Drought helps make Cameron Peak near top 100 largest U.S. fires over last 20 years


DENVER (KDVR) – The longer Colorado languishes in draught, the greater the likelihood it will keep pushing the Cameron Peak Fire into national wildfire records.

Cameron Peak is now the worst fire in Colorado history by a good 30,000 acres and counting, putting it in the middle an exclusive national list of fires that burned over 100,000 acres – this nudges it towards one of the 100 worst U.S. fires in 20 years, sandwiched at 115th between two Alaska wildfires from 2009.

The fire is only half contained and shows no signs of slowing. Outcomes may depend on the state’s precipitation.

Historically, wildfires in Colorado match drought patterns almost exactly. Data compiled from drought.gov shows that total burned acres follow the severity of dryness. Years with exceptional drought – the highest rating – produce the most burned acres from wild fires.

This is pertinent for Colorado considering it is entering a prolonged period of exceptional drought. Statewide, 17% of the state is in an exceptional drought, and 43% of the state is in an extreme drought.

With the overwhelming majority of the state in a drought and a narrow majority in extreme and exceptional droughts, historical data points toward more and more burned acres.

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