Wildfires - August 2004


According to the National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC), wildland fires in 2004 have consumed over 7.3 million acres across the U.S. as of the end of August. The vast majority of the burned areas occurred in Alaska, where over 6.14 million acres had burned by the end of the month, which was a new all–time record for the state. Of these, over 1.7 million acres burned during August.

The most significant of the large fire activity has occurred in central and eastern Alaska (as well as in the adjacent Yukon Territory of Canada), and large burn scars are now visible in satellite imagery across areas to the north and east of Fairbanks. Problems with smoke also continued in August, as particulate matter (PM) emissions from the Alaskan fires spread over a large region of the U.S. and Canadian arctic.

Northern California had several large fires during August, as areas northwest of Redding burned. The largest of these was the French Fire, which burned near Frenchtown and Weaverville, CA during the middle of the month.

Year–to–date (January–August) wildfire statistics (from NIFC):
As of August 31, 2004 Nationwide Number of Fires Nationwide Number of Acres Burned
2004 55,044 7,381,166
2003 44,823 2,695,156
2002 62,549 6,334,283
10–year Average (1994-2004) 61,229 3,193,463

Short– and long–term drought conditions continued across a large portion of the western U.S. in August. The record and near–record dry conditions throughout the West have contributed to extremely low dead fuel moisture levels. As of the end of August, the moisture levels of live fuels remained very dry across the intermountain West and the Great Basin. Medium to larger fuels (i.e. 100–hr and 1000–hr) were extremely dry across the region, with 1000–hr fuels below 5% over most of California, Nevada, Utah, and western Colorado.

At the end of August, the fire danger remained very high across the West, with extreme fire danger across parts of the northern Great Basin. The Keetch–Byram Drought Index (KBDI), a widely used index for fire risk, had the largest potential for fire activity in the contiguous U.S. across northern California, and along the Sierra Nevada Mountains in central California and the western Great Basin. Areas of the southern Plains and along the Gulf of Mexico coast also had increased potential for large fire development.


Citing This Report

NOAA National Climatic Data Center, State of the Climate: Wildfires for August 2004, published online September 2004, retrieved on July 31, 2014 from http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/sotc/fire/2004/8.