Wildfires burned double the average acreage for this time of year

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So far this year, U.S. wildfires have burned more than 1.9 million acres, according to a monthly climate report released by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. That is more than double the average acreage for this point in the season. While that statistic is startling, there are important details to consider. “This is largely due to the activity that’s been going on in some of the southern region and southwest,” said Tim Brown, the director for the Western Regional Climate Center in Reno, NV. Brown says that about 80% of the 1.9 million acres have burned in Texas, Arizona and New Mexico. Areas that typically see spikes in wildfire activity at this time of year. Adding to a fast first half of the wildfire year is the Hermits Peak Fire, which is now New Mexico’s largest wildfire in state history. As of Thursday morning, more than 318,000 acres have burned since the fire was first spotted on April 6th. It is currently 65% contained. But when gauging the severity of a fire season, the size of a fire really doesn’t offer much context. Brown says there are other factors that can be much more telling. “How intense was that fire? Did it really scorch the landscape? Did it really burn up the biology in the soils?”Those are considered severe and sometimes irreversible impacts on the environment. Impacts on watersheds and the communities they serve are another metric for defining a wildfire season.For California, which is really just entering the traditional “wildfire season,” numbers are slightly below the five-year average for this point in the season. According to data from Cal Fire, which is updated every Friday, 2,504 fires have combined to burn 11,484 acres. The average is 12,554 acres. Cal Fire Chief Jon Heggie says that these early season statistics shouldn’t be used as predictors for the rest of the season. “It’s just a false sense of security because what we’ve seen over the last few years is as soon as we get that hot, dry weather fire activity increases,” Heggie said.With triple digits in the forecast for the next few days, it’s safe to say that hot, dry weather is here for the summer.Heggie says that preparation is our best defense whether wildfire activity remains low relative to normal or not. Things like creating defensible space, home hardening and knowing your evacuation plan can go a long way in protecting life and property.But now that the weather is heating up, remember to be conscientious of when you use things like lawnmowers and other outdoor equipment. Hot, dry afternoons like the next few coming up are not the time to cut tall grass. Instead, try to get that work done in the morning when the air is slightly less dry and the wind is typically lighter. Doing this can help prevent you from starting a fire yourself.

So far this year, U.S. wildfires have burned more than 1.9 million acres, according to a monthly climate report released by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

That is more than double the average acreage for this point in the season.

While that statistic is startling, there are important details to consider.

“This is largely due to the activity that’s been going on in some of the southern region and southwest,” said Tim Brown, the director for the Western Regional Climate Center in Reno, NV.

Brown says that about 80% of the 1.9 million acres have burned in Texas, Arizona and New Mexico. Areas that typically see spikes in wildfire activity at this time of year.

Adding to a fast first half of the wildfire year is the Hermits Peak Fire, which is now New Mexico’s largest wildfire in state history. As of Thursday morning, more than 318,000 acres have burned since the fire was first spotted on April 6th. It is currently 65% contained.

But when gauging the severity of a fire season, the size of a fire really doesn’t offer much context. Brown says there are other factors that can be much more telling.

“How intense was that fire? Did it really scorch the landscape? Did it really burn up the biology in the soils?”

Those are considered severe and sometimes irreversible impacts on the environment. Impacts on watersheds and the communities they serve are another metric for defining a wildfire season.

For California, which is really just entering the traditional “wildfire season,” numbers are slightly below the five-year average for this point in the season.

According to data from Cal Fire, which is updated every Friday, 2,504 fires have combined to burn 11,484 acres. The average is 12,554 acres.

Cal Fire Chief Jon Heggie says that these early season statistics shouldn’t be used as predictors for the rest of the season.

“It’s just a false sense of security because what we’ve seen over the last few years is as soon as we get that hot, dry weather fire activity increases,” Heggie said.

With triple digits in the forecast for the next few days, it’s safe to say that hot, dry weather is here for the summer.

Heggie says that preparation is our best defense whether wildfire activity remains low relative to normal or not. Things like creating defensible space, home hardening and knowing your evacuation plan can go a long way in protecting life and property.

But now that the weather is heating up, remember to be conscientious of when you use things like lawnmowers and other outdoor equipment. Hot, dry afternoons like the next few coming up are not the time to cut tall grass.

Instead, try to get that work done in the morning when the air is slightly less dry and the wind is typically lighter. Doing this can help prevent you from starting a fire yourself.

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