Red Flag warnings issued across the West

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – In the West, more than a million acres have burned with wildfires fueled by the most severe drought in years and coming much earlier than usual.

La Pine, Oregon resident Dan Cram said, “We’ve had three or four fires here in the last month. It’s kinda getting scary.”

Two million people are under Red Flag warnings across five states: California, Idaho, Montana, Washington, and Oregon.

The Bootleg Fire is the first official “megafire” of 2021. It’s burned more than 220,000 acres, doubling in size for four straight days. It’s now nearly seven times the size of San Francisco.

Drought conditions impacting 94% of the West are making it all worse. Climate Scientist Kristen Averyt said, “It has never been this low. It really, truly is unprecedented.”

Lake Mead, only a third full, is lower than it’s been since the 1930s. It’s one of several depleted reservoirs across the southwest. Averyt said, “Climate change has a very strong fingerprint on exactly what we’re seeing right now, with Lake Mead.”

This weekend, authorities will close this boat ramp on the Nevada side of Lake Tahoe, citing low water levels and danger to boaters

Without enough water in lakes and reservoirs, vegetation dries out and becomes ready fuel. Chris Joseph with Keep Tahoe Blue explained, “It’s like a stocked fireplace, a tinder patch ready to go up.”

Symptoms of climate change are fueling the fires. This fire season is about six weeks ahead of schedule. Outbreaks behaving like they typically would in August or even September.

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