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Wildfire Management

Drought can be a contributing factor to wildfire. Dry, hot, and windy weather combined with dried out (and more flammable) vegetation can increase the probability of large-scale wildfires.

Wildfire Conditions

This map shows U.S. active wildfires alongside current drought conditions from the U.S. Drought Monitor. According to the National Wildfire Coordinating Group, active wildfires also include fires that have been 100% contained (i.e., a control line has been completed around the fire, stopping the fire's spread) but that have not been fully extinguished. Learn more.

The National Weather Service's Storm Prediction Center produces daily fire weather outlooks, which delineate areas of the continental U.S. where pre-existing fuel conditions, combined with forecast weather conditions, will result in a significant threat for the ignition and/or spread of wildfires. This map shows the 1-day fire weather outlook. Learn more.

Active Wildfires

The color with the hex code #6d3b95 identifies:
Active Fire

U.S. Drought Monitor

The color with the hex code #ffff00 identifies:
The color with the hex code #ffcc99 identifies:
The color with the hex code #ff6600 identifies:
The color with the hex code #ff0000 identifies:
The color with the hex code #660000 identifies:

Forecast Risk of Fire Weather

The color with the hex code #ffb67b identifies:
The color with the hex code #fe7677 identifies:
The color with the hex code #fe7afb identifies:
Extremely Critical
The color with the hex code #bd998a identifies:
Isolated Dry Thunderstorms
The color with the hex code #fe7677 identifies:
Scattered Dry Thunderstorms
counties with active wildfires
acres burned by fire last month
1.8 Billion
spent on federal wildfire suppression in 2020
people within 10 miles of an active wildfire
Key Issues

Drought and Wildfire Interactions

The relationship between drought and fire is complex. The timing, intensity, and frequency of drought events have divergent impacts on fuel flammability and fire behavior. Rapidly drying abundant fuels in forest understories and grasslands after a wet spring can feed larger fires. Prolonged drought can limit fire occurrence as the availability of fuels (e.g., grasses) is reduced due to lack of precipitation.

Reducing the Potential for Wildfires

Wildfire potential can be reduced in some forests in the West and South by thinning trees, prescribed burning, and letting fires that will not affect people burn. There are also actions that individual homeowners can take to create a defensible space, an area around a building/property in which vegetation, debris, and other types of combustible fuels have been treated, cleared, or reduced to slow the spread of fire to and from the building.

Cascading Impacts of Drought and Wildfire

Drought can impact drinking water supply, agriculture, and human health. When wildfire hits in drought-stricken areas, watersheds and reservoirs can be further impacted by ash and debris flows, water treatment facilities may shut down with damage or loss of power, crops can be destroyed, and smoke can affect animal and human health.

Drought in a Changing Climate

Drought, combined with warming temperatures, can result in decreased snowpack and streamflow, increased evaporative demand, dry soils, and large-scale tree deaths, which results in increased potential for large wildfires.

Related Content

Data & Maps | Fire

View information on current and predicted outlooks for fire risk, potential, and occurrence, as well as specific fire-related drought indices and impact reports.