Here’s How To Beat The Heat — Fight Forest Fires With Fire

Thanks to the brutal fires raging in states like Washington and California, 2015 will go down as one of the most destructive years from wildfires.

Compared with the last 10 years, when there were more than 57,000 fires on average by this point in the year, there have been only 47,000 fires in 2015, according to the Forest Service. But this year’s fires have devoured 8.9 million acres, compared with 6.1 million acres on average. This year stands out even more, because 2014 and 2013 were relatively quiet, with below-average numbers of fires and acres burned.

“So far, by some measures, it’s been one of the worst fire seasons we’ve had,” said Tom Harbour, Forest Service director of fire and aviation management. Harbour, a 45-year veteran of the Forest Service, added: “Fire season is never over anymore. It’s year-round.”

There seems to be smoke everywhere in the West. More acres have burned in Washington state than ever, thanks to enormous fires like the North Star fire, which blackened 218,000 acres through Tuesday. Alaska is emerging from a record-setting season that saw 5.1 million acres go up in smoke. The Valley and Butte fires in northern California destroyed more than 1,000 homes.

Climactic factors are largely to blame, scientists say. Trees, shrubs and other fuel are ready to burst into flames because of higher temperatures and prolonged periods of drought. California’s been hit with pervasive drought for four years. Who knows which region will next have to pray for rain?

“There’s a future where it looks like we’re going to have an increasing number of large fires that pose a threat to our communities,” said Harbour.

Extinguishing every fire is a strategy that carries enormous costs. This summer, the Forest Service spent $200 million —> Read More