Since the beginning of the twenty-first century California, USA, has experienced a substantial increase in the frequency of large wildfires, often with extreme impacts on people and property. Due to the size of the state, it is not surprising that the factors driving these changes differ across this region. Although there are always multiple factors driving wildfire behavior, we believe a helpful model for understanding fires in the state is to frame the discussion in terms of bottom-up vs. top-down controls on fire behavior; that is, fires that are clearly dominated by anomalously high fuel loads from those dominated by extreme wind events. Of course, this distinction is somewhat artificial in that all fires are controlled by multiple factors involving fuels, winds, and topography. However, we believe that fires clearly recognizable as fuel-dominated vs. wind-dominated provide interesting case studies of factors behind these two extremes. These two types of fires differ greatly in their (1) geographical distribution in the state, (2) past fire history, (3) prominent sources of ignition, (4) seasonal timing, (5) resources most at risk, and (6) requirement for different management responses.