Forest Fires in the United States: 17 January 2000

Forest Fires in the United States

17 January 2000

Several active fire signals were recorded by OSEI with the NOAA-14 POES AVHRR HRPT satellite on 14 January 2000 in Florida.

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Fig. 1. Scattered heat signatures from fires burning in southern Florida.
Most of these are due to controlled burn operations.
(Source: NOAA

According to the INCIDENT MANAGEMENT SITUATION REPORT of 14 January 2000, “… large fire activity was reported in the Southern Area. Fire activity was also reported in the Rocky Mountain and Southwest Areas. Extreme fire indices were reported in Southern California and very high indicies were reported in New Mexico and Texas. A fire weather watch was posted for Florida on 14 January 1999.

A cold front is forecast to move across the area of the southeastern states by Monday and Tuesday with a few showers. High pressure will rebuild for the rest of the week for more dry weather. High temperatures will be in the 50’s and 60’s except for Florida which will be in the mid 70’s. The southwest will be under a weak high pressure system resulting in dry weather with above normal temperatures for most of the week. Fair to partly cloudy skies are expected in New Mexico through Monday. Afternoon relative humidities will remain low with marginal overnight recoveries. Temperatures will be in the 40’s to 50’s in the north and 60’s to mid 70’s in the south. Arizona will be partly cloudy and breezy through Monday with low temperatures in the 40’s and high temperatures in the mid 70’s… .”

Especially in the Southern Areas of the United States prescribed fire activities were carried out last week. 21 fires on 4,670 ha were reported to the National Interagency Fire Center.

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. 2., 3. and 4. Fire Danger Forecast Maps of the United States and Alaska for 16 January (observation time) and 17 January (next day forecast; right map) 2000
(Source: Fire Behavior Research Work Unit, Missoula)

Remarks on Remotely Sensed Fire Events and Prescribed Burning

The high-temperature events depicted by the NOAA AVHRR satellite in the South and the Southeast are not all wildfires. At this time of the year prescribed burning operations are conducted routinely.

Fire is an important natural tool for ecosystem management. It can reduce dense vegetation improving wildlife habitat and lessening the potential for large, wildfire disasters. Land managers are directed to prepare a prescribed fire/burn plan for every area of public land that can burn. Some areas require total suppression while others will benefit from a wildland fire. Those areas that will benefit from a fire can be treated by a prescribed fire.

Especially, for the moment, in the southern and southeastern regions of the United States prescribed fire activities will be carried out in the following weeks and months. In this case, fire signals on satellite images can be traced back to this kind of land management activities.

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.

Another report on nation-wide prescribed burning in the U.S.A. was published in  International Forest Fire News No.19 (September 1998).

A set of photographic documents on prescribed burning techniques and objectives in the Southeast can be visited in our photo archive.

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