Dixie Fire becomes 2nd largest in California history as the West braces for 6th summer heat wave

Devastating forest fires sweep across vast sections of the parched west.

As of Monday, 107 large active fires burned in 13 states. The Dixie Fire in Northwest California is now the largest fire in the country, surpassing the massive Bootleg Fire in Oregon by more than 75,000 acres.

The Dixie fire, which is only 21% contained, is also the largest fire on record in California, burning nearly half a million acres on Monday. The largest fire on record in California was the August 2020 complex fire, which burned more than a million acres, but a “complex fire” is a merger of several fires into one.

According to the California Department of Forestry and Fire ProtectionAs of Sunday afternoon, 876,055 acres had already burned statewide, an increase of more than 200% from the acres burned at the same time last year.

US Forest Service firefighter Ben Foley ignites backfires to slow the spread of the Dixie Fire, a wildfire near the town of Greenville, Calif., August 6, 2021.Fred Greaves / Reuters

Smoke was blanketing parts of the Rockies and the northern plains on Monday and is expected to spread to the Great Lakes region by Tuesday. The air quality has been reduced so much that meteorologists have advised people to stay indoors as much as possible and keep air purifiers on.

The heat and lack of rain not only fuel the threat of forest fires, but also threaten the water supply. The country’s largest reservoirs are falling to record levels. Lake Mead, Lake Powell, Lake Oroville and the Great Salt Lake have all recorded record lows in recent weeks – and continue to decline – threatening critical hydroelectric power generation and water supplies.

And with another heat wave looming this week, conditions are unlikely to improve much.

About 11 million people were under surveillance for excessive heat in the Pacific Northwest, stretching just north of San Francisco to the Washington-Canada border. The heatwave is expected to peak in the middle or weekend, when temperatures could rise more than 20 degrees above average. Nearly three dozen high temperature records could be set.

Portland is expected to hit back-to-back readings of 104 degrees Thursday and Friday. While not as hot as the record 116 set earlier this summer, hot weather is still an anomaly in the Pacific Northwest where the temperature is typically 70 to 80 at this time of year. . Extreme heat and low humidity throughout the week will exacerbate the drought currently hitting more than 95% of the West, and could cause current wildfires to spread and start new wildfires.

Forest fires are breaking out all over the world, including parts of Turkey, Greece and Italy. Greece is experiencing its most severe heatwave in 30 years.

It comes as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is releasing its first major comprehensive publication since 2013. Drawing on contributions from more than 230 international scientists, the report provides the strongest case to date that human emissions have already caused irreparable damage to the earth’s atmosphere, ocean and land, putting its fragile ecosystems at risk. The assessment predicts that in just 10 years the global temperature will likely rise above the critical level of 2 degrees C (3.6 degrees F) set by the Copenhagen Summit and the Paris Accords. Such an increase will lead to more frequent and severe forest fires and floods, likely plunging the planet into irreversible peril.

Read the full report here.

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