wildfires

@crystaleagle via Flickr | Licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Increasing drought and tree mortality rates are causing forests in the American Southwest to die earlier and quicker –– which can add fuel to devastating wildfires.

But, new research shows that scientists might be able to predict where future wildfires burn by taking a look at a tree’s growth rings. 

Two Western cities registered the poorest air quality in the world over the last week as smoke from wildfires in northern California turned the skies over the Rocky Mountains into a chalky white abyss. On July 7, Denver’s air was the worst among international cities, according to IQAir.com. Salt Lake City was No. 1 the day prior.

University of Utah atmospheric scientist Derek Mallia says such pollution levels in these Mountain West cities is “unprecedented.”

News Brief

A U.S. astronaut on the International Space Station has recently launched a new project. Megan McArthur is photographing the West’s iconic national parks. She grew up visiting places like Yosemite, Grand Canyon and Zion – and now she’s shooting them from 250 miles above the surface of Earth.

News Brief

The U.S. is facing a jet fuel shortage this summer. It’s causing long delays at airports across the West as well as some concern among aerial firefighters.

“The whole aviation community is pitching in and working together to try to alleviate this problem,” said Kevin Condit, a spokesperson for Neptune Aviation Services in Montana.

Smoky Skies Could Linger Until Snow Flies

Jul 20, 2021

Wildfire season began earlier than usual across the region this year, and with it came smoky skies. That's led to problems like unsafe air quality, and hundreds of delayed flights out of Denver on Monday. Now, meteorologists and air quality experts say hazy conditions will likely stick around until fall for many Mountain West communities.

University Showcase, Friday, 12/18 8a: New Mexico and the Southwest are grappling with profound impacts brought by climate change and those will only get worse, so how are we preparing? Journalist Laura Paskus has covered New Mexico’s environment for years and in her new book from University of New Mexico Press, “At The Precipice: New Mexico’s Changing Climate,” she explores the realities of climate change and the havoc it has been wreaking for years in the state.

For days now, wildfire smoke has degraded the air quality in much of the Mountain West, and that unhealthy air is forcing tough decisions for schools that are trying to reopen.

 


Skies are hazy across the region thanks to the many wildfires burning in the West, and that smoke is more dangerous during the pandemic. 

Laura Paskus/KUNM

New Mexicans have needed help after wildfires and floods in recent years. FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, has done its part: sending money to the state of New Mexico. But the state has not released tens of millions of dollars for contractors who did disaster recovery work.

Preparing For Climate Change In New Mexico

Apr 17, 2016
Kari Greer / US Forest Service Gila National Forest

KUNM Call In Show 4/21 8a: 

You probably noticed that this February and March were much warmer and drier than normal. In fact, this year New Mexico got only 12 percent of the rainfall it usually gets in March. The unusually warm weather prompted mountain snow to melt faster and earlier than usual, while winds whipped up wild fires, stripping land that then becomes vulnerable to flooding.

Kari Greer / US Forest Service Gila National Forest

New Mexico’s 2014 wildfire season seems to have fizzled out, but the danger is not entirely behind us.

New Mexico State Forestry spokesman Dan Ware said favorable weather combined with a public awareness of fire prevention practices has reduced the number of fires this year.  “I don’t want to say that we are out of the woods yet,” he cautioned.

Drought Won't Stop Fireworks In Dry Western States

Jul 3, 2014
Billy Wilson Photography via Flickr

Arizona's largest city has gone months without any measurable rain, and neighboring New Mexico is in the midst of four years of severe drought.

But you'll still see and hear fireworks sparkle and pop this Fourth of July, despite the dangerously high threat of wildfires.

While some places in the West ban fireworks or greatly limit what you can light up, other states are going in the opposite direction.

Favorable Weather May Slow Wildfire

Jun 30, 2014
Rita Daniels

UPDATE 7/2 11:30a: The Associated Press reports a wildfire burning in northern New Mexico's Jemez Mountains continues to expand but officials say expected favorable weather may help.

Officials said Wednesday morning says the lightning-sparked Diego Fire has burned more than five square miles, an increase of about 400 acres since Tuesday.

However, the fire remained zero percent contained.

Still, some residents say they felt isolated and uninformed about the fire's dangers. And ranchers who have livestock roaming in the fire area are worried about their cattle.

Little Bear Fire 95 Percent Contained

Jun 29, 2012

A New Mexico wildfire that destroyed 242 homes and businesses is now 95 percent contained as crews finish mopping up around the fire's perimeter.

Crews demobilized some equipment Friday as they restored containment lines around the 69-square-mile Little Bear fire to a more natural state. Firefighters were also able to take advantage of rain on the blaze's southern end.

The lightning-caused fire is burning near Ruidoso and started June 4.

Businesses in Ruidoso are open despite some road closures due to fire operations.

'War room' type effort places firefighting assets

Jun 29, 2012

From sites on the fringes of wildfires burning around the West, incident commanders spend nearly every waking hour huddled around maps, looking at computer screens or glued to the radio, trying to plot their next move.

Their decisions come after pouring over intelligence that's flooding in from crew leaders, weather forecasters and fuels analysts.

Elsewhere, teams of specialists smooth out the logistics of shuffling firefighters and equipment around the country.

Tom Harbour is the director of fire and aviation management for the U.S. Forest Service.