We’re only midway through June and already have witnessed major fires in Alaska, Arizona, California and New Mexico. Many of these wildfires have grown in heat, intensity and size in recent years, consuming millions of acres with disastrous consequences and costs. They have become the new reality in the Western United States.
Megafires have exploded in number during the last decade for several reasons. First, shorter and warmer winters, followed by hotter and drier summers, have significantly extended the fire season. Second, the conditions of Western forests have left them vulnerable. They are dense, lack species diversity and are overpopulated with older, diseased trees susceptible to epidemics such as the bark-beetle infestation that has left 40 million acres of dead trees. Dense underbrush and dead trees are fuel for extreme wildfires.