2015 becomes worst US wildfire year on record

October 14, 2015
Firefighter Joe Darr douses flames of the Rocky fire along Highway 20 near Clearlake, California, on August 2, 2015
Firefighter Joe Darr douses flames of the Rocky fire along Highway 20 near Clearlake, California, on August 2, 2015

Wildfires in the western United States have made 2015 the country's most devastating fire year since at least 1960, despite the relatively small number of individual fires.

More than 11 million (4.5 million hectares) have been burned in fires this year as of Friday, according to data from the National Interagency Fire Center.

That vast acreage—greater than the size of Denmark—is expected to rise over the remainder of the year, but it makes 2015 already the first year in at least five and a half decades to exceed 10 million acres burned, according to NIFC data.

That damage was done by 51,110 fires. By contrast, the last time US wildfires burned more than 9 million acres by October 8, in 2006, the number of fires totaled 84,578.

But NIFC data revealed a more worrying long-term trend: Since at least 1960 and up until the early 1980s, the US saw more than 100,000 individual wildfires each year, which, despite their numbers, never burned more than 5.5 million acres.

Between 2000 and 2014, however, the number of fires exceeded 90,000 only twice, but in nine of those years the total acreage burned exceeded 5.5 million.

That rise in more-damaging "mega-fires" has been widely attributed to fire management practices, a growing number of homes in or near major forests and, especially, a trend toward hotter, drier seasons.

Those effects may be most obvious this year, as fires have torn through drought-parched California and other western states.

The more than 11 million acres burned by just 51,110 so far this year means each fire burned on average 220 acres—more than twice the average acreage per through this point in the year over the past decade, according to an AFP analysis of NIFC data.

Explore further: Image: Unusually large number of fires across Alaska

Related Stories

Image: Unusually large number of fires across Alaska

June 30, 2015

The fire situation in Alaska is very dynamic at this time. As of June 29, 2015, there are 314 active fires in the State. Many fires in remote areas are unstaffed. The fire summary for Alaska is as follows: 2 new fires with ...

Image: Northwestern fires by night

August 24, 2015

In summer 2015, wildfires raged across the western United States and Alaska. Many of those fires burned in the U.S. Northwest, visible in this image from late August, 2015.

The Alaska fire season - before and after

September 4, 2015

The 2015 Alaska fire season has been particularly brutal this year.  The fire season reached another milestone on Aug. 7 by surpassing the 5-million- mark in the number of acres burned so far this season. According to the ...

The Alaska fire season—before and after

September 3, 2015

The 2015 Alaska fire season has been particularly brutal this year. The fire season reached another milestone on Aug. 7 by surpassing the 5-million- mark in the number of acres burned so far this season.

Image: Canadian wildfires continue and increase

June 1, 2015

Hot spots abound in this image taken by NASA's Aqua satellite on May 30. When accompanied by smoke, as they are in this image, these hot spots are indicative of fire. Wildfire season in Canada is starting somewhat early this ...

Terra captures Alaskan wildfires

August 10, 2015

The 2015 Alaska fire season reached another milestone Friday by surpassing the 5-million-mark in the number of acres burned so far this season. According to the Alaska Interagency Coordination Center's daily situation report ...

Recommended for you

Scientists examine bacterium found 1,000 feet underground

December 8, 2016

Pioneering work being carried out in a cave in New Mexico by researchers at McMaster University and The University of Akron, Ohio, is changing the understanding of how antibiotic resistance may have emerged and how doctors ...

New studies take a second look at coral bleaching culprit

December 7, 2016

Scientists have called superoxide out as the main culprit behind coral bleaching: The idea is that as this toxin build up inside coral cells, the corals fight back by ejecting the tiny energy- and color-producing algae living ...

Cosmic dust found in city rooftop gutters

December 7, 2016

(Phys.org)—A small team of researchers with Imperial College London, the Natural History Museum in London, Project Stardust in Norway and Université Libre de Bruxelles in Belgium, has found samples of cosmic dust in the ...

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

geokstr
1 / 5 (1) Oct 19, 2015
Must be, has to be, no other, no way, none whatsoever reason for this than...wait for it...anthropic global warming.

In fact, the scientific consensus is so solid that Gov Moonbeam (D-CA), to great applause and fanfare from an adoring media, just declared the connection 100% proven beyond a shadow of a doubt (right after he quietly signed a bill to automatically register illegals to vote when they applied for a driver's license.)

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.