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2022 North American Wildfires

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Typically, the Center for Disaster Philanthropy (CDP) starts its North American wildfires profile in the summer or even fall. However, as climate change increasingly has a more significant impact, we have been losing the concept of disaster seasons.

Two significant winter fires in Colorado and California, along with dozens of smaller fires, have led to statistics that far exceed what typically happens at this point in the year. As such, our wildfire profile will run by calendar year moving forward.

This direction is supported by experts such as Cecile Juliette, public information officer of California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, who told ABC News, “We are towards the end of January. 10-15 years ago we use to call it the California fire season where we might get fires say in July that would last through maybe September or October. So, it was just a few months. Now our fires are extending all the way through December and then into January. So it’s not really accurate to call it a fire season. CAL FIRE is trying to get away from calling it a fire season because that doesn’t make sense anymore. It’s really now more of a fire year.”

Editor’s Note: The Center for Disaster Philanthropy (CDP) maintains a profile on International Wildfires which covers all major wildfire areas outside of the U.S., Canada and Mexico.

(Photo: Monterey County via Twitter)

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About our coverage

Though we would like to, we are unable to share information on every fire across the continent. Below, you will find some general information about the most significant fires of 2022.

In California, we focus on fires that exceed 50,000 acres but also share information about significant fires that are affecting people and property. In all other states, we cover fires that significantly affect the surrounding areas and environment, and affect residents, especially at-risk populations.

United States

The National Multi-Agency Coordinating Group has decreased the National Preparedness Level to Level 2, indicating that a small number of regions need support from other areas. Level 5 is the highest National Preparedness Level, indicating that international support is required to manage wildfires, Level 1 is the lowest, indicating that all areas can manage their needs without support from other regions.

The National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC) statistics show that as of Oct. 28, 2022, 59,547 fires have already burned a total of 7,211,472 acres. This is above the 10-year average of 48,326 fires and the average acreage of 6,738,696. After a sharp increase early in October, the fire season is slowing in intensity with only 7 large uncontained fires across the United States – a decrease of 5 since Oct. 19.

Alaska

Active fires
There are no current large active fires in Alaska.

Previous fires
Clear Fire
Lime Complex Fire
Minto Lakes Fire

Arizona

There are no current large active fires in Arizona.

Previous major fires in Arizona
Contreras Fire
Haywire Fire
Pipeline Fire
Tunnel Fire

California

California has had a remarkably slow wildfire season in 2022, with only 362,232 acres burned in 7,095 fires. While the number of fires as of Nov. 2 is slightly above the 5-year average of 7,140, the number of acres burned is less than 1/5 of the 5-year average of 2,094,293.

Sadly, some of these wildfires have been small but destructive and there are 9 confirmed fatalities, with 104 structures damaged and another 772 structures destroyed. Flash flooding that has sent debris from fire areas into nearby communities has also caused additional damage.

The Mosquito Fire was burning in the Tahoe and Eldorado National Forests near the town of Foresthill, northeast of Sacramento. This fire was first detected in the evening of Sept. 6 in a landscape described as “steep and rugged,” posing access challenges for firefighters. Fire officials warn that the fuels in the area are extremely dry. They are expecting extreme fire behavior that could cause a risk to both firefighters and civilians.

As of Oct. 31, the fire was mapped at 76,788 acres with 100% containment. It forced the evacuation of over 11,000 people, destroyed 25 homes and 21 minor structures and threatened almost 6,000 structures. Smoke from the fire is pushing into Nevada and creating unhealthy air quality around northern California. The final daily update for the Mosquito Fire was issued on Oct. 2.

Previous major fires in California
Fairview Fire
McKinney Fire
Mill Fire
Mountain Fire
Oak Fire

Colorado

Active fires
There are no current large active fires in Colorado.

You can support CDP’s response to the wildfires by donating to our Colorado Wildfires Recovery Fund.

Florida

Active fires
There are no current large active fires in Florida.

Previous major fires in Florida
Chipola Complex Fires

Idaho

After an uneventful start to the fire season, Idaho’s Moose Fire has exploded in size since it began on July 17. As of Nov. 2, it was 130,205 acres and 95% contained. Firefighters had to play catch up earlier in September after high winds pushed the fire across containment lines and increased the size by over 15,000 acres in just 2 days.

Firefighters were unable to attack the fire directly from the ground for many days due to extreme fire behavior such as crown fires – where the fire jumps from treetop to treetop – and long-range spot fires that are burning ahead of the main fire. Firefighters were challenged to try and control the fire after all airborne activity – water bombers, helicopters and spotter aircraft – was grounded in the wake of a helicopter crash that killed two pilots who were fighting the fire.

