Why This Year's Wildfire Season Is Scarier Than Usual

Photo: Ted S. Warren/AP Photo.
Wildfires are raging over millions of acres of land in the western United States. A historic drought in California has contributed to terrifying fires there and has also, surprisingly, brought them to a part of the country that is famous for its drizzle: the lush, green rainforests of Washington state.

Fires are currently burning across some 1.225 million acres of land in seven states, from Washington to Arizona, and conditions aren't expected to change soon. Three firefighters died and four were hurt when flames they were battling in central Washington shifted with a sudden change in the wind.

With temperatures over 100 degrees and no rain, affected states are trying desperately to contain the fires that are already burning and to keep more from starting. People are needed to fight unpredictable blazes in places where they aren't used to taking precautions; this lack of preparedness increases risks for everyone.

As with most terrifying new weather problems, climate change and its effects are the forces behind these expanded danger zones. The U.S. Forest Service said in a recent report that, since 1970, climate change has added a whopping 78 days to what the Service considers "fire season," with twice as much land burning. According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, rising temperatures are also causing snow to melt earlier, which leaves land susceptible to fire for more of the year. July 2015 was the hottest of any month since recordkeeping began in 1880, so there's no reason to think this trend will turn around without massive global effort.

With so much ground to protect, states have needed extra help from a variety of sources — the U.S. military sent 200 active-duty soldiers to help the 25,000 firefighters already working in the West, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management has sent some of its employees to help, and thousands of California prison inmates have been dispatched to fight the blazes.
Advertisement

More from Politics

The day after the debate, instead of shifting away from the issue, the GOP nominee doubled down on his weight-shaming comments. And on Friday, he took the ...
Election Day lasts just one day — a 24-hour culmination of the seemingly never-ending campaign season. But we’ll spend the next two, four, six years ...
GOP front-runner Donald Trump has gotten a lot of flak for some of the ridiculous statements he's made this campaign season, including that women who seek ...
If the chaotic party politics of the 2016 election have left you feeling completely birdbrained, this video is for you. The Founding Fathers (presented ...
Ebling has been by her friend's side through marriages, births, deaths — all the ups and downs of life. But she never expected her old playmate to be just ...
1. Major News: One person died in a Hoboken, NJ, train crash and more than 100 were injured. A commuter train crash on Thursday morning injured more ...
The Final Five are national treasures. They're basically a collection of perfect, perfectly happy humans. And who wouldn't be, especially after turning in ...
Throughout history, Americans have used activism as a tool to seek positive change in communities and in government. That's no different today. With ...
1. Here At Home: A teenager killed his father before opening fire at a school in South Carolina where he wounded two students and a teacher. ...
California passed a law Wednesday removing the state's 10-year statute of limitations for filing of child molestation and rape charges. Governor Jerry ...
Monday night was the personification of media bias and rigged politics
If you had to describe the current political climate in America, what word would you choose: volatile, toxic, or divisive? Perhaps all of the above. ...
Hillary Clinton has been a role model for our generation for years, and now she’s laying out a master class in taking on workplace sexism
1. Major News: A bill to prevent the government from shutting down and to fund the fight against Zika was stalled in the Senate. With a 45-55 vote, the...