Devastating 2020 US wildfire season to go down in history

Across the US’ West in 2020, between Colorado and California, historic drought conditions and global warming triggered more than 10,000 wildfires that caused unprecedented damage which was still being calculated by fire officials.

In 2020, an astonishing 52,113 fires burned close to 9 million acres across the nation, and claimed 53 lives and destroyed 6,500 structures, according to the latest data released by the National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC), an Idaho-based federal agency in charge of co-ordination of wildland firefighting resources.

It was a record-setting year for devastation in numerable categories, and overall acreage almost doubled the land burned in 2019.

But no state was slammed harder than California. The Golden State which suffered the deadliest “Camp Fire” in 2018, saw 86 deaths, 18,804 buildings torched and $16.65 billion in damage by 8,527 wildfires 24 months earlier, however, none imagined, that in 2020, the destruction would be even worse.

America’s most populous state, with close to 40 million people, saw 9,279 fires burn 4.2 million acres this year, the largest in history, caused by five of the six biggest wildfires ever recorded.

In 2018, a total of 1,975,086 acres of land were burned down by wildfires.

Some 10,488 structures were damaged or destroyed and at least 31 people died in 2020, according to California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire).

Smoke from these infernos, teaming with Colorado’s record blazes, drifted some 8,045 km across the globe into skies over Europe, the Washington Post reported in September.

In Colorado, the three biggest wildfires in state history occurred in 2020, and were only stopped by early snow in the Rocky Mountains.

But before snows fell last month, some 700,000 acres in the Centennial State had been torched in 2020, NBC News reported.

The Colorado fires were so “intense, they defied logic as they continued to burn while surrounded by snow”, Denver Channel-7 reported.

In Oregon, fires in 2020 burned approximately 1 million acres, more than double the 10-year average, resulting in 11 deaths and more than 2,200 homes destroyed, according to the Oregon Office of Emergency Management.

According to CalFire, the wildfire season has been extended almost three months since the 1970s.

Scott McLean, deputy chief of Cal Fire, said that it was changing global climate leading to more severe and destructive fires in the state, and politicians’ attempts to extract simple political wins from the complex problems was meaningless to resolve those real problems.