Entrenched drought this summer highlights need for readiness

The drought is entrenching itself within the southwest portion of the United States. The National Drought Mitigation Center reported the Arkansas is the latest addition to the list of states suffering from a drought as of July 9. The total area in moderate drought or worse has increased to 44.85 percent of the 48 continental states – an increase from 44.06 percent the previous week. 

Warm temperatures in the southwest are escalating and causing experts to become concerned about the spread of fire and drought conditions. Fierce Homeland Security reported that the Four Corners region of the nation, which includes Arizona, Utah, Colorado and New Mexico is becoming the epicenter of wildfires. 

"Little change is expected in this severity level across the state until we see what benefits the monsoon season may bring them later this month or early in July," center climatologist Mark Svoboda, told the news source.

The drought season is putting many states and federal departments under budget constraints. 

The Denver Post reported that the Black Forest fire outside of Colorado Springs had cost the state about $8.5 million as of mid-July. The fire burned through 14,280 acres of land and destroyed 509 homes in just a few days. 

"Inflows into the Lower Colorado River have trickled down to 10 cubic feet per second (from the Llano River) with Lake Travis and Lake Buchanan at 35 and 37 percent of capacity, respectively. Medina Lake, near San Antonio, is down to 5 percent capacity," said Drought Monitor meteorologist Matt Rosencrans.

In addition, about 90 percent of New Mexico is in the middle of an extreme drought and experts believe the conditions will damage crops and pastures and lead to shortages of water in reservoirs, streams and wells, reported Fierce Homeland Security.

The federal government is already struggling to handle the massive wildfires plaguing the nation. Even more than the cost in terms of money, the fires have already cost the lives of public safety workers and private citizens. In Arizona, 19 firefighters lost their lives on June 30 to a fast-moving wildfire taking over the central part of the state.

"This fire was very radical in its behavior, the fuels were very dry, the relative humidity was low, the wind was coming out of the south, it turned around on us because of monsoon action this afternoon," Incident Commander Mike Reichling told reporters, according to the news source. "That's what caused the deaths, the change in the radical behavior of the burning fuels."

The National Fire Protection Association has shown that the Arizona Yarnell Hill Fire was the deadliest American wildfire since 1933, when a Los Angeles park fire killed 29 people.

During such an extreme period of drought, fire services across the nation are already stretched thin. The nation has suffered tragic losses in life and the destruction of hundreds of homes and businesses due to the spread of wildfires this season. To keep public safety officers and firefighters safe, training will continue to be imperative in this climate. Wildfires are known for their quick movements that often can not be predicted, which requires split-second decision making from those in the field. Training for these situations better ensures that every one remains safe to fight another fire a different day. 

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2013-08-28T10:01:13+00:00 July 29th, 2013|Public Safety, Readiness, Training & Equipment|