Wildfires - January 2011



Updated: 4 February 2011

January is not considered to be part of the U.S. wildfire season, with fire activity typically being slow during the month. January 2011 was below-average in terms of number of fires, acres burned, and acres burned per fire. The majority of the fire activity during the month was confined to the southern and southeastern U.S., where conditions were drier than normal. Conditions were also dry across the western regions, but above-average precipitation during December helped limit wildfire activity. Please see the monthly temperature and precipitation discussion. On the 7th of the month, there were six large wildfires burning across the U.S. — three in Florida, two in Arkansas, and one in Texas. On the 14th, rainfall across Florida lowered the fire danger there, while dry conditions across the Southern Plains intensified. There were three large fires burning in Oklahoma and one fire in Mississippi. By the 28th, there were three large fires in Florida, and one each in Oklahoma and New Mexico.

2011 Wildfire Statistics

(Source: NIFC)
Year–To–Date Totals as of January 28th Nationwide Number of Fires Nationwide Number of Acres Burned
01/28/2011 1,526 17,352
01/28/2010 1,081 19,052
01/28/2009 2,481 57,150
01/28/2008 1,380 40,804
01/28/2007 387 4,597
01/28/2006 3,166 322,197
01/28/2005 1,740 15,386
01/28/2004 1,964 18,818
01/28/2003 1,120 10,721
01/28/2002 1,383 10,079
01/28/2001 1,231 44,334
01/28/2000 2,796 40,757
5–yr average
(2006 – 2010)
1,767 90,410
10–yr average
(2001 – 2010)
1,683 55,040

According to statistics from the National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC), between January 1st and January 28th, approximately 17,352 acres (5,403 hectares) were burned across the United States, which is 31.5 percent of the 2001–2010 average of 55,040 acres (22,274 hectares). A total of 1,526 new wildfires were reported for the month, which is 241 fires below the 2001–2010 average of 1,767. The average acreage burned per fire was 11.4 acres (4.6 hectares), — 13.0 acres (5.2 hectares) below the 2001–2010 average of 24.4 acres (9.9 hectares).

According to the U.S. Drought Monitor during the month of January, the spatial extent of drought across the contiguous U.S. remained generally unchanged. However, there was regional variability across the U.S., with some regions experiencing improvement in drought and others experiencing deteriorating conditions. Beneficial precipitation across the Great Basin during the end of December ended the abnormally dry conditions there as well as in western Wyoming. Dry conditions across southern Arizona and New Mexico led to the development of severe drought conditions. Northern Texas and Oklahoma also received beneficial precipitation during the month, prompting drought conditions to be improved one category. Rainfall across the Gulf Coast of Texas and Louisiana improved drought conditions there by one category from extreme drought to severe drought. The rest of the Southern Plains and Lower Mississippi River Valley experienced little to no change in drought during the month. Dry conditions for the interior Mid-Atlantic states led to the expansion of moderate drought in North Carolina and Virginia. Drought conditions for the rest of the contiguous U.S. remained generally unchanged. In Hawaii, rainfall reduced the drought footprint there. Across Alaska, no change was observed in drought conditions, with abnormally dry conditions persisting along the southern coasts of the state.

According to the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) – Wildland Fire Assessment System, at the beginning of the year, the only location in the country experiencing high fire danger was southern Texas. By the 15th, dry conditions across the Southeast and Southern California increased fire danger in those regions. The highest fire danger was reported in southern Mississippi and eastern Georgia. Rainfall in the Southeast improved the fire danger there by the 31st, but high fire danger developed across western Texas and southeastern New Mexico.

According to the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) – Wildland Fire Assessment System, at the beginning of January, low fuel moistures of all categories (10-hour, 100-hour and 1,000 hour) were confined to the southern tier of the country. Low 10-hour fuel moistures were reported for the Southwest, the Southern Plains, and most of Florida. Low 100-hour and 1,000-hour fuel moistures were confined to the Southern Plains. By the 15th, the footprint of low 10-hour, 100-hour, and 1,000-hour fuel moistures increased across the Southwest and Southern Plains, while low 10-hour fuel moistures expanded across the Southeast and coastal Mid-Atlantic. The last two weeks of January brought rainfall to the Southeast, increasing 10-hour fuel moistures there, with the exception of Florida. 10-hour fuel moistures dried across western Texas, the Great Basin, the interior Northwest and the Southwest. 100-hour and 1,000-hour fuel moistures dried across western Texas, the Southwest, and the Great Basin.

According to the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) – Wildland Fire Assessment System, at the beginning of the month the location of high Keetch–Byram Drought Index (KBDI), values was consistent with the location of drought conditions — the Southern Plains, the Southeast, and the Florida peninsula. By, the 15th, there was little change in the spatial pattern of high KBDI values across the country. However, by the end of the month, the high KBDI values in the Southeast decreased due to widespread precipitation, with the exception of extreme southern Florida. High KBDI values persisted across the Southern Plains, and high KBDI values developed in southwestern Arizona.


Citing This Report

NOAA National Climatic Data Center, State of the Climate: Wildfires for January 2011, published online February 2011, retrieved on July 29, 2014 from http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/sotc/fire/2011/1.