Climate change contributes to longer fire seasons worldwide

In late June, smoke from wildfires in Canada streamed down over North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, and Iowa. Photo courtesy NASA Earth Observatory.

In late June, smoke from wildfires in Canada streamed down over North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, and Iowa. Photo courtesy NASA Earth Observatory.

New study tracks regional nuances, global trends

Staff Report

FRISCO — U.S. Forest Service scientists and other researchers say there has been a significant increase in the length of wildfire seasons on nearly every continent, with the exception of Australia. Fire weather seasons around the globe have increased by nearly 20 percent and the global burnable area doubled over the past 35 years.

Most vegetation types, except boreal forests, showed significant increases in the fire weather season length, the new study found. Some areas, such as the Western and Southeastern United States, Alaska, tropical and sub-tropical South America and Eastern Africa and large parts of Eurasia show a steady lengthening of the fire season from 1979-2013. Continue reading

Wildfires burn record 1.8 million acres in Alaska

Nationally, fires have scorched more than 2.5 million acres

Spot fires show as small puffs of smoke ahead of the main fire front as the fire moves toward the New Town of the village of Nulato on June 22 Credit: Ben Pratt

Smoke from spot fires ahead of the main fire front as a fire in the Galena Zone moves toward New Town Nulato on June 22, Credit: Ben Pratt/Alaska Interagency Coordination Center.

Staff Report

FRISCO — U.S. Wildfire activity has surged above the 10-year average in the past few weeks, primarily because of what will be a record-breaking fire season in Alaska.

After months of mostly above-average temperatures, Alaska’s vast forests and brushlands were primed, and the Alaska Interagency Coordination Center is reporting that more  600 fires have burned across more than 1.8 million acres in the state.

Fires have caused evacuations, highway closures, and rail and flight disruptions. More than 350 structures have been damaged, including about 70 homes.

Above-average temperatures and a longstanding drought in the western U.S. are big factors in the wildfires burning in parts of Washington, Oregon and California.

According to the National Interagency Fire Center, there are currently 26 major fires burning in Alaska. Nationally, the NIFC is reporting that about 26,000 fires have burned across more than 2.5 million acres for the year to-date, the highest number since 2011, when fires had already scorched more than 4.8 million acres by this time of year.

Cabinet members push for wildfire budget changes


Firefighers working at the scene of a wildfire near Keystone Colorado in 2011. 

Wildfire season outlook means the Forest Service may once again have to scrounge for firefighting money from other funds

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — Despite plentiful spring moisture in the central U.S., top federal officials warned that parts of the West could still see a potentially disastrous wildfire season, especially in the far West and the northernmost Rockies.

This summer’s wildfire season could be a repeat of last year, when the biggest fires burned in Oregon and Washington, Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell said during a press briefing in Denver. Continue reading

Alaska, far West face biggest wildfire threats this summer


The biggest threat of wildfires in early summer is in Alaska and northwestern Canada.

Year-to-date wildfire activity is well below the average of the last 10 years

Staff Report

FRISCO — While the wildfire season is off to a relatively slow start — at least compared to blistering pace of the past 10 years, Forest Service fire experts are still expecting an above-average season, and there is concern once again that the agency might have to use money and personnel from other programs to address the threat.

So far this year, wildfires have burned across about 390,000 acres through the end of May. The average for the pst 10 years is about 1.2 million acres. But the agency won’t let down its guard, Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell told Congress during a recent budget hearing. Continue reading

Colorado firefighters speak out on climate change

Short documentary film explores links between global warming and growing wildfire danger

Staff Report

FRISCO — Colorado firefighters who have battled some of the state’s biggest blazes are speaking up about the risks of climate change in a new short documentary film that premiers in Denver this week.

The film links the increase in the number and intensity of Colorado wildfires with climate change. The 7 p.m. showing at the Sie FilmCenter (2510 East Colfax Ave.) is open to the public. Free tickets can be reserved at

The screening is presented by The Story Group and Working Films.

In the movie, Rod Moraga, a fire behavior analyst with 26 years of experience, recounts directing firefighting efforts at the 2010 Fourmile Canyon Fire when he realized his own house was threatened. Continue reading

Spring warmth ups fire danger in Rockies


A dwindling snowpack means increased fire danger. This low spring snowpack in 2012 was followed by a severe wildfire season in Colorado.

‘The next several weeks are going to be critical in terms of precipitation’

Staff Report

FRISCO — Early snowmelt and above-average temperatures have upped the fire danger across parts of the Rocky Mountain and high plains region, federal officials said this week, forecasting a more active wildfire season than last year.

“This year we are expecting an average to above-average fire season,” said Rocky Mountain Area Coordination Center fire meteorologist Tim Mathewson. “A repeat of a 2000, 2002, 2006 and 2012 historic fire season is unlikely at this time; however, the next several weeks are going to be critical in terms of precipitation.” Continue reading

Critical fire weather forecast across big swath of Southwest

All of Arizona, New Mexico encompassed in weekend warning from National Weather Service


The National Weather Service is highlighting a large part of the Southwest for critical fire weather conditions. Hot temperatures and winds are expected.


The Whitewater-Baldy Fire burning in New Mexico in June 2012. Photo courtesy Kari Greer/USFS.

Staff Report

FRISCO — In what may signify an early start to the western wildfire season, the National Weather Service Sunday issued bulletin warning that multiple days of critical fire weather conditions are expected across the Southwest this coming week.

From the NWS website:

“A dry airmass will be in place from the Great Basin to the Plains on Sunday. Temperatures warming into the 60s and 70s with wind gusts near 35 mph and relative humidity values from 10 to 15 percent will lead to elevated to critical fire danger. These conditions will likely remain in place until mid-week. Rapid growth and spread is likely with any fires that are ignited in and around this region.”

The warning for this week is a shift away from a seasonal forecast issued last month that didn’t include any elevated early season fire danger in the region. Parts of the Southwest saw some relief from a multi-year drought this winter, but overall, the region is still dry and fire danger can be significant even during normal precipitation years.

The areas with the highest potential for dangerous fires extends from southeastern California through southern Nevada, southeastern Utah, far western Colorado and covers nearly all of Arizona and much of New Mexico.

Both New Mexico and Arizona saw their largest wildfires on record during the past several years, including the 2011 Wallow Fire in Arizona, which burned across half a million acres (about 841 square miles). In New Mexico, the 2011 Las Conchas Fire burned about 150,000 acres, following by the Whitewater-Baldy Complex Fire in 2012 in Catron County, New Mexico, which scorched nearly 300,000 acres.






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