The scientists say the fires are a bad start to what could be a very active fire season in the West, as the pandemic, wildfires, and climate change all converge to create a recipe for a potential disaster.
“The fire threatened approximately 850 homes around Oro Valley and the Catalina Foothills, with mandatory evacuations in effect for about 200 homes,” according to a press release from FEMA.
FEMA has authorized the use of federal funds to assist the state in the fight against the Great Horn of the Fire. At least 419 of firefighters are fighting the fire, which is located in the Santa Catalina Mountains. The fire started on June 5.
As public health officials try to keep the coronavirus spread of the pandemic has forced the state firefighters to adjust the way in which they suppress fires.
This year, they are pre-positioning for multiple teams, the sprawl of camp sites and relying more on aircraft to dump water, according to Tiffany Davila, public information officer for the Arizona Department of Forestry and Fire Management.
“… It can be difficult from time to time to be socially distant while fighting the fire, especially when there may be hundreds, perhaps even a thousand of firefighters assigned to any incident. But we are working in the safest way possible to ensure that our teams remain healthy and our communities and residents remain protected, ” she said.
The extreme heat and a “megadrought’ fuels the fires
Abnormally high temperatures are the main driver of these enormous fires, ” said Daniel Swain, a climate scientist at UCLA and the National Center for Atmospheric Research.
May has been one of the hottest in the history of Arizona, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), with temperatures in the state of 5.5 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than the 20th century average for the month.
But there are also longer-term trends in the game.
According to the National Weather Service of Phoenix, the city has not seen any measurable precipitation in over two months.
And underlying this is an epic, multi-decade “megadrought,” which has parched huge swaths of the south-west. A recent study revealed that over the past two decades are probably the driest stretch of the region has seen in hundreds of years, and that man is responsible for global warming, is to blame.
In the short term, the favourable time for help the fire brigade to gain control of the flame is not planned anytime soon.
The next chance for rain will probably not come until the monsoon season starts in mid-July, Swain said.
“Now, it seems that there are at least a couple of several weeks of very hot, dry and sometimes windy conditions, which will probably mean that some of the lights now in Arizona will be well-lit in July,” he said.
A fiery remains of 2020 is likely
The situation in Arizona is relative, but the possibility of what could be the fire season changes North to other parts of the Western united states is even more troubling, especially in California, which has been devastated by several fatal fires in recent years.
The National Interagency Fire Center the latest outlook above the average of fire activity in Northern California from June, and expand to include a large part of the west, which could see the fires of a pop-up to September.
“Unfortunately, [Arizona is] probably a preview of what is to come for the surrounding states in the coming weeks and months, because of the emergence of the drought in the West and the projections for a warmer than average summer a little bit from everywhere, which happens quite often these days with the climate change, ” Swain said.
For Swain, the prospect of a pandemic of a collision with the threats posed by an intense fire of the season are a cause for concern.
There was smoke, which on its own can pose a risk to health, and even more so in light of how the coronavirus attacks the victims ‘ lungs.
There are the challenges that coronavirus poses to the fire department responsible for the protection of persons against fire.
And then there was the problem of the evacuation, and the risk of the displacement of thousands of people out of the path of a fire may lead to a more Covid-19 infections.
“It may have been a difficult fire season, even without the pandemic, but it is to make things that much more difficult. “
CNN’s Joe Sutton, Brandon Miller, Monica Garrett and Judson Jones contributed to this report.