(CNN)The dozens of wildfires that have scorched the western US this summer have consumed on average 30 square miles — almost half the size of Washington, DC — on a daily basis, the US Drought Monitor said Thursday.
And the unrelenting heat will make matters even worse as dangerous, dry thunderstorms are expected this weekend in Northern California, home to the nation’s largest wildfire. “Little or no precipitation fell on most of the (Western) region, and drought intensity remained unchanged from last week in most areas,” the monitor said, noting that the dryness, exacerbated by periods of intense heat, “has led to the rapid development and expansion of wildfires.” Why wildfires happen: Debunking the myth that arson is to blame more than climate changeSince early June, the fires have burned an area “approaching half the size of Washington, DC,” according to the monitor, which is produced through a partnership between the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, the US Department of Agriculture, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.Overall, there are currently 104 active fires, according to the National Interagency Fire Center. The largest fire is in California, while Montana has the most, with 25 wildfires, the agency said. Photos: Wildfires raging in the WestA firefighter battles the Dixie Fire near Taylorsville, California, on Tuesday, August 10.Hide Caption 1 of 42 Photos: Wildfires raging in the WestSmoke plumes rise from the Kwis Fire near Eugene, Oregon, on August 10.Hide Caption 2 of 42 Photos: Wildfires raging in the WestA firefighter works to extinguish a controlled burn, a preventative measure, to protect a home in Greenville, California, on Monday, August 9.Hide Caption 3 of 42 Photos: Wildfires raging in the WestFirefighters battling the Dixie Fire clear a fallen tree from a roadway in Plumas County, California, on Friday, August 6.Hide Caption 4 of 42 Photos: Wildfires raging in the WestFlames from the Dixie Fire consume a pickup truck on Highway 89, south of Greenville, California, on August 5.Hide Caption 5 of 42 Photos: Wildfires raging in the WestOperations Chief Jay Walter passes the historic Sierra Lodge as the Dixie Fire burns through Greenville, California, on August 4. The fire leveled multiple historic buildings and dozens of homes in central Greenville.Hide Caption 6 of 42 Photos: Wildfires raging in the WestFirefighters work at a Greenville home that was engulfed by the Dixie Fire on August 4.Hide Caption 7 of 42 Photos: Wildfires raging in the WestThe Dixie Fire burns near Taylorsville, California, on July 29.Hide Caption 8 of 42 Photos: Wildfires raging in the WestCalifornia Gov. Gavin Newsom, left, and Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak tour an area destroyed by the Tamarack Fire in Gardnerville, Nevada, on July 28. Hide Caption 9 of 42 Photos: Wildfires raging in the WestFirefighter Brentt Call walks through a burned-over area of the Bootleg Fire near Klamath Falls, Oregon, on July 27.Hide Caption 10 of 42 Photos: Wildfires raging in the WestCal Fire Capts. Tristan Gale, left, and Derek Leong monitor a firing operation in California’s Lassen National Forest on July 26. Crews had set a ground fire to stop the Dixie Fire from spreading.Hide Caption 11 of 42 Photos: Wildfires raging in the WestFirefighters try to reach a fire site in Quincy, California, on July 25.Hide Caption 12 of 42 Photos: Wildfires raging in the WestVolunteers sort clothing at a donation shelter for those affected by the Bootleg Fire in Bly, Oregon.Hide Caption 13 of 42 Photos: Wildfires raging in the WestScott Griffin surveys his property, which was destroyed by the Bootleg Fire in Sycan Estates, Oregon.Hide Caption 14 of 42 Photos: Wildfires raging in the WestFlames consume a home as the Dixie Fire tears through the Indian Falls community of Plumas County, California, on July 24.Hide Caption 15 of 42 Photos: Wildfires raging in the WestPeople stand behind the fire line as flames from the Steptoe Canyon Fire spread through dry grass in Colton, Washington, on