West outlook grim for wildfires; ‘exceptional drought’ grips Nevada

Local News

LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — A map produced by the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration shows about half of Nevada — and all of Southern Nevada — under “exceptional drought” conditions.

The West could see devastating wildfires under current conditions.

Scientists say the outlook for the western U.S. fire season is grim because it’s starting far drier than 2020’s record-breaking fire year.

Measurements show soil and plants are much drier, making trees and brush more likely to ignite and fire to spread.

Juniper trees are dying, and fire officials say their canopies of dead needles are like having gasoline out in the national forests.

This photo provided by the USDA Forest Service shows the different stages of dying juniper trees at the Prescott National Forest in Arizona on April 8, 2021. The juniper trees are dying from drought and that increases fire risk. (Benjamin Roe/USDA Forest Service via AP)

A megadrought fueled by climate change is part of the problem. From the Rockies westward, April was the second driest on record. Now more than 77% of Utah, Arizona and New Mexico is in either extreme or exceptional drought.

Currently, all of Clark and Lincoln counties are under exceptional drought conditions. Almost all of Nye and Esmeralda counties are also under exceptional drought, and more than half of White Pine County is affected.

The water level in Lake Tahoe is 2.5 feet lower than this time last year.

FILE – In this Sept. 9, 2020, file photo, flames lick above vehicles on Highway 162 as the Bear Fire burns in Oroville, Calif. Scientists say the outlook for the western U.S. fire season is grim because it’s starting far drier than 2020’s record-breaking fire year.(AP Photo/Noah Berger, File)

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