More than 4 million acres of land burned this year, scorched by over 38,000 wildfires, according to the Congressional Research Service. The U.S. is functioning at the maximum level of preparedness as the country has committed a significant amount of shared resources. As the California wildfires and fires on the West Coast rage on, Arizona firefighters and fire agencies have prepared to help.
“We [Arizona] have 33 engines, eight water tenders and 150 personnel assigned across Oregon, California, Wyoming and Colorado,” said Tiffany Davila, public affairs officer for the Arizona Department of Forestry and Fire Management.
The Arizona National Guard announced on Twitter that it has 30+ citizen-soldiers assisting at the California fires with three of its UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters providing 30+ flight hours fighting the wildfires in California.
“The Arizona Fire and Medical Authority, has sent one engine company with four personnel who are trained as EMT’s and paramedics to the fires in California,” said Eric Kriwer, deputy chief and fire marshal for Arizona Fire and Medical Authority.
“The state of Arizona has sent crews on engines, water tenders, ambulances and high-level incident management team overhead are all included in resources sent to assist California by the Arizona Fire Service,” Kriwer said.
Arizona and other states, are doing their best to support each other during wildfire seasons.
“Currently, we are taking resource orders as they come and filling them the best we can,” Davila said. “But we can’t deplete our resources here because we are still experiencing a severe drought and high fire danger in parts of the state.”
According to Kaari Carpenter, Lead Public Affairs Specialists at the U.S. Forest Service, there is great collaboration across the country.
“More than 14,000 interagency wildfire personnel are currently deployed to California and more than 5,000 personnel are deployed to Oregon and Washington. Active duty Military, National Guard, and International support are a significant help in the firefight in California, with National Guard supporting in the states of Washington and Oregon as well,” Carpenter.
Even with the aid from neighboring states, wildfires are still becoming increasingly dangerous. At least 14 people have died so far in the West Coast wildfires according to NPR.
But why are these wildfires becoming the new normal? According to the National Interagency Fire Center, from Jan. 1 to Sept. 28, there were 44,520 wildfires compared to that same time frame in 2019 when we experienced 39,476. During the 2020 period about 7.5 million acres burned compared to 4.4 million acres burned during the 2019 time frame.
“There is earlier and less snowmelt from the Western mountains, this has historically been an important source of water in ecosystems. Forest ecosystems are drying out earlier during summer season making them more prone to wildfires,” said Susannah Sandrin, an Environmental Science professor at Arizona State University.
As wildfires surge and become the new normal, here are some steps from AccuWeather on how you can prevent wildfires.