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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.

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 Wildfires

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

U.S. Drought Monitor

The color with the hex code #ffff00 identifies:
D0
The color with the hex code #ffcc99 identifies:
D1
The color with the hex code #ff6600 identifies:
D2
The color with the hex code #ff0000 identifies:
D3
The color with the hex code #660000 identifies:
D4

Forecast Risk of Fire Weather

The color with the hex code #ffb67b identifies:
Elevated
The color with the hex code #fe7677 identifies:
Critical
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

Air Quality: Level of Concern

The color with the hex code #01e400 identifies:
Good
The color with the hex code #ffff00 identifies:
Moderate
The color with the hex code #ff7e00 identifies:
Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups

The color with the hex code #ff0000 identifies:
Unhealthy
The color with the hex code #8f3f97 identifies:
Very Unhealthy
The color with the hex code #7e0023 identifies:
Hazardous

U.S. Drought Monitor

The color with the hex code #ffff00 identifies:
D0
The color with the hex code #ffcc99 identifies:
D1
The color with the hex code #ff6600 identifies:
D2
The color with the hex code #ff0000 identifies:
D3
The color with the hex code #660000 identifies:
D4
133
counties with active wildfires
4,887,466
acres burned by fire last month
$
1.8 Billion
spent on federal wildfire suppression in 2020
807,943
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.