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2023 North American Wildfires

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Typically, wildfire season across North America has been from spring to fall (although it varies by region).

However, as the effects of climate change increase, disaster seasons are becoming less accurate. As such, since 2022, CDP’s wildfire profile has run by calendar year. This profile covers wildfires in Canada, Mexico and the United States.

Climate change is having a significant impact on wildfires around the world and across the U.S. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, “Climate change, including increased heat, extended drought, and a thirsty atmosphere, has been a key driver in increasing the risk and extent of wildfires in the western United States during the last two decades. Wildfires require the alignment of a number of factors, including temperature, humidity, and the lack of moisture in fuels, such as trees, shrubs, grasses, and forest debris. All these factors have strong direct or indirect ties to climate variability and climate change.”

May was Wildfire Awareness Month. Learn more here from the Department of Energy.

(Photo by Malachi Brooks on Unsplash)

The National Interagency Fire Center issues a monthly National Significant Wildland Fire Potential Outlook on the first of the month. It details weather, drought conditions, past incidents and potential risk. Key points from the June 1 Outlook include:

  • “Year-to-date acres burned for the US is 51% of the 10-year average, with a below average number of fires, about 82% of average.
  • The Drought Severity and Coverage Index (DSCI) is now at 74 (scale 0 to 500), which is the lowest value since June 2020 and down from a 10-year peak of 202 on November 1, 2022. More than 59% of the country has no drought and less than 20% of it is in moderate to exceptional drought.
  • Climate Prediction Center and Predictive Services monthly and seasonal outlooks depict likely above normal temperatures for the West, South, and East Coast through summer. Below normal precipitation is likely for the Southwest and possibly into the broader Four Corners region as the North American Monsoon is expected to be below average this summer. Below normal precipitation is also forecast along and west of the Cascades. Areas of above normal precipitation are likely in parts of the Southeast, Midwest, and Plains during the summer, but below normal precipitation is possible in the Great Lakes during June and in the Northeast later this summer.
  • Rangeland areas from central and eastern Washington into central Oregon are expected to have above normal significant fire potential in June.
  • Below normal significant fire potential continues for the mountains and foothills of California during June.
  • Higher elevations in the southern Great Basin through the mountains of Utah and much of the Southwest, west of the Continental Divide, are likely to have below normal significant fire potential in June.
  • A pattern change is likely to bring slightly above normal significant fire potential in eastern and central portions of the Interior and south-central Alaska during the latter half of June and likely extending into July.
  • Above normal potential is expected to emerge in parts of the Great Lakes in June due to recent drying and forecast dry conditions.”
Source: National Interagency Fire Center
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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 2023.

In California, we focus on fires that exceed 50,000 acres. In all other states, Mexico and Canada, we cover fires that significantly impact the surrounding areas and environment, and affect residents, especially at-risk populations.

United States

The National Preparedness Level – set by the National Multi-Agency Coordinating Group – remains at Level 2 as of June 1, 2023, which indicates that “large wildland fires are burning throughout the country, requiring resources to be mobilized from different areas.”

The National Interagency Fire Center statistics show that as of June 1, 2023, there have been 18,280 fires this year that have burned a total of 511,498 acres. This is below the 10-year average (2013-2022) of 21,735 fires and the average acreage of 1.01 million acres.

As of June 1, there were at least 105 wildfires burning in 11 states, but the majority of the fires were extremely small.


The atmospheric rivers, heavy rains, flooding and increased snowpack have reduced the severity of early fires in California this year. As of June 1, California has only had 985 wildfires, with a total of 1,024 acres burned.

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

New Mexico

As of June 1, the Pass Fire in the Gila National Forest in New Mexico has surpassed 17,000 acres. It is burning in a wilderness area and presents little risk to people.

The fire began due to lightning on May 17. Previous burn scars will hopefully limit growth, and firefighters are allowing it to burn naturally. This fire is a good example of the way an ecosystem is often dependent upon fire for regrowth and forest management.


