Tue, 29 Sep 2020

by Peter Mertz

DENVER, the United States, Aug. 9 (Xinhua) -- From Colorado westward, dozens of wildfires have created hazy skies, as firefighters scrambled throughout the region to contain the blazes.

The Pine Gulch Fire, located in western Colorado near the Utah state border, was only 7 percent contained as of Sunday night, and had consumed 24,000 acres (9,712 hectares).

Started by a lightning strike on July 31, Pine Gulch was being fueled by "hot and dry conditions with above normal temperatures," the National Weather Service reported.

"Residents have been told to pack necessary items and be ready to leave on a moment's notice," Garfield County emergency management officials told local media Sunday.

On the same day, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment issued an air warning quality for western counties in the state.

A map of America's West shows fires exploding throughout the region, according to the InciWeb, an interstate incident information system, and the states hit hardest in the 90-day-old 2020 wildfire season that lasts through October have been Arizona, California, Colorado, and Utah. HUMAN-CAUSED

In Utah, local KUTV news channel reported the "1,000th Wildfire of the 2020 Season" on Friday, and the startling fact that "75 percent of the fires were caused by humans."

Utah police say the Turkey Farm Road Fire in July that gobbled up 11,993 acres (4,853 hectares) was started by "teens using fireworks."

"As of July 29, state fire officials reported at least 675 human-caused wildfires in Utah so far in 2020," KUTV reported.

"That's up from 359 human-caused fires at the same time in 2019, and 488 at the same time in 2018," according to the report.

Utah's western neighbor Nevada has had similar problems and banned all outdoor fires on Friday, following a move that began with Arizona on April 23 and Colorado the week after.

Nevada has also seen a big jump in human-caused fires, with 373 so far this year compared to 320 in 2019, said Jen Diamond, forest service fire prevention officer with the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest.

"This year, Nevada has been experiencing an increase in the use of public lands, which has also increased the number of human-caused fires we've seen across Nevada," she told 12News Las Vegas. WILDFIRES IN 2020

Arizona, which borders Mexico to the south, is considered one of the most dry and arid states in the country. And that's where the West's 2020 fire season began.

"Thousands of people are being forced to evacuate as more than three dozen wildfires are burning in the western part of (the) United States from New Mexico to Alaska," ABC News reported on June 19.

"The hardest hit areas are in Arizona," the report noted, where the Bush Fire near Phoenix had erupted, and was contained at "98 percent" a month later on July 2, but not after torching 193,455 acres (78,284 hectares), making it the "fifth largest fire" in the state's history.

The Bighorn Fire was started by lightning on June 5 in the southern part of the state near the city of Tucson, and was not contained until July 23 after devastating 119,978 acres (48,553 hectares). WEST ON FIRE

The entire southwest region, experiencing historic drought conditions, has seen a recent uptick in wildfires as the hot summer conditions have created more available fuel, according to local meteorologists.

So far this year, California, which saw record devastation in 2018, from wildfires that burned towns to the ground and cost 3.5 billion U.S. dollars in damage, and Arizona, are currently the hardest hit states with 16 and 17 active fires respectively, according to Inciweb.

In Northern California, the Six Rivers Lightning Fire had consumed 4,620 acres (1,870 hectares), and was only 12 percent contained as of Sunday night.

Also in the north of America's most populous state, the July Complex 2020 Fire had engulfed 83,261 acres (33,676 hectares), but was 97 percent contained.

That same amount of containment had stopped the nearby North Fire with 6,882 acres (2,785 hectares) burned on California's border with Nevada.

And west of Los Angeles, the Apple Fire was growing Sunday night in a remote mountainous region with 32,412 acres (13,117 hectares) burned, and only 40 percent containment.

On Sunday, the 2020 wildfire season was still raging in California's neighbor to the east -- Arizona.

Near the Grand Canyon, the Pine Hollow Fire was finally stopped Sunday after claiming 11,405 acres (4,615 hectares), just as the nearby Thumb Fire wiped out 8,354 acres (3,381 hectares) last week, but was also subdued.

In Arizona's east, near the border of New Mexico, the Wood Springs Fire was still smoldering Sunday, after seizing 12,861 acres (5,205 hectares).

And only a month after the record Bush Fire has been finally extinguished, just east of Arizona's capital city Phoenix, the Cassadora Springs Fire had residents panicking again.

As of Sunday, Cassadora had burned 19,952 acres (8,074 hectares) with only 25 percent containment, and the Bumble Bee Fire, north of Phoenix had taken 2,000 acres (809 hectares) on Sunday, and terrified local residents, local media reported.

So far in 2020, in Wyoming, the Neiber Fire has torched 17,545 acres (7,100 hectares), in New Mexico, the Cub Fire, 25,950 acres (10,502 hectares), and in Nevada, the Bishop Wildfire, 13,008 acres (5,264 hectares), and Vics Peak Wildfire 14,624 acres (5,918 hectares).

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