Welcome to West-centric!

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View in mid-August from the Heart Lake Trail near Mammoth Lakes of the Rim Fire burning at Yosemite National Park, about 50 miles distant.

Hi there. Let’s start this blog off with one of the West’s defining characteristics: wildfire.

What a summer for us Westerners. Following one of the lowest snowpacks in recent memory, ultra-dry conditions helped fuel some monstrous fires, including the humongous Rim Fire still burning in the Sierra in and near Yosemite National Park. Only winter rains and/or snow will stop this sucker.

P1040221Inciweb, the interagency fire info site, revised its estimated date of containment of the Rim Fire to Oct. 1. That’s when firefighters are expected to completely surround the blaze, not when it’ll be extinguished.

In addition to burning more than a quarter-million acres and destroying dozens of homes, the Rim Fire has produced some nasty smoky conditions for recreationists. At left is what it looked like at sunset from Wrights Lake campground, near Lake Tahoe, several days after the fire started in mid-August. Eerie and not so good for those trying to, um, breathe.

The fast-burning fire was one of the biggest in California history and behaved like nothing seen before, according to some experts. Big fires in overgrown forests like this are unfortunately becoming more frequent as the climate warms. It’ll be interesting to see how the habitat recovers. Some think that SoCal-like, combustible chaparral will fill in what burned in this part of the Western Sierra, setting up flammable conditions once again. A vicious circle indeed.

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