Raging flames. Air choked with smoke. Daytime sky dimmed to a deep red glow. Apocalyptic scenes have multiplied in recent weeks, as fires claim lives and incinerate communities across the West Coast. The flames are fueled by a confluence of interwoven drivers, including decades of fire management practices focused on fire suppression paired with the worsening climate crisis.
The impacts of this year’s fires multiplied at a massive scale, burning over 4.5 million acres across California, Oregon, and Washington to date. That area is larger than the entire state of Connecticut.
Wildfires are a natural part of the American West, but between the climate crisis, land management since the conquest of Indigenous peoples, and a myriad of other issues, much of that landscape has changed. This year’s fires are fueled by a devastating combination of multiple extremes — extreme heat, drought, lightning, and wind — that together ignite larger and more intense flames.
The climate crisis plays a significant role in strengthening fires by warming temperatures, accelerating snowmelt, and intensifying record-breaking drought. These factors have driven the fire season to start earlier and end later, wreaking destructive impacts that are unparalleled in modern history. Climate change is rapidly worsening. Without transformative climate action, the role of the climate crisis in fueling fires will grow far worse.