wildfires

Shane Murphy

Wildfire research has become increasingly important in recent years as climate change has caused fires to become more common and more intense. But wildfire smoke could be having a bigger effect on the climate than previously thought. Wyoming Public Radio's Ivy Engel spoke to Shane Murphy, a University of Wyoming researcher who studied the smoke from inside the plumes.

Credit: Greg Sanders / Inciweb

Whether you get the help you need after a wildfire may depend on how wealthy or White your neighborhood is, a new paper suggests.

Shane Murphy

As wildfires become more common and intense, it's becoming critical to understand how they affect the climate. And according to newly accepted data from University of Wyoming (UW) researchers, climate models that have been used for years likely had some key things wrong with them.

Greg Sanders

Scientists have found that wildfires in hot and dry conditions are becoming more frequent.

Governors across the West are asking for federal support to ensure that wildfire restoration becomes a priority, just like wildfire suppression and mitigation efforts.

US Forest Service

The Burned Area Emergency Response (BAER) team assembled by the Medicine Bow-Routt National Forests and Thunder Basin National Grassland has completed its assessment for the Mullen Fire area. 

U.S. Department of Agriculture

Researchers at the University of Wyoming are developing and testing a computer model that predicts wildfire growth.

Joseph C. Stone, Albuquerque Fire Department

A University of Wyoming study finds that exposing wildland firefighters to heat may help them avoid heat-related illnesses.

Drought, wildfire and record-breaking heat are all part of the current climate landscape in the Mountain West. 

It’s a triple whammy that’s expected to continue into the coming months. 

In June of 2002, nearly half a million acres burned in the Arizona high country. At the time, the Rodeo-Chediski Fire was the largest wildfire in the state’s history. There was too much fuel in the forest, a buildup that began more than a century ago. Enough people saw the record-breaking fire and agreed that something needed to be done to prevent the next big fire.

On the side of a rocky hill in Sheridan County in northern Wyoming, Brain Mealor is showing off all of his weeds.

“Here, let me grab a cheatgrass so you can see it, too,” he said, plucking a wispy sprig from among the grasses. “They all kind of look the same this time of year.”

Mealor is the director of the University of Wyoming’s Research and Extension Center in Sheridan. He’s performing experiments on how to manage and kill invasive annual grasses, like cheatgrass, ventenata and medusa head, with herbicides.

For many communities in the West, the water that flows out of kitchen faucets and bathroom showerheads starts high up in the mountains, as snowpack tucked under canopies of spruce and pine trees.

This summer’s record-breaking wildfires have reduced some of those headwater forests to burnt trees and heaps of ash. In high alpine ecosystems, climate change has tipped the scales toward drier forests, lessened snowpack, hotter summers and extended fire seasons.

Major wildfires have burned through the Western U.S. in 2020, breaking records for their scale and damage. As firefighters tamp down their immediate effects, those who live nearby are coming to grips with the lingering danger of wildfires. Even long after the flames are gone, residents face a serious increase in the threat of flooding.

National Park Service hydrologist Erin White likes to call Yellowstone “America’s first water park.”

It’s home to the headwaters of multiple major rivers and hundreds of waterfalls. Thousands of geysers, mudpots, and hot springs—heated by an underground supervolcano—gush, bubble, and boil in the national park’s 2.2 million acres, too.

Chip Redmond

Every four years there's a near universal complaint that western issues get passed over in presidential elections. Not this year, which is mostly because large swaths of the West have been burning.

Firefighters have long studied how fires behave to figure out where they’re going and how to keep people safe. But wildfires are becoming more unpredictable.


Anna Rader

Firefighters battling the Mullen Fire in the Medicine Bow National Forest continued to struggle with dry, gusty winds.

A bipartisan group of Western lawmakers have signed onto a new federal bill that aims to reduce the damages of wildfire.


Chip Redmond

The Mullen Fire continues to be very active with increasing smoke in southern Wyoming and northern Colorado. 

U.S Forest Service

As the Mullen Fire continues to burn throughout southern Wyoming, the rest of the state is still in the midst of fire season.

"We've had an incredibly active fire season," Wyoming State Forester Bill Crapser said.

Justin Hawkins

The Mullen Fire in Medicine Bow National Forest doubled in size Saturday, reaching nearly 70,000 acres - and has since surpassed 80,000 acres.

A new study suggests smoke from wildfires is more dangerous than other air pollutants for asthma patients. 

Liz Rader Haigler

The Mullen Fire in Medicine Bow National Forest doubled in size Saturday, reaching nearly 70,000 acres.

Communities near the Colorado border in Albany County have been evacuated as the more than 400 firefighters on-site prioritize protecting homes and structures.

Large numbers of migratory birds have reportedly dropped dead in New Mexico and Colorado.

There’s still confusion over the deaths, like how many died and what exactly killed them. However, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service believes the bird deaths in Colorado and New Mexico were caused by an unusual cold front.


USFS, Jerod Delay

The Mullen Fire continues to burn in Medicine Bow National Forest as upcoming windy conditions threaten to make the situation worse.

Jessica Ulysses Grant

In 1988, Yellowstone National Park and surrounding areas experienced a huge wildfire. And only a couple of decades later, some of those areas burned again. 

Nathan Gill, an assistant professor of fire ecology at Texas Tech University, has been studying how this affects trees' seeds dispersal. It turns out more frequent fires don't allow enough time for the tree to grow back and spread its seeds. 

The Mountain West has seen plenty of wildfires this year, but nothing like the catastrophic large fires still burning along the West Coast. That's largely thanks to a relatively wet spring.

For days now, wildfire smoke has degraded the air quality in much of the Mountain West, and that unhealthy air is forcing tough decisions for schools that are trying to reopen.

 


TERRA earth

Skies are hazy across the region thanks to the many wildfires burning in the West, and that smoke is more dangerous during the pandemic. 

Brocken Inaglory / (CC BY-SA 3.0)

As August comes to an end, conditions are ripe for potential fires.

Many counties and federal agencies have issued fire restrictions throughout the state due to the prime fire conditions: hot, dry and windy.

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