It has been a rough year of heavy wildfire activity in the western states this past wildfire season. Large and long burning fires dominated many areas of the Pacific Northwest and Rockies during the summer season and now wildfires are making headlines and causing severe damage to life and property in California.
While the wildfires in Montana, Idaho and Oregon which raged for most of the summer have been put out by a string of cold, wet fall storms, California has been hit hard. It important to remember that some of the same areas that were hit by wildfires this summer and fall also experienced above normal winter and spring precipitation.
The graphic below shows in the areas affected by large wildfire activity. As you can see, the wildfires are now concentrated in California while activity has died down elsewhere.
The wet winter and spring conditions, especially in California led to lots of enhanced growth of underbrush which has now dried out and made conditions ripe for wildfire activity.
The graph below shows the up and down nature on the amount of wildfire activity that has occurred since 1985. Data previous to 1985 is not available.
While the wet weather this spring and winter was a blessing in California and other western states, it became a curse this fall with the dried out vegetation making the situation suitable for increased wildfire activity this fall.