Advanced Very High Resolution Radiometer (AVHRR) data are used to produce an active-fire detection product for the fire season in 1999 and 2000 and an area burned product for 1996–2000. The distribution of fire is presented ranging from the Urals in the west to the eastern coast and from the semi-dry steppe regions in the south through the taiga in the north. A temporal and spatial pattern of fire is observed migrating from north of 40° N latitude in April to north of 60° N by mid-July. Fire is widespread in August, spanning the entire geographic range. In contrast to these patterns, no similar east–west migrations are discernible from these data. Peak active-fire counts are detected in early May between 50 and 55° N latitude in both 1999 and 2000. Wildfire in Russia is highly variable, both annually and interannually, with differences in reported area burned ranging from 0.234 to 13.3 million hectares per year. Comparing Russian fire statistics to satellite-based data from this investigation and previous works, we find area burned in Russia may be commonly underestimated by an average of 213%. Underestimates of this magnitude could strongly affect emissions estimates and climate change research.