Wildfires - February 2010



Updated: 8 March 2010

February is not considered to be part of the U.S. wildfire season, with fire activity typically being slow during the month. February 2010 was below average in terms of number of fires, total acres burned, and acres burned per fire. At the beginning of the month, the only large fire instance in the United States was in southern Florida. By mid-February, there were two large fires in Florida. Over the course of the month, 11 new large fires were ignited, nine of which were contained by month's end with two large fire remaining active.

2010 Wildfire Statistics

(Source: NIFC)
Year–To–Date Totals as of February 26th Nationwide Number of Fires Nationwide Number of Acres Burned
02/26/2010 2,302 34,453
02/26/2009 7,976 177,597
02/262008 5,829 254,987
02/26/2007 2,349 18,607
02/26/2006 5,936 411,011
02/26/2005 4,587 55,173
02/26/2004 3,480 45,544
02/26/2003 6,032 65,566
02/26/2002 2,466 19,459
02/26/2001 7,792 163,206
02/26/2000 8,467 208,967
5–yr average
(2005 – 2009)
5,335 138,058
10–yr average
(2000 – 2009)
5,491 142,048

According to statistics from the National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC), between January 29th and February 26th, approximately 15,401 acres (6,233 hectares) were burned across the United States, which is 70,072 acres (28,357 hectares) below the 2000–2009 average of 85,473 acres (34,590 hectares). A total of 1,221 new wildfires were reported for the month, which is 2,194 fires below the 2000–2009 average of 3,415. This ranks February 2010 as the second slowest month in terms of number of fires and third slowest month for acres burned since 2000. The average acreage burned per fire was 16.6 acres (6.7 hectares) per fire, which is 8.2 acres (3.3 hectares) below the 2000–2009 average of 24.8 acres (10.0 hectares).

The U.S. Drought Monitor indicated that drought conditions generally improved across the U.S. during the month of February. Precipitation in California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas improved drought conditions 1-2 categories in those states. Meanwhile, dry weather in the Northern Rockies led to the expansion of drought conditions in Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming. Alaska continued to have widespread abnormally dry conditions and Hawaii was very dry with exceptional drought occurring for the first time since the U.S. Drought Monitor began classifying drought there. At the beginning of March, drought covered 7.52 percent of the country, with extreme and exceptional drought confined to Hawaii. Pockets of severe drought persisted in Arizona, Nevada, Washington, and California with severe drought developing in Idaho and Montana. The eastern third of the country remained generally drought free, as cool and wet conditions have persisted for the past several months.

According to the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) – Wildland Fire Assessment System, at the beginning of the month, high fire danger was present across portions of North Carolina, southern Mississippi, parts of southern Nevada, south central New Mexico, and central Colorado. By the end of the month, moderate fire danger was more widespread across much of the southeastern half of the Lower 48. Areas of high and very high fire danger were present in west Texas, central Mississippi, and across North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia.

According to the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) – Wildland Fire Assessment System, at the beginning of February, low 10-hour fuel moistures were present across southern California, southern Arizona, New Mexico, western Texas, southeastern Missouri, southern portions of Illinois and Indiana, and parts of central and eastern North and South Carolina. Moderately dry small fuels stretched into western Nevada, southern Oklahoma, and parts of the Southeast. Reduced areas of low 100-hour and 1000-hour fuel moistures were present in generally the same western states as the low 10-hour fuel moistures. By the end of the month, the 10-hour fuel moistures decreased across Texas, up through the plains and across the Southeast. Low 100-hour and 1000-hour fuel moistures followed a similar pattern as the 10-hour levels at the end of the month. Check out the USFS site for definitions of the different dead fuel moisture classifications .

According to the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) – Wildland Fire Assessment System the Keetch–Byram Drought Index (KBDI), at the beginning of the month indicated continued dryness and thus fire risk across Nevada, western Utah, southern California, parts of northern and southern Arizona, central New Mexico, western Texas, and central Florida. By the end of the month, conditions had improved across many of these areas. Fire risk remained along the borders of northern California, Nevada and Utah, and portions of southern California, southern Arizona, southwestern Texas and central Florida.


Citing This Report

NOAA National Climatic Data Center, State of the Climate: Wildfires for February 2010, published online March 2010, retrieved on September 14, 2014 from http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/sotc/fire/2010/2.