ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s mid-July and for many parts of the United States this means persistent hot and dry weather increases the risk of wildfires.
Some 46 percent of the contiguous United States is currently experiencing moderate to exceptional drought conditions, according to Tuesday’s report from the U.S. Drought Monitor.
The first monthly drought outlook from NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center recently warned that drought in the U.S. Southwest is exceptionally intense and unlikely to break completely, despite some relief from the summer thunderstorm season. Most of the already parched West will likely see drought persist or worsen, NOAA said.
Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal reports that overgrown forest land poses fire risk to a growing number of communities.
It cites U.S. Forest Service statistics that 65 million to 82 million of National Forest lands are at a “high or very high risk of fire” and are in need of restoration.
Between 1960 and 1970, there was only one year, 1969, when wildfires burned more than five million acres in the U.S. In the last decade, it happened eight out of 10 years, the WSJ adds.
As of July 1, some 11 wildfire, heat and drought events have resulted in an estimated $365 million in insured losses in 2013, according to Munich Re.
Aon’s June Global Catastrophe Recap notes that the Black Forest Fire near Colorado Springs became the most damaging fire in Colorado’s history and left two dead. The fire charred 14,280 acres of land and destroyed at least 511 homes. Insurers received at least 4,500 claims with payouts in excess of $350 million. Due to dozens of destroyed uninsured or underinsured homes, the overall economic loss will approach $500 million, Aon added.
On June 30, 19 firefighters were killed while working to contain the Yarnell Hill Fire in Arizona. This is the deadliest event for firefighters since 9/11 and the third highest firefighter death toll attributed to wildfires.