So far, only one death has been reported from the wildfire. A man died of a heart attack from hauling water and digging a fire line to protect his house, the Associated Press reported.
Yesterday (July 23), President Barack Obama announced that Washington could access aid from the Federal Emergency Management Agency for areas affected by wildfires, according to a statement released by the Department of Homeland Security.
The Carlton Complex Fire is not the only blaze in the state, or even in the Pacific Northwest. A total of 22 fires are burning in Washington and Oregon, reports the Northwest Interagency Coordination Center, which monitors wildfires and manages efforts to stop them.
High and dry temperatures are partially responsible for the number of blazes. It's possible that extreme dry or wet years due to climate change are affecting the western United States, said Jason Funk, senior climate scientist at the Union of Concerned Scientists, a nonpartisan and nonprofit group headquartered in Cambridge, Massachusetts, that informs policymakers about scientific research.
"Those extremely dry years can contribute to conditions where forest fires take off," Funk told Live Science.
Since 1970, temperatures across the West Coast have increased by 1.9 degrees Fahrenheit (1 degree Celsius), Funk said. Higher temperatures are, in turn, partially linked to wildfire seasons that can last seven instead of five months. Fires that start later in the season usually encounter drier conditions, raising the likelihood that they will spread quickly and be more intense than blazes that occur earlier in the season, he added.
"Lots of scientific evidence points to the fact that wildfires have become bigger as climate gets warmer overall," Funk said.
In the meantime, lightning this week sparked three new fires that the crews put out, Gibbs said. "There's probably going to be more in the next few days that become discovered," he said. "Sometimes they smolder and it can take a while to detect them."
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