With the fire season far from over, federal firefighting efforts already topped $1 billion by August 21, and the U.S. Forest Service and other agencies are running out of money. Forty-nine “uncontained large fires” are raging across the Western states and an additional 222 new “moderate” fires are in various stages of either growing or being brought under control, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture/Forest Service’s Active Fire Mapping website for August 23, 2013.
Robin Broyles of the National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC), located in Boise, Idaho, told The New American that, as of August 23, a total of 32,732 wildfires have burned some 3.5 million acres so far this year. That translates into 5,469 square miles of woodland and grassland that have been incinerated, an area about the size of the entire state of Connecticut (5,543 sq. mi.). According to the NIFC, over the past ten years the average area burned annually is 5.6 million acres. Whether or not the 2013 fire season ends up above or below that average will depend a lot on the weather over the next month or so. Either way, this year’s fire season has been especially deadly, with 19 members of an elite Hotshot firefighter crew dying in July in the Yarnell Hill wildfire in Arizona.