Forest Fires in the United States: 10 February 2000

Forest Fires in the United States

10 February 2000

Several active fire signals were recorded by OSEI with the NOAA-14 POES AVHRR HRPT satellite on 9 February 2000 in the southeastern United States.

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Fig. 1. and 2. Scattered heat signatures and smoke plumes from areas of fire burning in Florida and other southeastern states .
(Source: NOAA/OSEI)

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 for 9 February (observation time) and 10 February (next day forecast; right map) 2000
(Source: Fire Behavior Research Work Unit, Missoula)

The Morning Report of the SOUTHERN AREA COORDINATION CENTER is a narrative summary of fire activity within the Southern Area including number of fires, wildfires as well as prescribed burns, and area. “Wildland fire activity across the Southern Area continues to increase.  Large fire activity continues in Mississippi and Louisiana”.

In following states the number of fires, area and fire weather conditions were reported on 9 February 2000:

SOUTHERN AREA: A general increase in humidity slightly moderated fire activity yesterday. The potential for fire activity across the Southern Area may decrease over the next couple of days with an approaching frontal system. Prescribe fire activity is continuing.

The forecast for Thursday calls for a slight chance of scattered showers across a narrow band of the area including northern Louisiana, eastern Arkansas, and western Mississippi, Tennessee and Kentucky. That same area may see strong thunderstorms on Friday while portions of Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana and Arkansas may experience windy conditions behind the front. Saturday the front is expected to move across the area to the east bringing scattered precipitation to Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, Kentucky and the Carolinas.

ARKANSAS/OKLAHOMA: The current high pressure system is moving off to the East with high winds expected this afternoon. Lower humidity is expected (25-30%). Prescribe burning activities have ceased until humidity percentages rise and transport winds increase.

LOUISIANA: Precipitation continued through last night, although totals are minor. More precipitation is in the forecast for the weekend.

MISSISSIPPI: Initial attack activity for the state was minimal yesterday. High clouds and higher relative humidity were reported throughout. Forecast calls for the next precipitation to arrive on Saturday.
The Fort is 100% contained at 368 ha. Crews are continuing to mop up and patrol the fire.
The Sam Road Fire is 100% contained at 470 ha. A trace of rain and increased humidity have assisted the suppression efforts.
The Leno Road Fire is 100% contained at 81 ha and was caused by arson.  The fire is in mop up and patrol status.

SOUTH CAROLINA: Overcast skies and cool temperatures helped slow the gradually increasing fire danger. The coastal units will be unable to prescribe burn today due to weather conditions. Additional prescribed burns are expected throughout the week as conditions allow.

SOUTH CAROLINA: Prescribed and wildland fire activity has increased along the coast and is starting in the piedmont.  Low humidity and warmer temperatures are expected the next few days.  Additional prescribe burning is planned for the week if the weather conditions are appropriate.

According to the INCIDENT MANAGEMENT SITUATION REPORT three categories of fires are distinguished, such as:
1. Fires*
2. Prescribed Fires
3. Wildland Fire Use Fires**

*  This classification corresponds to the category “wildland fires” as defined by the National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC)
** A brief excursion to wildland fire terminology:

Wildland Fires: Fires occurring on any tpye of vegetation, regardless of ignition sources, damages or benefits.

Wildfire: Any uncontrolled wildland fire which (1) may require suppression response, or (2) any uncontrolled wildland fire which meets management objectives and is declared as a Wildland Fire Use Fire (see below) or syn. Prescribed Natural Fire or Prescribed Fire.

Prescribed Fire: Occasionally also called management-ignited fire, or prescribed burning, is a controlled application of fire to vegetation in either their natural or modified state, under specified environmental conditions which allow the fire to be confined to a predetermined area and at the same time to produce the intensity of heat and rate of spread required to attain planned resource management objectives.

Wildland Fire Use Fire: Naturally ignited fire which is managed to achieve resource benefits under close supervision (syn. Prescribed Natural Fire)

Currently, Wildland Fire Use Fire data are not available. The differentiation of the above mentioned three fire classes do not point out clearly for the moment, whether the classified wildland fires included prescribed burned areas.

Tab.1. Fires and Hectares Year-to-Date (1 January – 4 February 2000)
(Source: Incident Management Situation Report)

Geographic Area Number of Wildland Fires Area Burned (ha) Alaska 0 0 Northwest 0 0 California 162 36 Northern Rockies 0 0 Eastern Great Basin 1 1.2 Western Great Basin 1 0.4 Southwest 46 1,599 Rocky Mountain 7 759 Eastern 17 114 Southern 2930 15,535

Total United States

3164 18,046

Tab.2. Prescribed Fires and Hectares Year-to-Date (1 January – 4 February 2000)
(Source: Incident Management Situation Report)

Geographic Area Number of Prescribed Fires Area Burned (ha) Alaska 0 0 Northwest 3 590 California 36 561 Northern Rockies 0 0 Eastern Great Basin 3 11 Western Great Basin 0 0 Southwest 37 990 Rocky Mountain 0 0 Eastern 2 232 Southern 175 35,501

Total United States

162 37,887

Remarks on Prescribed Burning

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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