The fire season has only just begun, but hundreds of thousands of hectares are already going up in smoke: the western United States and Canada face a heat wave and persistent drought, pushing wildfires to multiply and the authorities to ration the consumption of water and electricity.
California, Oregon, Arizona, Idaho… none of these states in the western United States is spared from the fires which are currently devastating some 350,000 hectares of vegetation, according to the authorities’ latest report, Monday, July 12.
While 2020 was the worst year in modern California fire history, 2021 may already be breaking that record. The fires have now consumed twice as much vegetation as at the same time last year, according to state fire management officials.
Multiplication of braziers
In the north, multiple fires fueled by the heat and increasing winds devour the vegetation at full speed. The « Beckwourth complex », an assembly of several fires caused by lightning, has already devastated more than 36,000 hectares, destroying several homes in its path.
Faced with the flames of the River Fire, evacuation orders were also issued just south of the very famous Yosemite National Park, a climber’s paradise.
The proliferation of these blazes unfortunately pushes those who fight them to take more and more risks. Two Arizona firefighters were killed over the weekend in their plane crash during a fire watch mission.
In neighboring Canada, the picture is just as bleak. More than 157,000 hectares are currently burning in British Columbia, a province in the grip of another heatwave. However, the authorities predict that this will be “Less aggressive” than the heat wave of less than three weeks ago, when a village near Vancouver recorded a national record of 49.6 ° C. Temperatures so extreme they seemed unreal.
This episode in June would have been ” almost impossible “ without the global warming caused by humans, experts concluded, estimating that climate change had made this event at least 150 times more likely to occur.
Short shower and air conditioning off
Faced with the multiplication of these climatic disturbances, the inhabitants of the whole of California were invited Monday to unplug their unnecessary devices, cut their air conditioning and their oven from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. local, in order to voluntarily ration their consumption of electricity. electricity.
California, the fifth largest economy in the world but with aging electricity infrastructure, wants to avoid plunging millions of people back into the dark, as was the case in previous years. Last week, the governor had already urged the population to reduce their water consumption by 15%, for example by reducing the irrigation of lawns and taking shorter showers.
But the summer is likely to be long. The American West is indeed caught in a devastating vicious circle: arid soils and parched vegetation in turn create the conditions for an increase in temperatures. Higher mercury, repeated heat waves and reduced precipitation in places are also an ideal combination for the development of fires.
After peaks of up to 52 ° C-54 ° C during the weekend in the Valley of Death, temperatures were just starting to drop. But for how long ?
“Fortunately, the hotplates will start to cool down from today”Los Angeles Weather Services tweeted. “Enjoy it while it lasts, because it’s going to get hotter from this weekend. “