California truly is the Golden State this summer — golden brown — and that has fire officials worried heading into the peak of the wildfire season.
It's still weeks before the fire-fanning Santa Ana winds usually arrive and already it's been a brutal fire season, with nearly twice as many acres burned statewide from a year ago, including 17,500 scorched this week in a blaze still raging in the mountains 90 miles east of Los Angeles.
So far this year, California fire officials have battled 4,300 wildfires, a stark increase from the yearly average of nearly 3,000 they faced from 2008 to 2012, said Daniel Berlant, a spokesman for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.
Until last week, those fires had already burned more than 71,000 acres up from 40,000 during the same period last year. The annual average for acreage charred in the last five years was 113,000, he said.