"Wildfires are unplanned and unwanted fires, including lightning-caused fires, unauthorized human-caused fires, and escaped prescribed fire projects. States are responsible for responding to wildfires that begin on nonfederal (state, local, and private) lands, except for lands protected by federal agencies under cooperative agreements. The federal government is responsible for responding to wildfires that begin on federal lands. The Forest Service (FS)--within the U.S. Department of Agriculture--carries out wildfire management and response across the 193 million acres of the National Forest System. The Department of the Interior (DOI) manages wildfire response for more than 400 million acres of national parks, wildlife refuges and preserves, other public lands, and Indian reservations. Wildfire statistics help to illustrate past U.S. wildfire activity. Nationwide data compiled by the National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC) indicate that the number of annual wildfires is variable but has stayed relatively constant over the last 30 years and that the number of acres burned annually, while also variable, generally has increased (see Figure 1). Every year since 2000, an average of 73,200 wildfires burned an average of 6.9 million acres. This figure is nearly double the average annual acreage burned in the 1990s (3.3 million acres), although a greater number of fires occurred annually (78,600 on average)."
CRS In Focus, IF10244
Federation of American Scientists: http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/index.html