(CREDIT: MARK NUNEZ/LOS PADRES FOREST AVIATION/KEYT-TV VIA AP)
One injury has been reported and evacuations are underway in multiple western states Thursday as wildfires have grown in size, burning thousands of acres. Massive firefighting efforts are happening in California, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, and Utah, according to multiple reports. Here are the details on the states’ fires:
In Utah, one firefighter was injured while battling a fire near Cedar City, where several homes north of where the 400-acre Aspen Fire is spreading are under threat. The firefighter tripped on rocky terrain and suffered a head injury, according to Fox News. The Aspen Fire is one of three wildfires happening in Utah as of Thursday afternoon, according to the State of Utah Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands.
Wildfires in most western states are still growing, though in Nevada, officials reported that 180 firefighters were mopping up the remnants of a 300-acre fire near the California border early Thursday. What was the largest of three fires in Nevada died overnight thanks to cold temperatures, but not before causing outages for some 4,100 residents. The other two fires caused some structural damage but no injuries have been reported.
A fire in a national forest in Santa Barbara — a county just north of Los Angeles — grew Thursday to cover more than 1,200 acres, or 2 square miles, as strong winds continue in the drought-ravaged state. Hundreds of campers and homeowners have been evacuated as the fire that started Wednesday grew overnight. At one point an ExxonMobil refinery located near the so-called Sherpa Fire was a concern, but that facility is now considered safe. Still, mandatory evacuations were in place for multiple California communities near the Los Padres National Forest.
Arizona has been battling its second wildfire in a week. The Cedar Creek Fire grew to more than 3,000 acres by Wednesday evening, the Arizona Republic reports, sending plumes of smoke through the scenic White Mountains east of the state. The fire prompted Navajo County to evacuate one community and issue pre-evacuation orders for summertime havens of Show Low, Pinetop-Lakeside, McNary, Fort Apache and Hon-Dah.
For its part, New Mexico is under a state of emergency following a blaze just south of Albuquerque that reportedly covers more than 3 square miles. Dubbed the Dog Head Fire, the fire prompted Gov. Susana Martinez to declare an emergency so state funds can be used for firefighting and other assistance efforts. The Dog Head Fire and the Cedar Creek Fire in Arizona are so far the largest burning the west, but the situation seems fluid as wind advisories are in effect in some of these states. Smoke could be the next problem, however. New Mexico agencies issued an advisory Wednesday, the Weather Channel reports, warning that smoke could migrate to the state capital, Albuquerque, as well as other northern parts of New Mexico, including Santa Fe.
Cool and generally moist conditions in May across much of the interior west region of the U.S. kept fire activity low, according to a National Interagency Fire Center report issued Wednesday.However, hot weather late in the month allowed fires to develop in grass and brush in the Southwest and parts of the Northwest. According to the report, this trend will continue as summer heat sets in and more fuels become receptive to fire. Alaska can also see significant fires this month, the agency reported, but recent mild conditions and periodic precipitation have kept fire activity low so far.
Studies have linked global warming to longer wildfire seasons. And as climate change exacerbates wildfires, one study estimates that fighting wildfires could cost as much as $62.5 billion annually by 2050.