Wildfires - July 2012


Updated: 8 August 2012


Overview

During July, warm and dry weather brought ideal wildfire conditions to a large portion of the nation. The 2.01 million acres that were burned by wildfires was the 4th most on record, while the 9,869 fires was the 5th most in the 2000-2012 record for July.

1-Month Wildfire Statistics*
July Totals Rank
(out of 13 years)
Record 2000-2010
Average
Value Year
Acres Burned 2,014,395 4ᵗʰ Most 3,439,347 2004 1,610,142
10ᵗʰ Least
Number of Fires 9,869 5ᵗʰ Most 17,352 2008 9,220
9ᵗʰ Least
Acres Burned per Fire 204.1 5ᵗʰ Most 518.9 2004 192.1
9ᵗʰ Least
Year-to-Date Wildfire Statistics*
January–July Totals Rank
(out of 13 years)
Record 2000-2010
Average
Value Year
Acres Burned 4,088,349 6ᵗʰ Most 6,091,572 2011 3,505,217
8ᵗʰ Least
Number of Fires 37,576 10ᵗʰ Most 69,656 2006 50,013
4ᵗʰ Least
Acres Burned per Fire 108.8 4ᵗʰ Most 133.5 2011 70.6
10ᵗʰ Least

*Data Source: The National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC)

Discussion

As a whole, the contiguous U.S. had its record warmest and 28th driest July on record. Warmer-than-average temperatures were anchored across the Northern Rockies, most of the Plains, through the Midwest, and along most of the Eastern Seaboard. Cooler-than-average conditions were observed along the West Coast and the Gulf Coast. Dry conditions were present across the Central Plains and Midwest, while parts of the West and Southeast were wetter than average. Please see the U.S. temperature and precipitation report for additional information. The warm and dry weater created ideal wildfire conditions across a large portion of the country. According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, the percent area of the contiguous U.S. experiencing Moderate-to-Exceptional Drought (D1-D4) grew from 56.0 percent on July 3rd to 62.9 percent on July 31st. Drought improved across the Northeast and along the Gulf Coast, while the rest of the nation experienced continuing or worsening drought conditions. Drought conditions worsened by one to two categories across the Midwest, the Plains, the mid-South, and parts of the Intermountain West. The percent area of the contiguous U.S. experiencing Extreme-to-Exceptional Drought (D3-D4) doubled in size during July, from 10.3 percent on July 3rd to 22.3 percent on July 31st.

Significant Events


Please note, this is a list of select fires that occurred during July. Additional fire information can be found through Inciweb.


The Long Draw Fire which burned in a remote region of southeastern Oregon charred nearly 560,000 acres during July. The fire was ignited by a lightning strike on July 8th and was fully contained by the end of the month. The impacts of the fire were limited due to the rural location, with only a few ranchers losing cattle. The Long Draw Fire was the largest fire to impact Oregon since the 1840s, and surpassed 2002's Biscuit Fire in terms of acreage burned, which charred 500,000 acres. More than 480 firefighters were called to battle the blaze to prevent it from reaching populated areas.

Monthly Wildfire Conditions

Wildfire information and environmental conditions are provided by the National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC) and the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) Wildland Fire Assessment System (WFAS).

On July 1st, there were 57 large wildfires active across the nation. Five fires were burning in the Virginias, North Carolina, and Georgia, where dry conditions contributed to low 100-hour fuel moistures. Forty-eight large fires were active in the Intermountain West, from Arizona to Montana. Across the region, dry conditions for several months were exacerbated by record-breaking hot temperatures and windy conditions during the end of June, creating ideal conditions for wildfires at the beginning of July. Very high fire danger and KBDI values were widespread across the West, as well as low 100-hour and 1,000-hour fuel moistures. One large wildfire was active in central Alaska, where abnormally dry conditions had developed. One large wildfire was active in Hawaii, where dry conditions were observed. Two additional large fires were active in each Oklahoma and Missouri.


By mid-July, there were 32 large wildfires active across the nation, entirely across the western states — two in both Washington and Nevada; three in California and Montana; four in Oregon, Idaho, and Arizona; and five in Utah and Wyoming. The fires in the Northwestern states were accompanied by high fire danger and extremely low 10-hour and 100-hour fuel moistures. The wildfire conditions across the Great Basin were associated with high fire danger and low fuel moistures, while very low KBDI values contributed to the wildfire conditions in the Southwest.


On July 31st, there were 29 large wildfires active nationwide. Two fires were active in Florida, where high KBDI values were observed. Seven fires were burning across the Southern Plains and Mid-South where very warm conditions dominated during July, drying out fuels. High fire danger, very high KBDI values, and low 10-hour fuel moistures were observed across the region. In total, 20 fires were active across the western states of California, Colorado, Utah, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming. Warm and dry conditions during much of July contributed to high fire danger and high KBDI values, as well as lowering 10-hour, 100-hour, and 1,000-hour fuel moistures.


All Fire Related Maps


Citing This Report

NOAA National Climatic Data Center, State of the Climate: Wildfires for July 2012, published online August 2012, retrieved on December 22, 2014 from http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/sotc/fire/2012/7.