The great nonflagration?

Despite a few high-profile wildfires, 2013 was a fairly quiet fire season after all.

  • Sources: EcoWest.org; National Interagency Fire Center

  • Smoke lingers near Yosemite following the Rim Fire, California's third-largest wildfire on record.

    Craig Allyn Rose
 

This year, wildfires received unusually intense media attention after 19 firefighters died in Arizona on June 30, and during August, when the 257,314-acre Rim Fire burned in and around Yosemite National Park. Despite this, 2013 is on track to be one of the quietest fire seasons in years. By the end of October, 40,775 fires had burned 4.1 million acres nationwide – only 63 percent of the 10-year average for the number of fires, and just 59 percent of the 10-year average for acres burned. In every region except Southern California (home of the Rim Fire), the number of acres burned was below the 10-year average – particularly in the South and East, where very wet conditions helped suppress both local and national totals. While the West was closer to normal, late spring storms and a strong summer monsoon in the Southwest reduced the danger there. September was also the wettest on record for many places in Colorado, Oregon and Washington.

Jon Schwedler
Jon Schwedler
Nov 26, 2013 03:18 PM
Thanks Mitch. One interesting thing that remains consistent this year is the size of individual fires-- still 5 times larger than the 70s.
Mitch Tobin
Mitch Tobin
Nov 26, 2013 03:56 PM
Thanks, Jon. The average size of fires has been trending upward, as has the number of really big blazes. You might be interested in our wildfire dashboard that visualizes the data: http://www.ecowest.org/fires/trends/
Mark Bohrer
Mark Bohrer
Nov 26, 2013 03:58 PM
Try telling people living in Groveland, California it was a slow fire year. Between the Rim Fire and the government shutdown a month later, people in the central Sierras near Yosemite got a 1-2 punch that forced businesses to shutter and made many consider selling their homes.
Mitch Tobin
Mitch Tobin
Nov 26, 2013 04:16 PM
Or the family and friends of the 19 firefighters who died in Arizona. Even in a statistically slow year, homes will burn and people will be killed by wildfires. I have more details on how the 2013 fire season has played out in this post: http://www.ecowest.org/[…]/
W John Faust &
W John Faust & Subscriber
Nov 26, 2013 05:27 PM
It's a data point with the same significance as the extraordinary cold spells that dot our climate changing history.
George Ponte
George Ponte Subscriber
Nov 26, 2013 09:55 PM
Mitch - you missed the boat on Oregon. For the state we had the most severe season since 1951 in terms of acres burned and money spent. Most of that was from dry lightning in southwest Oregon in July.
Mitch Tobin
Mitch Tobin
Nov 27, 2013 07:35 AM
George: NIFC hasn't released year-to-date figures for individual states. Early in 2014, we'll have the numbers. But it's certainly possible that individual states would have bad years while the nation as a whole has a quiet year. By Nov. 1, the Northwest region was at 112% of average for the number of fires, but just 72% of average for acreage burned.
Jay Lusher
Jay Lusher
Nov 28, 2013 07:41 PM
Mitch, although the octal numbers and acres were lower than average 2013 was still not a nonflagration. It was the deadliest since 1994 with 33 firefighters killed in the line of duty and one of the most expensive. Within the federal budget year th suppression budget exceeded its initial allocation of 1 billion and had to find additional funds to close out he year. For firefighters this year was a conflagration, anytime that many people are killed should open everyone's eyes no matter what the acreage is.
Mitch Tobin
Mitch Tobin
Dec 01, 2013 10:25 AM
Jay: It definitely was a deadly year for wildland firefighters (I track fatalities on this dashboard: http://www.ecowest.org/fires/firefighters/). And I wouldn't be surprised if it's an expensive year because the cost of wildfires is trending up, apparently without regard to the severity of the fire season. I've found the feds' inflation-adjusted cost per fire and acre burned is rising, which should be raising red flags (http://www.ecowest.org/fires/suppression-costs/). I don't mean to diminish the sacrifice and hard work of firefighters, nor does one down year deny the overall trend toward larger, more intense fires (http://www.ecowest.org/[…]/)
su bing
su bing
Dec 03, 2013 07:53 PM
conflagration should be the right word?