The results based on the analysis of satellite fire counts detected by the Along-Track Scanning Radiometer (ATSR) sensors over different regions of India during 1998–2009 have been presented. Generally, the activities of open biomass burning show large spatial and temporal variations in India. The highest and lowest values of monthly fire counts were detected during the periods of March–May and July–September, respectively over different regions of India. The activities of biomass burning in two central states of Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra were the highest and together accounted for about 25–45% of total annual fire counts detected over India during the study period. However, in opposite phases, the rainfall and fire count data show strong seasonal variation. In addition to large regional and seasonal variations, the fire data also show significant year-to-year variation. The higher annual fire counts exceeding the mean of entire period by about 16% and 43% were detected during the two periods of 1998–2000 and 2007–2009, respectively. We have estimated normalized anomaly of annual fire count data which shows large positive departures from long-term mean for the years 1999, 2007, 2008 and 2009, while negative departures for the years 2002, 2003 and 2005. Consistently, the mixing ratio of carbon monoxide (CO) typical peaks during winter but extended to pre-monsoon season during extensive fire years. The annual data over the entire region of India show lesser positive trend of about 3% yr−1. The inter-annual variation of fire count over entire India follows the trend in the ENSO Precipitation Index (ESPI) but shows opposite trend to the multivariate ENSO Index (MEI). © Indian Academy of Sciences.