  • California plans to enlist AI to translate healthcare information.
  • Morgan Freeman, once again, shares his ‘detest’ of Black History Month.
  • A couple’s Pride flag was slashed in Anaheim. Their neighbors rallied to send a message.

Get unlimited access to the Los Angeles Times. Subscribe here.

  • LZ Granderson: One pillar of American racism is also propping up Fox News.
  • Jonah Goldberg: The Supreme Court’s role in our partisan polarization has been greatly exaggerated.
  • Bill Shaikin: Why the Dodgers’ new City Connect uniforms are an L.A. blast.
  • Dylan Hernández: Mookie Betts and Yoshinobu Yamamoto injuries create a Dodgers trade deadline problem.
  • Shelby Grad: ‘Will you shut up, man?’ The Trump-Biden rematch no one really wants is almost here.
  • Michael Hiltzik: Elon Musk thinks Tesla’s investors love him. He’s very wrong.
  • Editorial: Juneteenth is about more than the end of slavery.

Today’s great reads

(Los Angeles Times illustration; photos courtesy of SRH; Allyson Riggs / Associated Press; Haunted Gay Ride Productions)

Letterboxd started as a cinephile’s best-kept secret. Now studios want in. Letterboxd, the movie-logging app loved by cinephiles, helped drive ‘Everything Everywhere All at Once’s’ success. Now it has the attention of Hollywood’s biggest players.


Other great reads

  • Do you get mysterious seasonal headaches? Blame weather whiplash.
  • ‘Queer Rhapsody,’ a new film series coming to five L.A. venues, arrives in a moment of need.

How can we make this newsletter more useful? Send comments to essentialcalifornia@latimes.com.

For your downtime

(Ross May / Los Angeles Times; photos by Getty Images)

Going out

  • 🌿 Get high (legally) at the massive new weed oasis inside the California State Fair.
  • What are your secret tips and hacks for living in L.A.?

Staying in

  • 📺 L.A. library users’ 10 most-watched movies and TV shows of 2024 (so far).
  • 🧑‍🍳 Here’s a recipe for roasted chicken and potatoes with salsa verde.
  • ✏️ Get our free daily crossword puzzle, sudoku, word search and arcade games.

And finally ... a great photo

Show us your favorite place in California! We’re running low on submissions. Send us photos that scream California and we may feature them in an edition of Essential California.

(Jason Armond / Los Angeles Times)


Today’s great photo is from Times photographer Jason Armond. The photo was captured in Palm Springs, where a new play dramatizes how people of color lost their haven in the desert.

Have a great day, from the Essential California team

Ryan Fonseca, reporter
Defne Karabatur, fellow
Andrew Campa, Sunday reporter
Kevinisha Walker, multiplatform editor and Saturday reporter
Christian Orozco, assistant editor
Stephanie Chavez, deputy metro editor
Karim Doumar, head of newsletters

Check our top stories, topics and the latest articles on latimes.com.

Wildfire season is upon us. Here’s what to know and how to prepare (2024)


Wildfire season is upon us. Here’s what to know and how to prepare? ›

Sign up for Community Alerts in your area and be aware of the Emergency Alert System (EAS) and Wireless Emergency Alert (WEA) – no sign-up required. Pay attention to Air Quality Alerts. Make an Emergency Plan. Make sure everyone in your household knows and understands what to do if you need to quickly evacuate.

How to prepare for wildfire season? ›

Get ready
  1. Harden your home. To keep your home safe from wildfires, focus on three things: stopping flames from touching your home, protecting it from heat, and blocking flying embers. ...
  2. Create defensible space. Create a defensible space around your home as a vital barrier against wildfires. ...
  3. Select fire-resistant plants.

How do I prepare my house for wildfire smoke? ›

Before a Wildfire Smoke Event – Be Prepared

Filters and Air Cleaners: If you have an air conditioning system, change your filter regularly, and keep a high-efficiency filter on hand. Filters labeled “MERV13” or higher are most effective for removing smoke particles.

What Merv rating do I need for wildfire smoke? ›

A MERV 13 air filter is the best option for fire smoke.

An air filter with a MERV 13 rating can filter out the fine particles of wildfire smoke without restricting airflow. That's crucial for comfort and can help your HVAC system function well when the air conditioner is in recirculate mode.

What are the three steps of a wildfire? ›

Wildfires need three key elements — also known as the fire triangle — to start and eventually spread:
  • Heat (e.g., half-lit cigarettes)
  • Fuel (e.g., dry or dead vegetation)
  • Oxygen (e.g., strong winds)
Jun 18, 2024

What to avoid during a wildfire? ›

Put out any fires, sparks or embers. Avoid opening any interior doors that feel hot, and stay away from fragile trees and downed power lines.

What is the best fire blanket? ›

Silicone fire blankets are known for their flexibility and resistance to high temperatures. They are often preferred for kitchen fires due to their ability to withstand grease fires without melting or emitting harmful fumes.

Is Merv 11 better than MERV 13 for wildfire smoke? ›

For even higher filtration performance, and for anyone directly dealing with wildfire smoke, MERV 13 filters are recommended, as they can remove smaller particles and provide enhanced protection against smoke and other airborne allergens.

Does AC filter out wildfire smoke? ›

Yes and No. As you can see, some types of air conditioners filter wildfire smoke effectively, while others don't. If your current AC system isn't one of the better options, the home cooling experts at Ingram's Water & Air can help.

Do air purifiers remove wildfire smoke? ›

Honeywell air purifiers with certified HEPA filters can capture up to 99.97% of microscopic particles as small as 0.3 microns, from the air that passes through the filters. Wildfire smoke particles are typically 2.5 microns or smaller, often 0.4–0.7 microns in diameter.

Can rain put out a wildfire? ›

Rain plays a significant role in wildfires, and its impact on the environment can be both good and bad. On one hand, rain can help extinguish fires and clear out wildfire smoke. However, on the other hand, it can trigger disasters such as landslides in areas where wildfires have burned through.

What are the 3 A's of fire safety? ›

When should you try to extinguish the fire yourself? Remember the three A's: Activate, assist and attempt. You should only attempt to put out a fire on your own after completing the first two steps.

How hot does the ground get under a fire? ›

During combustion, surface soil temperatures may exceed 1,000°C. Poor heat conduction by the soil results in temperatures of 200°C or less within 5 cm of the soil surface.

What should you do to stay before a wildfire starts? ›

Turn off gas & combustibles: Shut off gas lines and items like propane tanks. Avoid power lines: Stay at least 10 feet away from overhead lines and electrical equipment. Never touch them. Stay updated: Use a battery-powered radio or your cellphone for wildfire updates.

How to stay healthy during wildfire smoke? ›

Use fans and air conditioning to stay cool. If you cannot stay cool, seek shelter elsewhere. Reduce the smoke that enters your home. If you have an HVAC system with a fresh air intake, set the system to recirculate mode, or close the outdoor intake damper.

What is the best way to survive a wildfire? ›

If you're surrounded by fire, you may need to find the best place you can to avoid the flames. As such, covering your body with mud or a wet blanket or taking refuge in water until the fire passes can save your life. A roadway can also provide a buffer from flames, especially if it's wide.

What is the best protection for wildfires? ›

Opt for composite, metal, clay, or tile roofing to resist fires. Ember sealing: Close off gaps under roof tiles and shingles to block wind-blown embers. Debris removal: Regularly clear leaves, pine needles, and other debris from the roof to prevent ignition.

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