Record Dry Soil and Vegetation in U.S. West Creates Potential for Increasingly Dangerous Wildfire Season

Last year’s wildfire season in the western U.S. set new records for damage and destruction. This year’s wildfire season is shaping up to be potentially worse. According to scientists, the soil is at record dry levels for this time of year — so is the vegetation that can fuel wildfires. One example is in the Southwest where dead juniper trees full of flammable needles are primed and ready to burn. Brian Steinhardt, forest fire zone manager for Prescott and Coconino national forests in Arizona said, “It’s like having gasoline out there.”

A megadrought of more than 20 years is making conditions that lead to fire even more dangerous, scientists said. Rainfall in the Rockies and farther west was the second lowest on record in April, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Park Williams, a UCLA climate and fire scientist said, “It means that the dice are loaded toward a lot of forest fire this year.” Williams has calculated that soil in the western half of the nation is the driest it has been since 1895. “This summer we’re going into fire season with drier fuels than we were at this time last year.” Williams went onto say, for decades, U.S. firefighting agencies have tried to put out fires as quickly as possible, and that’s usually worked. But the practice resulted in the buildup of dense trees, brush and other potential fire fuels. “Fire is escaping our control increasingly frequently,” he said. “And some of the reason for that might be because of increasing density of fuels. But we also see that these fires are escaping our control during record-breaking heat waves — and it’s the warmest, driest years when we have the hardest time controlling fires.”

Voicing a similar opinion is University of Utah fire scientist Phil Dennison who said, “I think the Southwest is really primed for a bad fire season.” That’s because last year’s normal monsoon season, which brings much of the year’s rainfall, never showed up.


FEA compiles the Wood Markets News from various 3rd party sources to provide readers with the latest news impacting forest product markets. Opinions or views expressed in these articles do not necessarily represent those of FEA.
Original Source:
Grim western U.S. fire season starts much drier than record 2020