Wildfires - October 2004

According to the National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC), wildland fires in 2004 have consumed over 8 million acres across the U.S. as of the end of October, which was well above the year–to–date average of over 4.3 million acres. Most of this year's fire activity occurred in Alaska during June and July, and by the end of October over 6.6 million acres were blackened across the state. This made the 2004 fire season the worst on record for Alaska.

Fire activity was generally light across the U.S. in October. The fires that were reported occurred mainly in central California, where the Rumsey fire burned during the middle of the month. Several large fires burned in Virgina as well during the month, as can be seen on NOAA AVHRR imagery from 13 October 2004.

Long–term drought conditions continued across much of the western U.S., although there was some significant drought relief during the month as a series of fall storms moved across the region.

Year–to–date (January–September) wildfire statistics (from NIFC):
As of October 31, 2004 Nationwide Number of Fires Nationwide Number of Acres Burned
2004 63,047 8,044,834
2003 56,036 3,511,752
2002 69,413 6,684,556
Nine–year Average (1996–2004) 75,319 4,320,285

Dead fuel moisture levels improved during the latter half of the month as moisture from several large Pacific storms brought precipitation to the mountains, with significant snowfall in the Sierra Nevada, Wasatch and the southern and central Rocky Mountains.

By early November, fine–fuels (i.e. 10–hour fuels) remained very dry across the Front Range region in Colorado and New Mexico, with improved conditions across the southwestern states.

Medium to larger fuels (i.e. 100–hr and 1000–hr fuels) had improved significantly across the region in October, with the moisture content of 1000–hr fuels above 15% over a broad region of the West, with large fuels in parts of Nevada, California, Utah, Idaho and New Mexico exceeding 30%.

At the end of October, fire danger remained high in only a few areas, mainly in southern and central New Mexico.

Citing This Report

NOAA National Climatic Data Center, State of the Climate: Wildfires for October 2004, published online November 2004, retrieved on April 18, 2014 from http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/sotc/fire/2004/10.