Driven by heat and high winds, wildfires are 10 times worse so far this year than average

Wildfire season, or the period between spring and late fall when dry weather, heat, and ignition sources make wildfires more likely, is already off to a devastating start, with fires already burning through a combined 2 million acres across the country — ten times the average for mid-March.

Record-high temperatures combined with low humidity and high wind have created the ideal environment for wildfires throughout much of the Great Plains and into the West, destroying homes and property and resulting in several deaths.

The influence of climate change on wildfires is well-documented. Rising temperatures, combined with prolonged drought throughout the West, has prompted wildfires to spread across 16,000 more square miles than the otherwise would have — an area larger than Massachusetts and Connecticut combined. And over the last three decades, wildfire season has also gotten longer — as global temperatures have increased, wildfire season lasts on average 78 days longer.

The cost of fighting fires has been steadily rising in recent years, meaning more of the Forest Service’s budget has been siphoned into fighting fires, rather than non-fire services like watershed management or road maintenance. Even services that can help prevent fires, like forest management, have seen their budget decline at the expense of fire suppression.

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