Western wildfires in U.S. have burned an area almost 5 times the size of NYC

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The National Interagency Fire Center says 67 large fires have burned more than 917,000 acres across 12 states.

The acreage — about 1,434 square miles — is comparable to 4.75 times the area of New York City.

From January 1 to July 13 this year, more than 2 million acres have burned in 33,953 fires, according to the NIFC, surpassing the previous year’s tally for the same period.

Fires in California have charred tens of thousands of acres, more than doubling the amount burned for the same time frame last year.

According to updated data from the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire) on Monday, more than 103,000 more acres have burned this year through July 11 compared with the same period in 2020. And there have been 4,991 fires, up nearly 700 from a year ago.

“While wildfires are a natural part of California’s landscape, the fire season in California and across the West is starting earlier and ending later each year,” Cal Fire’s website says.

Climate change is considered a key driver of this trend. Warmer spring and summer temperatures, reduced snowpack, and earlier spring snowmelt create longer and more intense dry seasons that increase moisture stress on vegetation and make forests more susceptible to severe wildfire.

“The length of the fire season is estimated to have increased 75 days across the Sierras and seems to correspond with an increase in the extent of forest fires across the state.”

Below is a roundup of some key fires:

 

CALIFORNIA

Beckwourth Complex Fire: 92,988 acres, 46% contained

The complex comprises the Dotta Fire and Sugar Fire burning in the Plumas National Forest.

The Dotta Fire started June 30 on the Beckwourth Ranger District near Dotta Canyon.

The Sugar Fire started July 2 on the Beckwourth Ranger District west of Sugarloaf Peak.

Both fires were ignited by lightning.

This is the largest fire burning in the state, and it is not clear how many structures or homes have burned, if any.

Evacuations impacted 3,061 people and 1,199 residences are threatened, according to fire information spokesperson Mike Ferris. A total of 2,745 personnel are battling the fire complex.

River Fire: 9,500 acres, 15% contained

The River fire is burning near Yosemite National Park west of Highway 41 in Mariposa and Madera counties. The fire started July 11.

Mandatory evacuations are in place in parts of both counties and at least 1,200 fire personnel are battling the blaze.

“Firefighters continue to aggressively attack the fire while dangerous heat persists. Low humidity, tree torching, wind driven runs and frequent spot fires continue to challenge firefighters,” Cal Fire said on the incident page.

More California fires on the radar

Juniper Fire: 1,011 acres, 100% contained in the Modoc National Forest. Started July 5.

Lava Fire: 26,203 acres, 77% contained, Shasta-Trinity National Forest. Started by lightning near Weed, California, on June 24.

Salt Fire: 12,650 acres, 90% contained; Shasta-Trinity National Forest. No growth over the weekend. Started June 30.

The Tennant and Willow fires were brought under full containment as of Monday night after burning more than 13,000 acres combined.

 

ARIZONA

Cedar Basin Fire: 734 acres, 75% contained

The fire was started July 9 by lightning about 14 miles northeast of Wikieup, Arizona, and 20 miles northwest of Bagdad, Arizona.

 

NEW MEXICO

Johnson Fire: 88,918 acres, 75% contained

The Johnson Fire started May 20 and was caused by lightning, according to incident reports from the Gia National Forest.

 

OREGON

The agency responsible for coordinating the response to wildfires in Oregon and Washington said Tuesday it is going to its highest fire preparedness level starting at 12:01 a.m. Wednesday.

The heightened preparedness comes only three days after the the Northwest Interagency Coordination Center increased the level to PL 4. The PL 5 level is the highest available, indicating there is the potential to “exhaust … wildland firefighting resources,” according to guidance from the NIFC.

Bootleg Fire: 201,923 acres, 0% contained

The fire started July 6 on the Fremont-Winema National Forest in Klamath County.

The cause is still under investigation.

Officials estimate full containment of the fire near the California border by November 30.

Hot, dry, windy weather is hampering firefighting efforts, creating life-threatening risk to area residents, according to an incident update.

The fire prompted a flex alert from the California Independent System Operator for Monday. A flex alert is a request for users to conserve electricity when there is an anticipated shortage of energy supply.

Grandview Fire: 5,723 acres, 5% contained

The Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office ordered residents to evacuate all homes north of Holmes Road because of the fire burning near Bend on Monday night.

“This is a Level 3 (Go Now!) Evacuation Notice for all homes north of Holmes Road due to a wildfire. There is immediate and imminent danger and you should evacuate immediately. Leave immediately and as quickly as possible,” the sheriff’s office said in a post on Twitter.

The fire is burning on private lands protected by the Oregon Department of Forestry and the Crooked River National Grassland managed by the US Forest Service, according to the Grandview Fire update post.

Deschutes County is more than 180 miles south of Portland.

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