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2024 North American Wildfires

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The North American wildfire season typically runs from spring to fall (although it varies by region).

However, as the effects of climate change increase, disasters continue to shirk the expected seasonal rules, occurring with ever-increasing frequency and intensity.

More specifically, 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.”

Since 2022, due to the changing landscape and timeline of fire season in North America, CDP’s North American wildfire profile runs by calendar year and typically covers wildfires in Canada, Mexico and the United States. Wildfires in other countries in North America will be included depending on size and severity.

(Photo by Ross Stone on Unsplash)

The following summarizes the North American Seasonal Fire Assessment and Outlook, a collaborative effort between the U.S. National Interagency Fire Center, Natural Resources Canada and Servicio Meteorológico Nacional in Mexico. The document provides a general discussion and assessment of factors that affect the occurrence of wildfires in North America. The report is updated monthly with an assessment of recent fires and climate conditions and projections of future wildfire risks.

Some of the critical factors that influence fire potential through May 2024 include El Niño and drought conditions.

Left: Canadian Drought Monitor from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada. Middle: United States Drought Monitor. Right: Mexican Drought Monitor from CONAGUA-Servicio Meteorológico Nacional.
Source: NIFC

Additionally, a group of researchers and experts studied 23,557 fires and found that drought conditions promote overnight burning, a key mechanism that fosters large active fires. The 2024 study results were published in Nature.

Overnight fires have emerged in North America, challenging the traditional understanding of the ‘active day, quiet night’ model of current fire management practices, which say cooler temperatures and higher humidity at night help slow the growth of wildfires. This new phenomenon has challenged people affected by wildfires, including complicating response and relief.

The study concluded that there is no difference between overnight burn events and daytime burning in extreme cases. Daytime drought conditions could, however, act as a “predictor of overnight burning events.”

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About our coverage

Though we would like to, we cannot share information on every fire across the continent. Below, you will find some general information about the outlook and most significant fires of 2024 in the United States, Canada and Mexico. Other countries in North America are included as relevant to funders. We typically focus our coverage on 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 Interagency Coordination Center and the National Multi-Agency Coordinating Group – is currently at Level 1, which means: “Minimal fire activity resulting in many available resources nationally.”

The National Interagency Fire Center statistics show that as of April 5, 8,433 fires this year have burned more than 1.7 million acres.

According to the National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI), February 2024 saw 3,809 fires burning more than 1,400,000 acres. While the number of fire incidents was just above the average of 3,471, the acres burned was the most on record given the 2001-2020 average was approximately 116,300 acres.

In the U.S., the National Significant Wildland Fire Potential Outlook, the National Interagency Fire Center’s monthly report, details weather, drought conditions, past incidents and potential risk.

In recent months, much of the East Coast and the Southeast experienced above-normal precipitation, with almost 300% of normal precipitation falling across South Florida. However, strong winds and relatively low humidity on March 20 resulted in critical weather conditions and significant fires across the central Appalachians. Strong storms, heavy snow and rainfall inundated the East and West Coast for much of March.

The outlook shows above-normal significant wildfire potential in Hawaii and across the Midwest and Southwest regions between April and July 2024. California’s wildfire season runs between April and October, when the weather is warmer and dry. Based on the outlook, much of California remains below-normal wildfire potential well into July.


Smokehouse Creek Fire: A wildfire in Texas became the biggest fire ever in the state and the second-largest wildfire in U.S. history on Feb. 26. The fire burned more than 1.06 million acres in Texas and nearly 70,000 acres in Oklahoma. After burning for nearly three weeks, destroying farms and ranches, the Smokehouse Creek Fire was completely contained on March 16.

Disaster declarations were issued by Governor Greg Abbott for 60 counties in response to the Smokehouse Creek Fire and three other fires. More than 100 miles of power lines will need to be rebuilt. Approximately 30,000 people are located within the perimeter of the fire.

The Smokehouse Creek Fire grew from 300,000 acres on Feb. 27, to 850,000 on Feb. 28 and then jumped to more than a million acres on Feb. 29. The growth of the fire slowed tremendously in March after rainfall and as firefighters gained more control over the perimeter.

