The Unites States Forest Services is bracing for another bad year of wildfires. Areas most at risk include Southern California, Arizona, New Mexico, the eastern Rockies and Florida. Persistent drought conditions and infestations of the tree-killing bark beetle have left the nation’s woodlands at high risk. The agency is also struggling with cuts to its fire-fighting budget.
Last year was the third most-active wildfire season since 1960, with more than 9.3 million acres of public and private land burned. The Forest Service spent $1.4 billion in fire-fighting cost and predicts the same activity this season.
Fires burn hotter and faster than they did a decade ago, attributed to warmer and drier weather. Last year was the warmest on record for the country. Warmer weather brings drier vegetation, which fuels the fires, causing them to spread much quicker. The warm weather extends wildfire seasons by 60-70 days a year.
Another threat is the infestation of bark beetles, which have invaded an estimated 46 million acres in the western part of the country, creating highly flammable stands of dead trees.
The American Red Cross has announced a new iPhone/Android app for wildfires. According to the app description, “Blaze Warnings let you see where NOAA has issued wildfire warnings, Blaze Alerts notifies you when a new wildfire occurs and the Blaze Path Tracker gives you a current view of the wildfire's track and perimeter. You can also let loved ones know that you are safe even if the power is out and learn what steps you should take to prepare your family, home and pets – all from the palm of your hand.” T receive a link to download the app, dial **REDCROSS (**73327677) from your mobile phone. The app can also be found at iTunes or Google Play app stores.
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