November 4, 2022 | ACTIVE LIFE | By Dylan Carey

As climate change progresses, nations across the world are struggling to cope with the increasing frequency of extreme weather events. Arid regions are facing intensified drought conditions, causing a surge in large wildfires. Unfortunately, this trend continued this past summer.

Analysts estimated that 2022 could be Colorado’s worst wildfire year on record. Thankfully, there have been relatively few major wildfires in Colorado through the first three quarters of 2022. Colorado experienced unusually high levels of precipitation in June and July which did help limit wildfires over the summer. However, wildfire season is far from over. Scientists believe that wildfire season is no longer limited to the summer and early fall. The Marshall Fire, one of the most destructive wildfires in the history of the state, started last year in December. Additionally, ongoing drought conditions throughout Colorado suggest the possibility of more wildfires this year.

Other states in the western United States have not been as fortunate as Colorado. In particular, New Mexico experienced the largest wildfire in the state’s history this past summer. On April 22, the Calf Canyon Fire and Hermits Peak Fire merged into what would become the largest active wildfire in the U.S. These fires would eventually burn 341,735 acres, and they weren’t 100% contained until mid-August.

In Montana, the Elmo fire has burned 21,349 acres and was only 78% contained as of Aug. 19. While the state hasn’t had any other major wildfires so far in 2022, they could experience more fires before the end of the year due to moderate to extreme drought in the northern part of the state.

Other states to experience wildfires in 2022 include California, Idaho, and Oregon. In Idaho, the Moose fire has grown to nearly 100,000 acres, and it is only 44% contained. In Oregon, the Rum Creek fire has spread steadily since it started on Aug. 17. The fire has burned 14,000 acres so far, and firefighters are challenged by the steep terrain and remoteness of the flames. In California, the McKinney Fire was burning just south of the Oregon border. It was almost completely contained by Aug. 23, but not before 60,138 acres had been burned.

Looking to the future, the Western U.S. needs to develop systems and workforces for fighting wildfires. Unfortunately, our problems with extreme weather-related events are only just beginning. As students living in the drought that plagued Western U.S., we will be affected by wildfires in the future. Therefore, I encourage all students to stay up to date on this issue and the wildfires that will inevitably burn in the region in the future.

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