As many as 90 percent of wildland fires in the United States are caused by people, according to the U.S. Department of Interior. Some human-caused fires result from campfires left unattended, the burning of debris, downed power lines, negligently discarded cigarettes and intentional acts of arson. The remaining 10 percent are started by lightning or lava.
2021 has already proven to a severe one. According to the U.S. Drought Monitor by August 31, about 90 percent of land in the Western states was experiencing moderate to severe drought. Compounded by June’s heat wave, the threat of wildfires appeared a month ahead of schedule.
From January 1 to September 7, 2021 there were 43,555 wildfires, compared with 41,051 in the same period in 2020, according to the National Interagency Fire Center. About 5.1 million acres were burned, compared with 4.7 million in 2020. On September 7, ten states reported 78 large fires including Idaho, which had 20 fires and Montana with 17 fires. In Oregon the Bootleg Fire burned 413,7617 acres before being contained. In California the Dixie fire burned 917,579 acres and was 59 percent contained on September 7. The Dixie fire is the second largest fire on record in California, according to Calfire, and is second only to the August Complex fire of August 2020 which burned over a million acres. The Dixie fire has destroyed 1,282 structures over five counties and damaged 92 structures.
The Caldor fire has burned about 217,000 acres and is 49 percent contained after destroying 994 structures and damaged 77. The Beckwourth complex fire which includes the Sugar Fire and Dotta Fire in Plumas County burned 105,670 acres. All fires in California have burned about 2 million acres so far in 2021.
In Arizona the Telegraph fire destroyed 180,757 acres in Pinal County, according to Arizona Interagency Wildfire Prevention. The Mezcal fire burned 72,250 acres and the Rafael fire burned 78,065 acres.
By comparison, Western state fires have consumed almost 15 times more forests than the total land mass of Wayne County, an approximate total of 386,560 acres, or 604 square miles.