The Smokehouse Creek Fire is bigger than Rhode Island. Texas’ preparedness level increased to three, indicating they needed outside resources to help fight the fires.

More than 500 structures, including homes, barns, outbuildings, and businesses were destroyed, and while the full extent of the damage is still unknown, estimates show that more than 10,000 head of cattle died. It is expected that more cattle will need to be euthanized or will die of injuries, devastating the nation’s largest beef-producing region. Many family farmers and ranchers have lost everything.

Two women were killed on Feb. 27. An 83-year-old grandmother died at her home in Stinnett, and a 44-year-old woman died after flames surrounded her vehicle while driving from Oklahoma to Amarillo.

Windy Deuce Fire: In the town of Fritch, the mayor estimated that at least 50 homes have been destroyed by the Windy Deuce Fire in the southern part of the community. Damage may be higher.

Home to slightly more than 2,100 people, the north side of Fritch burned in a wildfire in 2014.

The Windy Deuce Fire burned 144,045 acres, with 100% containment as of March 18. At least 195 personnel were assigned to the fire.

Fritch Fire Chief Zeb Smith died during an unrelated house fire just days after fighting the Smokehouse Creek Fire for a week. While the fire was not connected to the wildfires, officials at a press conference linked Chief Smith’sdeath to his efforts in fighting the blazes.

Grapevine Fire: This grass and brush fire started nine miles east of Lefors. It burned just under 35,000 acres and was contained on March 10.

You can support CDP’s response to wildfires in Texas by donating to our Disaster Recovery Fund.

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Several recent fires burned across Oklahoma, including the Smokehouse Creek Fire, which is listed in the Texas section below.

The state Emergency Operations Center (EOC) was activated on Feb. 26 due to wildfires, high winds and high fire risk.

Oklahoma Forestry Services said that between the end of February and early March, there were seven wildfires that burned around 152,294 acres. All evacuations were canceled.

Fires led to losses of several structures and livestock. The EOC said that there were 19 homes damaged or destroyed, including 12 in Ellis County. Of the other seven homes, two in Beaver County and two in Texas County were uninhabited.

Catesby Fire: The Catesby Fire in Ellis County received a Fire Management Assistant Grant (FMAG) from FEMA to cover response costs and fire equipment. It burned 90,699 acres and was fully contained as of March 17.

Slapout Fire: The Slapout Fire in Beaver County burned 26,048 acres and was 100% contained as of March 8. Three residences were destroyed.

The E1980 Rd Fire: The E1980 Rd Fire in Choctaw County burned 5,545 acres and was fully contained as of March 4.

You can support CDP’s response to wildfires in Oklahoma by donating to our Disaster Recovery Fund.

Related reading

Watch a video about Oklahoma wildfire recovery


Editor’s note: In California, we usually focus on fires that exceed 50,000 acres.

Thus far, in 2024, California has experienced 274 wildfires, with 161 acres burned.

There have been zero fatalities (firefighter or civilian) and zero structures damaged or destroyed as of April 5, 2024.

In 2023, 58 structures were reported destroyed. The three firefighters died on Aug. 6, 2023, after two helicopters collided while fighting a fire in Cabazon, California. A 71-year-old man was found deceased in the driveway of his home on Aug. 18, 2023, in the Head Fire.

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

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Hawaii (Hawai'i)

Devastating wildfires burned in Hawaii (Hawaiian: Hawai’i) the week of Aug. 6, 2023. The largest of these fires – the Lahaina fire on Maui – was the worst natural hazard disaster in Hawaii’s history, the fifth-deadliest wildfire in the U.S. in recorded history and the first fire since 1918 to reach 100 deaths. The unique nature of the fires – a combination of drought, lightning and Hurricane Dora – was highlighted in this Reuters interactive story.

For more information about the 2023 Lahaina wildfires, please see the 2023 North American Wildfires disaster profile.

On March 5, Hawaii’s Governor Josh Green issued his tenth emergency proclamation for the August 2023 wildfires until at least May 4, 2024. This emergency proclamation continues to:

  • “Enhance housing opportunities for displaced Maui residents by allowing condominium owners and associations to house displaced residents in excess of time limits in governing documents.
  • Encourage hotels, motels, and condominiums to make units available for the housing of those displaced by the wildfires by exempting such housing agreements from landlord-tenant statutes unless specified in a tenancy agreement.
  • Ease the burden of wildfire survivors who need to obtain records and evidence of identity, property, and individual rights from the State Archives Division, by waiving fees for copying, certifying, and other services.”

