Here in the Inland Northwest we have spent most of the month of August under what is known as a red flag alert for wild fires and forest fires. We have had many days with high temperatures over 90 degrees F and some days over 100 degrees F (roughly between 30 and 40 degrees C). We have had no appreciable rain since early July. Last night around 10:00, a fire broke out in a wooded area just north of Spokane, on the edge of the metro area. So far, it has burned about 40 acres and now is mostly under control. A few houses were threatened and had to be evacuated, but none has been destroyed. Mary stayed up until about 2:00 watching the live local news coverage. This was a fairly small fire, and notable only for its closeness to a developed area. The biggest fire in the region is the Tripod Complex fire in North Central Washington State. So far it has burned over 100,000 acres and is expected to continue to burn until the autumn rains arrive in October.
In my younger days, I spent three summers working for the U.S. Forest Service in Idaho. My time was spent with survey crews, although I did go out on one fire. That was rather anti-climactic, as the Forest Service crew I was with had nothing to do other than watch a bulldozer from a private logging company cut a line around the fire and contain it. It is not always so for fire crews. Norman MacLean's gripping book Young Men and Fire (1992) tells the story of one of the worst disasters in the history of the U.S. Forest Service. In August of 1949, 12 young fire fighters (out of a crew of 15) were killed in the Mann Gulch fire in Montana. The tragedy and the recriminations that followed make for very compelling reading.