America is on fire. Every year for the past decade, the United States has suffered a record number of ferocious wildfires. In 2020, more than 1,500 fires were started in Utah alone. While not all fires that raged throughout the US this past year were catastrophic infernos, on the whole, they still managed to threaten human life and property at unprecedented levels.
According to the National Interagency Fire Center (NFIC), wildfires burned more than ten million acres in 2020, shattering the previous record set in 2015. Last year’s devastation marks the highest yearly total since modern recordkeeping was instituted.
Unfortunately, in 2021 we are likely to see this trend of ravaging wildfire growth continue. Already, fires since 2017 have amounted to damage and economic losses of more than $300 billion in the US.
There are several explanations for the proliferation and escalating damage of wildfires, and addressing those causes requires renewed attention of local, state and federal governments and — when it comes to climate change — international cooperation.
Toward that end, in January 2021 two Western legislators formed a new caucus in Congress, the Bipartisan Wildfire Caucus. Led by Reps. John Curtis, R-Utah, and Joe Neguse, D-Colorado, the caucus will help Congress prioritize “the needs of our local fire crews, our western communities, and fire mitigation and recovery efforts in the wake of increasingly more damaging and more deadly wildfires.”
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