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'Unprecedented' wildfire season has begun in Washington, US

© Stephen Brashear/Getty Images
The wildfire season is off to a busy start, and state Public Lands Commissioner Hilary Franz calls it unprecedented. With record money recently approved at the state and federal level, KIRO 7 is looking into what that means for the firefight this season.

"So far to date we've had 170 fires in Washington state," Franz told KIRO 7. "Fifty-three percent of them west of the Cascades and I have to stress that is a new phenomenon. We're not used to having that many fires west of the Cascades and we're not used to having that many fires early in the season."

The state legislature approved a record $50 million in its recent budget, and Congress and President Donald Trump approved $2 billion over the next eight years. That federal money is available staring this season.

"I was just back in D.C. last week thanking them for their leadership on that," Franz said.

Much of the federal money will provide more drones, and KIRO 7 has showed you how drones help fight wildfires. Infrared technology pinpoints hot spots in real-time. Normally firefighters have to take a glove off and use the back of their hands, feeling the ground for hot spots.

Comment: Meanwhile with insurance claims of $12bn, last year's wildfires were the most expensive in California history.


With insurance claims of $12bn last year's wildfires were the most expensive in California history

Camp Fire rages through Paradise, California
© AP
A home burns as the Camp Fire rages through Paradise, California, on Thursday, Nov. 8, 2018.
Insurance claims have topped $12bn for the November wildfires in California, making them the most expensive in state history.

The figure released on Wednesday by the insurance commissioner, Ricardo Lara, covers the fire that destroyed the town of Paradise and two southern California blazes.

Most of the damages relate to the Camp fire, which killed 85 people and destroyed nearly 19,000 buildings in Paradise.

California experienced some of the deadliest and most destructive wildfires in its history in 2017 and 2018. A series of sweeping fires in late 2017 had been the most expensive, with claims topping $11.8bn.

The increasing destruction is making it harder and more costly for people to obtain homeowners insurance.

The insurance department has started collecting data on policy non-renewals to better assess patterns and locations where coverage is being dropped, Lara said earlier this year.

"Wildfire has long been part of California's landscape, and insurers understand that California faces major wildfire risk," said Nicole Mahrt-Ganley of the American Property Casualty Insurance Association, which represents about 60% of the nation's property casualty insurance market.


The UK has already had more wildfires in 2019 than any year on record

Firefighters tackle a blaze on moorland in northwest England
© OLI SCARFF/AFP/Getty Images
Firefighters tackle a blaze on moorland in northwest England on 21 April
The UK has been hit by nearly a hundred large wildfires in 2019, making it the worst year on record already.

The hot spell in February and the recent Easter heatwave have contributed to a total of 96 major wildfires of 25 hectares or larger, eclipsing the previous high of 79 across the whole of 2018.

Researchers told New Scientist that the figures, collated by the European Forest Fire Information System, were evidence that climate change had already heightened the risk of wildfires in the UK.

More than 100 firefighters battled wildfires over the Easter weekend across Illkley Moor and Marsden Moor in West Yorkshire. Another fire broke out on moorland near Marsden on Tuesday afternoon, requiring ten fire engines to attend.

Fires throughout the year

There were also wildfires in Cornwall, Dorset, Derbyshire, Northern Ireland, the Peak District, Rotherham, Wiltshire and Wales, according to the National Fire Chiefs Council (NFCC).

Scotland was affected by fires across the Highlands, including a large one that posed a "serious risk" to the Moray windfarm.

The spate of blazes follows a series of major wildfires during the hot, dry weather of 2018, including the Saddleworth Moor fire near Manchester, which burned for five days and made pollution levels spike.

Paul Hedley, national wildfires lead for the NFCC, said it was "really significant" that the number of large wildfires in 2019 had already overtaken 2018's tally so early in the year.

Comment: Europe's record breaking warm winter leads to unprecedented wildfires


Raging wildfires in Russia's Trans-Baikal region have killed thousands of animals; national parks and conservation sites threatened

wildfire Trans-Baikal Siberia
© Sputnik/ Evgeny Epanchintsev
According to the local Ministry of Agriculture, 10,000 sheep, 1,277 cattle, 500 horses, and 1,800 domestic birds were lost. The fires also threaten to destroy the area’s national parks and conservation sites.
Around 12,000 livestock have been killed - through smoke inhalation or burning - by massive wildfires in the Siberian Trans-Baikal region, which also threaten to destroy the area's national parks and conservation sites.

According to the local Ministry of Agriculture, 10,000 sheep, 1,277 cattle, 500 horses, and 1,800 domestic birds were lost. Photos and videos posted online showed piles of burned animal remains among devastated fields covered in ash. The drone footage captured dozens of homes in the villages burned to the ground.

Comment: The fires have also destroyed more than 100 homes in the region, leaving hundreds homeless: Hundreds lose homes as huge wildfires ravage Russia's Trans-Baikal


Large gorsefire breaks out in County Donegal, Ireland

gorse fire donegal
© Pacemaker
The fire broke out on Monday morning
A large County Donegal gorse fire has been brought under control, a Donegal County Council official has said.

