2020 was a dangerous year for wildfires

Devastating wildfires continue to be a major problem on public and private lands throughout the U.S. Historical fires such as the Big Burn of 1910 and the Wisconsin and Michigan fires of 1871 reveal the catastrophic nature of fire. 

Even by historical standards, 2020 will register as a particularly damaging fire year with effects ranging from lost property to injuries and deaths. 

Acres burned in the West

CNBC reports that though fewer wildfires occurred in recent years more acres of forest burned due to larger and more intense fires. As is typical, 2020 saw most fires burn large areas in western states such as California, Oregon and Washington. Analysis of fire data confirms the greater intensity of fires in recent years. In addition to scarring many acres of land, the fires degraded air quality across large areas of the western U.S. 

Though not all information is in for 2020, the available data shows that fire impacted at least 3.3 million acres in California, a historic record. Fire scarred at least 586,000 acres in Oregon and 764,000 in Washington. Authorities lay much of the blame for the increased intensity of fires on drought and climate change. 

Fires in South Dakota

Fires are not particularly rare in South Dakota, but they seldom burn massive acreage. U.S. News & World Report provided information on a fire in Custer State Park that burned about 150 acres in June. The fire broke out near Mount Rushmore, and authorities brought in outside resources from several states to help contain the blaze. Agencies deployed at least eight aircraft and highly-trained firefighters in the multi-state, multi-agency effort.