Wildfires - September 2004

According to the National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC), wildland fires in 2004 have consumed over 7.7 million acres across the U.S. as of the end of September. However, wildfire activity decreased dramatically this month. In particular, activity diminished across Alaska and the Rocky Mountains. By the end of the month there was only one active fire which was located in Oregon, the Peter French Fire.

The large fire activity that occurred in central and eastern Alaska last month left large burn scars that are visible in satellite imagery across areas to the north and east of Fairbanks (as well as in the adjacent Yukon Territory of Canada).

Year–to–date (January–September) wildfire statistics (from NIFC):
As of September 30, 2004 Nationwide Number of Fires Nationwide Number of Acres Burned
2004 62,088 7,784,277
2003 50,626 3,180,770
2002 68,397 6,715,197
10–year Average (1994–2004) 69,154 3,945,507

Short– and long–term drought conditions continued across a large portion of the western U.S. in September. The record and near–record dry conditions throughout the West have contributed to extremely low dead fuel moisture levels. As of the end of September, the moisture levels of live fuels remained very dry across the intermountain West and the Great Basin. Medium to larger fuels (i.e. 100–hr and 1000–hr) were extremely dry across the region, with 1000–hr fuels below 5% over western areas of Nevada, far eastern California, southwestern Arizona and a small section in southwestern Oregon.

At the end of September, fire danger remained very high in few places, an area along the California, Arizona boarder and another small area in north–central Washington. The Keetch–Byram Drought Index (KBDI), a widely used index for fire risk, had the largest potential for fire activity in the contiguous U.S. over the majority of California, along the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Also, areas from the southern Plains to the middle Mississippi Valley, as well as along the Gulf of Mexico coast had increased potential for fire development.

Citing This Report

NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information, State of the Climate: Wildfires for September 2004, published online October 2004, retrieved on January 24, 2018 from https://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/sotc/fire/200409.