USA– The potential for wildfires in the West is a big concern as we head through the rest of spring and into the start of summer. This is particularly the case this year, given the widespread drought conditions and because typically this is when the dry season ramps up.
The West no stranger to wildfires. According to this map from the United States Geological Survey (USGS), the number of large wildfires classified as 300 acres or bigger have been the most common there from 1994 to 2013.
Every state in the West, except Wyoming, has at least one county that is in the category with the highest wildfire frequency (101-1,308 fires). When looking at the second highest wildfire frequency category (21-100 fires), you can see that the western states stand out with a large number of counties included.
However, we should note that many of the counties in the West are much larger than counties in the states east of the Rockies. This gives some western state counties the ability to have higher wildfire counts given their larger geographical coverage.
East of the Rockies, parts of the Plains and South saw the highest frequency of wildfires during the 1994-2013 period. South Dakota, Oklahoma, Texas, Louisiana and Florida all had at least one county in the highest frequency category (101-1,308 fires).
Outside the Lower 48 states, central Alaska had the counties with the highest wildfire frequency. Wildfire Forecast This Spring and Summer
The National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC) has produced the following maps to show areas that are forecast to see above- or below-average fire activity the next few months.
Here’s a general summary of that forecast:
May: Parts of California, Arizona and southern Alaska are at risk for above-average wildland fire activity. Acording to the NIFC, this means these areas have a higher than usual likelihood that wildland fires will occur and/or become significant.
In the Midwest and northern Plains where the fire danger has been high in April due to drought conditions, warm temperatures and gusty winds, the risk of significant wildfire acvity is expected to trend downward to near-normal levels.
June/July: The area at risk for heightened wildfire activity is expected to spread in the West, including parts of New Mexico, Arizona, California, Oregon, Washington, Idaho and western Montana. This is no surprise since this is the heart of the dry season and many parts of these states are in drought