July 22.Hide Caption 16 of 42 Photos: Wildfires raging in the WestPlumes of smoke from the Dixie Fire rise above California’s Plumas National Forest, near the Pacific Gas and Electric Rock Creek Power House, on July 21.Hide Caption 17 of 42 Photos: Wildfires raging in the WestFirefighters walk near a wildfire in Topanga, California, on July 19.Hide Caption 18 of 42 Photos: Wildfires raging in the WestA firefighter does mop-up work in the Fremont-Winema National Forest, which has been struggling with the Bootleg Fire in Oregon.Hide Caption 19 of 42 Photos: Wildfires raging in the WestA car is charred by the Bootleg Fire along a mountain road near Bly, Oregon.Hide Caption 20 of 42 Photos: Wildfires raging in the WestNicolas Bey, 11, hugs his father, Sayyid, near a donated trailer they are using after their home was burned in the Bootleg Fire near Beatty, Oregon.Hide Caption 21 of 42 Photos: Wildfires raging in the WestFirefighters extinguish hot spots in an area affected by the Bootleg Fire near Bly, Oregon.Hide Caption 22 of 42 Photos: Wildfires raging in the WestA bear cub clings to a tree after being spotted by a safety officer at the Bootleg Fire in Oregon.Hide Caption 23 of 42 Photos: Wildfires raging in the WestFirefighters work to protect Markleeville, California, from the Tamarack Fire on July 17. The Tamarack Fire was started by a lightning strike. Hide Caption 24 of 42 Photos: Wildfires raging in the WestThe Tamarack Fire burns in Markleeville, near the California-Nevada border, on July 17.Hide Caption 25 of 42 Photos: Wildfires raging in the WestA member of the Northwest Incident Management Team 12 holds a map of the Chuweah Creek Fire as wildfires devastated Nespelem, Washington, on July 16.Hide Caption 26 of 42 Photos: Wildfires raging in the WestA cloud from the Bootleg Fire drifts into the air near Bly, Oregon, on July 16.Hide Caption 27 of 42 Photos: Wildfires raging in the WestFirefighters spray water from the Union Pacific Railroad’s fire train while battling the Dixie Fire in California’s Plumas National Forest on July 16.Hide Caption 28 of 42 Photos: Wildfires raging in the WestHorses climb a hillside that was burned by the Chuweah Creek Fire in eastern Washington.Hide Caption 29 of 42 Photos: Wildfires raging in the WestFire from the Bootleg Fire illuminates smoke near Bly, Oregon, on the night of July 16.Hide Caption 30 of 42 Photos: Wildfires raging in the WestA firefighter battles the Bootleg Fire in the Fremont-Winema National Forest, along the Oregon and California border, on July 15.Hide Caption 31 of 42 Photos: Wildfires raging in the WestA firefighting aircraft drops flame retardant on the Bootleg Fire in Bly, Oregon, on July 15.Hide Caption 32 of 42 Photos: Wildfires raging in the WestFirefighters dig away at hot spots underneath stumps and brush after flames from the Snake River Complex Fire swept through the area south of Lewiston, Idaho, on July 15.Hide Caption 33 of 42 Photos: Wildfires raging in the WestBurned cars sit outside a home that was destroyed by the Chuweah Creek Fire in Nespelem, Washington.Hide Caption 34 of 42 Photos: Wildfires raging in the WestEvacuee Dee McCarley hugs her cat Bunny at a Red Cross center in Klamath Falls, Oregon, on July 14.Hide Caption 35 of 42 Photos: Wildfires raging in the WestAn airplane drops fire retardant on the Chuweah Creek Fire in Washington on July 14.Hide Caption 36 of 42 Photos: Wildfires raging in the WestOperations Section Chief Bert Thayer examines a map of the Bootleg Fire in Chiloquin, Oregon, on July 13.Hide Caption 37 of 42 Photos: Wildfires raging in the WestFire consumes a home as the Sugar Fire, part of the Beckwourth Complex Fire, tears through Doyle, California, on July 10. It’s the second time in less than a year that the small town has been ravaged by a wildfire.Hide Caption 38 of 42 Photos: Wildfires raging in the WestMen hug a member of the Red Cross at a Bootleg Fire evacuation center in Klamath Falls, Oregon.Hide Caption 39 of 42 Photos: Wildfires raging in the WestEmbers blow across a field as