BANNING, Calif. (AP) — It's still weeks before the fire-fanning Santa Ana winds usually arrive, but California is already dealing with a brutal fire season.

Nearly twice as many acres have burned statewide compared with last year. So far this year, California fire officials have battled 4,300 wildfires, a dramatic increase from the yearly average of nearly 3,000 they faced over the previous five years.

Before last week, those fires had burned 111 square miles or more than 71,000 acres. That was up from 40,000 acres during the same period last year.

A spokesman for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection the fire season began in mid-April this year, about a month ahead of schedule after an especially dry winter. He says the peak of the wildfire season is still to come.

The latest blaze is raging in the mountains 90 miles east of Los Angeles. The Silver Fire has grown to 28 square miles and destroyed 26 homes. But fire crews have it 40 percent contained.