Here Are the 6 Major Regions Literally on Fire Right Now

Here Are the 6 Major Regions Literally on Fire Right Now

A shocking amount of wildfires are burning around the northern hemisphere as the summer from hell rages on.

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Pine trees burn on a hillside at the Dixie Fire, in Twain, California on July 26, 2021.
Pine trees burn on a hillside at the Dixie Fire, in Twain, California on July 26, 2021.
Photo: Robyn Beck/AFP (Getty Images)

Geologists have debated whether to call this era the anthropocene, a geological period where humans are the dominant force reshaping the planet rather than natural processes.

It’s a fair discussion, but I think we might be better off calling it the pyrocene. Flames are beginning to define life on Earth. The summer of 2021, in particular, has been a seemingly endless string of news about various places on fire to the point where it’s almost easier to keep track of places that aren’t on fire than those that are.

Humans have a role to play in those fires, of course. Climate change has increased the odds of large, destructive fires by heating things up, which is drying out trees and grasses. In some locations, notably the western part of North America, a century of fire suppression has also left forests overburdened with fuel. Even as these risks have crept up, people have increasingly moved to the forests. There’s even a world for the place where millions now call home: the wildland-urban interface. Infrastructure like power lines has further upped the risk of igniting fires that then explode in hot, dry conditions and overstuffed forests.

These factors have combined to bring the pyrocene into existence. And as this summer shows, nary a forest is safe from igniting. Here are some of the notable fires and regions burning right now.

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Western North America

Western North America

A home burning in Indian Falls, an area hit by the Dixie Fire.
A home burning in Indian Falls, an area hit by the Dixie Fire.
Photo: Josh Edelson/AFP (Getty Images)

The West is no stranger to fire, but this year is off to a raging start. Major fires are burning in 12, including two in Oregon and California that have created their own weather systems at various points, including a firenado. The situation is already so dire and resources already so battered by previous seasons that the Forest Service chief declared it a “national wildfire crisis,” and we’re still months away from the fall fire season in California when Diablo and Santa Ana winds can fan flames of even greater intensity.

British Columbia has also see monster fires burn largely uncontrolled. The province along with Alberta saw 710,000 bolts of lightning in a single day, many of which reached the ground and ignited fires in remote, hard-to-reach locations. Humans have also caused fires, including one that burned down the entire town of Lytton, British Columbia, just a day after it set the record for Canada’s hottest temperature.

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Northwest Ontario

Northwest Ontario

The Kenora Fire in northwest Ontario.
The Kenora 51 Fire in northwest Ontario.
Photo: Ontario Fire Service

Western Canada isn’t the only place burning. Northwest Ontario and parts of Manitoba have been engulfed by flames in what is an abnormally fierce wildfire season for the region. More than 157 fires are burning in the region, and have led to the evacuation of First Nations and others in their path. That includes the Kenora 51 Fire, which, at 386,458 acres, is nearly the size of the Bootleg Fire in Oregon, the largest in the U.S.

All told, Ontario has seen nearly four-and-a-half times more acres burned this year than the 10-year average while Manitoba has seen five-and-half-times the average area burned, according to data kept by Natural Resources Canada.

The unusually intense fires have, like their western counterparts, have also created their own weather. Satellite images released by NASA show fires across Manitoba sending pyrocumulonimbus clouds climbing into the sky, a sign that the fires are burning intensely.

Indeed, thick smoke from the fires has covered the region in a toxic haze. Combined with smoke from the western fires, poor air quality has spread as far east as Maine and led to ominous sunsets across the Maritime Provinces and East Coast.

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Siberia

Siberia

Multiple fires and thick smoke plumes in the Sakha Republic, Russia.
Multiple fires and thick smoke plumes in the Sakha Republic, Russia.
Image: Pierre Markuse/Flickr

A year after Siberian forest fires released a record amount of carbon dioxide, the region is once again trending in the wrong direction. Hot, dry weather has led to a rash of fires in July that are once again well outside the long-term average. Carbon dioxide emissions from the fires are already double the 2003 to 2020 average and are now higher than they were at this same time last year. Whether the fires keep up their torrid pace remains to be seen.

