There has been more than $2 billion spent on fire suppression efforts so far this budget year in the US (the budget year runs from October 1 through September 30), according to the US Forest Service.
That figure represents a substantial increase from the previous record year of 2015, which saw the agency spend $1.7 billion on fire suppression efforts.
To be clear here, these figures relate solely to US Forest Service costs and don’t include figures from federal, state, or local firefighting agencies.
Altogether, 2017 has been an unprecedented year in the US (and in many other parts of the world as well) with regard to forest fires. At this point, it should be clear that the predictions that wildfires will become increasingly common and severe over the course of the century as a result of anthropogenic climate change have something substantial to them.
Image by Andrea Booher / FEMA
“The level of continued fire activity and the length of the fire season is what’s driving our costs,” explained US Forest Service spokesperson Babete Anderson.
The San Francisco Chronicle provides more: “A menacing one-two punch of record rain last winter and record heat this summer, following a historic drought in several Western states, gave birth to a bumper crop of grass and brush that has since dried out and burned up.
“… Forty-one large blazes burned out of control across the West on Thursday, the latest in a fire season that began early in California and is forecast to remain much livelier than normal through at least the end of the month.
“More than 8 million acres have been blackened nationwide this year, an area larger than the state of Maryland. That’s nearly 50% more than what’s usually charred at this point in the year.
“Montana has taken the brunt of the devastating season, with the picturesque Rocky Mountains turning into a tableau of flame and smoke. Blazes forced thousands from their homes and killed at least two firefighters. In Oregon, the Eagle Creek Fire has lit up the scenic Columbia River Gorge while showering the Portland area with a steady supply of ash. California has seen dozens of major fires, from the massive 96,000-acre Eclipse Fire in the Klamath National Forest near the Oregon border to smaller but more devastating blazes near Lake Oroville and Yosemite National Park.”
In relation to this unprecedented wildfire wildfire season, it should be recalled that temperatures in San Francisco climbed as high as 106° this summer … which represents quite a change from the general state of things over recent decades.
What should be realized here is that as temperatures continue climbing, evaporation rates will as well. In other words, conditions conducive to massive wildfires will become more and more widespread and recurrent.