Forest Fires in the United States: 11 February 2000

Forest Fires in the United States

11 February 2000

Several active fire signals were recorded by OSEI with the NOAA-14 POES AVHRR HRPT satellite on 10 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 10 February (observation time) and 11 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 10 February 2000:

SOUTHERN AREA: Wildland fire activity continues to be moderate, although Florida’s activity is increasing. Many units are taking advantage of the weather conditions to accomplish prescribe burning objectives and prescribe burning activity is expected to continue through the end of the week. A frontal system is expected to move across the Southern Area Friday and Saturday bring widespread rain to most portions of the area. Texas and Florida will probably receive the least amount of rain with the greater chance of rain existing for Alabama, Arkansas, Mississippi, Georgia and the Carolinas. Kentucky, Tennessee, and Virginia may get a combination of snow, sleet or rain out of the system.

ARKANSAS: A cold front was supposed to move into the area overnight and through today bringing a chance of showers. The prescribed fire activity has increased and more burns are expected today.

LOUISIANA: Forecast for rain is diminishing for the weekend.

MISSISSIPPI: The approaching front is not expected to bring any precipitation, but windy conditions are expected. Fire activity is expected to increase Friday and Saturday. The Fort, Sam and Leno Road fires are all controlled and demob of all out of area resources is in process. Wednesday was a light fire day although they did lose one outbuilding. Total for the day was 34 fires for 81 ha.

SOUTH CAROLINA: Today will be an active day with all units of the Forest Service planning prescribed burning activities. Expect to burn the rest of the week. Rain is forecast for the Piedmont and the Mountains Friday. No rain is in the forecast for the coastal areas until Monday.

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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