The firefighters are primed, hoses at the ready. May and June are often the peak months for forest fires in the southwest of the US, and the outlook for this year is grim.
“I wish I could have some hope,” says Dr Wally Covington, director of the Ecological Restoration Institute at North Arizona University. “It’s just a terrible situation in southern California.”
Covington, an internationally recognised expert on forest restoration, says a prolonged drought, higher temperatures and stronger than usual winds mean big wildfires are inevitable across the southwestern US.
The main season for wildfires in the region has in the past been from mid-May through till late September, but now forest fires burn virtually year round.
“Climate change and misguided forestry policies have combined to present a landscape very vulnerable to devastating fires,” Covington told the Climate News Network.
“Since around 2000, we’ve seen more severe dry weather, matched with high winds throughout the western US. Intense firestorms are the result. Get in the vicinity of one of those and it’s like being near a blast furnace.”
Covington and other experts say it is vital that people and government policy adapt to the changes in climate.