A study found that last year’s extreme heat that drove the fires was 600 times more likely due to climate change. An analysis for this year’s abnormally hot weather hasn’t been done yet, but it’s become increasingly clear we can now safely assume climate change plays a role in every heat wave by either making it hotter or more likely.

While these are the most remote fires of the lot, they’re also the largest. Satellite images show a deep, thick layer of smoke and massive burn scars covering an area the size of Connecticut. And that’s just one of the numerous areas ablaze.

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Sardinia and the Western Mediterranean

Sardinia and the Western Mediterranean

This picture shows a small brewery destroyed by the fire near the town of Cuglieri on the Italian island of Sardinia on July 26, 2021.
This picture shows a small brewery destroyed by the fire near the town of Cuglieri on the Italian island of Sardinia on July 26, 2021.
Photo: Valentina Sinis/AFP (Getty Images)

The Italian island of Sardinia was raked by what local officials said were “unprecedented” wildfires over the weekend. Centuries-old olive groves burned and the normally tourist-friendly island suffered what are likely hundreds of millions in damages.

Other parts of the western Mediterranean ignited earlier this month. Spain’s Costa Brava saw major fires that led to hundreds of evacuations as well, and the flames were only brought under control this weekend.

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Turkey and Eastern Mediterranean

Turkey and Eastern Mediterranean

Dark smoke drifts over a hotel complex during a massive forest fire which engulfed a Mediterranean resort region on Turkey's southern coast near the town of Manavgat, on July 29, 2021.
Dark smoke drifts over a hotel complex during a massive forest fire, which engulfed a Mediterranean resort region on Turkey’s southern coast near the town of Manavgat, on July 29, 2021.
Photo: Ilyas Akengin/AFP (Getty Images)

The Mediterranean is a ring of fire, with Turkey and Greece also burning. Fires in Turkey began on Wednesday amid gust, hot, and dry conditions along the coast. Absolutely terrifying images and videos emerged of tourists on the beach as wildfires roared in the hills behind oceanfront hotels and villas. According to the AP, 50 towns and villages were evacuated as fires marauded across the countryside. There are at least four dead and 50 injured as more than 4,000 firefighters work to contain the fires.

“We were hoping to contain some of the fires as of this morning but while we say cautiously that they are improving, we still cannot say they are under control,” said Turkey Agriculture and Forestry Minister Bekir Pakdemirli.

Wildfires also burned in Greece over the weekend, including an “out of control” one on the outskirts of Athens. Fires also plagued Greece earlier in July as well.

Lebanon is also facing a series of destructive fires as well. Videos show raging fires licking up hillsides. At least one is dead, a 15-year-old boy who was helping firefighters battle the blazes, and the fires appear to be spreading to Syria as well. Lebanon is asking for help from neighboring Cyprus, which itself just put out the most destructive wildfire the country has seen in decades that left four dead less than a month ago.

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Finland

Finland

An aerial view shows smoke rising from the forest as firefighters and trucks work to extinguish a wildfire in Kalajoki, Northern Ostrobothnia region.
An aerial view shows smoke rising from the forest as firefighters and trucks work to extinguish a wildfire in Kalajoki, Northern Ostrobothnia region.
Photo: Aki Paavola /Lehtikuva/AFP (Getty Images)

Just when you thought things couldn’t get worse, you find out about a new region aflame. Finland is battling its worst forest fire in five decades, according to AFP. While not as extensive as other fires on our list, the 710-acre blaze is nevertheless ominous because fires are so rare in Finland and other Nordic countries.

However, they’ve happened with increasingly worrisome regularity. In 2018, a 20,000-acre fire burned through Sweden. Ice-covered Greenland has caught fire in recent years. Twice, in fact. These blazes and now the one in Finland are worrisome signs that the planet’s least fire-prone areas are losing their ability to keep flames at bay.

“If climate change warms our summers like that, I’m sure it will happen more often,” Jarmo Haapanen, the person in charge of firefighting operations that extinguished the Finnish blaze, told AFP.

Update 7/30/21, 9:25 a.m.: This post has been updated with new information from fires in Lebanon as well as Manitoba.

Update 7/31/21, 2:40 p.m.: We added Finland, too. Because that’s the way things are going.

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