MTBS or Monitor Trend in Burn Severity is a website that benefits from the billions of dollars spent on fire control every year by federal agencies. The MTBS site includes a wealth of information on every wildfire in the U.S. from within a year or two of present back to 1984 (e.g. there is a time lag for loading current data).
Of all the data, we only use fire perimeter to identify those fires that overlap trails of interest. There is considerable background information for this website (see About MTBS in top green toolbar) but we leave that for the interested reader.
The MTBS identifies fires by counties so you must figure out what county or counties that incorporate your trail(s) of interest. This can be annoying (and overwhelming) for wilderness areas that overlap several counties in areas of high fire frequency. However, fires tend to overlap country boundaries so selecting a county in heart of targeted trail area is usually sufficient.
For example, Grant country in Oregon is illustrated for using MTBS website for Strawberry Mountain Wilderness. After launching map, select Oregon and Grant county from 3rd drop-down box under “Step 2”. Next in “Step3” slide dots to end points of data range (at this time range from 1984 to 2020). Click near bottom and “Fire Bundle Downloads” box should pop up. As shown on map, software is ready to download 73 fires! DO NOT CLICK on this or you will download 21 folders for a single county. Instead click on “Fire Name” box to uncheck and set fire downloads to zero.
We did some prior research that identified the 110,000-acre Canyon Creek Complex in 2015 as burning most of the Strawberry Wilderness. We checked this fire and four additional fires (Figure 1) in surrounding area for download (by clicking box for “Download 5 Fires”).
Because these fires are downloaded as kmz files, Google Earth is handy tool to identify those of interest. However, loading them “one-at-a-time” into Google Earth is cumbersome requiring several steps because they are zipped and include much information; but once opened in Google Earth it is easy to identify and drag a “Fire Perimeter” file onto map for trails of interest as shown in Figure 2.
Feel free to contact to contact us at for any help using this website.