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New wildfires burn across US West, as brutal heatwave grips region

A firefighter sprays water while trying to stop the Sugar Fire, part of the Beckwourth Complex Fire, from spreading to neighboring homes in Doyle, California, the United States, on July 10, 2021. (Photo by The Associated Press)

The unprecedented wildfires are raging in the western region of the US hit by a massive heatwave that has led to record temperatures in recent days, forcing communities to evacuate.

Firefighters have been struggling to battle the blazes under extremely difficult conditions. Two firefighters died in Arizona on Saturday when their aircraft crashed while trying to douse the flames.

According to US media reports, at least 52 massive fires are currently burning 748,987 acres in the region, with many showing little sign of control.

The number of fires at this time of the year is the largest in a decade, with over 33,000 fires burning more than 1.9 million acres by July 12, according to the US National Interagency Fire Center.

The blazing fires accompanied by drought, which have burned houses and other structures across the west, have forced mass evacuations. Millions of people are reportedly under heatwave warning.

The National Weather Service has warned that dangerous weather conditions could cause heat-related illnesses in the affected areas.

Pertinently, it comes just weeks after another dangerous heatwave hit North America, in which hundreds of deaths were recorded, many of them being heat-related.

Several areas in Nevada and California have passed record temperatures, according to preliminary data by the National Weather Service (NWS), and the extreme heat is expected to get worse. 

A temperature of 54.4C (130F) was registered in California's Death Valley on Sunday, beating the heat recorded in August 2020 – which some say is the highest temperature ever recorded on earth.

The National Weather Service said the heatwave that pushed temperatures to 130 degrees in California's Death Valley had likely peaked, but warned that the excessive heat warnings remain in effect from California to Utah, predicting triple-digit temperatures again in the desert southwest.

The unexpected heatwave, triggered by a lingering high pressure system, is already the third for the region this year, an anomaly that some experts have attributed to climate change.

The number of new wildfires in the country this year is at a ten-year high, according to government data, prompting warnings of a dangerous summer ahead.

Roundup of raging fires

In California, according to a report in USA Today, more than a dozen fires are presently burning, ranging from a couple of acres to nearly 90,000 acres.

The largest this year has been reported in Beckwourth Complex covering 89,748 acres on Northern California’s border with Nevada. Evacuation orders have been issued for more than 3,000 residents.

The number of wildfires in the state has surpassed last year's historic fire season. Between Jan. 1 and July 4, there were 4,599 fires that burned 114.8 square miles in California. During the same time last year, there were 3,847 fires that blackened 48.6 square miles, according to the report.

Oregon's first biggest wildfire of the season is now mapped at 153,535 acres. The Bootleg Fire, burning on the state's border with California, is threatening around 1,200 structures, according to USA Today report.

In Washington, experts have warned of possible 'catastrophic' events in the wake of blazing temperature and raging fires. The Batterman Road Fire has consumed more than 14,000 acres and 55,000 acres have been burned by the Asotin Complex Fire.

So far this year, there have been at least 630 wildfires in the state, nearly double the ten-year average, according to the Department of Natural Resources statistics. 

In Montana, at least 10 major wild fires continued to burn on Monday. It is the worse temperature jump since 2017.

In Idaho, Governor Brad Little declared a wildfire emergency on Friday and mobilized the state’s National Guard to help battle the raging fires sparked after lightning storms swept across the drought-stricken region, according to the report.

Two major wildfires continue to burn across the area where Idaho, Oregon and Washington meet, including the Dry Gulch Fire at 55,000 acres and the Snake River Complex at 54,000.

Several fires are also ravaging across Arizona because of an unusually dry season. Arizona Governor Doug Ducey and other fire officials had warned in mid-March about the likelihood of severe 2021 wildfires, saying it could be worse than last year. The state has been battling severe drought, lack of rain and vegetation overgrowth.

According to Scientific American, the dry conditions are a result of both short-term weather patterns such as the record heatwave in parts of the West and long-term climate trends including higher temperatures and less precipitation.

Wildfire has been particularly destructive in recent years. Last year, it burned 10.1 million acres of land in the US, matching the previous record set in 2015.


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