Wildfires consuming hundreds of thousands of acres across the United
States - primarily in western states - are spreading rapidly,
although only a few communities are currently directly under seige.
For the first time this year, the National Interagency Fire
Information Center (NIFC) said the National Preparedness Level
reached Level Four on Monday, just one short of the most serious
level. More than 8,500 firefighters were trying to contain fires
across the West.
In Oregon, at least 30 fires were active. A fire in Quartz, near the
California border burned a cabin and a house over the weekend and
firefighters said at least 10 more homes in the Dog Prairie area were
"undefensible." According to the Oregon Department of Forestry, the
state is spending about $1 million a day to fight the fires.
About 200 National Guard members were supplementing firefighters in
that state, after the state's governor declared an emergency.
"It's that time of year. Typically the end of the summer can be peak
wildfire season." said Chris Barone, a spokeswoman for the United
States Forest Service, on Tuesday afternoon. "The numbers are fluid.
They can change as we speak. In 20 minutes those statistics can
In Nevada, meanwhile, firefighters were having some success Tuesday
in containing some of the largest fires, but more than 200,000 acres
have burned in that state this month.
The majority of the fires in Nevada are scorching ranges where people
do not live, according to Jackie Leonard, a disaster response
facilitator with the Church World Service/Emergency Response Program.
Many fires in Nevada began as a result of lightning.
"During fire season we get lots of fires. A lot of them are sparked
by lightning," Leonard said. "The fires aren't threatening any cities
or any dwellings, but you got to get them out because some of those
areas are grazing areas for sheep and cattle."
According to NIFC figures Tuesday afternoon, at least 312,089 acres
were burning in Nevada and California, as well as Arizona, Colorado,
Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Texas, Washington and Wyoming.
One factor that made much of the burning acreage prone to wildfires
is the recent heat wave the dried out many regions, said Mike
Apicello, a spokesman for the NIFC. Many fields were very dry when
lightning storms passed over, two components needed to start fires.
However, he noted, not all wildfires are bad for the environment.
"Not all fire is bad. When you see a fire, it doesn't mean that
everything is going to burn," Apicello explained. "It actually can
benefit the landscape. Fires are healthy and beneficial. They add
nutrients to the soil."
But when the fires will be put out is a question that is impossible to answer.
Neil Molenaar, a disaster response facilitator with the Church World
Service/Emergency Response Program in Washington State said it is
impossible to predict when the fires will be extinguished.
"It's hard to say when these things are going to be suppressed,"
Molenaar said. "We just have to wait until the fires are out."
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