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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

Forecast Risk of Fire Weather
U.S. Drought Monitor

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.

Fire Research and Resources