Wildfires can occur anywhere and can destroy homes, businesses, infrastructure, natural resources, and agriculture. For more information, download the How to Prepare for a Wildfire guide, which provides the basics of wildfires, explains how to protect yourself and your property, and details the steps to take now so that you can act quickly when you, your home, or your business is in danger.
- WHAT: A wildfire is an unplanned, unwanted fire burning in a natural area, such as a forest, grassland, or prairie. As building development expands into these areas, homes and businesses may be situated in or near areas susceptible to wildfires. This is called the wildland urban interface.
- WHEN: Wildfires can occur at any time throughout the year, but the potential is always higher during periods with little or no rainfall, which make brush, grass, and trees dry and burn more easily. High winds can also contribute to spreading the fire. Your community may have a designated wildfire season when the risk is particularly high.
- WHERE: Wildfires can occur anywhere in the country. They can start in remote wilderness areas, in national parks, or even in your back yard. Wildfires can start from natural causes, such as lightning, but most are caused by humans, either accidentally—from cigarettes, campfires, or outdoor burning—or intentionally.
Know the Risk
Do you want to have a better understanding of the wildfire risk you and your community face? Below is a map of the United States and the frequency of wildfires greater or equal to 300 acres in your county since 1994.
Map Information: This area is a map of the continental US, Puerto Rico, and Hawaii including states boundaries. It is entitled “Wildfire Activity by County 1994-2013”
It includes data from the USGS Federal Fire Occurrence Database, including U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Indian Affairs, and Bureau of Land Management. This map displays the frequency of wildfires by county at three levels. In the first category, for counties that have had wildfires greater or equal to 300 acres, from 1994-2013, it displays the frequency of these wildfires for three levels of frequency; second, it displays the counties where the largest wildfires were less than 300 acres; and third, it displays the counties where no wildfires were reported.
In the first category of wildfires greater than 300 acres, the highest frequency of reported wildfires (101-1,308) occurred mainly in the states of Alaska, northern Washington, eastern Oregon, northern and southern California, central and southern Idaho, western Montano, northern Colorado, northern Nevada, northern Arizona, southern New Mexico, and southern Florida. The second highest frequency of wildfires (21-100) occurred in the same Western states, but more evenly distributed, with the addition of most of Wyoming and a few counties within North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, Nebraska, Texas, Oklahoma, Missouri, Arkansas, Mississippi, Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia, Florida, and Hawaii. The third highest frequency of wildfires (1-20) occurred primarily in the states already described with additional parts of Wisconsin, Michigan, Louisiana, Alabama, South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia and eastern Maine.
In the second category of the states that include wildfires of less than 300 acres, the map identifies counties within almost every state but primarily counties in Northern, Southern and Mid-Atlantic states plus a few counties within Puerto Rico.
In the third category of the counties with no recorded wildfires, the map identifies central Texas, Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa, northern Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, southern Michigan, Ohio, central Kentucky, central Tennessee, southern Alabama, southern Georgia, North Carolina, Virginia, Pennsylvania, and most of New England.
Federal Emergency Management Agency
ORR Mapping and Analysis Center, Washington, D.C., March 13, 2014. Sources: ESRI, USGS.
For more information on protecting yourself from a wildfire and protecting your property and belongings, download these helpful resources:
- Be Smart-Know Your Alerts and Warnings: The factsheet provides a brief summary of the various alerts and warnings available from Federal, state, local governments as well as the private sector that you can sign up for to stay informed and be ready to take action to be safe.
- Be Smart-Protect Critical Documents and Valuables: The checklist helps you to take an inventory of your household documents (e.g., financial and medical records), contacts, and valuables.