The governors of California and Nevada are imploring the federal government for more resources to battle the dozens of unrelenting wildfires intensifying in the West.
“We need help. We need help on the federal side. We need more people coming in. We need more resources. We need more air support. We need more people and more boots on the ground in order to make this a more fair fight in terms of fighting these fires,” Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak said at a joint news conference with California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Wednesday.
The governors toured damage caused by the Tamarack Fire, which has burned 68,571 acres spanning the border of the two states since it was sparked by lightning on July, 4, according to InciWeb, the clearinghouse for fire information in the US. It was 59% contained as of Thursday morning.
The Tamarack Fire is one of 82 large wildfires currently burning in the US, mostly in the West.
“Inevitably, there will be more of these,” Newsom said.
The dozens of large active wildfires have burned 1.69 million acres across 13 states, according to the National Interagency Fire Center.
In California, six active wildfires have burned 347,616 acres. This year’s devastating fire season in California has scorched close to four times the number of acres as this time last year.
In Oregon, severe drought conditions helped make way for the Bootleg Fire to become the nation’s largest, scorching 413,400 acres and destroying hundreds of structures and vehicles in its way. It was 53% contained, according to InciWeb.
Firefighters in the area got some relief this week thanks to a break in the heat and light rain.
Lightning will remain a concern the next few afternoons as higher temperatures dry out the area and thunderstorms produce less rain, said CNN meteorologist Monica Garrett.
In pictures: Wildfires raging in the West
Wildfires devastate homes and swaths land
So far this year, wildfires in the US have burned more than 3.4 million acres – that’s the size of Delaware and Rhode Island combined, and then some.
And the impact on communities has been devastating.
The Bootleg Fire has destroyed more than 400 structures and 340 vehicles so far, according to a statement on InciWeb.
And the weather is of little help.
For the Northwest, temperatures will be some of the highest seen since the deadly heat wave at the end of June. Excessive heat warnings and heat advisories are scattered through the region for the next few days with Friday to be particularly hot, according to Garrett.
Red-flag warnings, for dangerous fire weather, are posted for a portion of Oregon and will include the Bootleg Fire area on Friday. Scattered rainfall will return to the interior Northwest on Sunday and Monday, bringing up to a half inch of rain to the parched area.
The fire, which has burned 221,504 acres in northern California, was 23% contained as of late Wednesday, according to InciWeb.
Flames from the Dixie Fire overcame much of the town of Indian Falls, which sits along CA-89 in California’s Plumas National Forest, northwest of Reno, Nevada.
An estimated 18 of 25 full time homes in Indian Falls were lost in the fire, Sheriff Todd Johns told CNN in an email.
And the Tamarack Fire, which straddles the California-Nevada border, has destroyed or damaged nearly 30 structures, including homes, according to Mike DeFries, an information officer with the incident management team.
As the fire’s containment inches toward 60%, evacuation orders have been lifted for residents in the area. Much of the area where the fire remains uncontained is in very steep, tough-to-access areas, which are often too dangerous for ground crews to reach, DeFries said.
Congressional leaders talk climate change as fires rage
Democratic Congressional leaders are once again sounding the alarm on climate change and promising to enact “bold” climate policy that would aim to counter the increased frequency of heatwaves, drought, and extreme weather, which scientists have linked to human-induced climate change.
“We are surrounded by evidence of the climate crisis – the fires out West, the heat waves, the floods,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said Wednesday at a news conference. “Everywhere you look, because of global warming, things are getting worse and worse.”
Schumer added that the raging wildfires might be signaling even worse situations in the future.
“If we do nothing on climate, starting within a few short years from now, each year will be worse than Covid and each year will be worse than the previous year. We know that we can’t let this moment pass us by.”
Schumer framed the moment as one of opportunity to enact strong climate legislation to reduce emissions by 50 percent in 2030. Schumer said one of his top priorities for a $3.5 trillion budget reconciliation bill was a Civilian Climate Corps, which is meant to employ thousands of Americans in building climate resiliency, reforestation, and other climate-related projects.
His remarks come as the Senate is negotiating a bipartisan infrastructure bill.
Some House Democrats are growing frustrated with the slow pace of the Senate’s negotiations, given the extreme weather and drought in the West.
“We just do not have time to waste,” Rep. Kathy Castor, the chair of the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis, told CNN. “You can kind of sense my frustration with the legislative process, and I think I reflect the frustration of millions of Americans who understand that clean energy is less expensive and it is the pathway forward for tackling climate change. We’ve got to meet our scientific imperative to cut carbon pollution dramatically.”
CNN’s Cheri Mossburg and Ella Nilsen contributed to this report.