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Out-of-state crews are heading to Montana to help fight wildfires there as fires and drought continue to ravage the western part of the country.
Governor Greg Gianforte announced Friday That crews from Utah and California – two states Dealing with their fires They were arriving over the weekend to help fight the fires that were becoming increasingly worrying.
Fire officials from the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation He said on Wednesday That more than 6,800 acres of Alder Creek Fire in the southwestern part of the state was the nation’s highest firefighting priority.
US Forest Service spokesman Jason Nidlow confirmed the situation to Great Falls Tribune. “What that means is that as resources become available, the Alder Creek fire will be one of the most important priorities for those resources that are going to be sent in,” Nidlow said. “What I don’t know are the resources that are currently available. There aren’t a lot of resources that have not been allocated.”
Although small in size compared to the large number of fires burning elsewhere in the West, the Alder Creek fire, which is only 7% contained, threatens nearly 240 nearby homes according to the newspaper.
In the northeastern part of the state, Five firefighters were injured Thursday while trying to contain the Devils Creek Fire, a 1,300-acre fire.
To strengthen our response to the wildfires, we have assistance from two task forces in Utah and one strike force in California, arriving in Montana today and tomorrow.
– Governor Greg Gianforte (@GovGianforte) 23 July 2021
Meanwhile, the Oregon Bootleg Fire—currently the largest in the country—continues to grow. Progress was made over the weekend as crews worked to contain More than 40% of the fire. The wildfire became so big that it started to generate its own weather.
The growing threat of long-range intense wildfires
Eighty-eight major fires are currently burning in 13 states, nearly all of them in the West, According to the National Interagency Fire Center. So far this year, more than 36,000 wildfires have burned about 2.7 million acres in the United States More than last year at this time.
Smoke could be from these fires seen from space. Back on Earth, cities in the northeastern United States—about 3,000 miles away—recently experienced High levels of particlesMicroscopic pollutants that remain in the air and can pose health risks by entering the lungs and bloodstream.
Climate change leads to large and destructive wildfires more like Because of higher temperatures and drier plants, which also Increasing the length of the fire season. about 40% of The United States is in a moderate to exceptional droughtAccording to the US Drought Observatory.
Fire seasons last longer, burn larger and hotter, and require more manpower. Currently, approximately 22,000 personnel are assigned to bushfires, many of whom are seasonal employees.
Longer fire seasons raise fears that firefighters are running out
Wildfires usually move from one geographical location to another, starting in the southwest and then gradually moving northward. This allows states to work together systematically, sending crews out of state to hot spots as needed. But that’s not what happens anymore, says Carrie Bilbao, a public affairs specialist at NIFC who also works with the Bureau of Land Management’s Fire Prevention Program. Instead, fires are raging across the west at the same time, resulting in meager resources.
Bilbao said there are concerns about Firefighters are burning.
“We started the fire activity about a month ago, and these are things we usually see in August,” she said. “It’s a physically demanding job that puts a lot of stress on them, so there is a fear that our firefighters will be exhausted before all this is over.”
Storms that bring rain and snow usually produce a season-ending event in the fall, giving crews the help they need to put out fires. But with more extreme fire behaviour, Bilbao said the BLM and IFC are concerned that these fire seasons are becoming an issue year-round.
Gabe Nevin, a squad leader with Montana-based West Yellowstone Smokejumpers, says the state’s unusually early fire season this year could drain the capacity of a small crew that rotates 16-hour shifts: “So what would this look like? As with the players Others in the crew at the end of the year after they’ve been doing this for months?”
NPR’s Emma Bowman contributed to this story.