A “hot shot” firefighting crew descends a scorched mountainside at the Cabin Fire in the Angeles National Forest on Saturday, north of Azusa, Calif. (David McNew/Getty Images)
This story has been updated.
By Chris Mooney August 19 2015 Washington Post
Wildfires are exploding across the western United States, overstretching resources and, in some states, resulting in tragic consequences. Some 30,000 firefighters and additional support staff are now fighting fires across the United States — the biggest number mobilized in 15 years, according to the U.S. Forest Service. And it’s still not enough. Two hundred members of the military are being called up to help further — they will be trained and deployed within just a few days — as are Canadian firefighting forces. There’s even some talk of potentially needing to draw on resources from Australia and New Zealand, which has been done before in a pinch. And no wonder: Five states are now battling more than 1o large wildfires — California is contending with 16, Idaho 21, Montana 14, Oregon 11 and Washington 17. Most terrifying, perhaps, is the Soda Fire, which has scorched 283,686 acres in Idaho, burning up ranches, killing wild horses, even generating an alarming fire whirl recently. Fire whirls, or “firenadoes,” form when heat from the wildfire causes air to rise rapidly and can develop into a full, fiery tornado-like whirl. The total acres burned so far in 2015 is now a staggering 7.1 million, with currently burning fires accounting for over 1 million of that total. “This is the earliest the number of national acres burned has been more than 7 million in the past 20 years,” notes the National Interagency Coordination Center — although the center acknowledges that 5 million of those acres burned in Alaska earlier this year….
Smoke and Fire Map: http://www.wunderground.com/wundermap/fire August 15, 2015