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Fri, 23 Feb 2018
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Up to a foot of snow dumps on fire burning in the Crazy Mountains, Montana

Reconnaissance flight on Sept. 17 for the Blacktail Fire in the Crazy Mountains
© Jade Martin
Reconnaissance flight on Sept. 17 for the Blacktail Fire in the Crazy Mountains
No surprise — recent rain, snow and cooler weather has put a big dent into the Blacktail fire in the Crazy Mountains and will likely lead to lifting of Stage 1 fire restrictions in the area this week.

Eight to 12 inches of snow fell on parts of the Blacktail fire, U.S. Forest Service Public Affairs Officer Kathy Bushnell said Monday morning.

"It was definitely quite the change of weather conditions," Bushnell said. "... There hasn't been a lot of fire activity over the last few days just because the fuel is getting wet from all the moisture."


U.S. wildfire costs exceed record $2 billion and blazes continue to rage

US wildfire costs 2017
© John Blanchard/The Chronicle
The Forest Service has spent more than $2 billion battling forest fires around the country - a record as wildfires blacken the American West in one of the nation's worst fire seasons.

Wildfires have ravaged the West this summer with 64 large fires burning across 10 states as of Thursday, including 21 fires in Montana and 18 in Oregon. In all, 48,607 wildfires have burned nearly 13,000 square miles (33,586 square kilometers).

The fires have stretched firefighting resources, destroyed more than 500 homes and triggered health alerts as choking smoke drifted into major Western cities.

The Forest Service, part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, is the nation's primary firefighting agency.

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said the severe fire season means officials "end up having to hoard all of the money that is intended for fire prevention, because we're afraid we're going to need it to actually fight fires."

The emphasis on firefighting means that money for prescribed burns, insect control and other prevention efforts is diverted to putting out fires in what Perdue called a self-defeating cycle. The end result is that small trees and vegetation remain in the forest for future fires to feed on.

"That's wrong, and that's no way to manage the Forest Service," Perdue said.

The Agriculture Department has been asking Congress for years to change the way firefighting is funded so the Forest Service does not have to raid non-fire programs in bad years.

The spending figure announced Thursday marks the first time wildfire spending by the Forest Service has topped $2 billion. The previous record was $1.7 billion in 2015.

Blue Planet

Winds, fire, floods and quakes: Mother Nature's recent nutty run

hurricane damage
With four big hurricanes, a powerful earthquake and wildfires, it seems that nature recently has just gone nuts.

Some of these disasters, like Friday's earthquake in Mexico, are natural. Others may end up having a mix of natural and man-made ingredients after scientists examine them. We also always tend to look for patterns and order in chaos, even when they aren't there, psychologists say.

"Nature's gone crazy," mused Jeff Masters, meteorology director at the private service Weather Underground. "Welcome to the future. Extreme weather like this is going to be occurring simultaneously more often because of global warming."

A look at a rough few weeks in North America:

Bizarro Earth

As hurricanes slam the Southern US, the West is literally on fire

Wildfires Western US
© fireweatheravalanche.org
Amid the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey and the impending destruction of Hurricane Irma, many Americans may not be aware that the western region of the country is suffering the opposite wrath of mother nature. From southern California to Washington, wildfires are engulfing thousands of acres of land and prompting thousands of evacuations. Many of the states battling the wildfires have been doing so all summer.

On Saturday, Washington Governor Jay Inslee declared a state of emergency across the state due to the risk of wildfires, and the National Weather Service warned that 26 of the state's 39 counties were at very high or extreme risk. According to the Washington Department of Ecology, "[a]lmost all of WA [was] awash in wildfire smoke" on Sunday. The department noted air quality in many areas had suffered as a result. According to NASA satellite imagery, smoke is also being pushed eastward across the U.S


Wildfires in Oregon consume over 10,000 acres of forest, haunting images of smoke and ash visible from space

oregon wildfire
© Travis Madison / Facebook
Wildfires are engulfing the Columbia River Gorge in Oregon, with more than 10,000 acres of forest destroyed. The inferno is sending smoke and ash into the sky which is visible from space. Hundreds of people have been forced to evacuate the area.

"The biggest danger isn't necessarily the fire pushing through - it's the ash fall," said Lt. Damon Simmons, spokesman for the Oregon State Fire Marshal's Office, as cited by The Hood River News.

Ash from the fire has reached as far as the Hood River 47 miles (76km) away with massive smoke trails from the inferno visible from space.

