The drought adds to the severity of the 2021 fire season

Jul 23, 2021  | 3 min  | Ep4649

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, this past June was the hottest in 171 years of record keeping. The high temps continue to put pressure on the West and Midwest as the growing drought creeps across the country.

The heat has made for tinder dry conditions in the forest making it prone to fire. Across the U.S., more than one million acres have already burned during the current fire season with grim results for both urban and rural residents.

John Torpy has more in our report.

Gov. Kate Brown, (D) Oregon: “We're seeing extensive drought conditions across the state, with 19 counties in drought emergencies, unprecedented heat waves and fire seasons that are arriving earlier, coming on faster, and lasting for longer."

This week, Oregon governor Kate Brown gave a dire assessment of wildfires and drought plaguing the state, with part of the blame pointed at climate change.

Gov. Kate Brown, (D) Oregon: “"After last year, what is very clear is that no corner of our state is immune to fire. On the West Coast and here in Oregon, the urgent and dangerous climate crisis has exacerbated conditions on the ground.”

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, over 46 percent of the contiguous 48 states are experiencing some level of drought, an increase over three percent from last week.The scarcity of moisture has exacerbated wildfire conditions in the West. Officials with the Oregon Forest & Industries Council, a trade association representing more than 50 Oregon forestland owners and forest product manufacturers, calculate ongoing drought has brought wildfire season to the region nearly eight weeks ahead of schedule. Oregon’s Bootleg fire, the largest of the 79 active fires burning across the U.S., has consumed over 400,000 acres. Coupled with the loss of over one million acres during the 2020 wildfire season, timberland and sawmill owners in Oregon are worried about their industry that in 2019, generated roughly $18 billion.

Kyle Williams, Oregon Forest & Industries Council: "I mean, imagine right. You've invested 40 years in a corn field, you can't harvest it until year 40 and you're sitting there on pins and needles, just praying to God that it makes it to year 40 and it doesn't, and we don't have insurance for any of that.”

With forecasters calling for extreme drought conditions to expand and deepen in the West, Williams’s worries about what that means for the rest of the 2021 wildfire season and the impact on Oregon forests.

Kyle Williams, Oregon Forest & Industries Council:” I hate the word unprecedented. It just doesn't seem, it seems overused, but in this case, again, the conditions. We're two months ahead. It's, we are a long ways from done, uh, with this summer and with what we're going to see in terms of the fire out here.”

For Market to Market, I’m John Torpy.  Twitter: @TVTorpy

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