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Western Fires Torch Rangelands

Fire season to date surpasses 2019

By Traci Eatherton for Tri-State Livestock News

As of August 11, fire activity continued in 14 states across the country, according to the National Interagency Fire Center. With 105 large fires or complexes that have burned 2.4 million acres, 87 of them in California, Montana, Idaho, Oregon, and Washington, this year’s fire season to date has passed 2019 fire season by almost 200,000 acres. But the fires in 2015, 2016 and 2018 had burned even more acres by mid-August.

Montana’s Richard Spring Fire displayed extreme fire behavior and made a significant run of more than 87,000 acres, according to fire reports. As of Wednesday, the fire had burned an estimated 149,453 acres.

“The fire has jumped US 212, in Big Horn County, by Muddy Cluster. Traffic in and out of Lame Deer is through Hwy 39. US 212 is closed,” local Sheriff Allen Fulton shared in a post. Several thousand people remain under evacuation from the fire, which began August 8, and was only 15% contained by Wednesday.



In California, the Dixie Fire, the largest fire currently burning in the west, as of Wednesday had destroyed more than a 1,000 buildings, covered more than 283 square miles, 505,413 acres, and was only 30% contained, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. The small community of Greenville was completely destroyed during an explosive run of flames.

The fire “burnt down our entire downtown. Our historical buildings, families’ homes, small businesses, and our children’s schools are completely lost,” Plumas County Supervisor Kevin Goss wrote on Facebook. At least 14,000 remote homes were still threatened by midweek.



“They canceled the song, the flag, the culture . . . too bad they can’t cancel the fire,” Richard Ross shared.

Ross has been shuttling cattle for neighbors Wally Roney, who grazes in the Dixie Fire area. The cattle aren’t going back though; they are headed to the sale barn.

“We’d been watching the behavior of the Dixie fire for days as it burned from where the Paradise Fire started to the north, burning out community after community,” Ross wrote in a Facebook post. “You can’t wait until the cattle are in the flames.”

Southern Oregon’s Bootleg Fire, now 98% contained, burned 413,765 acres. Simplot Land & Livestock Group is reportedly still assessing grazing losses from the fire. The company is the country’s largest holder of federal grazing permits, President Tom Basabe told a Leadership Idaho Agriculture Congressional Aides Tour audience Aug. 10 at its Grand View, Idaho, headquarters and feedlot.

The Bootleg Fire, along with most western fires, has had a major impact on federal grazing grounds, and meteorologists predict more of the same to come. In Northern California, the Northwest, portions of the Great Basin and the Northern Rockies, hot, dry and windy conditions were increasing the potential for lightning strikes and more fires.

Some have been somewhat more fortunate, if there is such a thing when it comes to fires, and been able to put out the flames before the damage took out grazing or buildings. Rancher and United States Cattlemen’s Association Policy Analyst, Jess Peterson, helped neighbors keep a Montana fire near Billings from burning much needed pastures on the Stovall Ranch.

“Here’s to hoping we don’t go back on another one- we are ready regardless,” Peterson said.

And rural volunteer fire departments all over are reporting busy weeks. In Wibaux, MT, a recent lightning storm had crews out in West Glendive to what they called the Thirteen Mile Fire to get fire lines set up quickly.

Predictive Services at the National Interagency Coordination Center (https://www.predictiveservices.nifc.gov/predictive.htm) has information on current and expected weather conditions and fuels and fire danger advisories.

Daily statistics as of Aug. 11, 2021 from the National Interagency Fire Center

 

Number of new large fires or emergency response: 5

Number of active large fires: 105

Acres from active fires2,438,183

Fires contained1

10-year average Year-to-Date

2011-2020Fires: 37,052Acres: 4,394,739

States currently reporting large fires:

 

•Montana (25)

•Idaho (20)

•Oregon (16)

•Washington (15)

•California (11)

•Alaska (6)

•Wyoming (3)

•Utah (2)

•South Dakota (2)

•Colorado (1)

•Nevada (1)

•Arizona (1)

•Nebraska (1)

•New Mexico (1)

 

Year-to-date statistics

 

2021 (1/1/21-8/11/21)Fires: 39,795Acres: 3,821,173

2020 (1/1/20-8/11/20)Fires: not available Acres: Not available

2019 (1/1/19-8/11/19)Fires: 29,119Acres: 3,617,356

2018 (1/1/18-8/11/18)Fires: 40,079Acres: 5,661,659

2017 (1/1/17-8/11/17)Fires: 41,275Acres: 6,193,465

2016 (1/1/16-8/11/16)Fires: 36,762Acres: 3,643,453

2015 (1/1/15-8/11/15)Fires: 38,917Acres: 6,290,234

2014 (1/1/14-8/11/14)Fires: 35,583Acres: 2,499,507

2013 (1/1/13-8/11/13)Fires: 29,921Acres: 2,732,952

2012 (1/1/12-8/11/12)Fires: 39,945Acres: 5,269,564

2011 (1/1/11-8/11/11)Fires: 47,502Acres: 6,332,554

 

 


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