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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 active large wildfires from the National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC), alongside current drought conditions from the U.S. Drought Monitor. View the latest NIFC situation report for more information. 

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.

AirNow reports air quality using the official U.S. Air Quality Index (AQI), a color-coded index designed to communicate whether air quality is healthy or unhealthy. This map displays the AQI at sensors across the U.S. alongside the current U.S. Drought Monitor. Air quality data are updated daily at 10 a.m. Eastern. Learn More.

Active Large Wildfires
Value Map Hex Color
Active Fire #6d3b95
U.S. Drought Monitor
Value Map Hex Color
D0 #ffff00
D1 #ffcc99
D2 #ff6600
D3 #ff0000
D4 #660000
Forecast Risk of Fire Weather
Value Map Hex Color
Elevated #ffb67b
Critical #fe7677
Extremely Critical #fe7afb
Isolated Dry Thunderstorms #bd998a
Scattered Dry Thunderstorms #501011
Air Quality: Level of Concern
Value Map Hex Color
Good #01e400
Moderate #ffff00
Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups #ff7e00
Value Map Hex Color
Unhealthy #ff0000
Very Unhealthy #8f3f97
Hazardous #7e0023
U.S. Drought Monitor
Value Map Hex Color
D0 #ffff00
D1 #ffcc99
D2 #ff6600
D3 #ff0000
D4 #660000
8
currently active large wildfires
8,500
area (in acres) affected by active large fires
73,708
people within 10 miles of an active large 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.