Wildfires - February 2006


Wildfire activity continued to be much above normal during February. The outbreak of fires that had initially developed at the end of 2005 continued across parts of the central and southern U.S. over the past month. Since the beginning of 2006 there have been over 10,000 fires across the lower 48 states, with large fire activity primarily focused in the central and southern Plains and Southwest regions.

Anomalously dry weather continued across Oklahoma and Texas during February, where long–term drought conditions worsened during the first two months of 2006. In addition, fire activity spread to Tennessee, Kentucky, and North Carolina at the end of February and the beginning of March.

The National Interagency Fire Center's estimates that over 500,000 acres had burned across the U.S. by March 3rd, with over 380,000 acres in the southern Plains region alone. Both the number of fires and the burned acreage are unusually high for this time of year, which is typically a period when wildland fire activity is normally quite low across the U.S.

2006 Wildfire Statistics (from NIFC):
Totals as of early March Nationwide Number of Fires Nationwide Number of Acres Burned
3/3/2006 7,943 457,110
3/4/2005 4,638 32,198
3/5/2004 6,236 72,276

Dead fuel moisture levels across the southern and central Plains states decreased during February. Fine fuel moisture levels (i.e., 10–hour fuels) remained extremely dry, with levels below 5% across parts of the Plains states and most of the Southwest.

Medium to larger fuels (i.e., the February 28th 100–hr and February 28th 1000–hr fuel moistures) were also unusually dry for the winter, especially across most of the Southwest, Front Range and the southern Plains areas.

The Keetch–Byram Drought Index (KBDI), a widely used index for fire risk, had the largest potential for wildland fire activity in the contiguous U.S. across most of the central and southern Plains at the end of February. In addition, the observed experimental fire potential index was also anomalously high for a large area of the interior West for winter.

For further information on drought conditions across the U.S. go to the February drought summary page.


Citing This Report

NOAA National Climatic Data Center, State of the Climate: Wildfires for February 2006, published online March 2006, retrieved on September 1, 2014 from http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/sotc/fire/2006/2.