The wildfire broke out at about 06:00 local time, with 15 fire appliances from 12 brigade areas tackling it at its height.

Gary Martin, director of emergency services at Donegal County Council, told broadcaster RTÉ caution is still being applied due to wind conditions.

He said the fire has been beaten back in a number of areas.

Comment: Over at least the past 12 months warm and dry conditions have persisted throughout many parts of Eurasia and the result has been a dramatic increase in wildfires:


UK: 3 arrested over West Yorkshire moorland fire on hottest day of year so far

Ilkley Moor
© David Shepherdson
A wide area of Ilkley Moor, pictured here at 22:15 BST on Saturday, was well alight
Three men have been arrested after a large fire took hold on moorland in West Yorkshire.

Firefighters tackled flames covering 25,000 sq m on Ilkley Moor on Saturday, with helicopters making water drops.

West Yorkshire Police said the men, aged 19, 23 and 24, remain in custody for questioning while inquiries continue.

Bradford Council reiterated a warning for walkers to stay off the moors as crews were damping down.

A police spokesperson said a smaller fire took hold on a different section of the moor on Saturday, with investigations under way to see if it is connected to the larger blaze.

Comment: While irresponsible people (or arsonists) may be to blame for causing this fire, the unseasonably dry and warm conditions that enabled it to happen are quite unusual, and this is the case throughout particular parts of the world and which also seem to be a continuation from last year. Meanwhile in other parts of Europe are seeing much lower temperatures bringing snow, hail and flooding: And from last year: Also check out SOTT radio's: NewsReal: California Wildfires, Climate Change, And The Impossible Brexit


Hundreds lose homes as huge wildfires ravage Russia's Trans-Baikal

russia trans-baikal wildfire
Massive steppe wildfires, propelled by strong winds, have destroyed more than a hundred houses in the Siberian region of Trans-Baikal, leaving hundreds of local residents homeless.

More than 400 people were affected by the wildfires that got out of control in the remote Russian region on the Mongolian border.

At least, 111 houses in 15 villages were lost in the disaster, the governor's office said. The people evacuated in time and there have been no fatalities related to the fires.

Comment: Wildfires broke records from Europe to Korea due to an unseasonably dry and warm winter, meanwhile many parts of North America are seeing spring snow: Also check out SOTT's monthly documentary SOTT Earth Changes Summary - March 2019: Extreme Weather, Planetary Upheaval, Meteor Fireballs

And SOTT radio's: Behind the Headlines: Earth changes in an electric universe: Is climate change really man-made?


China forest fire that killed 30 started by lightning

An investigation into a forest fire that killed 30 people in south-western China last month found the blaze was caused by lightning, state media reported late Friday.

The fire broke out on March 30 on a 3,700-metre mountain top in China's south-western Sichuan province after lightning struck an 18-metre pine tree, news agency Xinhua reported citing local authorities.

Comment: See also:


National disaster declared as thousands flee South Korean wildfires

South Korea wildfires
© AFP / Kangwon Ilbo
Thousands of firefighters and military personnel in South Korea are engaged in a major operation to contain wildfires which have so far killed at least one person, injured 11 and forced the evacuation of over 4,000 residents.

The blaze, one of the county's largest-ever wildfires, broke out in Gangwon Province near Sokcho and Gangneung in the mountainous north-eastern region, close to the North Korean border. It has already been declared a national disaster.

"It is extremely rare for fire trucks to be dispatched on a nationwide scale," an official from South Korea's fire agency said as cited by the Korea Herald.

It is believed to have been started by a malfunctioning electrical transformer which sparked and ignited the fire. It was subsequently fanned by strong winds.

Comment: Europe's record breaking warm winter leads to unprecedented wildfires


Wildfires blaze across unseasonably hot, dry Portugal

Flames of an approaching forest fire are seen near the small village of Gondomil, near Valenca, Portugal, Wednesday
Flames of an approaching forest fire are seen near the small village of Gondomil, near Valenca, Portugal, Wednesday.
Hundreds of Portuguese firefighters struggled on Wednesday to contain wildfires which erupted far earlier in the season than usual because of unexpectedly hot and windy weather.

Ten fires were burning across the country, most in the north, several months before the late spring season when fire crews are normally in place. Meteorologists said global warming had made it difficult to predict where blazes would erupt.

"We are having significant fire outbreaks in areas where we didn't know the risk was high," Miguel Miranda, president of the Portuguese Institute of Meteorology (IPMA), told Portuguese radio station TSF. "We are in unexplored territory, we have never been through this."

Helicopters dropped water on flaming woodlands near the tiny village of Gondomil on Portugal's northern edge near the Spanish frontier. A firefighter there told Reuters the force was waiting at a wooded area until the weather conditions made it possible to fight the blaze.

Comment: Europe's record breaking warm winter leads to unprecedented wildfires