The Eagle Creek fire was man-made, has evaded containment and now covers an area of more than 10,000 acres since it broke out Saturday. The fire even jumped the Columbia River to Washington in the early hours of Tuesday morning, reports King 5 News.

Police interviewed a 15-year-old male from Vancouver, Washington they believe started the fire by setting off fireworks on the Eagle Creek Trail.


Dramatic images from record-setting La Tune wildfire north of Los Angeles

La Tuna wildfire los angeles
© Adriene Biondo/Instagram
Fire encroaches just above the Safari Inn in Burbank, CA.
On Sunday California Governor Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency for Los Angeles County as the La Tuna wildfire encroached on L.A. and burned eerily on the skyline just north of downtown, keeping nervous residents on the alert as homes and business were threatened. What is now being reported as the largest brush fire in Los Angeles history began in Burbank on Friday, but the cause is still under investigation.

Over the weekend a mandatory evacuation order was issued for more than 700 homes in Los Angeles, Burbank and Glendale - the order has since been lifted as firefighters made gains after brief showers hit the area. La Tuna has already burned over 7000 acres and destroyed multiple homes.

The fire's rapid spread is being attributed to an unprecedented heat wave that's hit California along with high winds. On Friday for example, San Francisco reached 106 degrees Fahrenheit at the end of a summer that climatologists are calling one of the hottest on record. Over the weekend the heat forced the Bay Area Rapid Transit system to order its trains to slow down on rails exposed to the sun as slight heat-induced expansion in the metal track could cause slight shifts and possible derailment.

Comment: Further reading:


At least 74 wildfires rage in 8 Western states; over a million acres burnt

At least 74 wildfires are burning in eight Western states and consumed more than a million acres combined. Jamie Yuccas reports.


Wildfires burning more than half a million acres in Montana

Montana wildfires
© U.S. Forest Service Photo/InciWeb
In southeastern Montana, a wind-driven wildfire ripped through parched forest and grasslands, forcing the evacuation of an undetermined number of ranches and homes, officials said Thursday.
As the country keeps its eyes trained on Houston, another natural disaster is ravaging states far to the north.

With red flag warnings covering 200,000 square miles of Montana, Idaho, Wyoming and the Dakotas saying the danger for new wildfires is imminent, firefighters continue to battle blazes that have burned huge swaths of land.

This summer has been particularly dry and windy for our northern neighbors and a lack of moisture and unfortunate weather has led to hundreds of wildfires burning across Montana, Idaho and northern California.

Rainfall at this point hasn't been much help; lightning strikes on Wednesday sparked at least 40 more in a state already on fire, according to the Great Falls Tribune. High winds are pushing the fires and helping them spread.

Firefighter Brent M. Witham of Mentone, California, died in early August after a tree fell on the 29-year-old.

Smoke is so heavy in Montana that planes couldn't fly over the fires to check their size or status, the Tribune said on Wednesday.

Back in July, Gov. Steve Bullock declared a state of emergency in Montana. The declaration was issued July 24, sometime after the federal government denied the state's request for aid. Three days later, the feds reversed their decision and sent FEMA in to help.


Largest wildfire in Los Angeles' history: More than 700 are forced to evacuate as 8,000 acres are scorched

LAFD on scene responding to fire along La Tuna Canyon Road near Burbank where flames devour a hill

LAFD on scene responding to fire along La Tuna Canyon Road near Burbank where flames devour a hill
The largest fire in Los Angeles history is engulfing thousands of acres of land and forcing residents to evacuate homes throughout the county.

The fire, dubbed the La Tuna Fire after the canyon where it erupted, has already burned through 8,000 acres of land, and the heatwave in the area along with erratic winds are proving major obstacles for firefighters trying control the blaze.

The fire broke out Friday and has already forced the partial closure of the 210 Freeway, a major thoroughfare.

The 210 is closed between the Glendale Freeway and Sunland Boulevard.

It's unclear when the freeway will completely reopen, according to the LA Times.

The blaze started with just one acre of brush on Friday.

The enormous blaze led authorities to evacuate more than 700 homes in a north Los Angeles neighborhood and in nearby Burbank and Glendale, officials said.


La Tuna fire prompts hundreds of mandatory evacuations in Burbank, California

© lacofireairops / Instagram
A ferocious bushfire near Los Angeles has spread across thousands of acres, prompting the mandatory evacuations of hundreds of homes in Burbank, California.

Burbank police announced mandatory evacuations of residents in the Brace Canyon Park area after the surrounding Verdugo Mountains caught fire at about 1:30pm on Friday afternoon.