Firefighters in more than a dozen states are battling wildfires as officials warn there won’t be much in the way of good news anytime soon. At least 88 major wildfires are burning across 13 states, according to USA Today’s numbers. Others have slightly different figures, but no one doubts that the Dixie Fire in Northern California and the Bootleg Fire in southern Oregon are the largest at the moment.
Firefights continued to try to get a handle of the massive Dixie Fire, which started July 14 and merged with a smaller fire on Saturday night. The fire has incinerated more than 190,000 acres and there’s fear that smoke columns could lead to lightning storms that could lead to even more blazes. The Bootleg Fire has burned through more than 400,000 acres and was 42 percent contained on Sunday. Wildfires have burned through more than 1.4 million acres in recent weeks and are spreading particularly quickly due to unusually dry conditions. “This is more like what we would typically see in the late fall, at the end of the fire season before the rains come,” Capt. Mitch Matlow, public information officer for the Dixie Fire, said. “The fuels got drier earlier in the season, which leads to more erratic fire behavior.”
Oregon Gov. Kate Brown warned that everyone should expect wildfires to be the new normal. “The harsh reality is that we’re going to see more of these wildfires,” Brown said on CNN’s State of the Union. “They’re hotter, they’re more fierce, and obviously much more challenging to tackle. And they are a sign of the changing climate impacts.” Brown, a Democrat, added that the fires should be a rallying cry for action in a warming planet. “Climate change is here, it’s real, and it’s like a hammer hitting us in the head,” she said. “And we have to take action.”
The fires are raging as most of the United States braces for a heat wave that will lead to above-average temperatures this week. Temperatures will be at least 5 to 10 degrees higher than average, according to estimates by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. When rising humidity is taken into account, millions of people across the country will experience temperatures that will feel well into the triple digits. The heat wave early in the week will mark “the first signs of a building heat dome that will drape itself across most of the Lower 48 by midweek,” notes the Washington Post. “While heat domes are normal staples of the summer, the duration and intensity of said heat events is on the rise in tandem with warming global temperatures thanks to human-induced climate change.”