Severe drought, high winds, catastrophic wildfires, rivers of rain, mudslides, bomb cyclones — national studies show California experienced the most disasters of any state in the last decade. Many of these extremes are caused by complex cascades of climate change-driven events, and each affects specific communities and people in ways unique to their locale and ability to adapt and rebound. Over the next year, this special KneeDeep Times investigative series will explore fire, flood, and other extremes in three dimensions — science, people, place — and report on how researchers, activists, city planners, and community leaders throughout the state are building climate adaptation and resilience. 

Image: Vrinda Manglik.

Part 1: Fire

A future with fire has settled itself into our very being as Californians. It’s happened enough times, we know the drill. Science is telling us how and when to evacuate, and where to expect mudslides and debris flows from burn scars. Neighbors at the edge of wildlands are sharing the burden of brush clearing and backyard fire safety. Schools in smoke zones are increasingly aware they may be the last healthy refuge for kids already struggling to breathe.


California Reeling: When Mudslides Follow Wildfires

Curtis Skene experienced loss and adaptation first hand after the deadly Montecito mudslide in 2018. The slide was triggered by a cascade of extreme events and climate change heightens the risk they will converge again.


My Neighborhood Wised Up to Fire

When the CZU fires forced us to flee the house in the Santa Cruz mountains we had only lived in for nine months we knew exactly two of our neighbors. We had no idea how fire would later bring us together.


Safer at School from Wildfire Smoke?

As they prepare for the fire seasons ahead, schools in Oakland, Sacramento and Santa Rosa are exploring different ways to make their facilities safe havens and resilience hubs for our youngest Californians, especially the most vulnerable.

More stories coming.


A five-part series of stories in which KneeDeep Times explores the science behind climate extremes in California, and how people and places react and adapt.

Part 2: Water


Part 3: Storm



Part 4: Heat


Part 5: Seasons


Supported by the CO2 Foundation and Pulitzer Center.



Managing Editor: Ariel Rubissow Okamoto
Web Story Design: Vanessa Lee & Tony Hale
Science advisors: Alexander Gershunov, Patrick Barnard, Richelle Tanner
Series supported by the CO2 Foundation.
Reporting supported by Pulitzer Center, Connected Coastlines.

Special thanks for California Reeling
Jak Wonderly, Photography
Amber Manfree, Fire Map
Darren Campeau, Science Graphics Support

Special thanks for Neighborhood Wises Up

Steve Kuehl, for being present with his camera when it matters, and for banner photo.

Special acknowledgements for Safer at School?
Jasmine Hardy is not only a reporter based in Sacramento, but also works in after-school programs there. In addition, she grew up going to school in Oakland.
Sierra Garcia contributed to this story.

Banner photo is Hoover Elementary in West Oakland by Katie Rodriguez.