the Sugar Fire burns in Doyle, California, on July 9.Hide Caption 40 of 42 Photos: Wildfires raging in the WestFirefighters monitor the Sugar Fire in Doyle, California, on July 9.Hide Caption 41 of 42 Photos: Wildfires raging in the WestIn this long-exposure photograph, taken early on July 2, flames surround a drought-stricken Shasta Lake during the Salt Fire in Lakehead, California.Hide Caption 42 of 42Read MoreOf growing concern is the Richard Spring Fire on Northern Cheyenne Indian Reservation in southeastern Montana. The fire has swelled to more than 166,000 acres, up from 149,453 a day prior, according to InciWeb, the US clearinghouse for fire information. The fire’s containment dropped to 0% Thursday, down from 15% the previous day. The fire is expected to merge with the smaller nearby Lame Deer Fire, which has burned 3,884 acres. Evacuation orders were issued for the town of Lame Deer as officials warned the fire was bearing down on the small community of more than 2,000 people. Fire crews used dozers and point-protection measures to protect the community, according to InciWeb. Multiple evacuations sites have been set up to house those who are displaced. “At this stage of the fire, we are turning our efforts towards supplying firefighters and displaced residents with supplies. The community has had a great response to the needs of the residents. I have released one of the Montana Sheriff’s Mutual Aid Teams and the remaining two are going out to assist us with supply deliveries,” Rosebud County Sheriff Allen Fulton said Thursday in a Facebook post.Rowdy Alexander watches from atop his horse as a hillside burns on the Northern Cheyenne Indian Reservation near Lame Deer, Montana, on August 11, 2021The Richard Spring and Lame Deer fires exhibited intense activity, with winds gusting 25-35 mph and relative humidity of 15-25%, NIFC said Thursday. Fire personnel had already been bracing for increased activity in the West due to the insufferable heat and severe drought conditions driven by climate change. The Pacific Northwest was again under heat warnings as temperatures rise up to 25 degrees above normal. The Dixie Fire –California’s second-largest in history– has charred more than half a million acres over the past month. The fire’s containment Thursday stood at 31%, up by one percentage point from a day prior, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, known as Cal Fire.The Dixie Fire has destroyed 1,045 structures, including more than 550 homes and 140 commercial buildings. Another 69 structures have been damaged, and more than 15,000 structures remain at risk. And more fires could be sparked in the Northern California area because there is a chance for isolated dry thunderstorms near the Dixie Fire, CNN meteorologist Robert Shackelford said. “There also is a high pressure that is over this area, which will not break down until next week. So this will be an issue for the next few days,” he said. The West's historic drought in 3 mapsCal Fire said a Red Flag Warning would be in effect in Northern California starting Friday afternoon until late in the evening “due to potential dry lightning.” Such a warning is issued when there is “severe fire weather such as strong sustained winds, gusts and low humidity, combined with a high fire danger rating,” according to the NIFC. “Fire activity remained moderate today on the Dixie Fire. Warm and dry conditions will continue through the end of the week. Sporadic isolated thunderstorms occurred within the fire area today but did not result in any new fire ignitions,” Cal Fire said. After walking down a gravel road to do recon on a fire cresting into the trees, a wildland firefighter grimaces as he walks back to his crew on August 12, 2021, at the Bedrock Fire north of Lenore, Idaho. California wildfires have so far ripped through more than 917,000 acres, which is a dramatic increase of 233% over the same period last year, becoming the state’s worst wildfire year on record, according to Cal Fire.
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