The National Interagency Fire Center is reporting that the United States has established a new record for most acreage burned by wildfires as of this date. The previous record, which was set in 2006, also occurred during a megadrought year.
This news comes to us via Julia Whitty of Mother Jones, who notes that nearly 7 million acres — or 10,763 square miles — have burned so far this record hot and dry year. And at this very moment (August 21, 2012), there are 35 large fires and fire complexes actively burning across the United States across an expanse of 1,375,022 acres.
And as Whitty notes, these wildfires come at a considerable cost:
So far in Utah this year there have been more than 1,000 wildfires that have cost over $50 million to fight. The Chips Fire in northern California-at more than 50,000 acres-has a running tab of over $17 million as of five days ago and it's still going strong.
Wildfires also have intimate costs. Like the 'smoke-walker's' solo journey into the night. And tragic costs. Like the 20-year-old firefighter on the Steep Corner Fire in Idaho who died when a tree fell on her on 12 August. Or the inmate-firefighter who died fighting the Buck Fire in southern California on Sunday.
Plus the global costs. As Jeff Masters writes, a recent study suggests that while 8 percent of Earth should see decreases in fire activity over the next 30 years, 38 percent should see increases.
And as we reported last month, wildfires release as much energy into the environment as entire nuclear power plants.
Be sure to check out Whitty's entire report.
Image via MoJo. Inset image of 2012 Colorado wildfire via U.S. Department of Agriculture.