The temporal and spatial structure of 332 404 daily fire-start records from the western United States for the period 1986 through 1996 is illustrated using several complimentary visualisation techniques. We supplement maps and time series plots with Hovmo??ller diagrams that reduce the spatial dimensionality of the daily data in order to reveal the underlying space?time structure. The mapped distributions of all lightning- and human-started fires during the 11-year interval show similar first-order patterns that reflect the broad-scale distribution of vegetation across the West and the annual cycle of climate. Lightning-started fires are concentrated in the summer half-year and occur in widespread outbreaks that last a few days and reflect coherent weather-related controls. In contrast, fires started by humans occur throughout the year and tend to be concentrated in regions surrounding large-population centres or intensive-agricultural areas. Although the primary controls of human-started fires are their location relative to burnable fuel and the level of human activity, spatially coherent, weather-related variations in their incidence can also be noted. ?? IAWF 2008.