As expected, the 2015 wildfire season has meant more bad news for drought-stricken Western states. As of June 30, 45 wildfires large active wildfires burned from Alaska down to Arizona and as far west as Colorado. Wildfires in Southern California had driven thousands from their homes, while fires in Alaska have burned more than one million acres this year.
Separate from human interference, wildfires are a completely natural occurrence that help a forest ecosystem with regeneration and growth. But decades of fire suppression tactics combined with climate change have provided wildfires with an abundance of dry, dead fuel, leading to more fires and a longer fire season. Fighting wildfires also comes with a large price tag, with an average of $1.13 billion spent on wildfire suppression each year. With climate change, that price could increase to $62.5 billion annually by 2050.
But wildfires impact more than just forests and the economy — they can have far-reaching impacts on public health, water quality, and climate change.