Title: Preliminary Data and Statistics for Determining Communities-At-Risk from Destructive Wildfires
Author: Andrew T. Jacobs, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, Forest Ranger Division
Abstract: Wildfire occurrence reporting in New York is based on two data sources. The New York State Forest Ranger force has fought fires and retained records for 125 years. Over the past 25 years (1985-2009), Division records indicate that rangers suppressed 7,672 wildfires that burned a total of 71,187 acres. This averages 307 fires burning 2,847 acres per year, however, New York does not have a consistent wildfire season. New York’s fire history indicates periods of time when wildfires are much more numerous and destructive than the 25-year average would indicate. 1985, 1986, 1988, 1989, 1991, 1995, 1998, 1999, 2001 and 2008 were all above average years with 11,730 acres burned in 1989 alone. In 2008, a 2,800 acre wildfire occurred in Minnewaska State Park killing approximately 50% of the old growth forest cover in this very popular and scenic park. In addition to Forest Rangers documenting wildfire occurrence, New York’s 1,700 fire departments do the same but in a significantly different format. Data collected by the NYS Office of Fire Prevention and Control (OFP&C) indicates that from 2000 through 2009, fire departments throughout New York responded to 76,479 wildfires, brush fires, grass fires or other outdoor fires (all natural vegetation fires). Although this averages approximately 7,648 fires per year, 2001, 2002, 2005, 2006 and 2008 were above average years with 10,169 fires reported in 2005 alone. Fire department data for 2005 through 2009 has been incorporated into the Department’s geographical information system (GIS) and several statistical occurrence maps and graphs have been produced.