Hawaii is the latest state to experience a record-breaking fire | Popular Science

This post was originally published on July 20, 2021, and has been updated.

As of August 3, 97 large fires have been spreading across 13 states in the US—burning across 1,868,204 acres of land thus far, according to the National Interagency Fire Center. Several of these fires have been intense enough to create pyrocumulus clouds. Over the course of this year, 3,259,913 acres have burned due to 38,207 separate wildfires. These fires have followed record drought and heatwave conditions across the western US, and have so far crushed towns and communities in their wake. As far east as New York, the resulting wildfire haze has led to dangerous air quality levels.

[Related: Wildfires could hit your hometown. Here’s how to prepare.]

Fires have become more and more hazardous in today’s climate—largely due to climate change, the lack of controlled natural burns over the past century, and an increasingly dry and extended fire season throughout the western US and Canada. Fire containment is a key part of managing fires and consists of creating a manmade or natural barrier around the perimeter of a fire. However, within this perimeter, fire may still be burning for months, so even 100 percent containment doesn’t mean the fire has vanished.

Important fires to keep an eye on right now

Record wildfire in Hawaii

This week, thousands of people have evacuated the Big Island of Hawaii as record droughts have given way to the biggest fire the island has ever seen—spreading across nearly 40,000 acres of the 2.5 million-acre island. Residents in the area the fires were had mandatory evacuation orders throughout the weekend. Those orders were lifted Sunday, though smoke in residential areas seems to still be quite high. Gusty, dry, and warm weather will continue throughout the islands today, according to the National Weather Service.

Because of its wet, tropical climate, Hawaii isn’t typically prone to fires. But, with climate change, Hawaii might be more prone to fires in the future. In the past few years, Hawaii has seen an overall downward trend in rainfall, according to ABC News, and drought conditions have also been more severe.

Bootleg fire in Oregon

The Bootleg fire, discovered July 6, is currently the most dramatic actively burning fire; it has made its way through 413,762 acres as of August 3. It has been scouring Oregon for the past three weeks and has led to atmospheric and weather changes like unpredictable winds and firestorms. The massive fire was estimated to burn through 1,000 acres every hour last week, and increasingly severe weather is not helping to control the massive fire. As of today, the fire is 84 percent contained but is not projected to be fully contained until October as increasingly windy and hot weather plague the region.

Dixie fire in California 

California’s giant utility Pacific Gas and Electric has admitted to potentially sparking this fire, due to equipment failure. Since the fire’s discovery on July 13, 253,052 acres, or an area over half the size of New York City, have burned across Northern California engulfing entire homes in its wake. Currently, 35 percent of the fire is contained, but “explosive” fire growth yesterday has brought previously rescinded evacuation orders back.

Snake River Complex fire in Idaho

The Snake River complex contains Shovel Creek, Captain John Creek, and Hoover Ridge fires, and was discovered July 9. Still, in the past 25 days, 109,444 acres have burned and 90 percent of the fire is now contained. Local news sources state that the firefighters will continue to patrol the area for hot spots.

Beckwourth Complex Fire in California

The Beckwourth complex of fires contains both the Dotta and Sugar fires, and has been burning through California since July 3. 105,670 acres have burned as of August 3; currently, 98 percent of the fire is contained. According to InciWeb, a new, smaller Forest Closure order has been issued throughout the rest of August.

Lick Creek fire on Oregon and Washington border

Discovered on July 7, the Lick Creek fire has been contained by around 90 percent as of July 26. Over the last week and a half, the fire burned down 80,392 acres just north of the Oregon border. The Dry Gulch fire joined with the Lick Creek fire on July 8 and the pair is currently being fought as one fire. The nearby Silcott fire is now 100 percent contained, and the Green Ridge fire to the southwest has burned through around 6,799 acres and is only 15 percent contained.

Tamarack Fire in Nevada

The Tamarack fire has burned through 68,696 acres of land since its beginning on July 4. High winds beginning on July 16 have caused the fire to rapidly spread, and now 82 percent is contained.

PF Fire in Montana

The largest wildfire in the state of Montana, formerly named the Poverty Flats fire, has burned through 65,941 acres northeast of the Crow Reservation. The fire, which started on July 27, is currently 60 percent contained.

Cub Creek 2 Fire in Washington

The Cub Creek 2 Fire, located in Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest lands, has burned through 58,793 acres and is at 24 percent containment. Air conditions are improving, however, and forecasts predict impaired, but better, air quality for nearby residents.

Cedar Creek Fire in Washington

Another fire in the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest was started on July 8 due to lightning strikes, and currently has burned through 50,406 acres of land and is at 23 percent containment. Additional evacuations have been ordered for local residents in the past few days, and injuries to wildlife have already been spotted.

Dixie-Jumbo Fires in Idaho

The Dixie and Jumbo fires, now combined, were started by lightning in early July and have hit 43,023 acres of land with a current containment of 12 percent. There is a slight possibility of rain this week in the affected region.

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