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Fire

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.

Drought and Wildfire

A forest fire burning

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.

Data, Maps, and Tools

Temperature, soil moisture, humidity, wind speed, and fuel availability (vegetation) are all factors that interact to influence the frequency of large wildfires. Drought is one of many factors that can affect the intensity and severity of a fire.

Current Fire 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 #76349a 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 #bd9989 identifies:
Isolated Dry Thunderstorms
The color with the hex code #fe7576 identifies:
Scattered (Critical) Dry Thunderstorms

Impacts and Related Content

Exacerbation of Wildfire Conditions

Drought impacts can result in an increased volume and availability of live and dead fuels, increasing the probability of large-scale wildfires.

Drought in a Changing Climate

Drought, along with warming temperatures, can result in decreased snowpack and streamflow and increased evaporative demand, leading to increased wildfire potential.

By Sector | Wildfire Management

The negative impacts of wildfire can be reduced in some regions by thinning, using prescribed burns, and letting some fires burn if they will not affect people. Learn more about drought impacts on the wildfire management sector.