However, the proclamation does make some changes including removing “price freezes for all commodities except rentals of residential dwellings. However, it also provides an exception from the price freeze for rentals for affordable housing projects that are subject to regulatory agreements relating to rent increases. Such projects are now allowed to increase rents in line with their regulatory agreements. The proclamation also changes the suspension of Chapter 6E (relating to the state Historic Preservation Division) to allow for construction of temporary housing for those displaced by the fires with the approval of the Historic Preservation Division. The latest proclamation suspends Hawaii Revised Statutes Section 467-7 to allow operators of state-owned temporary lodging for displaced victims and those assisting with wildfire recovery to continue operating without a real estate license.”

Similarly, effective Feb. 4, 2024, Xavier Becerra, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, renewed his declaration of a public health emergency for Hawaii, originally issued on Aug. 11, 2023 and renewed on Nov. 6, 2023. This declaration allows Becerra and his administration to: “Take appropriate actions in response to the emergency consistent with other authorities, including: making grants; entering into contracts; and conducting and supporting investigations into the cause, treatment, or prevention of the disease or disorder.”

Eight months after the wildfires, about 3,800 people are still staying in hotels and eating food provided by the Red Cross. According to the Red Cross, only one-third of those who originally stayed in hotels have moved into housing. The program is extremely expensive, with one report indicating it costs $15,000 per month to house one evacuee in a Maui hotel. It is expected to end on April 10, 2024, but evacuees are unsure where they will go at that time.

Governor Josh Green hopes to have residents vacate temporary hotels by July 1. In February, FEMA secured almost 1,500 units for long-term housing and is currently in the process of building 169 temporary housing units. The state is also building 450 temporary housing units, 60% of which will be ready by July and August. Despite progress in securing housing units, survivors of the 2023 fire have turned down offers due to the location and strict governmental rules.

You can support wildfire recovery by donating to our Hawaii Wildfires Recovery Fund.

Related reading

In February, authorities dealt with several fires leading to a state of emergency declaration by Governor Laura Kelly.

Kansas is not usually seen as a top wildfire state, but Wildfires Today magazine reported that “the state experiences at least 5,000 wildfires annually, which ranks it among the top five states for number of wildfire incidents in the country among the likes of Texas, Oregon, and Montana. Kansas is also a top prescribed burning state in acreage, with well over one million acres burned yearly, according to the Coalition of Prescribed Fire Councils.”

However, about 30% of wildfires go unreported, mostly because, unlike many states, fighting fires remains a local responsibility. A key reason for this is the lack of federal lands (less than 0.5%) and home rule status.

The state has not provided an update on previous fires, but the fire weather outlook has moved most of the state into low and moderate risk until March 11.


Winn Parish battled multiple fires the week of Feb. 26, and officials have instituted extreme restrictions on lighting fires as the state continues to battle drought.

While the fires are small, last year’s fires burned for weeks, and the state wants to avoid a repeat scenario. The Henry Sanders Road fire, for example, only burned 142 acres.


The Betty’s Way Fire was started by a lawnmower on Monday, Feb. 26, and burned almost 70,000 acres in west-central Nebraska. By Feb. 29, it had reached 98% containment. The fire destroyed four primary residences along with countless outbuildings and agricultural infrastructures.

Two homes and several outbuildings have been destroyed by the fire, which burned in Lincoln, Dawson and Custer counties.


Multiple wildfires ignited during high winds on March 20 and burned across Virginia and West Virginia, particularly in the Shenandoah Valley. Five wildfires, three in Virginia and two in West Virginia, known as the North Zone Complex, collectively burned 15,977 total acres.

The biggest of the five burned 6,399 acres in Shenandoah and Page Counties. Initial reports of damages found at least 10 homes destroyed in Page County and four others damaged.

The U.S. Forest Service released its final fire update on April 3, finding all fires to be 100% contained.

