The nation is closing in on its worst wildfire season in recorded history, with over 11 million acres already burned.
This is the equivalent of Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island and part of New Hampshire going up in flames.
Wildfires in the western United States have made 2015 the country’s most devastating fire year since at least 1960, despite the relatively small number of individual fires.
More than 11 million acres (4.5 million hectares) have been burned in fires this year as of Friday, according to data from the National Interagency Fire Center.
The worst years for wildfires in the U.S., since these records began being kept, were 2006 (9,873,745 acres burned), 2007 (9,328,045 acres burned), 2012 (9,326,238 acres burned), 2011 (8,711,367 acres burned), and 2005 (8,689,389 acres burned). 2015 is the first year in at least five and a half decades to exceed 10 million acres burned.
But the worrying long-term trend is that the number of more-damaging “mega-fires” are increasing most probably due to fire management practices, a growing number of homes in or near major forests and, especially, a trend toward hotter, drier seasons.
$200 million a week has been spent to battle wildfires nationwide. About 30,000 people in at least a dozen states have been deployed for that effort. This is the largest force since 2000.
To date 13 firefighters have lost their lives across the country and more than 4,600 structures have been destroyed by these sometimes terrifying wildfires.