For many in the western United States, the fire season last year has been monstrous. It’s been a year of toxic smoke, dangerous air quality and, for some, “go bags” preparation in case of evacuation. Not to mention the menacing red and orange midday sky caused by devastating smoke particles. As bad as last year’s fire season was, scientists believe this year could be worse.
This should not downplay the events of the past year. The 2020 fire season burned 10.3 million acres in the west – that cost around $ 150 billion and claimed 47 lives. California suffered five of the six largest fires in the state’s history last year. At the top of that list is the massive fire in the August complex. Starting from lightning, the fire burned more than 1 million acres, an area larger than Rhode Island. The National Park Service recently found a giant sequoia tree in Sequoia National Park that is still smoldering from the 2020 castle fire. The difference between 2020 and 2021 is that there is now more fuel.
Historically, parts of the United States have seen little rain due to the effects of global warming. The National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI) reports that April to March had the driest period in Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada, and Utah in 126 years. For California, it was the third driest April to March in the state’s history, while it was Colorado’s fourth driest. Some scientists believe the area is in megadrought, a condition that can last up to 20 years. The drought contributes to low soil moisture and dry vegetation – optimal conditions for forest fires. Add in a bark beetle infestation that kills millions of drought-weakened trees, and it’s like the west is sitting on a huge pile of dry lighters.
“None of us are naive about the challenges this state is facing in the entire western United States,” said California Governor Gavin Newsom about the coming year.
In fact, the fire season in Newsom’s state has already started. The California Department of Forestry and Fire Safety (Cal Fire) is already reporting 2,504 fires this year, burning more than 15,000 acres. With the weather getting drier and warmer, the Fire Weather Research Laboratory at San Jose State University may have best summed up the situation in an April 5 Twitter post assessing forest fire hazards.
“The 2021 fire season looks bleak.”
Subscribe to YouTube for access to exclusive gear videos, celebrity interviews, and more!