Search NOVA Teachers

Back to Teachers Home

Fire Wars

Classroom Activities

Fire Season Statistics

To extrapolate information and further questions for investigation from fire season statistics.

Materials for each team
  • copy of "Fire Season Statistics" student handout (PDF or HTML)
  • calculator
  1. Having information about previous fire seasons can help land managers look for areas they may need to monitor in coming years. In this activity, students will look at data regarding wildland fire totals for the year 2000 as reported by the National Interagency Fire Center.

  2. Organize students into groups and provide each group with a copy of the "Fire Season Statistics" student handouts and a calculator.

  3. Have each group discuss the data as it is currently presented. What information is conveyed? What general conclusions can students draw? What, if any, patterns do they see? How might the data be reconfigured to illustrate different aspects of the data set? (One avenue of inquiry is suggested in the questions section on the student handout.)

  4. Have groups decide how to present the information in a meaningful way. Students might consider tables, bar graphs, pie graphs, or some other way to represent the data. Based on what they find in the data, what kind of campaign would they design to reduce wildland fires?

  5. What additional information would students want in this data set? What points would they like clarified?

  6. As an extension, have students look at and compile weekly situation reports for each month published online by the National Interagency Coordination Center. How many fires and acres burned were there each month? Where did the largest fires occur? How do each month's totals compare to the prescribed fire totals for that month? Find the reports at:

Activity Answer

A first step could be to collapse the data into total fires and total acres. Students' data analysis will differ depending upon what they choose to highlight.

Students will likely have a number of additional questions prompted by the data set, such as:

  • What is each agency's jurisdiction? Is there any overlap in fires reported?

  • What were the data collection strategies? Were they the same for all agencies?

  • What systems were in place to ensure data reliability?

  • Specifically, what kind of fires are included in each of the categories?

  • What kind of fires are included under each of the other human-caused fire categories?

  • Why was state/private data not included for prescribed fires? Is that data available elsewhere?

Links and Books

See the list of resources for Fire Wars Printable Activity I.


The "Fire Season Statistics" activity aligns with the following Principles and Standards for School Mathematics:

Grades 6-8

Number and Operations

Mathematics Standard:
Number and Operations

Data Analysis and Probability

Grades 9-12

Number and Operations

Mathematics Standard:
Number and Operations

Data Analysis and Probability

Teacher's Guide
Fire Wars

Video is not required for this activity