According to the National Wildfire Coordinating Group “Fire managers expect the fire to burn until sustained lower temperatures, shorter burning periods, increased relative humidity, shorter sunlight duration, and significant moisture are present.”

As of Oct. 19, the fire had been turned over to local personnel with the Salmon-Challis National Forest.

Previous major fires in Idaho
Four Corners Fire

Montana

Active fires
There are no current large active fires in Montana.

Previous major fires in Montana
Elmo Fire

Nebraska

Active fires
There are no current large active fires in Nebraska

Previous major fires in Nebraska
Bovee Fire

New Mexico

Active fires
There are no current large active fires in New Mexico.

Previous major fires in New Mexico
Bear Trap Fire
Black Fire
Cerro Pelado Fire
Hermits Peak and Calf Canyon Fires

Oregon

Active fires
Southeast of Eugene, the Cedar Creek Fire has been steadily burning in Willamette National Forest along the shores of Waldo Lake. While this fire has affected recreational activities in the area, it isn’t reported to have destroyed any structures or caused any injuries. Because of the steep and relatively inaccessible terrain, firefighters have been building fire breaks in more easily accessible areas, allowing the fire to burn safely within these fire breaks. As of Sept. 5, it was mapped at 17,625 acres and 12% contained. However, a severe weather event that brought high winds to the area allowed the fire to breach its containment lines and grow more than 32,000 acres in 24 hours between Sept. 10-11. By Oct. 27, the fire was mapped at 127,283 acres with 60% containment.

Previous major fires in Oregon
Double Creek Fire
Goat Mountain 2 Fire
Nebo Fire
Rum Creek fire
Sturgill Fire

Texas

Active fires
There are no current large active fires in Texas.

While Texas has not seen a large number of major wildfires, the overall number of fires in 2022 is up 40% over the average year. Texas A&M Forest Service reports that they have responded to 1,682 wildfires in 2022 compared to 1,194 wildfires in an average year. Firefighters have also been kept busy with flooding and other activities as the areas burned by wildfires are more prone to flooding.

Previous major fires in Texas
Big L Fire
Blanket Fire
Canadian River Bottom Fire
Chalk Mountain Fire
Crittenburg Complex Fire
Eastland Complex Fire

Utah

Active fires
There are no current large active fires in Utah.

Previous fires
Halfway Hill Fire

Washington

Active fires
There are no current large active fires in Washington.

Previous major fires in Washington
Bolt Creek Fire
Chilliwack Complex
Pasayten Complex

Canada

Alberta
Active fires
There are no current large active fires in Alberta

Previous major fires in Alberta
Chetamon Mountain wildfire

British Columbia

Active fires
There are no current large active fires in British Columbia.

Previous major fires in British Columbia
Flood Falls Trail Wildfire
Heather Lake wildfire
Nohomin Creek Wildfire

Newfoundland and Labrador
Previous major fires in Newfoundland and Labrador
Paradise Lake and Bay D’Espoire Highway Fires

There are several areas of ongoing support that are needed in the recovery phase. These include the rebuilding of homes or repair of damage, debris clean-up, soil remediation, temporary housing, physical and mental health, agricultural support, and livelihood/income support.

Funders should also consider the following options to support fire-impacted communities now and to reduce the impact of future fires:

Award loans and grants for rebuilding damaged homes and businesses.

There is currently a $2 million cap on disaster loans for businesses or private and nonprofit organizations through the Small Business Administration’s Economic Injury Disaster Loan program. That amount may not cover what is needed, and monies allocated may be slow to arrive. Companies often hire migrant workers to work on rebuilding projects, and they do not always provide safe and adequate housing, food and other support. Make fair hiring practices a component of your grants.

Support local agencies on the ground throughout the disaster life cycle, especially those working with marginalized communities.

Those in already precarious situations — such as the elderly, sick, undocumented and mixed-status families, and people living in poverty — may find their circumstances worsened in the face of disaster. Mental health providers, food banks and organizations working with children or the elderly, for example, must have plans in place to mitigate the disaster’s impacts. Strengthening the capacity of such organizations is also essential.

Fund drought mitigation efforts.

These may focus on sustainable agriculture, water conservation or land use. According to the National Drought Mitigation Center, an emerging area for research is land use patterns that “maintain the integrity of watersheds and that have a smaller paved footprint result in greater resilience in the face of drought.”

Invest in public awareness and educational campaigns as well as dissemination of promising practices in wildfire and drought mitigation.

Simple efforts such as clearing flammable materials from 100 feet around the house may help prevent property damage. Fires can also be started by misuse of equipment, such as grills, that can be averted with proper knowledge.

