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Chart: 30 Years of Wildfires in America

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Chart: 30 Years of Wildfires in America


Wildfires in America

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The Briefing

  • An average of 70,000 wildfires blaze through the U.S. each year
  • These fires destroy approximately 5.8 million acres of land on a yearly basis
  • Over 43,000 fires have started across the U.S., burning 5 million acres of land as of Sept 3, 2021

30 Years of Wildfires in America

This summer, record-breaking droughts and relentless heat waves have fueled disastrous wildfires across the United States. It’s gotten so bad, the state of California has decided to shut down all national parks for two weeks to stop the spread.

But how disastrous has this year been compared to previous years? This graphic gives a historical look at the number of wildfires in America that have occurred each year since 1990, and the acres of forest land scorched during that period.

Total Wildland Fires and Acres from 1990 to 2020

In the U.S., an average of 70,000 wildfires burn through 5.8 million acres of land each year. But some years have been worse than others.

Year # of Fires # of Acres Burned
1990 66,481 4,621,621
1991 75,754 2,953,578
1992 87,394 2,069,929
1993 58,810 1,797,574
1994 79,107 4,073,579
1995 82,234 1,840,546
1996 96,363 6,065,998
1997 66,196 2,856,959
1998 81,043 1,329,704
1999 92,487 5,626,093
2000 92,250 7,393,493
2001 84,079 3,570,911
2002 73,457 7,184,712
2003 63,629 3,960,842
2004 65,461 *8,097,880
2005 66,753 8,689,389
2006 96,385 9,873,745
2007 85,705 9,328,045
2008 78,979 5,292,468
2009 78,792 5,921,786
2010 71,971 3,422,724
2011 74,126 8,711,367
2012 67,774 9,326,238
2013 47,579 4,319,546
2014 63,312 3,595,613
2015 68,151 10,125,149
2016 67,743 5,509,995
2017 71,499 10,026,086
2018 58,083 8,767,492
2019 50,477 4,664,364
2020 58,950 10,122,336
2021* 43,250 5,024,744

*note: 2021 figures as of September 3, 2021

One particularly bad year was 2006, which had over 96,000 fires and destroyed 9.9 million acres of land across the country. It was the year of the Esperanza Fire in California, which burned 40,000 acres and cost $9 million in damages.

2015 was also a devastating year, with over 10.1 million acres destroyed across the country–the worst year on record, in terms of acres burned.

Climate Change’s Role in Wildfires

Wildfires are only expected to worsen in the near future since warmer temperatures and drier climates allow the fires to grow quickly and intensely.

We’re already starting to see climate change impact the wildfire season. For instance, autumn is usually peak wildfire season for California, but this year, one of the largest fires on record started in mid-July, and is still burning as of the date of publication.

>>Also see: North America’s Devastating Wildfires, Viewed From Space

Where does this data come from?

Source: National Interagency Fire Center
Details: 2004 fires and acres do not include state lands for North Carolina.

The post Chart: 30 Years of Wildfires in America appeared first on Visual Capitalist.



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