West Coast Wildfires Spread Across 13 States, Increasing Costs for Support Personnel
As fires continue to burn across the majority of western states, tens of thousands of wildland firefighters and support personnel, including five fire suppression crews and four overhead personnel from Mexico, have been deployed to assist with fire suppression, according to the National Interagency Fire Center. As of October 21, the Center reported that 61 large fires have burned almost four million acres of land across 13 states. California and Idaho are experiencing the largest active fires, with 17 and 10 conflagrations, respectively. The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire) reported The Wildfire season, California has seen 8,685 wildfire incidents burn 4.13 million acres, with 31 confirmed fatalities and 9,247 structures destroyed.
Current Wildfires, Forest Fires, and Lightning Strikes in the United States: Fire, Weather, and Avalanche Center
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) National Weather Service (NWS) issued a red flag warning from 10 am mountain daily time (MDT) to 7 pm MDT for wind and low relative humidity in Colorado’s Middle Park, South Park, and the high mountains of Boulder, Gilpin, Clear Creek, Summit, and Park Counties, which includes fire weather zones 212, 213, and 214. The NWS cautioned low dew points and strong west-southwest winds over the mountains and valleys could result in critical fire weather conditions, including rapid fire growth. These conditions are anticipated throughout Friday in parts of California. Additional red flag warnings due to winds, poor relative humidity recovery, and high fire danger were issued for regions of Texas, Oregon, California, New Mexico, Utah, and Colorado.
In Colorado, the East Troublesome Fire grew substantially on Wednesday afternoon and evening, with CBS News reporting the fire is currently burning at 6,000 acres per hour, with estimates it has moved across 125,000 acres to date. On Wednesday evening, the Grand County Sheriff issued a mandatory evacuation order for all areas west of Highway 34 in Grand County due to its rapid growth.
Less direct impacts of the wildfires greatly impact communities during the COVID-19 pandemic, for example, Clear Creek, Jefferson, Gilpin, Boulder and Larimer counties in Colorado have closed National Forest Land due to wildfires. Communities that have been more reliant on outdoor recreation and activities during COVID-19 are restricted from utilizing natural resources in some geographic areas.
Nearly 85 percent of wildland fires in the United States are caused by humans. Take the time to evaluate conditions and consult local authorities before lighting that match.https://t.co/FDUuheWF2D pic.twitter.com/jtuAJGLqLS
— National Weather Service (@NWS) October 20, 2020
In addition to the vast environmental and physical damage wildfires have caused this year, they have been extremely costly. While the total federal, state, and local government spend is unclear, Michael Wara and other climate change experts at Stanford University spoke with ABC News KABC-TV, estimating that damage from California’s wildfires totaled around $10 billion at the start of October.
Wildfire Safety Infographics: Weather.gov
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) encourages individuals to prepare and plan for wildfires as these events can develop rapidly. Therefore, it is never too soon to prepare for a wildfire event. Individuals should follow the guidance of local authorities and remain safe as most of the fires remain largely uncontained across the United States (US). 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.
EVACUATIONS AND EMERGENCY DECLARATIONS
The Grand County Sheriff issued a mandatory evacuation order for all areas west of Highway 34 in Grand County, Colorado due to the rapid growth of the East Troublesome Fire, cautioning residents to head south on Highway 34. Those who evacuated early are encouraged to register using the East Troublesome Fire Evacuee(s) Registration Form to help with the re-entry process.
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.
- Remember, Ready.gov provides information on how to prepare for Wildfire and how to keep you and your family safe.
- FEMA America’s PrepareAthon: How to Prepare for a Wildfire
- The Los Angeles Times regularly updated tracking of California Wildfires: California Wildfires Map.
- The National Fire Protection Association provides wildfire preparedness tips: link.
- Marin County provides a wildfire evacuation checklist: link
- FEMA provides an information video about how to be prepared for Wildfires: link.