Wildfires destroy 7.3 million acres of land every year, according to the U.S. Forest Service. And this year, while the total number of fires is down, 4.9 million acres have burned so far, 2 million acres above the national average. "The number of wildfires per day varies greatly," says Jennifer Jones, a public affairs specialist at the U.S. Forest Service. "On a light day we have up to 200 new wildfires; on a moderate day we have 200 to 299 new wildfires; and on a heavy day we have more than 300 new wildfires."
The Forest Service is able to suppress 95 percent of new fires within the first 24 hours, but during the summer, there may be dozens of large wildfires burning at any given time. And fighting those flames costs a lot. Last year’s federal firefighting costs came in at $1.5 billion. Those costs include the salaries of firefighters, operating ground and aerial firefighting equipment, the costs of supporting firefighters while they're on the fireline, and computers for mapping wildfires and spreading information.
Drought is the largest contributor to wild fires, and the drought this year put the West at a higher wildfire risk than usual. The Great Plains and the entire state of California are likely to see more fires as the season continues.
To track the wildfires, we mapped out each one that spreads to greater than 99 acres in the U.S., based on data from InciWeb. As they’re extinguished, we move the fires from the “active” category to the “inactive” one. We’ll add to the map daily to provide up-to-date tracking of wildfires in the U.S.:
Did we miss a wildfire 100 acres or more in size? Let us know in the comments below.