Wildfires - Annual 2003


Wildfire Statistics (From NIFC)

As of November 28 Nationwide Number of Fires Nationwide Number of Acres Burned
2003 59,149 3,825,786
2002 74, 629 7,124,849
2001 81,681 3,555,138
8-year Average (1995-2003) 80,125 4,324,086

The Western wildfire season began slowly in 2003 due to some late winter precipitation at the lower elevations, however a persistent ridge of high pressure dominated the western weather pattern for much of the season leading to hotter and drier than average conditions in much of the West. Many states and cities had their hottest summers on record in parts of the West. Fire activity escalated in May in the Southwest continuing well into July. One of the largest fires in the Southwest in 2003 was the Aspen fire near Tucson, Arizona, which burned around 85,000 acres in June and July, according to the National Interagency Fire Center.

In late July, fire activity increased in the Northern Rockies with large areas in western Montana and southern Idaho threatened, including areas of Glacier National Park. The fires in the northern Rockies were not completely contained until mid September with fire suppression personnel being drafted from many areas of the country. More than 20,000 firefighters and support personnel were assigned at the peak of activity. Over 700,000 acres were burned and 96 structures destroyed in the Northern Rockies in the 2003 wildfire season.

Santa Ana wind-driven fire activity developed in California in October. Over 750,000 acres were destroyed in 15 large fires in southern California. Over 3,500 homes were also burned and over 1,100 other buildings comsumed in the California fires.

According to the National Interagency Fire Center, at the end of November, the national number of fires were reported at 74% and the acres burned were at 81% of the ten-year average.


Citing This Report

NOAA National Climatic Data Center, State of the Climate: Wildfires for Annual 2003, published online December 2003, retrieved on August 22, 2014 from http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/sotc/fire/2003/13.