A closure order remains for all areas in the Complex, and assessments of conditions on the ground are ongoing. Firefighters continue to address safety concerns and remove snags, and other teams plan on rehabilitating damages to natural drainages and structures.

While no casualties were reported from these fires, a firefighter died while battling a separate three-acre local fire in southwest Virginia on March 30.

West Virginia

On March 20, the Waites Run Fire and Cove Mountain Fire started in West Virginia and were part of the North Zone Complex with three other wildfires in Virginia. The two wildfires collectively burned over 6,300 acres of land until U.S. Forest Services confirmed that they had been 100% contained on April 3.

On March 22, the National Guard sent two helicopters and dropped nearly 95,000 gallons of water in particularly dry, rough and dangerous terrain.

No casualties or injuries were reported.


The Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Centre (CIFFC) provided its last update for 2023 on Sept. 27, 2023. It has not reported on any fires in 2024 and intends to start providing updates in the coming weeks.

The current National Preparedness Level is set to Level 1, meaning: “Wildland fire activity is minimal, and most jurisdictions experience light/moderate wildland fire danger. The demand for firefighters and equipment from other jurisdictions is light.” CIFFC’s National Situation Report “is published daily at 15:00 CDT from early May until the end of August and weekly on Wednesdays as required during the shoulder seasons in April and September. The National Fire Situation Report provides a snapshot of fire activity from the previous calendar day along with cumulative totals for the season.”

In 2023, there were a total of 6,551 fires, which burned 45.7 million acres of land. By comparison, in 2022, there were 4,883 wildfires which scorched 3.6 million acres. This means nearly 13 times more land was destroyed in 2023 compared to 2022.

According to the March 14, 2024, North American Fire Outlook, wildfire projections in Canada show precipitation levels keep new fires at normal levels but indicate increased fire risk in southern British Columbia where snowfall was below normal over winter.

British Columbia (BC)

British Columbia has 99 active fires as of March 15, 2024, many of which are still burning from last year. All of the fires are being held (1) or under control (98). Since April 2023, BC has experienced 2,309 fires. The “fire year” restarts on April 1, 2024.

The largest-ever fire in British Columbia, the Donnie Creek Blaze, burned an area larger than Prince Edward Island. The fire burned on the traditional territory of the Blueberry River, Prophet River and Doig River First Nations and destroyed traplines, important ceremonial landmarks, massive amounts of timber, blueberries and other berries, and habitat for deer, bison and moose. This caused significant disruptions to Indigenous communities and the lumber and milling industries. The fire burned over 1.53 million acres and, as of Oct. 23, 2023, was still burning, though it is now under control.


In Alberta, there are 47 active fires, including carry-over fires. There are 5 fires burning that started in 2024 as of April 5. All the fires are currently held or under control.

In the “Wildfires of Note” from the Government of Alberta, there were no wildfires of note, meaning a wildfire that is highly visible or poses a potential threat to public safety, as of Oct. 30, 2023, the last time this document was updated.

Northwest Territories (NWT)

In Canada’s far north, the NWT has 182 active wildfires as of Oct. 18, 2023, the date of the last update.

NWT has a population of only 45,000 people. Two-thirds of this northern, near-Arctic territory was displaced by wildfires at least once during the summer of 2023, including the territory’s capital city, Yellowknife, home to 20,000 people.


The province reported 713 total fires in 2023 (566 in the Intensive Zone and 147 in the Nordic Zone) compared to the 10-year average number of annual fires in Quebec of 439. In 2024, 13 fires were reported.

Quebec experienced a record-breaking forest fire in 2023. More than 11 million acres burned, compared to the 10-year average of 39,051 acres. This represents almost one-quarter of the country’s land lost.


Fire season in Mexico is generally in February and peaks mid-March through May.

According to the March 14, 2024, North American Fire Outlook, forest fire activity through May is expected to increase with above-normal fire potential forecast in mountain ranges of Mexico. Meanwhile, drought areas have increased and precipitation is expected to remain below normal until the end of April.

