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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

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.

Active Large Wildfires
Value Map Hex Color
Active Fire #76349a
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

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