As of June 1, there were 13 active fires in Oregon, with 3,590 acres burned. The majority of those acres were destroyed in the Dillion Creek fire. It was discovered on May 20 and, by June 1, had burned 3,119 acres and was 85% contained. Central and southeastern Oregon is predicted to have above-normal fire risk this year.


“The National Interagency Coordination Center (NICC), located at the National Interagency Fire Center has sent additional resources to Canada in response to a request from the Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Centre (CIFFC) in Canada. There are approximately 225 federal firefighting resources and support personnel assigned to various wildfires in Canada.

The National Interagency Coordination Center located at the National Interagency Fire Center “continues to work with the Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Center [CIFFC] to support ongoing wildfires in Alberta and British Columbia. Resources from the United States include interagency hotshot crews, incident management teams, equipment and supplies.”

Currently, the CIFFC remains Preparedness Level 5 due to continued hot, dry conditions and extreme fire activity that is being observed on many incidents across provinces and territories in Canada.

As of June 1, 2023, the CIFFC has reported 1,866 fires in the year-to-date and 7.2 million acres (almost 2.9 million hectares) burned. There are currently 225 large, active fires, with 99 out of control, 83 under control and 43 being held.

Poor air quality from the smoke has extended across parts of Canada and the New England region of the U.S.

Nova Scotia, Canada

In Nova Scotia, there are 16 active fires and only three out of control fires, but they have led to the evacuation of more than 22,000 people.

On May 28, the capital city, Halifax, declared a state of emergency due to the fires in the nearby communities of Tantallon and Hammonds Plains. While a full assessment has not been completed, as of June 1, at least 150 homes and 50 additional structures were destroyed by the fires. Containment is at 50% with a little over 2,000 acres burned.

The province’s largest ever fire is burning in Shelburne County. At nearly 50,000 acres, it has already burned six times more than all the wildfires in 2022 (7,400 acres). At least 50 homes have been destroyed. About 5,000 people – approximately 40% of the county’s population – has been forced to leave.

About 4,600 customers are without power across the province as of June 1.

New Brunswick, Canada

Fires were bad in the maritime province of New Brunswick at the end of May. The province has already exceeded its 10-year average for forest fires (157 fires and 706.47 acres). In 2022, there were 138 fires that burned 301.7 acres. So far (June 1), there have been 170 fires, burning 2,158 acres.

On Sunday, May 28, there were 15 separate fires burning across the province and multiple evacuations were issued. While the Stein Lake fire was out-of-control on May 28, it was deemed manageable by June 1. It has reached 1,300 acres (540 hectares), but only one home burned down in Bocabec.

An ATV club has asked members to stay off trails and several forestry operations have placed daytime restrictions on their operations.

British Columbia, Canada

In British Columbia, there are 39 active fires. There is one wildfire that is considered a Wildfire of Note, which means that the fire “is highly visible or poses a potential threat to public safety.” There are also five smaller fires across the province that are deemed to be out of control.

The wildfire of note is in the central and northeast region of the province, known as the Prince George Fire Center. This large forest region has the “boundaries of the Prince George Fire Centre include the north of the Interior Plateau and the Omenica Mountains to the north, sections of the Rocky Mountain Trench and Peace Liard country to the east and part of the Cariboo range to the south.”

The Donnie Creek Fire is a lightning or natural-caused fire, discovered on May 12. As of June 1, it remained out of control and had burned over 416,000 acres (168,395 hectares). The fire is burning in the traditional territories of Blueberry River First Nations, Doig River First Nations and Halfway River First Nations.

Alberta, Canada

In Alberta, there are 63 active fires and there have already been more than 550 fires in 2023, as of June 1. Of the active fires, 27.12% are out of control, 30.51% are being held and 42.37% are under control. A provincial state of emergency has been declared.

