US wildfire season breaks all-time record
Over 10 million acres were burned in wildfires in the US in 2015 for the first time ever, according to the National Interagency Fire Center, representing an increase of 4 million acres over the average. More than half the acreage was in Alaska, which suffered its second worst fire season ever. Both Washington and Oregon had record fire years, and two California fires rank among the top 10 most destructive in state history.
Drought and high temperatures worsened 2015 season
Drought conditions and unusually high temperatures in western states contributed to the length and severity of 2015's fire season. The US Forest Service warned that as a result of climate change, wildfire seasons will continue to grow longer and more devastating. The federal agency has warned it is at the "tipping point" of a crisis as it struggles to combat wildfires during longer, more intense seasons.
Robert Bonnie, under secretary for natural resources and environment at the US Department of Agriculture, told the Guardian, “We are seeing real challenges on the ground – climate change is real and it is with us...The whole US Forest Service is shifting to becoming an agency dominated by wildfires. We really are at a tipping point. The current situation is not sustainable.”