Wildfires are a natural part of the ecosystem in the American West, but changing weather patterns linked to climate change are fanning their flames. Extended periods of hot and dry conditions set the stage by desiccating the landscape. The parched plants then become tinder for any type of spark. The fire season in the region traditionally ranged from late summer into early fall. It now lasts an average of 80 days longer than it did in the 1970s.