California fire officials said the region experienced several wildfires in the northern areas on Tuesday due to high winds, dry vegetation, and unseasonably warm weather, forcing hundreds of residents to flee their homes for their safety.

At least five active fires burning within the CZU Complex Fire burn are in San Cruz County were being dealt with by fire crews. Residents from several nearby communities were evacuated as firefighters struggled with accessing the fire sites due to hazardous conditions from previous fires.

Unusual Fire Season

The Complex Fire began on August 16, 2020, after several lightning bolts hit the area. Multiple fires combined together to create a much larger burn area that engulfed more than 135 square miles in the San Mateo and Santa Cruz counties, leaving one person dead.

“We responded to many more fires overnight, but most have been contained and controlled. We have other smaller fires within the unit, but these listed are the top priority,” Santa Cruz fire officials posted on their Facebook account.

The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire) said on Tuesday that firefighters quickly responded to try and contain at least ten small vegetation fires within the last 12 hours. Unfortunately, powerful winds toppled power lines and trees and blew up debris within the region that has not experienced much rain this season.

“This is the reality we’ve been living, and it’s one we’ve been going through for quite a few years now. We’ve noticed that the fire year gets extended further into the winter than it ever has before, and it gets started earlier in the spring than it ever has before, and that’s the situation that we’re sitting in right now,” Cal Fire Battalion Chief Isaac Sanchez said.

California observed 71 vegetation fires in the first few weeks of the year compared to 39 within the same timeframe last year. Sanchez noted that the five-year average for this time of year was 45 fires.

The state’s dry winter season has contributed to the increased risk of fires as vegetation absorbs moisture from rain and snow in the winter and blossoms in spring. But with little to no rain, areas remain dry and are more prone to fires, Sanchez said, NBC News reported.

Officials also announced a fire weather warning in some parts of Southern California as strong winds and low humidity run through the region until Tuesday evening.

On Tuesday afternoon, the Wolf Fire in Bakersfield engulfed more than 75 acres in the Wind Wolves Preserve nature conservancy. The fire threatened wildlife, such as foxes and hares, and the vegetation that was needed to sustain them.