Villages destroyed in Oregon, helicopter evacuations from nature reserves in California and possibly dozens of dead and wounded. The dry and blood hot weather in the west of America causes a lot of big fires.
Even the air seems to be on fire. In parts of the west coast there was hardly any daylight on Wednesday. The smoke from the forest fires caused the sky in cities to turn orange, as if there was an hour-long sunset. Is this year more extreme than usual?
Nationally, there will be fewer forest fires in 2020 than the average of the previous ten years. There were over 41,000 so far this year, according to figures from the National Interagency Fire Center. On average there are 44,000.
The number of square kilometers of nature that has been burned is also less than average, with 19,000 against more than 23,000. But thats not an area to underestimate. For comparison: The Netherlands has 41,543 square kilometers.
So from a national point of view the number of nature fires in the US doesnt seem extreme. In several states in the west you can see striking figures. In California, for example, there have been more than 5900 fires in regional nature reserves this year. The average in the previous five years was 4100.
And especially the area affected by the forest fires is much larger than normal. Some 4300 square kilometres have been burned so far in the period up to September. In the previous five years, the average was 1837. In an entire year.
If you include the fires in national parks, which are kept by a federal agency, this year in California 6700 square kilometers were affected by the fires.
In addition, in the top five largest forest fires ever recorded in California, there are three fires this year.
The states of Oregon and Washington have also been hit again this year. So far, there have been almost 3100 forest fires in the two northwestern states, in which about 1700 square kilometers of nature have been lost.
Thats almost three times as much as last year, but less compared to other years. In 2018, for example, forest fires in the northwest caused almost 5400 square kilometres of destroyed nature.
Remarkably, however, more people are the cause of the forest fires. According to the Oregon Department of Forestry, people can normally be blamed in 70 percent of the cases. In July, however, this was 90 percent of the cases.
One possible explanation is that people are more likely to move into the wild after the lockdowns earlier this year.
Forest fires are spreading rapidly due to drought and strong winds. In Oregon, five villages and hundreds of houses have been destroyed: