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Changes in weather, unusually high temperatures, and drought contribute to one of the most devastating wildfire seasons in United States history.
More than 3.8 million acres of forest has burned so far this wildfire season, and 39 firefighters were killed battling wildfires. The season is set to wrap up in a few weeks, and National Interagency Fire Service officials report that the number of wildfires, overall, was down significantly in 2013 from 2012. However, the number of fires that burned very hot and very close to communities where good fire containment practices exist is cause for concern. Extreme weather, climate change and continued drought will threaten even the best-managed areas.
Although the official 2012 wildfire season has ended, fires continue to burn. These fires have burned the second-largest area on record. The wildfires can be attributed to drought, abnormally high temperatures, and changing weather conditions.
Fires continue to burn across seven states, thirty of which remain uncontained. Despite active burning, firefighters continue to make progress towards containment goals.
Less than a year ago, the word “wildfire” likely pertained to Texas, where an estimated 30,000 individual blazes destroyed close to 3,000 homes; forced the evacuation of tens of thousands; destroyed roughly 500 million trees; and caused in excess of $6 billion in damage to the farming and ranching economy.
But by June 2012, the focus had shifted further north and further west. Eighteen states have already been impacted by fire activity in this year’s fire season—and Colorado and Utah have been especially hard hit. Meteorologists say changes in the La Nina and El Nino weather patterns have had a great impact; much of the nation has been unusually hot and dry this year, with more than two dozen cities across 10 states setting or tying all-time high temperatures the last weekend of June alone.
On July 1, 49 individual fires remained uncontained nationwide, and Colorado remained a major federal disaster area. In that state alone:
Donors wanting to bring relief to fire-ravaged areas for the immediate future and the long-term could: