Wildfires - October 2006

Although drought persisted in the middle of the country in October, large wildland fire activity was concentrated in western Canada. In the U.S. the major incident was the Esperanza fire in southern California at the end of the month. Caused by arson, the fire consumed over 40,000 acres and led to the deaths of 5 firefighters and the destruction of 34 homes.

As of end of October, there have been about 84,500 wildland fires across the Lower 48 States since the beginning of 2006, and over 9.4 million acres were burned, according to estimates from the National Interagency Fire Center. The preliminary number of acres burned so far this year in the U.S. is a record for an entire year. Over half of the fires and a quarter of the burned acreage occurred in the Southern Area (which encompasses 13 states, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands and the District of Columbia).

2006 Wildfire Statistics (from NIFC):
Totals as of late October Nationwide Number of Fires Nationwide Number of Acres Burned
10/30/2006 86,545 9,442,610
10/30/2005 56,589 8,256,081
10/30/2004 62,852 8,042,281
10/30/2003 55,533 3,337,304
10/30/2002 69,274 6,707,556
10/30/2001 66,290 3,779,562
10/30/2000 86,418 7,025,680

Dead fuel moisture levels remained very dry mostly in the West in October. The 10–hour fuel moisture levels on October 25 were extremely dry throughout California and southern Nevada. Medium fuels (October 25 100–hr) were extremely dry in an area of northern California and in another area in southern California. Larger fuels (October 25 1000–hr) remained unusually dry over the past month from the California–Arizona–Mexico border northward into Washington and Idaho.

The Keetch–Byram Drought Index (KBDI), a widely used index for fire risk, had the largest potential for wildland fire activity in the contiguous U.S. in California, along the Oregon coast, and in the northern and central Florida peninsula. The observed experimental fire potential index at the end of October was anomalously high for one large area from southern California and to northern Nevada.

Historically, the graphs below show that the number of fires has been decreasing since the 1980s. However, the number of acres burned has been increasing. In Alaska the number of fires was the highest in the early 1990s.

Citing This Report

NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information, State of the Climate: Wildfires for October 2006, published online November 2006, retrieved on September 17, 2019 from https://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/sotc/fire/200610.