Could the 2015 Alaska fire season top the record year of 2004?

While the amount of acreage burned in Alaska during June of 2015 shattered the previous acreage record set in June of 2004 by more than 700,000 acres, it remains to be seen if this summer’s wildfire season will keep pace with or challenge the summer of 2004 in terms of total acreage burned.
The 2004 fire season ranks No.1 in Alaska in terms of overall acreage burned at 6,590,140 acres. There were a total of 701 fires that year, which ranks No. 8 on the list of the most wildfires Alaska has recorded in a season dating back to 1939.
So far this season, an estimated 1,884,760 acres have been burned by a total of 617 fires, according to the Alaska Interagency Coordination Center in Fairbanks. That includes a record 1,875,984 acres that were burned by 404 fires in June, shattering the 2004 record of 1,153,258 acres burned in 216 fires.

This graph shows how the acreage burned in June of 2015 compares to other Junes dating back to 1994, including the previous record year of 2004. Graph by Rick Thoman, National Weather Service.

This graph shows how the acreage burned in June of 2015 compares to other Junes dating back to 1994, including the previous record year of 2004.
Graph by Rick Thoman, National Weather Service.

But it was the month of July in 2004 when the acreage totals really began to take off. In 2004, a total of 187 fires burned 3,216,481 acres in July alone, an average of almost 104,000 acres a day. That included a record 481,750 acres on July 2 and 305,318 acres on July 13.
In July 2004, there were 13 days in which more than 100,000 acres burned, including a stretch of six straight days from July 12-17 that topped 100,000 acres a day.

This graph illustrates how the 2015 fire season so far compares to the 2004 fire season when a record 6.59 million acres burned in Alaska. So far, it's eerily similar. Graph by Rick Thoman, National Weather Serivce.

This graph illustrates how the 2015 fire season so far compares to the 2004 fire season when a record 6.59 million acres burned in Alaska. So far, it’s eerily similar.
Graph by Rick Thoman, National Weather Serivce.

The fires didn’t go out at the end of July, either, in 2004. Another 2.2+ million acres burned in August, September and October that year.
The way things have been going, though, this season does stand a chance at challenging the record for the most fires in a season. That number is 924 in 1986.
Fire activity has slowed down a little bit the last few days with cooler temperatures and rain in many areas but there are still almost 300 fires – 297 to be exact -burning in Alaska and it will take more than a little bit of rain to put them out.
On top of that, weather forecasters are predicting warmer, drier weather to move back into the state by the weekend and temperatures in the Interior could climb back into the 80s like they did a couple weeks ago when we had our big lightning bust, which resulted in approximately 250 new fires over a five-day period.
Hang on to your hoses. It could be an interesting summer.

About Alaska Division of Forestry

Alaska Division of Forestry website: http://forestry.alaska.gov/ Mission: The Alaska Division of Forestry proudly serves Alaskans through forest management and wildland fire protection. The Wildland Fire and Aviation Program provides safe, cost-effective and efficient fire protection services and related fire and aviation management activities to protect human life and values on State, private and municipal lands. The wildland fire program cooperates with other wildland fire agencies on a statewide, interagency basis.

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