Share This Page

Fire season expected to accelerate

| Wednesday, July 23, 2014, 7:30 p.m.
In this July 22, 2014 photo, a wildfire burns in Morgan County, Utah. Fire investigators believe lightning ignited the Tunnel Hollow Fire. Slightly cooler weather on Tuesday helped crews gain ground on the fire five miles east of the town of Morgan, Utah. (AP Photo/Standard-Examiner, Benjamin Zack) TV OUT; MANDATORY CREDIT

GRANTS PASS, Ore. — Despite widespread drought in the West and expectations of an above-average wildfire season, wildfires have burned less than half the 10-year average area so far this summer.

Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell said on Wednesday that largely has been a matter of luck, with the hot, windy weather known as “red flag” days not lining up with the lighting strikes that start most fires, particularly in California.

But that is changing, he said from Washington. Eighteen large fires were burning in the Northwest with intensities not normally endured until August.

With about $1 billion budgeted for fighting wildfires, the Forest Service expects to once again have to utilize other funds, such as forest-thinning projects, to continue fighting fires as the season goes on into the fall, Tidwell said. Last year, that amount was $500 million.

The largest wildfires — 1 percent of blazes across the country each season — take up 30 percent of wildfire spending. The Obama administration has proposed changing the way those fires are paid for, tapping Federal Emergency Management Agency disaster funds rather than taking from other programs within agency budgets, said Jim Douglas, director of the Department of Interior Office of Wildland Fire.

Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and others have filed legislation to do the same thing.

The Union of Concerned Scientists released a report warning climate change is contributing to longer and larger fire seasons, and efforts to protect new homes in forests are driving up firefighting costs.

Overall, wildfires have burned 2,471 square miles across the nation this summer, according to the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, Idaho. The 10-year average for this date is 6,016 square miles.

Arizona, California, Idaho and Nevada each had one large fire burning, and Utah had four, the Idaho fire center reported.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.