The five largest wildfires burning in the United States


The five largest wildfires burning in the United States

With wildfire seasons in many areas across the country starting earlier and lasting longer, 2021 is on track to be another devastating fire year.

As of Saturday, there are a total of 88 significant wildfires burning in the United States, and they have already destroyed 1,456,925 acres, according to the Interagency National Fire Center.

With the help of unprecedented heatwaves and droughts, new fires are burning quickly, sometimes faster than they can be contained. The fires, which mainly affected the country's western region, have caused air pollution nationwide and resulted in thousands of evacuations.

"We see environmental change as we are more vulnerable to these fires," said Josh Dozur, director-general of medical assistance at International SOS. "It's getting more and more intense."

Using data collected from Inciweb, the national wildfire tracker tool provided by the US Forest Service, these are the five active wildfires in the country with the most extensive acre burning as of Saturday:

1. Bootleg Fire, Oregon

 The nation's largest wildfire has burned 401,601 acres in the Fremont-Winema National Forest, located about 15 miles northwest of Petty, Oregon. More than 2,000 people have worked since July 6 to contain the bushfires, a time when officials say the fire was first ignited by lightning and natural causes. As of Saturday, 42% of the Bootleg Fire was contained.

The fire is now the third-largest wildfire in state history and is larger than the entirety of New York City. According to images this week from the National Weather Service, its smoke has traveled as far as New York and Canada. The wildfires are now large enough to control the region's weather with clouds of pyrocumulus that can generate lightning.

2. Dixie Fire, California

The rapidly spreading Dixie Fire near the Feather River Valley in Butte County, California, burned 181,289 acres and was only 19% contained. The wildfire broke out on July 13, is still under investigation, and more than 4,000 individuals are working to stop it.

Forecasters expect conditions to get hotter and drier this weekend, and the incoming moisture in the air can form cloudy clouds over the fire. 

"The conditions of fire conduct that we are facing now are unprecedented and at a historic level," Chris Waters, deputy incident commander at Cal Fire, said in a Thursday briefing.

3. Snake River Complex Fire, Idaho

The Snake River Complex fire has burned 107,679 acres and is 74% contained as of Saturday. It burns about 20 miles south of Lewiston, Idaho. Lightning lit the fire on July 7, and although spot fires broke out daily outside the lines of control, the fire grew slowly and is contained by 208 personnel tasked with mitigating it.

On July 9, Idaho Governor Brad Little issued an emergency declaration and mobilized the state's National Guard firefighters to help fight the Snake River compound fire, among other things. According to the Integrated National Drought Information System, the state is currently experiencing its worst drought in years, with 87.9% experiencing severe drought.

"Bushfires are an imminent threat to life, property, and the environment, and we need all hands on board," Little said in a statement. "I appreciate our firefighters and fire managers for working hard under these difficult circumstances, and I'm grateful that our rangers were able to step in once again to support Idaho's communities."

The governor plans to fly over the wildfires at the Snake River complex next week.

4. Lick Creek (Dry Gulch) Fire, Oregon, and Washington

The Lick Creek (Dry Gulch) fire burned 80,392 acres across areas in Oregon and Washington state. According to Umatilla National Forest officials, its perimeter is 75% contained, and firefighters are focused on securing the fire line and mitigating hot spots.

The lightning initially ignited several flames southwest of Asotin, Washington.

Dry air helped keep bushfires active, and the trend of warm, dry weather is expected to continue throughout the weekend. Some roads and lanes within the area remain closed, but some evictions have been raised or lowered.

5. Tamarack Fire, Nevada

Lightning ignited the Tamarack Fire on July 4, 16 miles south of Gardnerville, Nevada. As of Saturday, 65,152 acres have been burned, and 4% contained. More than 1,000 people are fighting the fires.

The fire destroyed several buildings and threatened at least 2,700 homes in Douglas County, Nevada, according to Gov. Steve Sisolak. 

Road closures and evictions have been carried out in various counties in the region. According to the Alpine County and Eldorado County Sheriff's Office, local law enforcement said they would offer help escorting residents and their pets from evacuation areas to a shelter in the place.

Officials at Friday's meeting said they expect many large aircraft in the sky to support personnel with fire-resistant drops. Officials predicted that strong winds could contribute to intense fire activity over the next 24 hours with insufficient humidity and high spreadability.

Local government agencies and nonprofit organizations who continue their efforts to help our community during these trying times," Sisolak tweeted Friday.

This season's significant fires include the Rafael Contained Fire, which burned 78,065 acres in Arizona, California's Creek Fire that eased and completely burned 379,895 acres, and New Mexico's Johnson Contained Fire that burned 88,918 acres.

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