Wildfires - Annual 2009


Issued: 8 January 2010

While significant fire activity early in the year threatened to set 2009 above average for both number of fires and acres burned, wetter conditions across many parts of the nation as the year progressed, coupled with effective fire management, helped to restrain fire activity by mid-year.  Despite the largest fire in Los Angeles County's (California) recorded history (Station fire), by the end of August the nationwide acreage burned by wildfire was very near the 2000–2009 average and thereafter declined below average.  Based upon data provided by the National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC) fire activity in 2009 ranked fifth highest (sixth lowest) out of the past decade in terms of number of fires — about 1 percent below the 2000-2008 average.  Acres burned in 2009 were 14.5 percent below the 2000-2008 average, ranking seventh highest (fourth lowest) since 2000.  Average fire size also ranked seventh highest out of the 2000-2009 period, at about 14 percent below average.

2009 Wildfire Statistics

(Source: NIFC)
2009–Annual Totals Nationwide Number of Fires Nationwide Number of Acres Burned
12/31/2009 77,315 5,914,821
12/31/2008 77,772 5,159,907
12/31/2007 85,705 9,328,045
12/31/2006 96,385 9,873,745
12/31/2005 66,753 8,689,389
12/31/2004 65,461 8,097,880
12/31/2003 63,629 3,960,842
12/31/2002 73,457 7,184,712
12/31/2001 84,079 3,570,911
12/31/2000 92,250 7,393,493
5–yr average
(2005 – 2009)
81,099 7,799,020
10–yr average
(2000 – 2009)
78,437 6,920,294

The year 2009 finished with a total of 77,315 fires having burned 5,914,821 acres (2,393,463 hectares).  The number of fires was 966 fires below the 2000 – 2008 average of 78,281.  Acreage burned across the nation in 2009 was 1,002,554 acres (405,719 hectares), or about 15 percent, below the 2000 – 2008 average.  Average fire size in 2009 was 76.5 acres (40.0 hectares) per fire, which was 11.9 acres (4.8 hectares) per fire below the 2000 – 2008 average, or about 14 percent smaller than average.  The data used in this assessment is from the National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC).

Special Summary of the Los Angeles County "Station" Fire

Los Angeles' Station fire, which began on August 26th, burned an estimated 160,577 acres, making it the largest fire in Los Angeles County's recorded history, and the tenth largest fire in California history since 1933.  The fire was also among the most destructive of 2009 — destroying 209 structures, including 89 homes, and claiming the lives of two fire fighters.  At its height early in September, the fire threatened an estimated 12,000 structures, including the historic Mount Wilson observatory and dozens of critical communications towers.  According to an InciWeb report, as of September 19th just under $100 million USD had been spent battling the blaze.  Nearly 40 miles (64 km) of the Angeles Crest Highway was closed indefinitely due to fire damage, with repair estimates of $12 million USD, according to the California Department of Transportation.  At the end of September, the fire was 98 percent contained, but continued to burn until it was finally declared 100 percent contained at 7 PM on 16 October, making it the longest lived fire of the 2009 season.  Fire investigators have determined that arson was the cause of the Station fire.


Citing This Report

NOAA National Climatic Data Center, State of the Climate: Wildfires for Annual 2009, published online December 2009, retrieved on November 1, 2014 from http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/sotc/fire/2009/13.