Magazine article Science News

Wildfires Spread across a Parched West

Magazine article Science News

Wildfires Spread across a Parched West

Article excerpt

Dozens of lightning-sparked wildfires seared the western United States last week, adding hundreds of thousands of acres of charred terrain to a tally that promises to make this fire season the worst in recent decades.

On Aug. 8, at least 66 major fires--which had already burned at least 100 acres each--were raging in 11 western states, say officials at the National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC) in Boise, Idaho. The center, which coordinates wildland firefighting operations, is home to personnel from seven federal agencies, including the Bureau of Land Management, the National Park Service, and the National Weather Service.

In all, the 66 active fires covered more than 865,000 acres, says Mary Stansell, a spokeswoman for the center. So far this year, almost 64,000 major fires have burned in excess of 4.1 million acres. On average during the past decade, about 54,000 fires each year have charred about 2.2 million acres by the second week of August, she notes.

On some occasions, wildfires have yielded an unexpected bonus. When a 23,000-acre blaze called the Bircher fire swept across Mesa Verde National Park in southwestern Colorado in late July, it stripped away vegetation that had hidden more than a hundred ancient cliff dweller sites. Researchers had to scramble to protect the newfound artifacts before fire-fighting activities could damage them. Now, archaeologists accompany each of the firefighting teams in the park, says Gwen Shaffer, NIFC fire information officer at a field site near Mesa Verde. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.