Western Worries: 60 Wildfires, Mega Droughts, Record-breaking heat

The latest drought monitor shows extreme and record-breaking heat is causing conditions to deteriorate across the Pacific Northwest and northern Rockies.

Northeastern Montana saw a little improvement where some rain improved soil moisture. Tropical Storm Elsa’s heavy rainfall eliminated the abnormal dryness in the Carolinas and Virginia.

Wildfires are threatening homes and land across ten western states. About 60 wildfires tore through dry timber and brush from Alaska to Wyoming, and mega droughts are making matters worse.

The largest is in Oregon and is threatening California’s power supply. The Bootleg Fire has grown to more than 200,000 acres, that is nearly twice the size of Portland.

In northern California, the Beckwourth Complex Fire has burned more than 145 square miles.

A fire that began last weekend in the Sierra Nevada Mountains expanded to nearly 15 square miles.

In southeastern Washington, wildfires began during a thunderstorm and grew to 86 square miles, and in Idaho, two lightning fires have burned nearly 24 square miles.

The Bootleg Fire continues to explode in size and currently has a nearly 40 mile long, active fireline. Experts are saying that this wildfire is already bigger than any fire that occurred last year in the state.

On how the fire is impacting ag, Oregon Farm Bureau’s Mary Anne Cooper says that it is a really tough time for producers right now.

According to Cooper, “We having folks who are trying to find places to take cattle. They were already suffering, and this fire is just coming and compounding that. I’ve seen pictures from members on Facebook of people just sitting and waiting and saying, ‘okay, it’s two to three miles away and I’m just waiting to find out if I’m going to evacuate and if I’m going to lose everything or not.”

The fires cause mental stress on everyone, including the firefighters. That is where Probie comes in. He is the first dog in Oregon to be certified as a first responder therapy dog. Probie and his owner visited the Bootleg Fire team to offer support and remind firefighters there is always time to take a break for pets.

Taking a deeper dive into the Beckwourth Fire, it is hitting the small California town of Doyle, which has already been ravaged by a wildfire once this year. It is a town of 700 residents and they are being evacuated. The fire is not expected to be fully contained until July 30; it is currently only 23 percent contained.

Drought is putting pressure on California’s already stressed-out power grid.

The two largest reservoirs in California are both at less than half their capacity. The dryness is expected to force one hydropower plant offline for the first time ever. Farmers are having to abandon their thirst crops. Hydroelectric generation is down almost 40 percent so far this year.


USDA meteorologist on “mega drought”

Record high temperatures fueling wildfires in western U.S.

CA is currently battling three sizable wildfires

NASA: Pacific Northwest heatwave is “exceptional, historic, and dangerous”