Assist businesses in developing business continuity and disaster recovery plans to reduce economic impact.

These plans should include contingencies for displaced workers, back up of data and alternate facilities for continuing operations in the event of property damage.

Consider the needs of volunteer fire departments.

As volunteers, they often lack the structural support of larger departments, and their resources may have been depleted during the wildfire.

Support the creation of “smart growth” efforts.

Smart planning can help mitigate wildfires or prevent them altogether.

Houses on fire on Boulder County caused by the Marshall Fire

As with most disasters, experts recommend cash donations. They allow on-the-ground agencies to direct funds to the most significant area of need, support economic recovery and ensure donation management does not detract from disaster recovery needs.

Support recovery now

Contact CDP

Philanthropic contributions

The Center for Disaster Philanthropy has two specific funds for wildfire needs, one for California and one for Colorado. In addition, our Disaster Recovery Fund provides support for wildfire-affected areas in the remainder of the United States and our Global Recovery Fund provides support for Canada, Mexico and the rest of the world.

(Photo: Burning homes on the path of the Marshall Fire. Source: South Metro Fire Rescue via Twitter.)

Recovery updates

If you are a responding NGO or a donor, please send updates on how you are working on recovery from this disaster to  tanya.gulliver-garcia@disasterphilanthropy.org.

We welcome the republication of our content. Please credit the Center for Disaster Philanthropy.

Donor recommendations

If you are a donor looking for recommendations on how to support recovery from this disaster, please email regine.webster@disasterphilanthropy.org.

Note: If you are an individual who was affected by the disaster, we encourage you to contact your local 211 to see what resources are available in your community.

Philanthropic and government support

CDP awarded a $309,686 grant to Impact on Education to expand its mental health advocate program at seven schools located in Louisville, Superior and Boulder counties where the Marshall Fire devastated communities.

CDP awarded a $105,600 grant to United Way of Reno County through the Midwest Early Recovery Fund to support two disaster case managers for 18 months following the 2022 Reno County, Kansas wildfires.

In July 2022, CDP made a $250,000 grant from the Colorado Wildfires Recovery Fund to the Marshall Fire Recovery Center to open and staff a centralized recovery center in the area affected by the fires and windstorms in December 2021. This recovery center will allow those seeking recovery support to find all their needs supported in one location.

Civitas Resources, Inc. has pledged a million dollars to assist with recovery from the Marshall and Middle Fork Fires in Colorado.

FEMA issued a major disaster declaration on Jan. 1 (DR-4634) including the Marshall and Middle Fork Fires in Colorado. The eligibility date for applications closed on Sept. 22 with 944 individual assistance applications had been approved for an obligation of just over $2 million. An additional $35.5 million in Public Assistance Grants was also approved.

FEMA issued a major disaster declaration on May 4. (DR-4652) that includes damages from wildfires occurring during the time between Apr. 5 and Jul. 23. As of Oct. 4, 1,302 individual assistance applications had been approved for a total obligation of $5.4 million, with another $820,000 approved in Public Assistance Grants.

More ways to help

CDP has also created a list of suggestions for foundations to consider related to disaster giving. These include:

  • Take the long view: Even while focusing on immediate needs, remember that it will take some time for the full range of needs to emerge. Be patient in planning for disaster funding. Recovery will take a long time and funding will be needed throughout.
  • Recognize there are places private philanthropy can help that government agencies might not: Private funders have opportunities to develop innovative solutions to help prevent or mitigate future disasters that the government cannot execute.
  • All funders are disaster philanthropists: Even if your organization does not work in a particular geographic area or fund immediate relief efforts, you can look for ways to tie disaster funding into your existing mission. If you focus on education, health, children or vulnerable populations, disasters present prime funding opportunities.
  • Ask the experts: If you are considering supporting an organization that is positioned to work in an affected area, do some research. The Center for Disaster Philanthropy and National Volunteer Organizations Active in Disasters can provide resources and guidance about organizations working in affected communities. Local community foundations also have insights into nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) that are best suited to respond in a particular community.

Related resources

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Wildfires

Wildfires

Weather can significantly affect the frequency and severity of wildfires. Prolonged drought can extend prime wildfire season, making blazes more likely. Additionally, high temperatures and low humidity can quickly dry out vegetation which then becomes potential fuel.

Drought

Drought

Drought is often defined as an unusual period of drier than normal weather that leads to a water shortage. Drought causes more deaths and displaces more people than any other disaster.

Emergency Response Services

Emergency Response Services

Emergency response services are the public, private and volunteer organizations that respond to incidents that threaten the safety and wellbeing of people in their area.