Feds spending $150 million per day and seek firefighting help from Canada, Australia and New Zealand
FRISCO — This year’s wildfire activity in the U.S. has surged to the highest level in 10 years, with the National Interagency Fire Center reporting that about 7.2 million acres have burned so far, and officials said they expect the wildfire season to intensify in the coming weeks.
The drought-stricken far West is hardest hit, with 16 large fires currently burning in Washington, 14 in California and 12 in Oregon. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell said federal agencies are currently spending about $150 million per day on fighting fires across the West.
By comparison, the total wildfire acreage in 2012, one of the worst years on record, was about 6.9 million acres. The average for the last 10 years was about 4.5 million acres. Seven firefighters have died this year.
In a statement, Tidwell said rhere are more firefighters on the ground today fighting fires than at any time in the nation’s history.
“They work nights, weekends and holidays under difficult circumstances. While we do everything we can to reduce risk and ensure their safety, our firefighting personnel have been particularly hard hit this year.
Tidwell said the U.S. government is working with tforeign partners, such as Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, to bring in additional resources.
“Climate change, drought, fuel buildup, insects and disease are increasing the severity of unprecedented wildfire in America’s forests and rangelands, which impacts the safety of people, homes and communities,” Tidwell said, adding that continued development in fire-prone areas has worsened the problem.
“As the fire season endures, we will continue to employ every available resource to protect our nation’s forests, our families and our communities,” he said.