2023 Wildfires in the Western United States

Caitlin Dempsey


An extra wet and cold winter has resulted in soil moisture lasting longer across much of the Western United States. The hot, dry summers are peak fire season in this part of the United States.

So far in early August of 2023, the wildfire season in the western United States has not been as intense as prior years when a years-long drought was raging. According to data from the National Interagency Fire Center, 2023 has seen the least amount of acreage burned year-to-date in the last decade.

As of August 3, 2023, 30,800 wildfires have burned 1.2 million acres (4,800 square kilometers). Comparatively, the ten-year average for acres burned by wildfire to date is 3.8 million acres (15,400 square kilometers).

Across the United States, the National Interagency Fire Center is reporting there are 78 large active fires in early August covering 458,807 acres. Of the 11 states reporting large active fires, most are in the western United States:

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Alaska had the highest number of active large fires with 20 affecting 49,520 acres still burning on August 3, 2023.

New Mexico

With 14 wildfires burning as of August 3, New Mexico has 114,908 across affected.

Oregon wildfire

As of August 3, the Forest Service reported that the Bedrock Fire had scorched 12,200 acres (49 square kilometers) and was expanding by approximately 1,000 acres (4 square kilometers) daily.

A satellite image of a wildfire burning across Oregon.
The Bedrock Fire burning twelve miles south of Vida, Oregon. Satellite image: NASA, August 1, 2023.

Idaho wildfire

The Elkhorn Fire, which is the most extensive blaze in the state, began in the Payette National Forest in north-central Idaho on July 24.

A satellite image over Idaho showing wildfire smoke.
Smoke from the Elkhron Fire can be see across Idaho in this satellite image from July 31, 2023. Image: NASA.


Cassidy, E. (2023, August 3). Fire season heats up in the west. NASA Earth Observatory. https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/images/151660/fire-season-heats-up-in-the-west


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About the author
Caitlin Dempsey
Caitlin Dempsey is the editor of Geography Realm and holds a master's degree in Geography from UCLA as well as a Master of Library and Information Science (MLIS) from SJSU.