This year has been a hard one when it comes to natural disasters. Florida, Texas, the Caribbean and beyond were devastated by Hurricane Irma. Southeastern Texas, Louisiana and more suffered from the winds, rain and flooding caused by Hurricane Harvey. In Southeast Asia floods caused by monsoon rain have forced millions to flee and resulted in over 1,000 deaths. But water and wind are not the only deadly vectors mother nature can unleash.
In the United States the western states of California, Oregon, Montana, Washington and more have been enduring raging, fast spreading wildfires producing smoke and ash extending far beyond the confines of the fires themselves. As of September 14, almost 2 million acres were burning, an amount of land equivalent in area to the states of Rhode Island and Delaware put together. That area includes 41 un-contained large blazes under attack by a force of National Guard responders numbering over 25,000; half a battalion of soldiers.
Those two million acres now in flames is only a fraction of the 8 million that has already burned so far this season. More than 500 homes have also been destroyed, and the Forest Service has spent over $1.75 billion fighting these fires this fiscal year. The Interior Department has spent over $391 million.
In ordinary years the autumn would bring relief from summer-prone wildfires, but this year there seems to be no end in sight. One of the explanations for the severity and length of the fires is the severe drought that Montana, Oregon and elsewhere have seen this year. Record high temperatures over the summer completely dried up any regions that had been soaked with snow and rain last winter and spring.