Forest Fires in the United States: 24 February 2000

Forest Fires in the United States

24 February 2000

Several active fire signals were recorded by OSEI with the NOAA-14 POES AVHRR HRPT satellite on 23 February 2000 in the southeastern United States.

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Fig. 1. Heat signatures from areas of fire burning in eastern Alabama and southern Florida.
(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. 2. and 3. Fire Danger Forecast Maps of the United States for 23 February (observation time) and 24 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 23 February 2000 these parameters show various fire weather conditions over Florida.

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Fine Fuel Moisture Code

Duff Moisture Code

Drought Code

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Initial Spread Index

Buildup Index

Fire Weather Index

Fig.4.-9.  Output maps of the FFMIS, 23 February 2000

The wildfire page of 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 22 February 2000).

Tab.1. Number and area of fires by states in the Southwest Area
(Source: BLM Arizona State Office, 22 February 2000)

  Human-caused fires Lightning-caused fires Total   number  acres hectares number acres hectares number acres hectares Arizona 112 989 396 0 0 0 112 989 396 New Mexico 114 95,430 38,172 0 0 0 114 95,430 38,172 W. Texas 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 Southwest Area 226 96,419 38,568 0 0 0 226 96,419 38,568

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.

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