2016 Fire Season in Review

Fire Season in 2016 saw no shortage of headline-filling wildfires across the US and North America.  However, 2016’s final numbers for both total starts and total acres burned actually came in below averages from the last ten years in both categories.  Data reported by the National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC) for the 2016 calendar year showed 62,864 fire starts, accumulating 5,415,121 acres (down 4.5 million acres from the year before). 

In a recent blog post, we highlighted the top ten wildfires in terms of destruction. Those ten fires alone burned over 1.7 million acres and destroyed over 6,000 structures, displacing tens of thousands of people.

2016 Wildfires in the US

Major Fires from Fire Season 2016 reported by GEOMAC and NIFC

A Look Back at 2016 Fire Danger

The record-setting year in 2015 (in terms of acreage burned) was due mostly to several large fires in Alaska which accounted for over 5 million of the 10 million total acres burned. This year, Alaska was much quieter and the rest of the country burned more or less an average amount. Like most years, 2016 saw high fire danger transition across the country (see animation below), coinciding with regional climate and conditions. High fire danger started in the Midwest in March and April, crept into the Southwest in May and June, moved into the Mountainous West by July, before finishing with the Southern Appalachians towards the end of the year.

2016 Fire Season Highlights

2016 saw the largest fire in Canadian history, the Fort McMurray Fire in May, which scorched over 1.4 million acres in Alberta. It also saw the costliest fire in California history with the Soberanes Fire which lasted 12 weeks and cost in excess of 250 million dollars to fight before being completely smothered.  Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming had its most active fire year since 1988 with 62,000 acres burned and two significant fires that closed down parts of the park. Lastly, the Southern Appalachians saw a significant period of drought through October and November, bringing the devastating Chimney Tops 2 fire and the worst overall fire season on record to that region.

 

Sources: NIFC, GEOMAC, Predictive Services

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