Climate change affects wildfires?

Climate change affects wildfires? »Play Video
TRI-CITIES, Wash. -- Weather experts are blaming climate change for the massive fires raging in California.

A national weather assessment put out by the federal government last year says wildfires are a growing concern.

Climate scientists are now saying wildfires might be the effect of climate change. The worst wildfire seasons on record across the country have occurred in the last five years. More than 6 million acres burned annually.

Here locally, we've had some warming of our own. Local weather experts say our region has followed the national trend. And while we've had a wetter than usual spring, overall precipitation is down.

"Your atmosphere is drier, it's a little more unstable, so the people need to pay attention to that, because it's not going to be what is considered the norm fire season," says Benton County Fire District #1 Chief Lonnie Click.

Chief Click says we've been in a neutral weather phase for a little more than a year. As we enter a transitional phase, the heat will continue.

And with that warming trend coming across our area over the last couple years, high heat and and high winds can push our area into drought, which firefighters say is dangerous.

"When you're in significant drought, the fuel is dry," said Chief Click. "If the fuel doesn't have moisture in it, then the fire's a lot more intense. It's going to burn a little bit different than they have seen it burn in the past."

Ultimately, Chief Click says, while they're expecting the weather trends to continue the way they've been, it doesn't shake their resolve.

"My biggest priority is making sure my folks are OK on the ground when they're out there fighting that fire," he said.

There have already been a handful of wildfires so far this spring.