Below are summaries from the National Significant Wildland Fire Potential Outlook, provided by the National Interagency Fire Center, for the period of February 2021 through May 2021. The full outlook can be located here.

Year-to-Date Statistics:

Year-to-date statistics Number of Fires Acreage Burned
2021 (01/01/21 – 02/05/21) 2,039 45,375
2020 (01/01/20 – 02/05/20) 1,425 25,651
Percentage of 10-year Average 100.70% 110.37%


The table above indicates the first month of 2021 was significantly above last year’s number of fires and acreage burned. However, numbers are only very slightly higher than the 10-year average. Given the expected El Niña conditions, it will be interesting how the rest of the year plays out.

Observations in January:

The US had warmer and drier than normal conditions during January. Fortunately California, the Great Basin, and the Southwest received widespread precipitation towards the end of the month. In addition, parts of the Plains received above normal precipitation, including heavy snow in places. Temperatures were once again well above normal on the northern Plains with well above normal temperatures spreading through the Great Lakes into the Northeast.
A strong offshore wind event developed across southern California mid-January with wind gusts up to 100 mph in the mountains. An increase of fire activity was observed, but nothing significant.

Drought Forecast:

Drought conditions are forecast for much of California, the Great Basin, and the Southwest. Drying is likely to increase across portions of the Plains and Southeast. However, drought improvement and possibly removal is possible for portions of northwest California through Oregon.

US Drought Monitor as of 26 January 2021

Wildland Fire Outlook for February-May:

La Niña will continue to significantly impact weather and climate patterns into Spring. Consequently, the southern portion of the US, especially the Southwest and southern High Plains will experience warmer and drier than normal conditions leading to above normal significant fire potential.

February 2021 Wildland Fire Potential Outlook

March 2021 Wildland Fire Potential Outlook

April 2021 Wildland Fire Potential Outlook

May 2021 Wildland Fire Potential Outlook

Source: NIFC

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