Thursday, August 16, 2012

Wildfires Burn Off 95% of Massachusetts

The Western U.S. is ablaze this summer. How much forest and range has burned? The usual point of comparison is to the size of the state of Rhode Island. By that standard, the states of Oregon, Montana, Idaho, and Nevada have each lost an area the size of Rhode Island to wildfires. In all, over 7 Rhode Islands have burned off.

The point of comparison needs to be scaled up. In total, 4,797,055 acres across 15 Western states have burned. If that area were square, it would be 86.5 miles by 86.5 miles. It's also about 95% of the 5,017,613 acres of land in Massachusetts. That's Boston to the Berkshires burned off.

There are fires in other parts of the country but they hardly compare. Wildfires have claimed 26,763 acres in the South and 24,469 acres in the Midwest. And the wildfires aren't over yet - 107 of the 153 largest wildfires in the West are still active.

Here are the stats, including only fires that have burned 1,000 acres or more:

Wildfires by State/Region Acres Sq. mi.
Oregon 835,344 1305
Montana 712,816 1114
Idaho 784,393 1226
Nevada 697,612 1090
New Mexico 364,462 569
Utah 325,529 509
California 295,830 462
Wyoming 294,215 460
Colorada 169,056 264
Arizona 123,826 193
Nebraska 78,245 122
North Dakota 62,719 98
Washington 29,493 46
Texas 14,993 23
Alaska 8,522 13
West (total) 4,797,055 7495
South 26,763 42
Midwest 24,469 38
Comparable Land Areas    
Rhode Island 668,755 1045
Massachusetts 5,017,613 7840

It is dryer than normal this summer across most of the country. In addition to the wildfires in the West, crops across the Midwest have withered without enough rain under the hot sun. But that's another story.

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