fire season | KUNR

fire season

Severe wildfires across the West have prompted the nation’s top fire agency to increase its preparedness level to the highest and most critical stage. This is the earliest the agency has done so in a decade.

“It’s an all hands on deck approach,” said Stanton Florea, a spokesperson with the National Interagency Fire Center. “We’re a full month ahead of where we were last year.”

More than 150 scientists signed onto a letter urging people in the Western U.S. to avoid fireworks this Independence Day.

“The July 4th weekend in the United States this year will be like no other we’ve experienced in the nation’s history,” they wrote. “The extreme heat impacting the northwestern United States and Canada this week comes on top of an already record-setting drought across much of western North America.”

KUNR Today: Grim Fire Season Outlook, COVID-19 Cases Continue To Decrease In Nevada

May 25, 2021
A close-up image of a fire engine.
Jana Sayson / KUNR Public Radio

Here are your morning news headlines for Tuesday, May 25, 2021.

Several wildfire projections for this summer aren’t looking good. And the Mountain West is facing a number of water shortages, according to Mojtaba Sadegh, who leads the Hydroclimate Lab at Boise State University.

“We are down on river flows, we are down on dam storage, we are down on soil moisture. It’s hotter. Everything is converging,” he said.

Sheep walk over hill covered in weeds, dirt and rocks. In the center is a lamb with a twig hanging out of its mouth.
Lucia Starbuck / KUNR Public Radio

The weather is getting warmer and fire season is right around the corner. To help cut down on potential wildfire risks, Carson City is looking for a little help of the four-legged variety. KUNR’s Lucia Starbuck reports.

A tornado swirling inside of a wildfire.
Courtesy of Tasha Farrell

Last year, wildfires destroyed hundreds of thousands of acres, displaced hundreds of people and caused millions of dollars’ worth of damage. So, what can we expect this year?

A young woman crosses her arms on a windowsill looking out in the distance through the window.
Isabella Wolf / KUNR Youth Media

Washoe County Schools have been in session for about a month, but for 10 of those class days, schools have been closed and they switched to remote learning, due to poor air quality from fires blazing in California. Local high school student Isabella Wolf recorded an audio diary for KUNR's Youth Media program to share how she’s been feeling about the frequent closures.

Leaves from trees framing the edges of the image. In the distance there is a red tent. The sky is light gray.
Lucia Starbuck / KUNR Public Radio

In Washoe County, the air quality has been deemed unhealthy for sensitive groups for more than 20 days in the last month due to fires in California. When air quality is compromised, people are recommended to limit their time outside, but unsheltered individuals can’t always do that.

As the U.S. Forest Service prepares for the wildfire season, it must also confront COVID-19.

Already the agency's put a stop to prescribed burning. And it says it will continue fire suppression and other activities with guidance from the CDC.

Wildfires are still burning across the Mountain West, but far fewer than in the last few years.