Forest Fires in the United States: 9 March 2000

Forest Fires in the United States

9 March 2000

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) generates 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. 1. & 2. Fire Danger Forecast Maps of the United States for 8 March (observation time) and 9 March (forecast) 2000
(Source: Fire Behavior Research Work Unit, Missoula)

Several active fire signals were recorded by OSEI with the NOAA-14  POES AVHRR HRPT satellite on 8 March 2000 in the southeastern US.

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Fig.3 & 4. Heat signatures from areas of fire burning in eastern Kentucky and West Virginia and smoke plumes from numerous areas of fire burning in the southeastern United States, 8 March 2000. Some of this activity may be due to controlled burn operations.
(Source: NOAA/OSEI)

The Florida 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 7 March these parameters show various fire weather conditions for 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.5.-10.  Output maps of the FFMIS, 7 March 2000
(source: Florida Forest Fire Weather Index (FWI) System)

Keetch-Byram Drought Index (KBDI) by Florida’s Division of Forestry / Forest Protection Bureau
John Keetch and George Byram developed the K/B index at the Southern Forest Fire Laboratory to evaluate the effects of long-term drying on litter and duff and subsequently, on fire activity (1968). The index is based on a measurement of 8 inches (0.2m) of available moisture in the upper soil layers that can be used by vegetation for evapotranspiration. The index measure is in hundredths (0.01) of an inch of water and has a range of 0 through 800, with 0 being saturated and 800 representing the worst drought condition. The index indicates deficit inches of available water in the soil. A K/B reading of 250 means there is a deficit of 2.5 inches (6.4 cm) of ground water available to the vegetation. As drought progresses, there is more available fuel that can contribute to fire intensity.
For further information on the KBDI please refer to

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Fig.11. Keetch-Byram Drought Index Map of Florida, 8 March
(source: Florida Division of Forestry)

The Southern Area Coordination Center Morning Report (8 March 2000) is a narrative summary of fire activity within the Southern Area including number of fires, wildfires as well as prescribed burns, and area. (For detailed numbers of wildfires and prescribed burns, please refer to the original website of the report.)

Southern Area Coordination Center (GA-SAC): Activity increased yesterday with large fire activity in Kentucky, Virginia, Florida, and Georgia. Seven crews have been mobilized in support of the wildland fire activity; three are committed and four will be staged at Knoxville. Additional overhead and equipment orders have been received and processed as well. Temperatures today will be in the 70’s (21-26C°) along and behind the frontal system and in the 80’s (27-32C°) for the rest of the Southern Area. There is a wind advisory today for west and north central Texas and Oklahoma. The frontal system will be moving into Louisiana, Mississippi and Arkansas today and into Tennessee and Kentucky possibly this afternoon bringing a chance of rain. No strong thunderstorms are forecast for today. The forecast calls for the front to continue to move east tomorrow bringing a chance of isolated thunderstorms from north Florida through Virginia, the Carolinas, Georgia and Alabama.

