The Western United States and Canada typically see wildfires each year, especially between August and November. In 2020 “Above Normal significant fire potential is expected across much of the Great Basin, northern California, Pacific Northwest, and northern Rockies.” According to the National Interagency Fire Center’s (NIFC) National Interagency Coordination Center (NICC) – the body that coordinates wildfire resources across the U.S in their August 1 update.
And we’re already seeing that prediction come to be. There are several major fires burning across North America and as of the morning of August 19, there were 75 large uncontained fires identified by the NICC with the goal of full suppression and another 18 major wildfires being managed under another strategy such as controlled burn.
In California, as of Aug. 19, there have been at least 5,762 fire incidents so far in 2020. Compared with 5,800 incidents by the end of October in 2019. California Governor Gavin Newsome declared a state of emergency for the entire state of California on August 18th as a result of the significant fires and the critical fire weather conditions.
Immediate needs include shelter, evacuation support, family reconnection, food, health care (especially due to the excessive smoke and poor air quality during the COVID-19 pandemic) and case management. Due to COVID-19, additional resources will be required to evacuate safely into non-communal facilities.
Long-term support will be needed for the rebuilding of homes, income recovery, agricultural needs and additional preparedness support to vulnerable populations and mental health and psychosocial support. The combined threat of COVID-19 and wildfires are causing extraordinary anxiety and trauma in affected populations.