Tinder-dry vegetation, and wind, are fueling extraordinary wildfires across the Southwest, auguring danger in a region suffering its worst drought in 1,200 years. Climate change, mainly caused by the extraction and combustion of fossil fuels, makes droughts more frequent and worse, setting the stage for supercharged wildfires. Over 2,000 square miles have burned across the country this year – the most at this point since 2018.

“We all know it’s really early for our fire season and we’re all in awe of what we’ve already experienced … to this point,” Dave Bales, commander on the northern New Mexico fire, currently the largest in the U.S., ripping through dry, overgrown mountain sides in the Sangre de Christo range. In the wealthy community of Laguna Niguel, California, the Coastal Fire burned 20 large homes. (Both: AP, The Guardian, Democracy Now; New Mexico: (Reuters, Axios, Washington Post $; California: ABC, CNN, Reuters, Axios, CNN; Climate Signals background: Western U.S. megadrought, Wildfires)