Video: 2013 Wildfire Season Burns Fewer Acres, Leaves Deeper Scars
People in the West are breathing some cleaner air these days, after a summer of dangerous and smoky wildfires.
As the wildfire season begins to wind down, Ken Frederick at the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise looked into this question: how does this summer's fire season stack up against prior ones? Frederick decided to tackle the topic through a short and info-packed video.
Frederick says that despite the loss of 31 wildland firefighters -- including the deaths of 19 hotshots in Arizona's Yarnell fire -- 2013 has been a "modest fire season." He says that when it comes to the number of acres burned nationally, 2013 wildfires have consumed 3.8 million acres so far, while the 10-year average is 5.9 million acres.
But the National Interagency Coordination Center's Chuck Womack says that this year has stood out in one significant way.
“Why the fire season seems bad is probably because a lot of the fires we’ve experienced this year have been threats to communities," says Womack. "That started back in Colorado at the beginning of the fire season and it continues on today as we’re looking at the fires that are threatening communities around Yosemite National Park.”
In Idaho, evacuations in the Wood River Valley and Atlanta -- as well as destroyed primary homes in the Fall Creek area -- are examples of those threats. Debates about firefighting in the wildland urban interface (WUI) have been a part of the conversation in Idaho and around the West.
The Associated Press reports that in Idaho, "wildfires burned so hot this summer they scorched even intensely-managed areas, a sign climate change, hot temperatures and extremely dry fuels trump even man's best efforts to put a dent in forest blazes."
"Idaho Gov. Butch Otter and Sen. Jim Risch have called for a return to more-aggressive logging practices like were prevalent in the the 20th century, on grounds it will help reduce the intensity of wildfires. While fuel treatment may help, Penny Morgan, a University of Idaho fire ecology professor, says that such activities aren't 100 percent effective, especially when faced with extreme conditions." - Associated Press
The National Interagency Fire Center says wildfire season is two-thirds over. Mountain snowfall in the coming weeks will signal a true end of the season.