Early September has been hard on the western portion of the US, as wildfires have been burning across 10 different states. In total, there are 64 fires that have burned thousands of miles of trees and homes, requiring residents to evacuate. So far, the Forest Service has had to spend over $2 billion fighting the fires, and that doesn’t count the cost of the damage to homes and businesses. Here’s what you need to know about some of the biggest fires in the western US.
There are several fires going on in Oregon. The Jones fire has been burning in the Willamette National Forest since early August and is now over 5,800 acres in size. The Whitewater fire has been burning since late July near Detroit, Oregon, and its size is over 10,000 acres. The cause of both the Whitewater and Jones fires was a lightning strike. There’s also the Eagle Creek Fire that has been going on since early September, having burned more than 33,000 acres already. Caused by illegal fireworks, the Eagle Creek Fire is also responsible for poor air quality and ash falling from the sky in Portland. But the largest blaze in Oregon is the Chetco Bar fire, which has burned more than 185,000 acres near Bookings. Firefighters are still working hard to get these fires in Oregon under control, as many are barely contained even after weeks of fighting them.
Idaho is another state battling wildfires lately. The Payette National Forest is the site of several fires that have taken more than 87,000 acres. The largest is the Highline fire, which alone covers 83,000 acres and was caused by lightning in late July. The firefighters are letting the fires burn in the wilderness areas for now.
Another state with fires due to lightning is Montana. The Reef fire started in mid-August in the Flathead National Forest and is being allowed to burn in rural areas for now. Lightning is also responsible for the Rice Ridge fire near Seeley Lake, which started in late July and covers over 27,000 acres. There’s also the Liberty fire, which started in mid-July and now covers more than 12,000 acres. Though the fires in Montana have only burned a few dozen buildings and houses so far, the air quality is very poor right now, which means even the people who haven’t had to evacuate have been negatively affected by this natural disaster.
California currently has more than a dozen wildfires burning, and they’re largely caused by lightning. The Salmon August Complex fire is at the northern end of the state and has burned around 50,000 acres. The Helena fire near Redding has burned more than 7,400 acres, damaging more than 70 homes. And the Pier fire, just north of Bakersfield, resulted in Springville getting mandatory evacuation orders after the fire burned over 17,000 acres.
This is just a sampling of the fires going on in these and other states. Most of these fires have been burning for over two months and are barely contained at all. And since the Forest Service has spent so much money fighting them, officials anticipate that they’ll have less money to spend on prescribed burns and insect control across the US. As far as the homes that have been destroyed by the fires, those with homeowners’ insurance will have a much easier time rebuilding than those without coverage. The same goes for the business owners who have property insurance on their commercial buildings. It remains to be seen how many people in total will need help rebuilding their house after these summer wildfires.