An Inside Look at the U.S. Fire Command Center in Idaho

The map on the large video screen at the far end of the room provides a real-time snapshot of the forest fires raging across the western U.S., reports The Los Angeles Times.

On this morning, the picture isn’t pretty. It’s ominous in a hold-on-to-your-seat way that casts a pall over two dozen fire analysts, meteorologists and forest experts. They see a growing scourge of fierce yellow and red dots, each representing a new fire, and they furrow their brows.

Alaska is burning.

The incident report for this day, Monday, June 22, at the National Interagency Coordination Center — the nerve center for the white-knuckle job of fire-control nationwide — shows the state at Planning Level 5, the highest possible.

Sixty-four new infernos have been sparked since the day before. In all, 12 large fires burn out of control, with 2,000 firefighters already on the ground.

In drought-baked California, 49 new blazes erupted in the previous 24 hours. The Lake Fire in San Bernardino has roared for days, and on this Monday is still only 21% contained. Two conflagrations further north — the Corrine fire near Merced and the Sky fire near Yosemite — have closed roads and threatened structures.

The fire watchers here at this wooded high-security complex hail from a phalanx of federal agencies — Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, National Weather Service, National Park Service, Fish and Wildlife Service and Bureau of Indian Affairs.

Previously, they met once a month to pool resources, manpower and ideas. Now they huddle daily. Soon they will meet twice a day.

Summer fire season is here, and this one promises to be a doozy, infusing the command center with the gravitas of the White House Situation Room.

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