Hexbyte Glen Cove 'Extreme' wildfires and heavy smoke grip western US and Canada thumbnail

Hexbyte Glen Cove ‘Extreme’ wildfires and heavy smoke grip western US and Canada

Hexbyte Glen Cove

Firefighters have been dispatched from as far away as San Francisco to tackle the massive Oregon blaze.

A brutal start to the wildfire season in the western United States and Canada worsened Thursday as a massive Oregon blaze exploded in dry, windy conditions and a new California blaze threatened communities devastated by the 2018 Camp Fire.

Wildfire officials raised their preparedness level to the highest tier—the earliest such move in a decade—and Canada’s military joined evacuation efforts, as the region reels from the effects of consecutive heat waves that experts say have been worsened by .

“This fire is going to continue to grow—the extremely dry vegetation and weather are not in our favor,” said Joe Hessel, who is leading a team tackling Oregon’s 227,000-acre Bootleg Fire.

Burning through the equivalent of 130,000 soccer fields, the Bootleg Fire some 250 miles south of Portland is the largest active blaze in the US, bellowing heavy smoke visible from space that is blanketing parts of neighboring Washington and Idaho.

Firefighters have been dispatched from as far away as San Francisco to tackle the massive blaze, which is showing “extreme” growth through drought-affected brush and due to hot, dry and breezy conditions.

It began more than a week ago and is just seven percent contained, having destroyed 21 homes and threatening almost 2,000 more.

The inferno is just one of around 70 burning some one million acres (400,000 hectares) in the US alone.

The Bootleg Fire some 250 miles south of Portland is the largest active blaze in the US.

‘Deja vu’

The governor of the northwestern state of Montana on Wednesday declared a statewide wildland fire emergency.

And in California, the newly ignited Dixie Fire began ripping through land near the town of Paradise which was razed by the notorious 2018 Camp Fire—the deadliest in the state’s modern history, killing 86 people.

“The fire started just a couple of miles [away], on the same road, as the Camp Fire in 2018,” David Little of the North Valley Community Foundation, set up to help Camp Fire victims, told the Los Angeles Times.

“It’s really a sense of deja vu that’s uneasy.”

The Dixie Fire doubled in size overnight and was zero percent contained, but was moving away from populated areas such as Paradise.

Elsewhere in California the much larger Beckwourth Complex—a combination of two blazes sparked by lightning last week—neared 100,000 acres Thursday.

Last year was the worst in California’s by acres burnt, but 2021 is currently outpacing even that record destruction. The season is starting earlier and ending later each year, while much of the state is in the grip of a severe multi-year drought.

In Canada, the armed forces are now participating in wildfire evacuations in British Columbia for the first time since the fires began, a military source told AFP.

Air quality alerts have been issued in many parts of British Columbia due to smoke from forest fires.

As of Thursday afternoon, the province had 309 fires, 23 of which started in the last two days.

Scientists say heat waves arriving in the western US and Canada in late June would have been “virtually impossible” without human-caused climate change.

Human activity has driven global temperatures up, stoking increasingly fierce storms, extreme heat waves, droughts and wildfires.

© 2021 AFP

‘Extreme’ wildfires and heavy smoke grip western US and Canada (2021, July 15)
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Hexbyte Glen Cove California's 2018 wildfires caused $150 billion in damages: study thumbnail

Hexbyte Glen Cove California’s 2018 wildfires caused $150 billion in damages: study

Hexbyte Glen Cove

Credit: CC0 Public Domain

In 2018, California wildfires caused economic losses of nearly $150 billion, or about 0.7 percent of the gross domestic product of the entire United States that year, and a considerable fraction of those costs affected people far from the fires and even outside of the Golden State.

For a study to be published Monday, Dec. 7, in Nature Sustainability, researchers at the University of California, Irvine, China’s Tsinghua University and other institutions combined physical, epidemiological and to gain a more comprehensive understanding of the impact of the blazes. More than 8,500 separate fires burned 1.9 million acres, making them the deadliest and most destructive in any year in California history.

Tallying the damage, the team found that direct capital impact (burned buildings and homes) accounted for $27.7 billion, 19 percent of the total; $32.2 billion, 22 percent of the whole, came from health effects of air pollution; and $88.6 billion in losses, 59 percent, was indirectly caused by the disruption of economic supply chains, including impediments to transportation and labor.

“When insurance companies, policy makers and even the media assess damage from California’s wildfires, they focus on loss of life and direct destruction of physical infrastructure, which, while important, are not the whole picture,” said co-author Steve Davis, UCI professor of Earth system science. “We tried to take a more holistic approach for this project by including a number of other factors such as the ill effects on the health of people living far away and the disruption of supply chains.”

Climate change, land and , population and economic growth, and increasing community encroachment in the have combined to increase the frequency and severity of wildfires in the Western United States over the past few decades, culminating in enormously damaging blazes in 2017, 2018 and 2020.

As the fires burned, showed trails of smoke spanning large areas of California, causing hazardous breathing conditions for residents of communities hundreds of miles from the burning fires.

Power transmission was affected by the fires, as was freight transport by rail and trucks, pipeline operations and many other business and infrastructure-dependent activities. The study showed that the majority of economic impacts were felt by industries and locations also far from the actual fires, and that nearly one-third of the total losses were outside of California.

“The broader impacts of these climate-driven wildfires are not only bigger than prior studies have estimated, but also more widely dispersed—including sizable impacts outside of the state,” lead author Dabo Guan, a Tsinghua University professor of Earth system science who is also a University College London researcher.

Davis said he hopes the study can help and fire managers make more sound decisions in the future about land and forest management, development patterns and fire suppression efforts. For example, the larger estimated costs may justify larger and different allocations of resources to fire prevention and suppression.

In particular, the authors suggest that disaster response teams may wish to focus “ prevention efforts on areas typically upwind of major population centers or near important industrial or transportation infrastructure.”

More information:
Economic footprint of California wildfires in 2018 , Nature Sustainability (2020). DOI: 10.1038/s41893-020-00646-7 , www.nature.com/articles/s41893-020-00646-7

California’s 2018 wildfires caused $150 billion in damages: study (2020, December 7)
retrieved 8 December 2020
from https://phys.org/news/2020-12-california-wildfires-billion.html

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