Wednesday, May 06, 2015

Drought, unusually high temperatures could lead to above normal fire season in West and North

Drought and above average temperatures could lead to an above normal fire season in the West and North, U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell told a U.S. Senate panel Tuesday, Laura Zuckerman reports for Reuters. Tidwell said "he expects his agency this year to spend between $794 million and $1.6 billion to fight fires on federal lands, most of which span Western states."

"The Forest Service, which has averaged about $1.13 billion annually for fire suppression operations over the past 10 years, expects to mobilize 10,000 firefighters for the season and has reserved 21 air tankers to drop water and fire retardant, he said," Zuckerman writes. "The National Interagency Fire Center has predicted above normal fire threats in May for portions of California and said June is expected to have above average wildland fire potential in California, southwestern Arizona and the Pacific Northwest."

Last year in California 5,600 wildfires scorched more than 600,000 acres, Bobby Magill reports for Climate Central. "Drought, likely influenced by climate change, is one of the biggest factors affecting the spread of wildfires in the West. Climate change has helped spike the cost of fire suppression in the West as fire seasons have grown longer, forests have become wracked by drought and wildfires have become larger, more frequent and more severe."

"On average, wildfires burn six times the acreage they did 40 years ago, while the annual number of wildfires over 1,000 acres has doubled from 50 during an average year in the 1970s to more than 100 each year since 2002," Magill writes. (Climate Central graphic)

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