Wildfires in Arizona, Nebraska, and New Mexico have burned 150,000 acres of land, destroyed structures, and forced thousands from their homes.
Wildfire season typically doesn’t start until the summer, but we aren’t living in typical times. Over the last week, multiple wildfires have plagued the Western parts of the United States. The flames have swept through parts of Arizona, Nebraska, and New Mexico, destroying tens of thousands of acres of land and leaving at least one person dead.
The uncontrolled burns have already done a considerable amount of damage since the blazes started last week. In Arizona, the Tunnel Fire has claimed at least 30 homes so far, and forced thousands of people to evacuate from its path. In New Mexico, two wildfires that started near Nevada merged together to create fast-moving flames, pushed along by 75 miles per hour winds, and have been responsible for destroying more than 200 buildings. In the plains of Nebraska, conditions turned deadly: At least 12 wildfires have started across the state in a matter of days, and three firefighters have been injured while fighting the flames. One person died as a result of the fires, according to local news reports.
Combined, the fires raging across multiple states have already destroyed more than 150,000 acres of land and forced more than 4,000 people to leave their homes, according to The New York Times. The situation has forced the affected states to declare a state of emergency in an attempt to protect citizens and ramp up the effort to fight the flames — a task that has proven difficult thanks to dry weather conditions and powerful winds that blew across the Southwest over the weekend.
There are several conditions that lead to wildfires. Among them are warm temperatures, dry air, and strong winds. We’ve checked all three boxes this spring. These conditions are present in particular on the West Coast, which is in the middle of the worst drought the planet has seen in 1,200 years. These conditions will only worsen as the planet continues to warm, and wildfires like these show just how unprepared we are for what climate change will bring us.