U.S. Sees Furious Start to Wildfire Season

Wildfires have charred a whopping 2 million acres across the U.S. so far this year, an area larger than the state of Delaware.

It’s a gigantic number for so early in the season, roughly 10 times the average and also the most acres burned as of mid-March since 2006, according to spokeswoman Jessica Gardetto of the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, Idaho.

Many of the blazes have been massive grass fires in Oklahoma and Kansas, which have both set records for number of acres burned in March, Gardetto said.

An Oklahoma truck driver died two weeks ago in Clark County, Kan., due to smoke inhalation from a fire, the Kansas state fire marshal’s office reported. There have also been at least seven fire-related injuries, two of whom were first responders.

In Kansas, most fires are started by “controlled” or planned fires that either rekindled or spread out of control, according to Kevin Doel, a spokesman with the Kansas State Fire Marshal’s office. (However, the causes of this year’s blazes have yet to be determined.)

So far this year, approximately 650,000 acres have burned, Doel said, though that number may change as the fire data are further analyzed.

In parched Oklahoma, drought conditions now encompass three-quarters of the state, the U.S. Drought Monitor said. Oklahoma City has received a paltry 0.01 of an inch of rain so far this month, the National Weather Service said, which is less than 1% of the city’s typical March precipitation.

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SOURCE: USA Today, Doyle Rice