Forest Fires in the United States: 19 April 2000

Forest Fires in the United States

19 April 2000

The Wildland Fire Assessment System (WFAS) 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 18 April (observation time) and 19 April (forecast) 2000
(Source: Fire Behavior Research Work Unit, Missoula)

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 (20 cm) 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 (64 mm) 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 Keetch-Byram Drought Index Revisited: Prescribed Fire Applications.

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Fig.3. Keetch-Byram Drought Index Map of Florida, 18 April 2000
(Source: Florida Division of Forestry)

The Forest Fire Weather Index (FWI) System is part of the Florida Fire Management Information System (FFMIS) and consists of six components that account for the effects of fuel moisture and wind on fire behavior. The first three components (FFMC, DMC and DC) 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 (ISI, BUI,FWI) 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 17 April 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. 4.-9.  Output maps of the FFMIS, 17 April 2000
(source: Florida Forest Fire Weather Index (FWI) System)

The Southern Area Coordination Center Morning Report (16 April 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: SACC is processing severity aircraft overhead orders for Florida. Red flag warnings and fire weather watches are predicted for lower Alabama and most of Florida. Low to moderate fire danger reported across the remainder of the Area.
Alabama Interagency Coordination Center: No information received. A red flag warning is in effect for the southern part of Alabama this afternoon and dry weather is predicted throughout the State. Winds are predicted to decrease this afternoon.
Arkansas/Oklahoma Interagency Coordination Center: No additional fire information received. Weather predictions include sunny weather with rising humidities. The next possible rainfall is predicted for late Wednesday.
Florida Interagency Coordination Center: Aircraft overhead severity orders are being placed and filled within the State and through SACC.
Florida Division of Forestry: Forty peopled are currently committed to the Merritt Fire, located in SW Florida. Yesterday, the Fire was pronounced 100% contained.
The Transmitter Road Fire, in the Panhandle near Panama City, started Monday from a structural fire. Boggy areas, winds, and low humidities hampered suppression efforts; nonetheless, 100% containment is expected today on this wildland fire, which has burned 210 acres.
Georgia Interagency Coordination Center: No additional information reported. Weather forecasts call for partly cloudy conditions with highs in the low 70’s are the weather predictions for today.
Kentucky Interagency Coordination Center: Low fire danger reported due to recent rains. On Monday, rainfall amounts ranged from .33” to .7”, with the Daniel Boone’s Red Bird District reporting the heaviest rain. Mostly cloudy weather predicted today with some rain.
Louisiana Interagency Coordination Center: Low to moderate fire danger was reported. Mostly sunny and dry weather is forecast.
Mississippi Interagency Coordination Center: No information received. Mostly sunny weather is predicted.
North Carolina Interagency Coordination Center: No additional information reported. Rain is forecast.
South Carolina Interagency Coordination Center: No additional information received. Rain is forecast along with mostly cloudy skies.
Tennessee Interagency Coordination Center: Low fire activity is expected for the next few days.
Tennessee Division of Forestry: Vegetation is greening up over much of the State, which is somewhat ahead of schedule.
Great Smoky Mountain NP: Five members of the Park’s prescribed burn module are in transit to Congaree Swamp National Monument in South Carolina. This module is expected to be in South Carolina through the end of the week.
Texas Interagency Coordination Center: No information received. The National Weather Service predicts mostly sunny skies, some winds, and early morning fog in a few areas.
Virginia Interagency Coordination Center: Much of the State received rain on Monday. Rain and thunderstorms are predicted for today. Temperatures are predicted to reach the 80s by the end of the week.
National Capital Region: The Southeast Region’s Special Events Team is assisting the U.S. Park Police with protection of U.S. Department of Interior facilities due to expected protests associated with the World Trade Organization meeting.

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 (18 April 2000):

Current Situation:
The Southwest Area reported one new large fire and initial attack activity continued in the Eastern, Southern, and Southwest Areas. Very high to extreme fire indices were reported in Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, and Oklahoma.
Florida will be mainly sunny in the north and cloudy in the south with high temperatures in the 70’s and 80’s. Winds will be west to northwest 10 to 20 mph and minimum humidities will be below 35%.
The southwest will be partly cloudy, windy and much cooler. There is a chance for some isolated showers and thunderstorms in the north. High temperatures will be from the upper 40’s in the north to the lower 90’s in the southern deserts. Southwest winds will be in the 20 to 40 mph range.

Detailed information and data about fires, prescribed fires, wildland fire use fire and burned areas (18 April 2000) for all geographic areas of the United States can begathered from the Incident Management Situation Report.

Wildland Fire Update (10 April 2000)
The National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC) provides new data of the current wildland fire season in the United States. These data were analysed after different geographic regions. Further, a  five-year wildland fire comparison statistic shows the number and the area of wildland fires from 1996 to 2000.

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Fig.10. Geographic areas and coordination centers
(modified map from National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC)).

Firefighting personnel and resources responded to more than 400 wildland fires throughout the country over the weekend. Severe fire conditions currently exist in Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Missouri and Virginia.
Long-range, 30-day weather forecasts are predicting above-normal temperatures and below-normal precipitation for the southern tier of states from southern California to Florida and throughout the Midwest (see Fig.5. 30 and 90-day forecast maps).

Tab.1. Five-Year Wildland Fire Comparison Statistics Year-to-Date for the United States (10 April 2000)
(Source: National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC))

As of 04/10/00 Number of Wildland Fires Area burnt Acres Hectars 2000 22,794 608,445 246,228 1999 20,659 240,712 97,412 1998 10,528 199,277 80,644 1997 15,281 292,269 118,277 1996 39,209 996,248 403,167

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Fig.11. 30 and 90-day temperature and precipitation forecast maps (April and April to June 2000)
(Source: National Weather Service, Boise, Idaho)

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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