Since March 15, a total of 400 wildfires, including 116 active fires, burned across 15 states in Mexico, fueled by strong winds. On March 27, four people were reported dead following a wave of wildfires, burning more than 32,000 acres. More than 6,000 forest firefighters were deployed. However, a shortage of firefighters in some areas caused locals to fight the fire themselves, and they were met with fire-friendly conditions such as strong winds.

The fires come at a time when approximately 60% of Mexico is experiencing moderate to exceptional drought and 21 million residents of Mexico City are battling a water crisis.

There are several areas of ongoing support that are needed in the recovery phase from a fire. These include rebuilding homes or repairing damage, soil remediation, temporary housing, physical and mental health, assistance for survivors in navigating disaster recovery resources, community and economic development, agricultural support and livelihood/income support.

Funders should also consider options to support fire-impacted communities in “blue sky” times to reduce the impact of future fires.

Award loans and grants for rebuilding damaged homes and businesses.

In the U.S., 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 also often hire migrant workers to work on rebuilding projects and 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.

People already in vulnerable situations before a disaster – older adults, undocumented and mixed-status families, people living with physical or mental health challenges, and people living in poverty – may find their circumstances worsened in the face of disaster and continue to face challenges during the recovery phase.  

Organizations working with at-risk populations must have plans to mitigate the disaster’s impacts. These organizations are better informed about local culture than outside entities and will be on the ground for years.

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.

Simple efforts such as clearing flammable materials from 100 feet around structures may help prevent property damage. Fires can also be started by misuse of equipment, such as grills, that can be averted with simple preparedness strategies. 

Investing in awareness and educational campaigns, including the dissemination of promising practices in wildfire and drought mitigation, can help people stay alert and prepare in case of fire.

Assist businesses to reduce economic impact.

By developing a business continuing and disaster recovery plan for business owners, the impact of disasters can be reduced and set the stage for recovery. These plans should include contingencies for displaced workers, data backup and alternate facilities for continuing operations in the event of property damage. 

Consider the needs of volunteer fire departments.

As volunteers, many smaller fire departments often lack the structural support afforded to larger departments, and their resources may have been quickly depleted during the wildfire.

Support the creation of smart growth efforts.

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

Mental health

Mental health is always a significant issue following fires, especially fires that cause loss of life. Funders can support organizations, particularly those on the ground long-term, to provide mental health services to their communities for years to come. This should be broader than traditional therapists, as some ethnic or religious communities need culturally competent and supportive services.

In Hawaii, traditional Hawaiian beliefs differ from Western cultures, so care should be provided by Native Hawaiian groups or organizations whenever possible.

Funders could also consider providing additional funding for shelters or services for people dealing with Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) and for rehab facilities or services for people with addictions. IPV and addiction issues often increase after disasters.

For example, CDP’s California Wildfires Fund provided a grant to La Familia Sana to create a mental health outreach and service provision program for the underserved Latinx residents in their service area.

CDP has specific funds for wildfire needs in California and Hawaii. In addition, our Disaster Recovery Fund supports wildfire-affected areas in the remainder of the United States, and our Global Recovery Fund supports Canada, Mexico and other countries.

Support wildfire recovery

Contact CDP

Philanthropic contributions

If you would like to make a gift to our Hawaii Wildfires Recovery Fund, California Wildfires Recovery Fund, Disaster Recovery Fund or Global Recovery Fund, need help with your disaster-giving strategy, or want to share how you’re responding to this disaster, please contact development.

(Photo by Malachi Brooks on Unsplash)

Recovery updates

If you are a responding NGO, 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.

Philanthropic and government support

Through funding from Google and the CDP Disaster Recovery Fund, Seeding Sovereignty received a $61,065 grant 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 provided a $309,686 grant to Impact on Education. The grant allowed Impact on Education to expand its mental health advocate program at seven schools in Louisville, Superior and Boulder County, where the Marshall Fire devastated communities.

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 United States. InterAction can provide information about organizations providing support outside of the U.S. Local community foundations also have insights into nongovernmental organizations that are best suited to respond in a particular community. CDP’s partner, the Council on Foundations summarized resources available to guide philanthropy following the wildfires in Hawaii, including resources from CDP.


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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.

Extreme Heat

Extreme Heat

While the average temperature continues to increase at a moderate pace, climate change has caused more frequent extreme weather events, particularly extreme heat.