Quantcast

Historic Wildfire Season Has Burned More Than 7.5 Million Acres (That's Larger Than Massachusetts)

Climate

Just how bad are the wildfires in the western U.S.? Answer: pretty damn bad. This wildfire season was predicted to be worst one yet and it looks like experts are correct. More than 7.5 million acres have burned in wildfires this year—an area roughly the size of Massachusetts—according to the National Interagency Fire Center. This is the first time in 20 years that the area charred has exceeded 7 million acres by this date, according to the National Interagency Fire Center.

The massive fire burning in north central Washington, dubbed the Okanogan Complex, has surpassed last year's record-setting Carlton Complex to become the largest fire in the state's history. The blaze is estimated to be 400 square miles as of Monday. Fire spokesman Rick Isaacson told NBC News he fears the fire may burn until the end of October when the rain and snow season arrives.

"It's only Aug. 24th," he said. "In our district we could see this go clear to the first of November." The fire was only 17 percent contained as of Tuesday with hot, dry and windy conditions stymying the efforts of the nearly 1,300 people battling the flames.

And Washington is not alone. Idaho currently holds the dubious title for the highest number of active, large wildfires. Eleven states are currently reporting at least one large fire: Arizona (1), California (11), Colorado (1), Idaho (21), Louisiana (1), Montana (10), New Mexico (1), Oregon (9), Texas (3), Utah (1) and Washington (12). That makes for a total of 71 active large fires burning nearly 1.6 million acres. And only two of them (both in Texas) are 100 percent contained.

Here's a map from AirNow showing the air quality from all the fires:

And then there's Alaska, which is in a league of its own. Climate Central reports that Alaska is entering a "new era for wildfires" due to the rapid warming of the Arctic. The state has seen nearly 5 million acres burn—an area the size of Connecticut. At one point earlier this summer, the state had more than 300 active blazes. Currently, the Last Frontier is dealing with 166 active wildfires.

Read page 1

This interactive map from Climate Central shows just how many fires are currently burning:

The U.S. Forest Service has nearly 30,000 firefighters—the biggest number mobilized in 15 years—battling the flames and they still had to call for backup. The agency has now enlisted 200 members of the U.S. army, more than 1,800 members of the National Guard and several dozen firefighters from New Zealand and Australia. The army hasn't been tapped to deal with wildfires since 2006, and the last time we asked for help from our friends in the Southern Hemisphere was in 2007.

The situation has become so desperate that, for the first time ever, fire crews are even asking ordinary citizens to pitch in.

"In Washington, resources were so strained that officials earlier took the unprecedented step of seeking volunteers to help fight the flames," reports AOL. "Fire officials over the weekend began providing basic fire training to volunteers who have machinery like backhoes and bulldozers so they can help dig fire lines."

The blazes have cost millions of dollars, destroyed hundreds of homes and forced thousands to evacuate across the western U.S. Just last week, a blaze in Washington took the lives of three firefighters and injured four others. The U.S. Forest Service, which is spending more than $100 million each week nationwide, warns that it is running out of money. The agency has already burned through half its budget and it's only August. It has had no choice but to pull funds from other programs to deal with all the fires.

The health impacts of all these fires is deeply concerning. Public health officials across the West are warning people to stay indoors and avoid all physical activity outdoors.

"It's really bad," Janice Nolan, assistant vice president for national policy at the American Lung Association, told NPR. "I hadn't seen 'code maroon' days, which is the most hazardous air quality, in years."

And, unfortunately, things might only get worse. “There’s no season-ending weather event coming any time soon,” said U.S. Forest Service spokeswoman Christine Cozakos. And firefighters are feeling the pinch. "You can imagine how stretched thin everybody is," Dan Dallas, deputy incident commander of the Okanogan fire, told Huffington Post. "We're all working without the resources that in a normal year—which I don't think there is such a thing anymore—that we might have."

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

Check Out Astronaut’s Epic Photo of Wildfires from Space

Grand Canyon Stretch of the Colorado River Threatened by Mercury Pollution

How Worried Should We Be About Nuclear Fallout From Fukushima?

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Brown bear fishing for salmon in creek at Pavlof Harbor in Tongass National Forest, Alaska. Wolfgang Kaehler / LightRocket / Getty Images

The Trump administration has moved one step closer to opening Earth's largest intact temperate rainforest to logging.

Read More Show Less
The Democratic primary candidates take the stage during Tuesday's debate. SAUL LOEB / AFP via Getty Images

On Tuesday night, the Democratic presidential candidates gathered for what The Guardian said was the largest primary debate in U.S. history, and they weren't asked a single question about the climate crisis.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
A. Battenburg / Technical University of Munich

By Sarah Kennedy

Algae in a pond may look flimsy. But scientists are using algae to develop industrial-strength material that's as hard as steel but only a fraction of the weight.



Read More Show Less
Variety of fermented food korean traditional kimchi cabbage and radish salad. white and red sauerkraut in ceramic plates over grey spotted background. Natasha Breen / REDA&CO / Universal Images Group / Getty Image

By Anne Danahy, MS, RDN

Even if you've never taken probiotics, you've probably heard of them.

These supplements provide numerous benefits because they contain live microorganisms, such as bacteria or yeast, which support the healthy bacteria in your gut (1, 2, 3, 4).

Read More Show Less
Pexels

Singapore will become the first country in the world to place a ban on advertisements for carbonated drinks and juices with high sugar contents, its health ministry announced last week. The law is intended to curb sugar consumption since the country has some of the world's highest diabetes rates per capita, as Reuters reported.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored

A typical adult takes around 20,000 breaths per day. If you live in a megacity like Beijing, with many of those lungfuls you're likely to inhale a noxious mixture of chemicals and pollutants.

Read More Show Less
Fred Stone holds his brown swiss cow Lida Rose at his Arundel dairy farm on March 18 after a press conference where he spoke about PFAS chemical contamination in his fields. Gregory Rec / Portland Portland Press Herald via Getty Images

By Susan Cosier

First there was Fred Stone, the third-generation dairy farmer in Maine who discovered that the milk from his cows contained harmful chemicals. Then came Art Schaap, a second-generation dairy farmer in New Mexico, who had to dump 15,000 gallons of contaminated milk a day.

Read More Show Less
Protesters attend the 32nd annual Fur-Free Friday demonstration on Nov. 23, 2018 in Beverly Hills, California. Ella DeGea / Getty Images

California Governor Gavin Newsom signed into law a bill that that bans the sale and manufacture of fur products in the state. The fur ban, which he signed into law on Saturday, prohibits Californians from selling or making clothing, shoes or handbags with fur starting in 2023, according to the AP.

Read More Show Less