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Fire Climatology

As part of the Open Burning Weather Awareness Campaign from the National Weather Service in Burlington, we will examine the fire climatology of Vermont and northern New York.

A climatology of wildfires in Vermont and New York has been developed using data from the New York State DEC Forest Rangers (31 years from 1975-2006) and the Vermont Department of Forests, Parks, and Recreation (32 years from 1980-2012). Note - with respect to the wildfire database in New York State, the data represents wildfires that New York Forest Rangers were associated with.  Fires handled by local fire agencies in New York are not included in this database. For the state of Vermont fire data, the database consists of known wildfires reported to the Vermont Department of Forests, Parks, and Recreation.

Number of Fires:  In the period from 1975 through 2006, the New York State Forest Rangers responded to 10,082 fires, which makes for an average of 315 fires per year.  The highest total in any given year was 673 fires (1999) and the lowest total came in 1996 with 81 fires reported.  In Vermont from 1980 through 2012 there have been 5607 known fires reported for an average of 170 fires per year. The highest total in any given year was 370 fires (1985) and the lowest total came in 2000 with only 31 known fires reported.

Monthly Distribution:  Examination of fires by month shows both Vermont and New York having the highest occurrence of fires in April and May.  In Vermont, 75 percent of all fires in a given year occur in April and May.  In New York State, 54 percent of all fires in a given year occur in April and May. Therefore, the peak fire season in Vermont and New York is April and May.

Vermont Fires By Month

New York Fires By Month

Acreage Burned:  On average, 95 percent of all fires in Vermont burn less than 10 acres. In fact, 91 percent of all fires burn less than 5 acres and nearly 60 percent (59%) of all fires in Vermont burn less than an acre.  The largest fire reported in Vermont between 1980 and 2012 was a 350 acre fire in Leicester (Addison County) on October 30th, 1982.  With respect to New York State, 89 percent of all fires burn less than 10 acres.  The largest fire reported in New York State occurred on August 24th, 1995 at Riverhead in Suffolk County. This fire on Long Island burned 5,050 acres.

Causes:  In both New York and Vermont, burning debris is the number one cause of fires.  In New York, burning debris accounts for 33 percent of all fire starts and 41 percent of all fire starts in Vermont.  Weather related causes such as lightning account for only 3 percent of all fires started in New York and only 2 percent in Vermont.

Click Here To Return To The Open Burning Weather Awareness Page

(All photos taken on Vermont fires in 2012 and are courtesy of Brooke Taber, NWS Burlington, Vermont)




National Weather Service
Burlington
1200 Airport Drive
S. Burlington VT 05403
(802)862-2475

Contact: Eric Evenson
Page last modified: March 5, 2013
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