While the summer can mean warm weather, swimsuits, and sunshine, it can also mean wildfire season for parts of North America. And so far, the 2015 wildfire season has been a damaging one across the Pacific Northwest, western Canada, and Alaska in June and July.
In the far north, Alaska’s 2015 wildfire season tally is already over 700 fires, ranking it ninth in history. (The typical fire season ends during August.)
The fires have burned nearly 5 million acres, the fourth largest total already and only 200,000 acres away from #2 in the rankings.
For perspective, the state’s largest wildfire season on record, 2004, saw 6.5 million acres burned in 701 fires. This year is already at 708 fires which have burned or are burning around 4.8 million acres (numbers as of July 22 from Alaska’s division of Forestry). Fires have destroyed dozens of buildings, and several communities required partial evacuations during June.
Farther south in western/central Canada, wildfires have burned through extensive areas. In an average year, Canada sees around 8,000 fires, which burn around 8,100 square miles. As of July 22, according to the Canadian National Forestry Database, 5,603 fires have burned almost 15,000 square miles of land. That total is larger than the state of Maryland.
The fires have had a far-reaching impact. In Saskatchewan, 13,000 people had to be evacuated in what was called the biggest evacuation effort in the province’s history. Smoke from wildfires in British Columbia and Alberta needed no passport to cross international borders, hitching a ride from the wind and degrading air quality as far as the East Coast of the United States. You can follow the twisting smoke plume back into Canada in the image below taken from NOAA satellites on July 10.
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