Due to climate change, plant populations experience environmental conditions to which they are not adapted. Our understanding of the next century’s vegetation geography depends on the distance, direction, and rate at which plants redistribute in response to a changing climate. Although plant redistribution in response to contemporary climate change is widely observed, our understanding of its mechanics is nascent. In this study we test the response of plant range shift rates to wildfire occurrence using 33,838 Forest Inventory Analysis plots across five states in the western United States. Wildfire increased the rate of observed range shifts for 6/8 tree species by more than 22% on average, suggesting that incumbent vegetation can act as a barrier to plant range shifts and that fire management may play an important role in facilitating transitions between vegetation types in response to climate change.