2022 Wildfire Season Updates
UNITED STATES—September 9, 2022—With severe droughts and high temperatures throughout much of the western United States, the 2022 wildfire season has been highly active thus far. Currently, 71 large fires are burning across eight states, including Montana, Idaho, Washington, Oregon, California, Utah, Texas, and Wyoming, according to the National Interagency Fire Center. Only one of these fires is currently contained.
California is battling eight active wildfires as heat waves and high winds threaten much of the state. In Riverside County, the Fairview Fire has killed two people and forced more than 18,000 residents to evacuate as it doubled in size on Wednesday due to high winds, according to The New York Times. Additional evacuations were triggered ahead of the Mosquito Fire, burning northeast of Sacramento. In Northern California, record-high temperatures of 110 degrees Fahrenheit and above are straining the power grid and increasing the risk of new fires, which can explode from just a truck sparking on the road in these hot, dry conditions.
With the Fairview Fire just 5% contained, Riverside County now faces multiple extreme weather threats as Tropical Storm Kay moves up the coast of the Baja California Peninsula in Mexico. As of Friday morning, the National Weather Service had placed Riverside County under warnings for excessive heat, flooding, and high winds, according to The New York Times. These overlapping events could set off a cascade of disasters, complicating emergency response capabilities. Although the rain could bring some fire suppression, forecasters also expect lightning strikes, which could ignite new blazes. With up to seven inches of rain expected in some areas, flooding and mudslides are an additional threat exacerbated by the fires which make the soil hydrophobic (less able to absorb water) and reduce the vegetation that would help hold the soil in place.
In Idaho, firefighters worked Thursday night to protect homes on the Fort Hall Reservation from a new fire that triggered evacuations of the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes as the fire grew rapidly to 6,500 acres. The Bureau of Land Management, the Forest Service, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, and local fire departments are working together to contain the blaze, according to the Idaho State Journal. Idaho is currently battling 28 active fires statewide, the most of any state.
On Thursday, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown warned residents of dangerous conditions over the next 72 hours as high winds, hot temperatures, and low humidity led the National Weather Service of Portland to issue a red flag warning, according to The Oregonian. Temperatures will rise to over 90 degrees and winds could reach 45 mph in some areas on Friday. More than 168,000 acres are currently burning in the state, and conditions could worsen these fires as well as increase the threat of new fires. Emergency power shutoffs are expected to affect more than 40,000 households beginning Friday, so officials warned residents to prepare for power outages and possible evacuations.
In total, the 2022 fire season has seen 49,326 individual fires so far, the highest number in the last decade, according to the National Interagency Fire Center. More than 6 million acres have burned, threatening natural resources, destroying crops, affecting air quality, and leaving thousands of Americans facing smoke and fire damage to their homes and businesses.