Oregon’s explosive wildfire summer threatens to escalate further, with thunderstorms and lightning expected to further stimulate the fires that have ravaged much of the parched and dangerously hot U.S. West this year.
Over 80 large pokmark wildfires currently cover the western states, covering a combined area similar to the state of Delaware, with the largest blaze known as the Bootleg Fire, a 537 square mile blaze burning in expanses of old-growth forest 300 miles southwest of Portland, Oregon.
Scientists say the man-made climate crisis is fueling the fires by contributing to scorching temperatures and dry, flammable vegetation. Almost the entire western United States is in the grip of a severe drought that has plunged reservoirs, including those used for firefighting.
A recent “heat dome” that has settled over the Pacific Northwest, triggering record heat in Seattle and Portland that cordoned off roads, melted power cables and killed hundreds, was said to have been ” virtually impossible ”without global warming, according to subsequent scientific analysis.
“The link to climate change here is crystal clear – the fires are linked to the very dry and hot conditions that have been prevalent for a month now,” said Michael Mann, climatologist at Penn State University.
“This is dangerous climate change. It is not two decades, nor a decade. For Oregon residents, it’s here and now.
The situation could get worse for firefighters struggling to contain the Bootleg blaze, with lightning expected to strike and potentially ignite the woods near the Fremont-Winema National Forest, where the blaze is currently raging.
“While the lightning activity scheduled for the start of this week is expected to occur east of us, we are prepared for the worst and hope for the best,” said Mike McCann, deputy fire chief for the forest.
The Bootleg fire, now roughly the size of Los Angeles, is so large and so hot that it creates its own weather system, causing winds that pushed burning embers onto the trees and spread the flames further. The fire has been burning for two weeks and barely a third of its perimeter has been contained by firefighters.
At least 2,000 homes have been evacuated as the fire progresses, with several hundred buildings already reduced to ashes. The winds push the fire into more remote areas to the north and east.
If the fire were to occur in densely populated areas of California, “it would have destroyed thousands of homes by now,” said James Johnston, a researcher at Oregon State University’s College of Forestry who studies historic wildfires.
“But it’s burning in one of the most remote areas of the lower 48 states. “
Smoke created by the Bootleg fire, however, has spread across Canada, while smoke from other fires in the western United States has raised alarm bells about air quality in several cities. .
New York state officials on Tuesday warned vulnerable people to stay indoors due to sooty air pollution from the wildfires that swept across the United States throughout. ‘to the east coast. The smoke brought residents of New York, 3,000 kilometers from the flames, to witness a fiery sunrise on Tuesday.
Last year set a record for the amount of land consumed by wildfires in the western United States, but some experts predict 2021 will exceed that mark given the peak fire months of late summer and early fall are yet to come.
Joe Biden urged Congress to pass climate legislation to help slow the fires that are increasingly plaguing the country, with the president warning that the disasters show America “must act and act quickly.”