As the western region of the country continues to be ravaged by fires and droughts, out-of-state teams are heading to Montana to help put out large-scale fires there. Greg Gianforte announced on Friday that workers from Utah and California, two states facing their own fires, will arrive over the weekend to help put out the increasingly worrying fires.
Firefighters from the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation said on Wednesday that the Alder Creek fire on more than 6,800 acres in the southwest of the state is the state’s top priority for fire protection.
U.S. Forest Service spokesperson Jason Nedlo confirmed that status to The Great Falls Tribune. “What that means is that as resources become available, the Alder Creek Fire will be one of the top priorities for those resources to be sent to,” said Nedlo. “What I don’t know is what resources are currently available. There’s not a lot of resources left unassigned.”
According to the newspaper, although the scale is small compared to the series of fires in other parts of the west, the Alder Creek fire, which accounts for only 7%, threatens nearly 240 houses nearby.
In the northeastern part of the state, five firefighters were injured on Thursday while trying to control the Devil Creek fire, which was a 1,300-acre fire.
At the same time, the largest piracy fire in Oregon continues to grow. As staff worked hard to contain more than 40% of the fire, progress was made last weekend. The forest fire has become so big that it has begun to produce its own climate.
According to data from the National Interagency Fire Center, there are currently 88 major fires in 13 states, almost all in the west. So far this year, more than 36,000 wildfires have burned approximately 2.7 million acres in the United States, an increase from the same period last year.
The smoke from these fires can be seen from space. Back on Earth, cities in the northeastern United States about 3,000 miles away have recently experienced high concentrations of particulate matter. These tiny pollutants linger in the air and may pose a health threat by entering the lungs and blood in the lungs.
Due to rising temperatures and dry vegetation, climate change is more likely to cause large-scale and destructive wildfires, which also increases the length of the fire season. According to data from the United States Drought Monitoring Agency, approximately 40% of the United States is in moderate to abnormal drought.
The fire season lasts longer, burns hotter and hotter, and requires more labor. There are currently approximately 22,000 people assigned to the wildfires, many of whom are seasonal employees.
Generally, wildfires move from one geographic location to another, starting in the southwest and gradually moving north. This allows states to cooperate methodically, dispatching staff to hot spots outside of the state as needed. Carrie Bilbao, a public affairs expert at the NIFC, is also working with the Bureau of Land Management’s fire protection project, she said, but this is no longer happening. On the contrary, fires broke out all over the west at the same time, depleting resources.
Bilbao said there are concerns about firefighters burning out.
“We started about a month ahead of time for fire activity, this is stuff we would normally see in August,” she said. “It’s a physically demanding job and it puts a lot of stress on them so there is that fear of wearing out our firefighters before all this is over.”
Storms that bring rain and snow usually trigger end-of-season events in the fall, providing workers with the help they need to control the fire. But with more extreme fire behavior, Bilbao stated that BLM and IFC are concerned that these fire seasons are becoming a year-round problem.