Forest Fires in the United States: 18 February 2000

Forest Fires in the United States

18 February 2000

Several active fire signals were recorded by OSEI with the NOAA-14 POES AVHRR HRPT satellite on 17 February 2000 in Florida.

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Fig. 1. Scattered heat signatures and smoke plumes from areas of fire burning in southern and central Florida. Some of this activity may be due to controlled burn operations.
(Source: NOAA/OSEI)

The Morning Report (17 February 2000) 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 continues to persist with activity fairly widespread across the Southern Area. The State of Oklahoma remained under a Red Flag Alert yesterday (16 February 2000) but is receiving precipitation over much of the state today (17 February 2000). Virginia ordered 3 crews and several overhead positions for the Furnace Fire on the George Washington and Jefferson National Forests. The Asheville Hot Shots were released and are currently available for assignment. Nine units are reporting high fire danger.”

Arkansas/Oklahoma Interagency Coordination Center: Widespread rain is expected today across Oklahoma and Arkansas. Both states were busy yesterday with initial attack activity.
Oklahoma Division of Forestry: Red Flag Alerts were issued yesterday for windy conditions but are discontinued today due to widespread precipitation. The Ouachita National Forest assisted the Division of Forestry with initial attack on a fire in southeast Oklahoma.
Ozark-St Francis National Forests: Helicopter 4HC was used for bucket drops in initial attack activities in the Ozarks.

Daniel Boone National Forest: Reported 1 fire for 25 acres (10 hectares) on the London Ranger District. The Kentucky Division of Forestry assisted in the initial attack.

Francis Marion-Sumter National Forests: All units are preparing to prescribe burn today and tomorrow as the weather permits.

National Forests in Texas: The Asheville Hot Shots were released from the Sandy Creek Fire yesterday. Both fires reported yesterday were on the LBJ unit of the Grasslands.

George Washington and Jefferson National Forests: The Furnace Mountain Fire is reported at 60 acres (24 hectares) and is expected to be 100% contained this afternoon. The fire is located on the Glenwood-Pedlar Ranger District and is burning in dead pine and mountain laurel.

The wildfire page by the BLM Arizona State Office is providing information on the current wildland fire statistic in the Southwest Area (2000 year-to-date statistic as of 16 February 2000).

Tab.1. Number and area of fires by states in the Southwest Area
(Source: BLM Arizona State Office, 16 February 2000)

  Human-caused fires Lightning-caused fires Total   number  acres hectares number acres hectares number acres hectares Arizona 85 877 350 0 0 0 85 877 350 New Mexico 79 79,340 31,736 0 0 0 79 79,340 31,736 W. Texas 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 Southwest Area 164 80,217 32,086 0 0 0 164 80,217 32,086

In addition, the page also provides background information and data on fires by unit and fire history.

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. and 3. Fire Danger Forecast Maps of the United States for 17 February (observation time) and 18 February (next day forecast; right map) 2000
(Source: Fire Behavior Research Work Unit, Missoula)

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.2. Fires and hectares year-to-date (11 February 2000)
(Source: Incident Management Situation Report)

Geographic Area Number of Wildland Fires Area Burned (ha) Alaska 0 0 Northwest 0 0 California 178 36 Northern Rockies 0 0 Eastern Great Basin 1 1.2 Western Great Basin 1 0.4 Southwest 103 3,178 Rocky Mountain 7 750 Eastern 24 161 Southern 4,052 26,841

Total United States

4,366 30,968

Tab.3. Prescribed fires and hectares year-to-date (11 February 2000)
(Source: Incident Management Situation Report)

Geographic Area Number of Prescribed Fires Area Burned (ha) Alaska 0 0 Northwest 3 590 California 40 914 Northern Rockies 0 0 Eastern Great Basin 3 11 Western Great Basin 0 0 Southwest 84 3,782 Rocky Mountain 0 0 Eastern 4 262 Southern 288 64,343

Total United States

422 69,897

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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