Post Tagged with: "wildfires"

2013 wildfire season way below average

2013 wildfire season way below average

Wildfires were thrust into the national spotlight twice this year, first when 19 firefighters died in Arizona on June 30, and again in August, when the 257,314-acre Rim Fire burned in and around Yosemite National Park. But if you look at the federal government’s statistics, 2013 is on track to be one of the quietest […]

Up in smoke: federal wildfire suppression costs are rising

Up in smoke: federal wildfire suppression costs are rising

Federal spending to fight wildfires is trending higher. Not only is the overall, inflation-adjusted cost increasing, but the federal cost per wildfire and per acre burned are also on the upswing. Before the federal shutdown turned government websites into virtual ghost towns, I was snooping around the National Interagency Fire Center’s site, and I came […]

Climate context for Colorado floods: heavy precipitation, wildfires are on the rise

Climate context for Colorado floods: heavy precipitation, wildfires are on the rise

The heavy rains and flooding here in Colorado have been off the charts, even prompting the National Weather Service to describe the precipitation as “biblical” in its proportions. At Discover Magazine, Tom Yulsman reports that areas with the highest rainfall totals have experienced a 1,000-year event–a storm that’s expected to occur once a millennium. Check […]

The fuels dilemma and Western wildfires

The fuels dilemma and Western wildfires

When I was getting certified as a wildland firefighter in 2002, they taught us that fire behavior is based on three basic factors. First, weather: not just the temperature, humidity, and wind at that moment, but also the climatic conditions over the preceding months and years. All else equal, if it’s hot, dry, windy, and […]

Counting homes in the Western WUI

Counting homes in the Western WUI

When firefighters are deployed to battle wildfires, they often focus on saving structures in the wildland-urban interface (WUI), where homes mix with or border flammable vegetation. Where are these vulnerable homes located in the West? Data from analytics firm CoreLogic provide a good high-level overview of the Western WUI. I’ve created a dashboard on this […]

Mapping the Wildland-Urban Interface

Mapping the Wildland-Urban Interface

The fire-prone wildland-urban interface (WUI) is in the news after more than 500 homes burned in the 14,280-acre Black Forest Fire near Colorado Springs. The most destructive wildfire in state history (in terms of homes lost) has once again highlighted the dangers of living amid flammable forests and woodlands. I’ve pulled together maps of the […]

Wildfire ignition trends: humans versus lightning

Wildfire ignition trends: humans versus lightning

The Western wildfire season is well underway, so I thought this would be a good time to examine a key question: what causes wildfires? Basically it boils down to two ignition sources—humans and lightning—but the balance between these two causes varies dramatically across the country. We have a dashboard on ignition that illustrates the data […]

Gauging wildfire severity with suppression metrics

Gauging wildfire severity with suppression metrics

The number of acres burned is the most common metric used for tracking wildfires, but there are other important measures for gauging the severity of the fire season. The struggle to suppress wildfires is something that the federal government monitors very closely. For decades, it has been consistently reporting data on the army of firefighters […]

Human footprint maps of Western states and cities

Human footprint maps of Western states and cities

Just a quick post to let you know that I’ve created a gallery of high-resolution maps depicting the human footprint in each of the 11 Western states, plus some major cities in the region. I wrote about this dataset a few weeks ago and wanted to share some more detailed, zoomed-in views. White indicates areas […]

Tracking trends in recent wildfire activity

Tracking trends in recent wildfire activity

With drought gripping much of the West, 2013 could be another active wildfire season in the region. There’s already a fast-moving blaze in Southern California that is threatening hundreds of homes. To track the severity of wildfires, I’ve created a dashboard on this page that summarizes recent trends, both nationally and in the West. The […]

The human footprint in the American West

The human footprint in the American West

Over the past few years, I’ve been creating slides—hundreds and hundreds them. The David and Lucile Packard Foundation, a major environmental funder, asked us to take stock of the state of the North American West, one of its geographic priorities. Rather than write a report that would quickly be shelved, we decided to answer the […]

Ebb and flow of snow, fuels, and fire

Ebb and flow of snow, fuels, and fire

NASA has put out a pretty cool video showing a decade’s worth of satellite imagery of the United States (and the rest of the world). It’s interesting to see the ebb and flow of the snowpack, how the land greens up every year, and where fires break out.