I used to live in San Diego and I remember the occasional wild fire; My dad standing on the roof, watering it with a garden hose.

I have lived in New England, however, for the last 40 years and have not seen a wild fire yet. Why not? Just too wet here?

  • $\begingroup$ Who says there are none? They're not as common as in the west, but they do happen, e.g. this recent one: bostonglobe.com/metro/2017/10/05/… I'm no expert, but I think that besides simply being wetter, the reasons include seasonal weather patterns (much of the west gets little or no rain in summer), different vegetation types (western forests are mostly conifers and scrub like sagebrush, that burns readily), &c. $\endgroup$ – jamesqf Dec 6 '17 at 19:18
  • $\begingroup$ The U.S. East Coast is prone to copious Gulf moisture during the warmer months. This is why most wildfires occur west of the Rockies, since the mountains block Gulf moisture from reaching the West. When wildfires do occur east of the Rockies, it's often associated with unusually low precipitation in Spring or Fall (e.g. New Jersey wildfires in May 2016, the Piedmont wildfires in Oct-Dec 2016) $\endgroup$ – spillthrill Jul 6 '18 at 1:53

Its just too wet there

Generally, fires don't happen where it is wet. Here is a map of the fire regime in Pre-Columbian America:

enter image description here

Northern New England gets practically no fires, with a fire frequency of every 200 years or longer. Southern New England sees more frequent fires, maybe ever 40 years, but those fires are typically understory only.

For a region to be fire resistant, it must meet two criteria: it must be 'humid' and it must be 'humid' year-round. New England meets both of these criteria. Here is a map of precipitation versus evapotranspiration for the US:

enter image description here

Note the areas in green have more water falling from the sky than returning to it via evaporation and transpiration. New England is one of the wettest parts of the nation by this metric. There is plentiful rain/snow, generally heavy cloud cover, and relatively low temperatures to reduce evaporation.

The last piece is being wet all year. By looking at Boston's climate data, we can see that Boston's precipitation is evenly distributed throughout the year.


According to the NIFC report for 2016, there were approximately 1000 acres of wildfire burned in Massachusettes and Maine each. That is much smaller than California, which saw 560,000 acres burn in wildfires.

There are wildfires in New England. They are just smaller in comparison to the rest of the country. This is largely due to the moisture of fuels and thus fire spread is less dramatic. New England's climate is such that there is consistent rain throughout the year, so fuels do not dry out in the summer so badly like in the west and south. See the image below from the research report "Wildfires in the United States" and notice the geographic distribution:

Wildfires in the United States

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ In addition to drying out in summer, what rain most of the west does get in the summer generally comes from thunderstorms, which often start fires. $\endgroup$ – jamesqf Dec 12 '17 at 19:12

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