The Free Press, Mankato, MN

State, national news

July 5, 2013

Experts: Expect bigger, fiercer wildfires in West

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LOS ANGELES (AP) — Scientists say the deadly Arizona wildfire and other blazes raging across the West are becoming more common as the planet warms.

While no single wildfire can be blamed solely on climate change, researchers say hotter temperatures, prolonged drought and heavy undergrowth will increase the risk of more frequent and explosive fires.

More than two dozen wildfires are burning in the West, fueled by triple-digit temperatures and dry conditions. In the Arizona mountain town of Yarnell, 19 members of an elite firefighting squad were killed Sunday by a wind-driven blaze that forced them to deploy their emergency shelters.

The U.S. Forest Service says wildfires are chewing through twice as many acres per year on average compared with 40 years ago. The fires season is getting longer too, lasting two extra months.

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