It added to the significant toll of wildfires over the past 15 years. Since NIFC started its modern record-keeping of wildfires in 1983, there have been 10 years when 8 million acres or more burned. All of those records occurred since 2004.
Riva Duncan, a retired fire staff officer for the Forest Service who now advocates for firefighters, said the firefighting season changed drastically in her years in federal service
“Over 30 years ago, when I started, the fire season was July and August … and it was not every year. There were some years with no big fires,” Duncan said. “The wildfire season today is closer to what we are starting to call a ‘fire year.’”
Wildfires are now beginning as early as March and continue until November.
Scientists say climate change amplifies the risk from wildfire, with less snowpack, changing precipitation patterns and plants that dry up during record heat waves.
With dry conditions across the country, 2021 could also see significant fires. Western states are in a period of moderate to “exceptional” drought, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. In Montana, over 60 percent of the state is facing drought conditions, according to a report Gov. Greg Gianforte released this week.
And currently Florida and parts of Arizona, Kansas, Minnesota and Montana are at high risk for “significant wildland fire potential,” according to a forecast from the National Interagency Fire Center.