The National Fire Preparedness Level has been raised to its highest point — 5. On Thursday morning, Aug. 13, the National Multi-Agency Coordinating Group, which consists of top federal and state fire managers, raised the preparedness level to 5 (PL-5).
They were concerned about the high degree of wildfire activity nationwide and the probability that severe conditions will continue for at least a few days. There has been a major commitment of fire resources.
“A significant amount of initial and extended attack and large-fire activity has occurred over the past several days as a result of lightning storms that have intensified local and geographic response,” said Aitor Bidaburu, chair of NMAC. “Given the continuing hot and dry weather and the increase in fire activity in the western U.S., the decision to move to Preparedness Level 5 depicts the complexity that fire managers are encountering to assure that adequate firefighting resources are available for protection of life, property and our nation’s natural resources.”
Wildfire activity escalated last week after thunderstorms, many with little or no moisture, moved across parts of California, Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Montana, sparking hundreds of new fires.
Through Monday, Aug. 17, 40,509 wildfires have burned nearly 7 million acres in the U.S. this year. The number of wildfires in 2015 represents about 82 percent of the 10-year average, and nearly 3,750 more fires than during the same period in 2014. The number of acres burned this year represents about a 45-percent increase over the 10-year average at this point in the year and more than 2.5 times the acreage burned during the same period last year.
The last time the NPL was raised to 5 was on Aug. 20, 2013. The NPL remained at 5 for seven days until it was dropped to 4 on Aug. 26, 2013. This is the fifth time that PL-5 has been reached in the last 10 years.
During PL-5, further assistance from the military, beyond what is already in use, and international resources may be considered and requested, but no decisions have been made concerning those steps.