Alabama Interagency Coordination Center (AL-AIC): The weather continues to be warmer and dryer than normal. The last two days have seen relative humidity values in the teens.
Arkansas/Oklahoma Interagency Coordination Center (AR-AOC): An extremely intense line of storms made its way across Oklahoma yesterday with several tornadoes reported. A slight chance of rain still exists for eastern Oklahoma and Arkansas today. Five crews have been mobilized in support of the fires in the eastern portion of the area.
Oklahoma Division of Forestry Commission (OK-OKS): Forecast for today calls for high winds following the frontal passage. Winds will be out of the west at 25-40 m.p.h. and relative humidity will range from 25-45%. Fire danger this afternoon will be very high to extreme, particularly in western Oklahoma, in grassy areas and areas where rainfall amounts were low.
Florida Division of Forestry (FL-FLS): One new fire was reported north of the Benton Tower Fire. This new fire is 0% contained and is approximately 500 acres. Three other fires near Lake City were reported, are under suppression actions, and are not presenting any problems. The Benton Tower Fire is 60% contained at 6,127 acres (2,480 ha). Heavy fuels and limited access continue to hamper suppression. The State of Florida will suspend all silvicultural burn permits statewide on March 9.
National Forests in Florida (FL-FNF): The Wakulla Ranger District on the Apalachicola National Forest reported one fire for one acre.
Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest (GA-CHF): Reported 1 new wildfire for 3 acres. The Hickory Creek Trail Fire is located in the Cohutta Wilderness. It is currently at 75 acres (30 ha). No estimate of containment is available.
Kentucky Interagency Coordination Center (KY-KIC): Red flag conditions are in effect for today due to strong winds. Scattered thunderstorms areforecast for tomorrow. Fire activity is expected to increase until significant precipitation is received.
Daniel Boone National Forest (KY-DBF): New activity included 1 fire on the Redbird Ranger District for 70 acres (28 ha). The Star Gap Branch Fire is currently 415 acres (168 ha) and is 99% contained. Control is expected on 3/9 @ 2000. Rugged terrain and heavy concentrations of fuel from storm damage are hampering control efforts. An interior line has been constructed to protect structures in the community of Nada.
Mississippi Interagency Coordination Center (MS-MIC): Outdoor burn ban is still suspended for the State, although no precipitation has been received.
Mississippi Forestry Commission (MS-MSS): Two structures were lost and one damaged on 3/07.
National Forests in North Carolina (NC-NCF): Fires were reported on the Tusquitee, Cheoah, and Appalachian Ranger Districts.
South Carolina Interagency Coordination Center (SC-SCC): Initial attack activity continues along with prescribed fire activity. Prescribe burns are burning with more intensity due to drying conditions. Fair weather is expected through Thursday with continued initial attack activity. Rain is forecast for late Thursday.
Francis Marion and Sumter National Forests (SC-FMF): Wildfires on the Andrew Pickens Ranger District and the Francis Marion are contained and in mop-up.
Tennessee Interagency Coordination Center (TN-TNC): Temperatures continue to be much above normal with low relative humidity. Showers are forecast for later in the week. Initial attack activity is likely to be high today ahead of the front.
Virginia Department of Forestry (VA-VAS): Dismal Creek Fire and Knox Fire are near containment. Two new large fires in Tennessee may burn in to southwest Virginia on 3/08.

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)

Incident Management Situation Report (3 March 2000):

Current situation:
Fire activity increased this week in the Southern, Southwest, and Eastern Areas. The Southern Area reported four large fires during the past week in Texas, six in Oklahoma, and two in Florida. The Southwest Area reported three large fires, two in New Mexico and one in Arizona. Very high to extreme fire indices were reported in Arizona, Oklahoma, Virginia, Louisiana, New Mexico, and Texas.

A cold front with scattered showers will pass through Mississippi today, moving into northern and central Florida by late tonight and tomorrow. Northern and central Florida will be breezy over the weekend. Conditions in the southeast will be dry through next Thursday, when another front will reach Mississippi. Louisiana will remain dry throughout the week, except for a chance of showers Monday through Wednesday. High temperatures in the southeast will be in the 60s and 70s.
Texas and Oklahoma will be dry today and tomorrow. Sunday through Thursday will bring scattered showers and windy periods. Highs will be in the high 50s to 60s in the north, and 70s to 80s in the southern part of Texas.
Arizona and New Mexico will be dry today. Scattered showers will move through the northern portions of both states Sunday through Thursday. Windy conditions will accompany the showers at times. High temperatures will be in the 30s and 40s in the north, and 50s to 60s in the southern part of both states.

Tab.1 Fires and area burnt last week (3 March2000)
(Source: Incident Management Situation Report)

Geographic Area Number of Fires Area Burnt acre ha Alaska 0 0 0 Northwest 0 0 0 California 2     Northern Rockies 0 0 0 Eastern Great Basin 0 0 0 Western Great Basin 0 0 0 Southwest 20 7,478 3,026 Rocky Mountain 0 0 0 Eastern 6 237 96 Southern 1,745 45,294 18,330

Total United States

1,785 53,009 21,452

Tab.2. Fires and area burnt year-to-date (3 March 2000)
(Source: Incident Management Situation Report)

Geographic Area Number of Fires Area Burnt acre ha Alaska 0 0 0 Northwest 1 0 0 California 207 91 37 Northern Rockies 0 0 0 Eastern Great Basin 1 3 1,2 Western Great Basin 1 1 0,4 Southwest 336 111,968 45,312 Rocky Mountain 2 1,840 745 Eastern 35 756 306 Southern 9,743 193,781 78,420

Total United States

10,326 308,440 124,821

Tab.3.  Prescribed fires and area burnt year-to-date (3 March 2000)
(Source: Incident Management Situation Report)

Geographic Area Number of Prescribed Fires Area Burnt acre ha Alaska 0 0 0 Northwest 20 2,618 1,059 California 53 2,389 967 Northern Rockies 0 0 0 Eastern Great Basin 4 49 20 Western Great Basin 0 0 0 Southwest 338 21,267 8,606 Rocky Mountain 0 0 0 Eastern 11 2,646 1,071 Southern 497 257,042 104,021

Total United States

923 286,011 115,744

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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