Wildfires - April 2004


Fire activity began early this year across parts of the Midwest, High Plains, and in Southern California according to the National Interagency Fire Center. The fire season typically begins on May 1st and runs through the end of October. However, the pre-season is often active, as can be seen in the year-to-date statistics below. In April, a large fire was suppressed in northern Colorado early in the month, and several large fires have been reported in Minnesota and parts of the upper-Midwest as well. The majority of large fire activity in April occurred in Southern California, and this activity has continued into early May, as seen in the MODIS image to the left.

Year-to-date (January 1-April 30) wildfire statistics (from NIFC):
As of April 30, 2004 Nationwide Number of Fires Nationwide Number of Acres Burned
2004 24,573 375,934
2003 15,513 328,930
2002 23,776 382,634
8-year Average 28,661 616,393

Prolonged dryness over the long-term, coupled with severe short-term drought conditions in March, have increased the potential for large fires across the western U.S. The northern Rockies and intermountain West have experienced four to five years of drought, with severe to extreme drought conditions present over the majority of this region. Fine fuels (i.e. 1-hr and 10-hr) are extremely dry across the southwest and four-corners, with 10-hr fuel moistures below 5%. Larger fuels (i.e. 100-hr and 1000-hr) are also anomalously dry across this area, with 1000-hr fuels below 10% in parts of the southwest. Therefore, fire potential indicators are above normal across the majority of the western U.S. at the beginning of the 2004 fire season.


Citing This Report

NOAA National Climatic Data Center, State of the Climate: Wildfires for April 2004, published online May 2004, retrieved on April 18, 2014 from http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/sotc/fire/2004/4.