Despite much of the West seeing record rainfall in August, heightened wildfire conditions have returned to the region, coupled with abnormally high temperatures.
Most of the fire activity is confined to the West, where at least 56 fires are burning more than 1,000 acres and are less than 80% contained. Of that, 29 are defined as uncontained large fires, according to the National Interagency Coordination Center.
In total, 19,500 firefighters are currently battling 93 fires burning a collective 813,066 acres across the West.
“Just a reminder that — even though we were blessed by monsoonal rains in July and August — we are seeing some peak fire conditions again throughout the state,” Utah Gov. Spencer Cox recently tweeted. “Please exercise extreme caution over the next few days until cooler temps and rain make their way back to Utah.”
As the region continues to cope with a historic drought and a windy summer, here’s what you need to know:
- There are currently no large wildfires burning in Utah as of Monday — on Thursday, officials said the Valley fire was 60% contained after the 9-acre blaze broke out near the mouth of Ogden Canyon and prompted dozens of evacuations.
- There are 34 active fires in Idaho right now, the most of any state in the country. That includes the Moose fire at over 126,000 acres.
- The air quality in Salt Lake, Utah, Davis, Weber and Box Elder counties is expected to be unhealthy for sensitive groups Monday from wildfire smoke, although conditions could improve later in the week.
- Rain is expected across Utah this week, and the National Weather Service is warning of probable flash floods near recent burn scars.
- Hot, dry winds in Oregon caused the Cedar Creek fire to grow to over 80,000 acres this weekend, dropping the containment to 0% and putting thousands of homes at risk. Oregon is also home to the Double Creek fire, the largest in the country at over 154,000 acres.
- There are no red flag warnings in the western U.S.
Wednesday, Sept. 7, 2022
Fires in Utah
Valley Fire: On Thursday, officials gave the last update to the Valley Fire, which placed roughly 80 homes under an evacuation order that was later lifted.
- Area burned: 9 acres.
- Containment: 60%.
- No structures were lost and the cause of the fire is under investigation.
Halfway Hill Fire simmers: The largest to break out in Utah this year, Millard County’s Halfway Hill Fire is 95% contained, but still active.
- Discovered on July 8, the fire has burned over 11,700 acres, and has put the Fillmore community at risk of flooding from the burn scars.
Oregon, Washington see massive fire activity over the weekend
Over 5,000 people are on the ground fighting eight major fires burning across Oregon.
On Friday, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown declared a wildfire state of emergency.
“The fire’s growth potential in the coming days is troubling, requiring additional resources to battle the fire and support the state’s response,” she said.
Double Creek Fire: Oregon is now home to the largest blaze in the country after the Double Creek Fire exploded in size over the weekend.
Area burned: 154,380 acres.
Cedar Creek Fire: Burning in western Oregon, the Cedar Creek fire quadrupled over the weekend, aided by dry winds and ongoing drought.
Area burned: 86,734 acres
- Over 2,000 people are under evacuation order, mostly from the communities of Oakridge and Westfir. Trailheads and recreation areas near the popular Willamette National Forest are also mostly closed.
Rain in California helps firefighters
After a week of deadly fire conditions, rain across California aided fire suppression, although the state is still home to a number of large blazes.
Fairview Fire: Burning about 80 miles southeast of Los Angeles, the deadly Fairview Fire could be contained by the end of Monday, officials say, as Tropical Storm Kay continues to soak the region.
- Area burned: 28,307 acres.
- Containment: 53%.
- About 17 structures were destroyed in the fire, and many communities to the west of the blaze remain under an evacuation order — a number of other residents previously under an evacuation order were allowed to return to their homes this weekend.
- Two people were killed and a third injured while attempting to flee the blaze. Josh Janssen, the incident commander, told USA Today that the group was overtaken by the fire after strong winds pushed it up a canyon.
Mosquito Fire: Burning east of Sacramento, the fast-moving Mosquito Fire has resulted in a number of evacuations in Placer County.
Area burned: 46,587 acres.
- Cal Fire says there are currently 5,848 structures threatened.
Idaho home to 34 active wildfires
According to federal data, there are 34 active fires in the Gem State as of Monday, the most of any state in the U.S.
Moose Fire: The country’s second-largest fire, burning in Idaho along the Montana border since July 17, grew several thousand acres in the last week as firefighters struggle to contain it.
- Area burned: 126,252 acres.
- Containment: 37%.
- There are currently 866 people assigned to the fire.
- Authorities say it was human-caused, although what exactly triggered the fire is still under investigation.
- Thomas Hayes, 41, of Post Falls, Idaho, and Jared Bird, 36, of Anchorage, Alaska, died after their helicopter crashed in the Salmon River, according to USA Today. The cause of the crash is under investigation.