Wildfires - January 2012


Updated: 7 February 2012


Overview

January is not considered to be part of the U.S. wildfire season, with fire activity typically being slow during the month. January 2012 was above-average in terms of the number of fires and acres burned, with 1,758 fires charring 62,909 acres.

1-Month Wildfire Statistics*
January Totals Rank
(out of 13 years)
Record 2000-2010
Average
Value Year
Acres Burned 62,909 2ⁿᵈ Most 330,447 2006 53,742
12ᵗʰ Least
Number of Fires 1,758 5ᵗʰ Most 3,507 2006 1,784
9ᵗʰ Least
Acres Burned per Fire 35.8 3ʳᵈ Most 94.2 2006 23.5
11ᵗʰ Least

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

Discussion

As a whole, the U.S. was warmer than average during January, with the warmest temperature anomalies across the central parts of the country. January was also particularly dry, with several states having a top ten dry January. For more information, please see the monthly temperature and precipitation discussion. During January some regions of the country experienced improving drought conditions, while other regions saw the expansion of drought. Drought conditions worsened across parts of the Southeast, with Exceptional Drought (D4) developing across southern Georgia and Moderate (D1) to Severe (D2) Drought covering most of Florida. Drought conditions improved for Texas by several categories, where January brought above-normal precipitation to much of the state. The footprint of Moderate Drought (D2) expanded across the Western Great Lakes, and covered Minnesota by the end of the month. Drought conditions also worsened by one to two categories across much of the West which had been drier than average for several months.

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).

At the beginning of January there ten large wildfires active across the United States. Six large wildfires were burning across eastern Oklahoma and the Texas coast. Across the region, dry conditions the past several months contributed to low 100-hour and 1,000-hour fuel moistures and high KBDI values. One fire was active in northern Florida, where high KBDI and fire danger was observed. Three large wildfires were burning across the Northern Plains of Minnesota and Montana. In Montana, the lack of snow during the beginning of the winter season caused grasslands to be exposed. The region is typically snow covered this time of year, and the dry grasslands and strong winds created ideal wildfire fuel during the beginning of the month.

By the middle of January, there were nine large wildfires burning nationwide. The two fires in Montana continued to burn. Four fires were active across Missouri, Oklahoma, and Texas where high fire danger and moderately low 10-hour fuel moistures were observed. There were three fires burning across the Southeast — two in Florida and one in North Carolina. Dry conditions the first half of January increased the fire danger and the KBDI values, while lowering 10-hour fuel moistures across those regions.

At the end of January, there were eight large wildfires burning nationwide. Four fires were burning across the Southern Plains of Oklahoma, Texas, and New Mexico, where moderately high fire danger and very low 10-hour fuel moistures were observed. Three large wildfires were burning across Florida, which was very dry for most of the month. Very high KBDI values as well as moderately low 10-hour fuel moistures were observed in Florida on the last day of January. One large fire was burning near Reno, Nevada where strong winds and long term dry conditions caused low 10-hour fuel moistures and high KBDI values. The fire near Reno destroyed more than 20 homes, and thousands were forced to evacuate as winds gusting over 70 mph caused the fire to grow rapidly out of control. The large fires which burned across Montana for most of the month were extinguished by the end of January, after a large winter storm dropped copious amounts of precipitation in the region, aiding firefighters.


All Fire Related Maps


Citing This Report

NOAA National Climatic Data Center, State of the Climate: Wildfires for January 2012, published online February 2012, retrieved on July 29, 2014 from http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/sotc/fire/2012/1.