Wednesday, August 22, 2012

2012 on Pace as Worst Year for Wildfires in U.S.

Fires have charred nearly 7M acres -- an area larger than Maryland.





Wildfires have charred nearly 7 million acres this year -- that's more acreage burned across the USA in the first eight months of any year since accurate records began in the early 1960s, federal fire officials say. That's an area larger than Maryland.
The combination of the very hot summer and the worst drought since the Dust Bowl are providing fuel for the fires, says Ken Frederick, a public affairs specialist with the Bureau of Land Management at the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise.
Wildfires this year have included the largest in Oregon since the 1840s, the largest fire on record in New Mexico and the most destructive fire in Colorado's history, the National Climatic Data Center reports.
Colorado has been hit particularly hard: The state's most destructive fire this year destroyed hundreds of homes and led to almost half a billion dollars in damage, the Rocky Mountain Insurance Information Association reported.
As of the end of July, eight firefighters have died this year in wildfire incidents, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
With widespread drought conditions and an outlook for little drought relief over the next two months, 2012 is likely to surpass 2006 as the worst fire year in U.S. history, according to Weather Underground meteorologist Jeff Masters.
In total, the fire center reports that more than 9.8 million acres burned in 2006.
Frederick cautions that although this year may be above-average for total acres burned, it is well below average in the number of total fires. Also, by homes burned, this year is still below-average.
"We have seen a significant number of homes burn in wildfires this year -- 1,859 -- but again, we are not into the realm of historic numbers," Frederick says. "In 1991, a single fire in Oakland, Calif., burned more than 3,000 homes. Thousands of homes burned last year in Texas wildfires."
Contributing: The Associated Press
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