Disaster Discourse: The Hagerty Blog

Hundreds of Wildfires Burn Globally as Dry Drought Conditions Continue to Expand in Rural United States Communities


Across the Western United States (US), wildfires are increasing due to the extreme heat waves that are 25 degrees above average and dry drought conditions due to lack of rainfall. According to the National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC) at present, 104 large fires are burning, having already set fire to more than 2.4 million acres across 14 states. This has resulted in hazardous smoke traveling from the west to northeastern states. These massive smoke plumes are drastically affecting the air quality in states like Colorado which currently has an Air Quality Index (AQI) of 167 whereas, according to the EPA, “good” AQI ranges from 0 to 50.

Smoke and Fire Map: AirNow

The Dixie Fire, California’s largest fire, has now burned over half a million acres and has destroyed roughly 1,000 buildings across Plumas, Lassen, Butte, and Tehama county. The fire has been spreading across the northern part of the state since mid-July and is only 30-percent contained. According to CAL FIRE, all four counties currently have evacuation warnings and orders for their jurisdictions. California Governor Gavin Newsom has declared a state of emergency in response to the town of Greenville being devastated after the fire roared through the old gold-rush historic district. CAL FIRE has over 6,000 personnel assigned to the Dixie Fire and they are attempting to further contain it before weather conditions heat up even further.

Outside of California, other states have been experiencing their own large-scale wildfires. Washington, Oregon, Montana, Alaska, and South Dakota currently have the highest rates of wildfires. In Montana alone, there are currently 25 fires burning, with one of the more devastating being the Richard Spring Fire. The Richard Spring Fire has left thousands under evacuation orders with 150,000 acres already burnt. Thousands of structures are still at risk of being in affected areas and the probability only grows as the National Weather Service (NWS) Weather Prediction Center estimates extremely high temperatures and low-humidity conditions. 

Twitter: Cal OES

The US is not the only country battling wildfires. Siberia, Turkey, and Greece, amongst other countries, are fighting devastating fires. In Turkey, record-breaking heat following a long drought instigated the worst wildfires the country has seen in decades. The fires, mostly located along Turkey’s southern and western coast covering 53 provinces, started in late July and have continued to burn for over two weeks. As of August 10th, 267 fires have been maintained, while three continue to burn. Meanwhile, unusually heavy rainfall caused flooding on Turkey’s northern coast, resulting in a bridge collapse, numerous villages without power, and the evacuation of a hospital in the city of Sinop. In Greece, 586 fires continue to burn across the country. Sixty-three evacuations have taken place over the last several days, including from the large island of Evia located north-east of Athens. A number of countries, including France, Germany, and the United Kingdom (U.K.) have responded to Greece’s call for aid. In Siberia, Russia’s northernmost province, an estimated 190 fires continue to burn over vast areas of the province. While fires in Siberia are part of an annual cycle, this year’s fires are larger than all other fires burning around the world combined. According to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), smoke from these wildfires has reached the North Pole for the first time in recorded history.

Twitter: IPCC

As the Earth continues to see an above average wildfire season, earlier this week, the United Nations (UN) appointed International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released the first part of the Sixth Report, a report on Climate Change and its effect on Earth. The Associate Press (AP) reports that the IPCC’s Six report “makes more precise and warmer forecasts for the 21st century than it did last time it was issued in 2013” and states that climate change is an “unequivocal” and “an established fact”. The report “provides new estimates of the chances of crossing the global warming level of 1.5°C in the next decades.” It also provides scenarios for reductions in carbon emission from the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement. According to the BBC “Research does confirm though, that if politicians can stick to holding global temperature increase down to 1.5C, in pre-industrial times, the worst catastrophes can still be avoided.”

Twitter: National Hurricane Center (NHC)

As wildfires rage on across the US, the Atlantic Hurricane Season continues to impact countries. In the Caribbean, Tropical Storm Fred was downgraded to a tropical depression Wednesday evening. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) NHC, Tropical Depression Fred remains poorly organized as of 11:00 a.m. EDT on Thursday, August 12th. A Tropical Storm Watch does remain in effect for the Southern Bahamas and the Cuban provinces of Ciego de Ávila, Camaguet, Las Tunas, Holguin, Granma, Santiago de Cuba, and Guantanamo. Interests in the Bahamas, Cuba, the southern Florida Peninsula, and the Florida Keys should continue to monitor the process of Tropical Depression Fred over the next several days and into next week as heavy rainfall, and the possibility of stronger winds resulting in Tropical Depression Fred’s restrengthening into  a tropical storm, is still possible.

The Six P’s: CAL FIRE

As the threat of new and more frequent wildfires continues to rise, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) encourages individuals to heed the guidance of local authorities to remain safe during wildfire events impacting their community. Developing weather situations and conditions are constantly being updated on NIFC’s website. Current wildfire counts, jurisdictions and states affected, and weather reports are all available for the most up-to-date information. 

Individuals play a large role in community preparedness. NIFC recommends that members of communities impacted by wildfires can do their part by ensuring roadways are clear for emergency vehicles and flammable vegetation is kept away from structures. FEMA also recommends downloading their mobile application and text messaging system for instant notifications. To get a breakdown by State and County of public advisories, NOAA’s NWS has provided a list of red flag warnings and air quality alerts in decreasing order of severity.

The Hagerty Blog Team will continue providing information and updates on current events and disasters impacting the nation. Visit Disaster Discourse for the latest information.

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