Wildfires Spread Across Western US While Temperatures Continue to Climb
THURSDAY, JUNE 24, 2021 AS OF 4:30 PM EDT
Wildfires continue to spread across 10 states, including Oregon, Arizona, California, and Colorado, with seven million individuals placed under red flag warnings as of Monday, June 21, according to NBC News. The National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC) reported 50 large fires active in the United States (US), with four new large fires breaking out in Alaska, California, Nevada, and Idaho. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland gave testimony to the House Natural Resources Committee on Wednesday, cautioning that the Western US could experience “fire years” instead of fire seasons as dry conditions become the new normal for that part of the country, according to The Hill.
Western US Heatwave: NOAA Climate.gov
The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE) noted the Cow Fire in Shasta County has burned 761 acres and is 70 percent contained, while the Mesa Fire started on Wednesday and has already burned 260 acres with 0 percent containment. The Dream Fire spread to Sonoma County, with The Press Democrat reporting the proximity of the fire has led to limited evacuations, with approximately one dozen homes evacuated in Sonoma County. Due to the dedication of fire crews and their work to manage record-breaking infernos, Oregon Governor Kate Brown made the decision to commute the sentences of 41 inmates due to their work to combat wildfires in 2020. Fox-affiliated KPTV-12 said Brown made the request to the Oregon Department of Corrections based on their participation working alongside civilian firefighters to prevent further destruction and loss of life across Oregon.
The fires have been exacerbated by the record-breaking June heatwave across the Western US. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Climate.gov reported a hot air dome spread over the western half of the country over a six-day period in June, with all-time maximum temperature records reached in seven states. The temperature in Phoenix, Arizona maintained a high of over 115 degrees for a record-setting six straight days. The heat wave has magnified drought conditions, and more than 20 percent of the US is classified as the two worst categories of drought; D3 Extreme Drought and D4 Exceptional Drought. The fires also pose a health risk for those in the area, and CNN published a list of areas in the country with the worst air quality caused by wildfires, highlighting Birney, Montana as the worst, with an air quality index (AQI) of 81, with Mexicali, Baja California ranked second with a 77 AQI.
Extreme Summer Heat Growth: NOAA Climate.gov
The Pacific Northwest can expect unprecedented high temperatures in the coming days. The National Weather Service (NWS) issued an Excessive Heat Watch in western Washington from Friday afternoon through Monday, with daytime temperatures predicted to reach triple digits with record-breaking lows overnight. According to the metro daily newspaper Seattlepi, the extreme heat and abnormally dry conditions (classified by the US Drought Monitor) could bring an earlier and longer lasting wildfire season to the region, extending from June through October. Additionally, the Alaska Interagency Coordination Center (AICC) Wildland Fire Dashboard displayed 72 active fires, including 5 new fires in the last 24 hours. Despite the relatively low number of acres burning for peak fire season, Anchorage Daily News reports that staffing resources to handle wildfires are already spread thin as teams have been especially busy contending with wildfire suppression for the past couple of weeks.
PREPARING FOR WILDFIRES
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) encourages individuals to prepare and plan for wildfires. As these events can develop rapidly, it is never too soon to prepare for a potential fire incident. Individuals should follow the guidance of state and local authorities, remaining safe with most fires largely uncontained across the 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. 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.
Planning an evacuation route in case of wildfire: Ready.gov
- Remember, Ready.gov provides information on how to prepare for Wildfire and how to keep you and your family safe, including evacuation planning, preparing a go-bag, and staying up-to-date on warnings and notices.
- 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.
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