Forest Fires in the United States: 10 January 2000

Forest Fires in the United States

10 January 2000

Several active fire signals were recorded last week by OSEI with the NOAA-14 POES AVHRR HRPT satellite on 6 and 7 January 2000 in California.

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Fig. 1. and 2. The satallite images show a few heat signatures and some smoke from areas of fire burning in southern Alabama, Georgia and in the Florida Panhandle.
(Source: NOAA

According to the INCIDENT MANAGEMENT SITUATION REPORT the current situation for 7 January 2000 can be quoted as follows:

Fire activity was reported in the Southern and Southern California Areas while the rest of the Geographical Areas remained quiet.

A weak trough will move through Southern California Friday night but precipitation is expected to be very limited. Santa Ana winds will be ending Friday and Saturday will be sunny, cool and dry. The forecast for the rest of the week is for mostly sunny conditions and continued cool and dry. High
temperatures will be in the 60’s and 70’s and winds will be northerly at 8 to 18 MPH over the mountains.
A frontal system is forecasted to bring clouds and rain showers to most of Texas for the weekend. Cloudy and windy conditions should persist Monday through Thursday. High temperatures will be in the 50’s and 60’s in the north and in the 70’s in the south .
… .”

Especially in the Southern Areas of the United States prescribed fire activities were carried out last week. 19 fires on 2,210 ha were reported to the National Interagency Fire Center.

In the Prescribed Fire Position Paper of the Forest Protection Bureau by the Division of Forestry in Florida, prescribed fire activity is described as a land management application that is essential to the practice of forestry, management of wildlife, preservation of endangered plant and animal species, improvement of range conditions and reduction of wildfire damage in the wildland/urban interface areas. While there is general public and landowner concern with increased smoke, reduced air quality, and liability; the general public and landowners benefit significantly from the reduction of devastating wildfire, improved wildlife habitat and forage, preservation of endangered and threatened plant and animal species, and improved management of forest resources. The prospect of severe reductions in the utilization of this management tool is of major concern to Florida’s natural resource managers and conservationists due to the subsequent loss of derived public and private benefits. They suggest the need for legislative attention.

The Wildland Fire Assessment System is a contribution of “The Fire Behavior Research Work Unit”, Missoula (Montana USA). The broad area component of the Wildland Fire Assessment System (WFAS) generated national maps of selected fire weather and fire danger components. Fire Danger (Potential) is a normalized adjective rating class across different fuel models and station locations. It is based on information provided by local station managers about the primary fuel model, fire danger index selected to reflect staffing level, and climatological class breakpoints. Low danger (class 1) is green and extreme potential (class 5) is red.

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Fig. 3. and 4. Fire Danger Forecast Maps of the United States and Alaska for 9 January 2000
(Source: Fire Behavior Research Work Unit, Missoula)

The National Interagency Fire Center provides new data of the 1999 Wildland Fire Season in the United States. These data were analysed after different geographic regions in the United States. Further, a  Four-Year Wildland Fire Comparison Statistic shows the number and the area of wildland fires from 1996 to 1999. Summarized can be mentioned, that the 1999 fire year will be remembered as a persistent fire season during which major resources were committed well into November.

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Fig. 5. Geographical regions of the United States (modified map from National Interagency Fire Center).

Tab. 1. Number of wildland fires and hectares affected in 1999 by geographic area as of 31 December 1999
(Source: National Interagency Fire Center).

Geographic Regions in the United States Number of Wildfires Number of Hectares Alaska 482 412,957 Northwest 4,509 50,840 California 9,899 295,891 Northern Rockies 3,025 81,533 Eastern Great Basin 2,250 223,797 Western Great Basin 1,114 690,896 Southwest 3,557 51,270 Rocky Mountain 3,372 43,077 Eastern 19,255 51,739 Southern 46,239 389,319

Total United States

93,702 2,291,320

A Four-Year Wildland Fire Comparison Statistic shows the number and the area of wildland fires from 1996 to 1999.

Tab. 2. Wildland Fire Comparison Statistic of the last four years (Source: NIFC)

As of 3 Dec. 1999 Number of Wildland Fires Number of hectares 1999 93,702 2,291,320 1998 75,913 922,101 1997 64,943 1,148,671 1996 94,407 2,431,614

The report of the National Interagency Fire Center provides also a map of the Top Ten Largest Fires of the fire season 1999, which however, shows the situation in November 1999. For more information please refer to the website of NIFC.

The following brief chapter is an one year extract of the 1999 Wildland Fire Season Summary by the US Forest Service Fire News on 23 December 1999.

Large fire activity began to increase in February in the southern part of the United States.
In April and May, fire season in the South and East became very active.
Fire activity in the western U.S. increased during the month of June; however, weather conditions kept activity lower than it might have been.
The fire season in early July showed a typical pattern of activity with fires occurring in western Colorado and the Great Basin. By the second week in July, there were fires in California, Idaho and the Northwest, as well as on the George Washington and Jefferson National Forests in Virginia. By mid-month, nearly a million acres had burned in Alaska, mostly in areas that required minimal suppression efforts. Cooler, wetter conditions brought an end to Alaska’s fire season by the end of July.
In Nevada and Oregon significant fire activities happened in August. Also in August large fire activity was reported in Virginia, New York, Kentucky, Texas, Utah, Idaho, Montana and Oklahoma.
With little relief indicated in the long range weather forecast, large fires continued in the West into September.
The persistence of dry weather into October kept firefighters busy. Large fires were common, especially in California. Finally, towards the end of the month, increased precipitation brought relief to northern California and much of the West, East and South. However, southern California and parts of the Great Basin remained dry and susceptible to large fires.
Early November saw continued moderate fire activity across the country, with 22 states reporting large fires.
In December, Santa Ana winds pushed fires out of control in southern California just days before the Christmas holiday. Most of the fires were contained within a couple of days.

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