August 30, 2012 in Washington Voices

Randy Mann: Wildfire season puts pressure on budgets

 

The 2012 fire season has been one of the worst in recorded history for the western U.S. Searing heat for days on end, dry weather and strong winds have fueled thousands of fires.

As of late August, nearly 43,000 fires have been reported in the U.S. for the 2012 season and more than 7 million acres have burned. The 10-year average is 52,000 fires with 5 million acres are burned.

With the large number of wildfires, the costs to handle them are high. In addition to the damage to buildings and homes, many states are spending huge amounts of money to keep them under control. In Utah, for example, $50 million was spent, from a budget of just $3 million, to fight more than 1,000 wildfires.

In Washington, it’s estimated that nearly $20 million will go toward dousing fires. Only $11.2 million was put aside for fighting wildfires in the state.

Residents of the Idaho cities of Pine and Featherville, southeast of Boise, may have to evacuate as they are in the path of the Trinity Ridge fire that has been burning for several weeks.

The large blaze near Cle Elum burned 48 homes and 15 other structures. Residents are now being allowed to return to that area.

Area fires have turned Inland Northwest skies hazy and smoky in recent weeks. The 0.13 inches of rain that fell Aug. 21 was the first measurable precipitation since July 20, when 0.25 inches was reported. As of early Tuesday, more showers were expected, which would help our air quality situation.

In terms of temperature, July’s average reading at the Spokane International Airport was 2.3 degrees above normal. August’s reading, as of early this week, was nearly 3 degrees above average.

Longer term, I see drier than normal weather conditions lingering into the fall season due to a large high pressure ridge that is expected to dominate across the Inland Northwest. Temperatures should fluctuate over the coming weeks ranging from highs in the 70s to a few more days in the 90s.

Enjoy the sunny days of this summer season. It won’t be long before the snow will be flying.

Contact Randy Mann at www.facebook.com/ wxmann.


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