Alyson Kenward, PhD, Todd Sanford, PhD, James Bronzan

Climate Central

Published date June 23, 2016

Western Wildfires: A Fiery Future

  • Analyzes 45 years of U.S. Forest Service records from the western U.S., showing that the number of large fires on Forest Service land is increasing dramatically
  • Finds the average annual number of large fires (larger than 1,000 acres) burning each year has more than tripled between the 1970s and the 2010s across the western US
  • Finds the area burned by larger-than-1,000 acre western wildfires has shown an even larger increase: in an average year, more than six times as many acres across the West were burned in the 2010s than in the 1970s
  • Finds the fire season is 105 days longer than it was in the 1970, and is approaching the point where the notion of a fire season will be made obsolete by the reality of year-round wildfires across the West
  • Finds that, in the Northern Rocky Mountain states of Wyoming, Idaho, and Montana, the average number of large fires burning each year on Forest Service land has increased at least 10-fold
  • Finds that, in the Pacific Northwest, there are now five times as many large fires burning in a typical year in Washington as there were in the 1970s; in Oregon there are nearly seven times as many