Forest Fires in the United States: 21 February 2000
Forest Fires in the United States
21 February 2000
A wildfire burned an estimated 40,000 acres (16,000 hectares) west of Fort Sumner/New Mexico. One part of the fire went to the east and another part went to the north. Both fires did not reach Fort Sumner. Dry and windy conditions fanned the flames. By late evening of 18 February 2000 the New Mexico Forestry Division declared the town out of danger, but some fire crews remained to mop up.
No injuries were reported.
The cause of the fire is under investigation. One possible cause was sparks from a passing train, but there are other possible causes being considered.
Several active fire signals were recorded by OSEI with the NOAA-14 POES AVHRR HRPT satellite on 18 February 2000 in Georgia and Florida.
Fig. 1. Scattered heat signatures and smoke plumes from many areas of fire burning in Georgia and northern Florida. Some of this activity may be due to controlled burn operations but portions of this region, especially southern Georgia and Florida, are experiencing very dry conditions.
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.
Fig. 2. and 3. Fire Danger Forecast Maps of the United States for 20 February (observation time) and 21 February (next day forecast; right map) 2000
(Source: Fire Behavior Research Work Unit, Missoula)
The Forest Fire Weather Index (FWI) System consists of six components that account for the effects of fuel moisture and wind on fire behavior. The first three components are fuel moisture codes that follow daily changes in the moisture contents of three classes of forest fuel with different drying rates. The last three components are fire behavior indexes, representing rate of spread, amount of available fuel, and fire intensity; their values increase as fire weather severity increases. For detailed information on the Florida Fire Management Information System (FFMIS) the GFMC would like to refer to the original website.
According to the FFMIS for 19 February 2000 these parameters show various fire weather conditions over Florida.
Fine Fuel Moisture Code
Duff Moisture Code
Initial Spread Index
Fire Weather Index
Fig.4.-9. Output maps of the FFMIS, 19 February 2000
The Morning Report (18 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. “Initial attack activity increased ahead of the approaching frontal system yesterday across the Southern Area. The western portions of the Area received widespread precipitation on Thursday and may receive lingering showers today as the system moves on to the east. Nineteen units are reporting high fire danger.””
Pocosin Lake NWR: The Refuge had two prescribed burns; one on 15 February for 150 acres (60 hectares [ha]) and one on 16 February for 150 acres (60 ha).
National Forests in North Carolina: The Croatan Ranger District had one prescribed burn for 400 acres (160 ha) on 17 February.
Francis Marion-Sumter National Forests: The Andrew Pickens Ranger District accomplished a 225 acre (90 ha) prescribed burn on 17 February.
George Washington and Jefferson National Forests: The Furnace Mountain Fire is reported at 170 acres (68 ha) and is 90% contained. Natural Bridge and Glasgow Volunteer Fire Departments assisted with suppression efforts. Helicopter N5013G flew 3.7 hours and dropped 6000 gallons (22,712 liter) on 17 February. The fire is located on the Glenwood-Pedlar Ranger District and is burning in dead pine and mountain laurel.
According to the INCIDENT MANAGEMENT SITUATION REPORT three categories of fires are distinguished, such as:
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.
Fire activity increased significantly in the Southwest Area the past week. Moderate fire activity continued in the Southern Area. Very high and extreme fire danger indices are being reported in New Mexico and Texas. Monday will be drier and windy in the southeastern states. More showers and thunderstorms are expected late Monday and Tuesday with another front Wednesday and Thursday. High temperatures will be in the 50’s and 60’s (10-15°C) in the north to the 70’s and 80’s (20-27°C) in the south. In Texas and Oklahoma showers are possible Monday through Thursday. Cooler temperatures are expected by mid-week. Showers are possible in northern Arizona late Sunday, spreading into northern New Mexico by Tuesday. Sunday and Monday will be windy, with dry conditions returning Wednesday and Thursday. High temperatures will range from the 40’s (5°C) in the mountains to the 60’s and 70’s (15-20°C) in the deserts.
Tab.1. Fires and hectares year-to-date (18 February 2000)
(Source: Incident Management Situation Report)
Geographic Area Number of Wildland Fires Area Burned (ha) Alaska 0 0 Northwest 0 0 California 187 36 Northern Rockies 0 0 Eastern Great Basin 1 1.2 Western Great Basin 1 0.4 Southwest 206 38,456 Rocky Mountain 2 736 Eastern 25 162 Southern 5,065 31,903
Total United States
Tab.2. Prescribed fires and hectares year-to-date (18 February 2000)
(Source: Incident Management Situation Report)
Geographic Area Number of Prescribed Fires Area Burned (ha) Alaska 0 0 Northwest 18 795 California 43 938 Northern Rockies 0 0 Eastern Great Basin 3 11 Western Great Basin 0 0 Southwest 92 5,148 Rocky Mountain 0 0 Eastern 5 313 Southern 344 75,719
Total United States
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.3. 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.
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.