When is fire season in California in 2022?

Wildfires are most common from July to October, but California is seeing fires break out as early as the beginning of May.

Kara McGinley

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Kara McGinley

Kara McGinley

Editor & Licensed Home Insurance Expert

Kara McGinley is an editor and licensed home insurance expert at Policygenius, where she writes about homeowners and renters insurance. As a journalist and as an insurance expert, her work and insights have been featured in Kiplinger, Lifehacker, MSN, WRAL.com, and elsewhere.

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Fire season in California can start as early as May, with the peak months being July through October. However, with climate change well underway, we’re starting to see fires become a yearlong problem for The Golden State. 

Accuweather meteorologists predict another above average wildfire season for the Western United States in 2022. [1]   California homeowners should make sure they have the right home insurance coverage in place ahead of a potentially catastrophic wildfire.

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When does fire season in California start?

As climate change progresses, California is seeing wildfires breakout earlier and earlier. In 2022, California saw its ninth driest January on record, which helped cause the Colorado Fire on January 21. [2] The fire burned through 687 acres of Monterey County near Big Sur, and was active for 114 days. [3]  

Of the top 10 most destructive wildfires in California history, eight of them occurred in the months of July, September, and October. Two of them occurred in November. [4]  

The 2022 fire season has already resulted in an estimated 13,077 acres burned and an estimated 2,703 fire incidents in The Golden State, and experts only expect those numbers to rise as we enter the summer months. [5]  

Where do fires happen most in California?

According to a new study by the First Street Foundation research lab, more than 4.6 million properties in California fall into a wildfire risk category. [6] Below are where the top 10 largest wildfires occurred in California. [7]

What starts wildfires in California?

Close to 90% of wildfires in the United States are human-caused, but lightning strikes tend to cause the most devastating wildfire damage. [8] Below is the top 15 largest wildfires in California state history and how they were started.

RankFire nameDateCause
1August ComplexAugust 2020Lightning
2DixieJuly 2021Powerlines
3Mendocino ComplexJuly 2018Human related
4SCU Lightning ComplexAugust 2020Lightning
5CreekSeptember 2020Undetermined
6LNU Lightning ComplexAugust 2020Lightning/arson
7North ComplexAugust 2020Lightning
8ThomasDecember 2017Powerlines
9CedarOctober 2003Human related
10RushAugust 2012Lightning
11RimAugust 2013Human related
12ZacaJuly 2007Human related
13CarrJuly 2018Human related
14MonumentJuly 2021Lightning
15CaldorAugust 2021Human related

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Does homeowners insurance cover fire damage in California?

A standard homeowners insurance policy covers fire and smoke damage to your home and personal property. Homeowners insurance will also help pay for additional living expenses — like a hotel stay or restaurant meals — if you need to temporarily relocate while your home is being repaired after a fire. 

However, it can be difficult to find affordable coverage if you live in a wildfire-prone area of California — and some insurers may refuse to insure your home at all. If you’re struggling to find affordable or adequate coverage, here are some options. 

Consider the California FAIR Plan

The California Fair Access to Insurance Requirements (FAIR) Plan is a last-resort coverage option for homeowners in California that don’t qualify for coverage through traditional insurance companies. The FAIR Plan is administered by the state of California, but private insurers are required to participate in the program. 

FAIR Plans are typically more expensive and less comprehensive than standard home insurance coverage, but may be a good option if you’re looking for fire insurance. In order to qualify for a FAIR Plan you’ll need to prove you were denied coverage by multiple different insurance companies. 

→ Learn more about how FAIR Plans work

You may want to pair your FAIR Plan with a difference in conditions (DIC) policy

Since FAIR Plan coverage is limited, many California homeowners pair their FAIR Plan with a difference in conditions policy to fill in any coverage gaps.   

Consider excess and surplus (E&S) coverage

Excess and surplus insurance companies are unregulated, which allows these companies to insure risks standard insurers see as too high. This means you can likely find an E&S insurer that offers fire insurance for your high-risk home. Just keep in mind that because E&S insurance is unregulated, they can price your policy however they choose, so the policies often tend to be more expensive than traditional home insurance coverage.  

How to prepare for 2022 fire season in California

Wildfires are a part of life for most Californians. Here are a few things you can do to stay safe before, during, and after a wildfire. 

Before the fire

  • Make sure you have the proper home insurance and fire insurance coverage in place

  • Remove all dead and dying vegetation, landscaping, and plants

  • Trim trees

  • Relocate firewood and lumber

  • Gather emergency supplies and create an emergency kit

  • Know your evacuation routes

  • Choose a room that you can stay in that will keep the fire and smoke out and put a portable air filter or purifier in it

  • Keep track of fires near you with local updates

During the fire

  • Keep smoke outside as best as possible

  • Turn air purifying devices on

  • Wear a respirator mask, like an N95

  • Avoid using candles, fireplaces, wood burning stoves, etc

  • Evacuate if advised to do so by government officials

  • Continue to keep track of fire alerts and local updates

After the fire

  • Check air quality reports

  • Protect yourself from ash when cleaning up by wearing gloves, long sleeved pants and shirts, shoes, socks, and goggles

  • Wash off any ash that gets on your skin or in your eyes

  • If air quality is poor, continue to wear a respirator mask

  • Be alert about your drinking water as it could be contaminated

  • If you need to drive, look out for debris

  • Make temporary, emergency repairs to your home if needed

  • Take photos of the damage to your home

  • File a claim with your insurance company

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