2021 Record-Breaking Year for U.S. Wildfires

Photo by Ross Stone on Unsplash

It’s official: 2021 is a record-breaking year for wildfires. The U.S. has been at Wildland Fire Preparedness Level 5 for 68 days, which is longer than ever recorded. Preparedness Level 5 is declared when more than 80% of wildland firefighting resources are allocated.

So far, more than 3.2+ million acres have burned in 73 large fires in 12 states. 

Below we’ll give an update on the latest wildfire events. 

Red Flag Warnings

The National Weather Service has issued a red flag warning for much of Northern California, including much of the Sacramento Valley and the Bay Area. This Red Flag Warning expires at 11 a.m. PDT. 

According to the alert, “A Red Flag Warning means that critical fire weather conditions are either occurring now or will shortly. A combination of strong winds, low relative humidity, and warm temperatures can contribute to extreme fire behavior.”

The alert warns that high winds, low humidity, extremely dry fuels, and a lack of rainfall will lead to critical fire weather conditions.

Safety Blackouts

On Sunday, Pacific Gas and Electric Co. (PG&E) began shutting off power for safety to 7,100 customers in parts of 10 California counties due to a dry offshore wind event. The previous week, it sent a notification to customers warning that it might have to turn off power because of dry wind and critical fire weather conditions.

In a Twitter update, the company said that PG&E meteorologists monitor dynamic weather conditions to determine Public Safety Power Shutoff scope.

Impact on Railroads

The wildfires have had a severe impact on transportation infrastructure. For example, the Union Pacific railway is facing a bill of more than $100 million due to the damage caused by wildfires and heavy rain. 

When the Lava fire destroyed the Dry Canyon Bridge, an essential part of a route from southern California to northern Washington state, it took 35 days to repair the bridge. 

Fires Contained and Still Burning

In California, the Dixie fire – California’s second-largest wildfire in history, active for 70 days and burned more than 963,195 Acres – is now 98% contained. The Hopkins fire is also 98% contained. 

Firefighters successfully contained Childrens fire, which started on Sunday. However, flames threatened homes, which led to evacuation orders. 

Rain on the Way

Rainfall in Washington state is expected to bring the hot, dry summer to a close and offer a reprieve from westside wildfires.

“This should end the wildfire threat at least west of the Cascade crest,” said Joe Boomgard-Zagrodnik, a postdoctoral researcher in agricultural meteorology at Washington State University.

The Washington State Department of Natural Resources is reopening its lands east of the Cascades to the public again after being closed since July 23 due to historic heat, drought conditions, and extreme wildfire danger.


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