Experts Say To Expect Bigger, Fiercer Wildfires In The West

Experts Say To Expect Bigger, Fiercer Wildfires In West

It’s no mystery as to why we’ve been seeing more wildfires: more heat, more droughts, more fuel, and more people in the way are adding up to increasingly ferocious fires according to scientists.

KWQC reported, “While no single wildfire can be pinned solely on climate change, researchers say there are signs that fires are becoming bigger and more common in an increasingly hot and bone-dry West.”

US Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell told a Senate hearing last month that wildfires are chewing through twice as many acres per year on average in the United States compared to 40 years ago.

According to federal records, since January 1, 2000, about 145,000 square miles have burned, roughly the size of New York, New England, New Jersey, Delaware and Maryland combined.

NBC News stated that while traditionally, wildfires typically occur during the summer months, we are now seeing that the “traditional fire season now lasts two months longer and first responders sometimes find themselves beating back flames in the winter.”

Droughts and climate change do play a big part in the increase of wildfires, one example being the Yarnel Hill Fire.

NBC News reported:

“In Arizona, where a drought has persisted for nearly two decades, the manzanita, evergreen, mount mahogany and oak in the Yarnell area were so crispy Sunday that a nearby state fire-monitoring station recorded a near-maximum level of potential fuel in area vegetation.”

Climate scientist Jonathan Overpeck of the University of Arizona said unless greenhouse gas emissions are curbed, huge, fierce wildfires will become the norm.

While these two factors do play a big part in the increase of fierce wildfires, experts also say that there has been an increase in people who choose to live in areas that are considered more fire-prone, such as forests, grasslands and shrub lands.

Yes, people do play a part in the growing number of wildfires in the west. As they move into these fire-prone areas, it throws off the firefighting logistics of that area according to NBC News.

The report continued on to say that Overpeck said in an email “We owe it to the men and women who put themselves in harm’s way to do everything we can to make their firefighting jobs safer.”

With the changes in weather patterns, and other contributing factors, scientists are warning people to expect larger, fiercer, and more frequent wildfires in the future.

[Image via Wikimedia]