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5.9.05

Fire Season

Here's some better news from the natural disasters front:

Millions Of Acres Burn, But Not In The Usual Way

The number of acres charred by wildfire across the West this year is almost double the 10-year average, but this summer's forest fires have neither been as big nor as devastating as those in past years.

Fire behavior experts say the apparent contradiction is because of unusual moisture patterns in the region earlier this year, which favored big grass fires on the open range. Timber in the mountains received more moisture than usual well into the summer, keeping forest fires small.

... "To get a big fire, you need high temperatures, low relative humidity, dry fuels and winds all aligned on the same day," said [Forest Service analyst Tom] Wordell. "We haven't seen that much this year, yet our overall acreage burned is much higher than in the past."


On the other hand, 2003 was a comparatively mild fire season despite seeing the huge fires in Southern California. (Those fires were in October, and since that region is still very vulnerable to fire, it may be a bit premature to declare this season free of any major fires.) So this is a note of caution about using acres burned as a measure of the severity of a fire season.

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