Extreme heat, drought, low humidity, and trees stressed by beetles, disease, and lack of water have combined to create a dangerous and difficult fire season across North America. Parts of the United States that have a reputation for difficult fires, such as California and Arizona have predictably suffered this year, but parts of the Pacific Northwest and Canada—often thought of as cool, moist regions—are increasingly becoming known as tinderland for major fires.
On July 15, 2021, the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) acquired a true-color image of the many dozens of wildfires burning across North America and the massive shroud of smoke covering much of the region.
The fires are marked in red in this image. Those in the United States can be seen clustering in California and the Pacific Northwest. A huge red area in the lower left (southwest) side of the image marks Oregon’s Bootleg Fire. The largest fire in the United States at this time, this fire was first noted on July 6. By July 18 it had scorched 298,662 acres 15 miles northwest of Beatty, Oregon including in the Fremont-Winema National Forest. With more than 2,000 personnel working the incident, the Bootleg fire is only 22 percent contained and fire behavior remains extreme. In Canada, large numbers of fires cluster most heavily in British Columbia (west), Saskatchewan, and Manitoba.
According to the Center for Disaster Philanthropy (CDP) webpage, on July 15, the National Interagency Fire Center’s situation report listed a total of 34,411 wildfires across the country that had burned more than 2.6 million acres. There were 17,110 personnel deployed on 102 active fires across 12 states in the U.S. Of these, 71 were considered large fires, 57 of which were uncontained. The average year-to-date is 30,769 fires burning 3.2 million acres. On July 14 the National Multi-Agency Coordinating Group (NMAC) raised the National Preparedness level to 5.
CDP also published that, as of July 15, the Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Centre (CIFFC) reported 4,007 wildfires that had burned more than 3.1 million acres (1.25 million hectares). There were 226 out-of-control wildfires across the country, most of which were in British Columbia. Canada’s firefighting resources are severely depleted with limited ability to quickly attack new fires and international resources being requested. The national preparedness level has also increased to Level 5.