Weather helps with projects in West
snowpack year, a cool spring for much of it, and even getting [early] rain,” Ms. Schweizer said. “So certainly those factors are leading to reduced fire danger.”
The difference is particularly stark in California a year after two record wildfires: the Mendocino Complex Fire, the largest in state history, which consumed 459,123 acres, and the Camp Fire, the most lethal, which resulted in 86 deaths.
The number of acres torched by wildfire is down 95% from this time last year and down 90% from the five-year average of 268,805, according to figures from Cal Fire, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.
In Colorado, the number of acres burned is “significantly lower this year in comparison to the previous year,” said Caley Fisher, a spokeswoman for the Colorado Division of Fire Prevention and Control.
Colorado had its second-largest wildfire in history last year with the Spring Creek Fire, which burned 108,045 acres and destroyed 140 structures. The humancaused fire erupted in June and was not fully contained until September.
This year, “we have not lost a residence. We have lost sheds, outbuildings and the like, but not a residential property due to wildfire,” Ms. Fisher said.
Not out of the woods
Of course, conditions can change. The Santa Ana winds typically bring hot, dry weather to Southern California in autumn. The extra moisture has produced abundant grasses now drying in the heat, “creating fuel for wildfires,” said Bryan Henry of the National Interagency Fire Center.
That’s where forest management plans like the Interior Department’s come in.
“As stewards of one-fifth of the country’s public lands, primarily in the West, we know that our ability to be prepared for wildfires and reduce their severity is paramount to protecting communities and saving lives,” Interior Secretary David Bernhardt said in a statement. “In collaboration with local, state, and other federal partners, we are using everything in our arsenal to prepare for wildfires this year, treating more than one million acres.”
The president’s executive order said the plan was aimed at reducing wildfires by thinning forest management regulations, though environmental groups accused the administration of trying to muzzle public involvement and boost the timber industry.
Despite those concerns, Mike Anderson, a senior policy analyst for the Wilderness Society, said the Interior Department’s wildfire mitigation activities are unlikely to raise much controversy.
“It’s been a relatively tame wildfire season so far, which has been kind of a relief, and hopefully this will give Interior and the Forest Service a chance to get out ahead of the wildfire problems,” Mr. Anderson said.
In its first year under the order, the Fish and Wildlife Service, Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management worked on