There are 10 wildfires of note in the Forest Protection Area of Alberta. More than 4,400 people have been evacuated from their homes due to the Alberta fires. This includes about 1,000 residents of Fort Chipewyan, a very remote northern community located 190 miles north of Fort McMurray. After the ice road melts, this community is only accessible by plane or boat which made evacuation efforts challenging. The Fort Chipewyan fire has burned about 21,000 acres as of June 1.

The Deep Creek Complex has burned nearly 70,000 acres.

The Grizzly Complex is near the communities of High Prairie, Swan Hills and Slave Lake. It has burned almost over 442,000 acres.

The Eagle Complex is near Fox Creek and Little Smoky and has burned over 317,000 burned acres.

The Kimiwan Complex is located near the Peavine Métis Settlement, Three Creeks and Simon Lake. It is has burned more than 317,000 acres.

The Pembina Wildfire Complex is near Lodgepole, Edson, Brazeau Dam and the O’Chiese Reserve. It is almost 550,000 acres in size.

The Long Lake Fire is located near the Rainbow Lake community and had burned over 330, 000 acres. All of these fires are out of control and have firefighters, helicopters and heavy equipment working on the response.


Wildfire season in Mexico is generally November to May, with a peak from March to May. As the official season approaches the end, there have been numerous fires in western Mexico.

As of May 18, the year-to-date total was 4,142 fires across 32 states for a total area of nearly 670,000 acres (270,948 hectares). From May 12-May 18 there were 92 fires, burning an area of nearly 74,000 acres (29,862.39 hectares). Most of these fires (96% of area burnt) were in Jalisco, Durango, Campeche, Nayarit and Zacatecas.

There are several areas of ongoing support that are needed in the recovery phase. These include rebuilding 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 older adults, undocumented and mixed-status families, people with physical or mental health challenges, and people living in poverty — may find their circumstances worsened in the face of disaster. Organizations working with at-risk populations must have plans in place to mitigate the disaster’s impacts.

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 growth efforts and smart planning can help mitigate wildfires or prevent them altogether.

CDP has a specific fund for wildfire needs in California. 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 other countries.

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Contact CDP

Philanthropic contributions

If you would like to make a gift to our California Wildfires Recovery FundDisaster Recovery Fund or Global Recovery Fund, please contact development.

(Photo by Ross Stone on Unsplash)

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

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

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.

More ways to help

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.

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 within the U.S. Local community foundations also have insights into nongovernmental organizations that are best suited to respond in a particular community. 

Philanthropic support

Through funding from Google and the CDP Disaster Recovery Fund, Seeding Sovereignty received a grant of $61,065 to provide community care and relief in the wake of traumatic wildfires in the Queer, Trans, Black, Indigenous People of Color populations they serve in the wake of the New Mexico wildfires.

From the California Wildfires Recovery Fund:

  • CDP awarded a $200,000 grant to Northern Valley Catholic Social Service Inc. (NVCSS) to increase wildfire resilience levels, while reducing associated risks among vulnerable populations within the NVCSS service region.
  • CDP issued a $300,000 grant to Northern California Grantmakers (NCG) to expand their disaster resilience investment in the philanthropic sector. NCG is working with CDP to convene, educate, inform and help strategically direct philanthropic giving in light of state and local government investments in this area to support mitigation projects throughout the state to build a more prepared and resilient California.
  • CDP provided a $99,734 grant to Corazon Healdsburg (Scopa Has A Dream Inc.) to provide wildfire disaster preparedness and prevention training for clients. By providing emergency disaster kits and support for renters insurance as well, clients will be better able to face future wildfires and be more resilient.

From its now-closed Colorado Wildfires Recovery Fund, CDP issued a grant of $309,686 to Impact on Education. The grant allowed Impact on Education to expand its mental health advocate program at seven schools located in Louisville, Superior and Boulder County where the Marshall Fire devastated communities.


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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 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.