Forest Fires in the United States: 27 April 2000

Forest Fires in the United States

27 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.

click to enlarge (29 KB) click here to enlarge (26 KB)

Fig. 1. & 2. Fire Danger Forecast Maps of the United States for 26 April (observation time) and 27 April (forecast) 2000
(Source: Fire Behavior Research Work Unit, Missoula)

Several active fire signals were recorded by NOAA/OSEI with the NOAA-14  AVHRR HRPT satellite on 25 April and 26 April 2000 in the United States.

click to enlarge (371 KB) click to enlarge (312 KB)

Fig.3. and 4. Heat signature and smoke plume from an area of fire burning west of Orlando in central Florida. The right image is a look at this afternoon’s view of the heat signatures and smoke plume associated with the area of fire burning in the left image.
(Source: NOAA/OSEI)

Incident Management Situation Report (26 April 2000):

Current Situation:
One new large fire was reported in Florida yesterday. Initial attack activity occurred mainly in the Eastern, Southern, and Southwest Areas. Very high to extreme fire indices were reported for numerous units in New Mexico, Arizona, and Texas.

Arizona, New Mexico, and west Texas will be sunny today except for isolated afternoon thunderstorms in eastern New Mexico and western Texas. High temperatures will be in the 70’s in the mountains and up to 100 in the southern deserts. Winds will be southwest to west at 10 to 20 mph in Arizona and western New Mexico. Eastern New Mexico and western Texas will have southeast winds at 5 to 15 mph.
Central Florida will continue to be warm and dry today. Winds will decrease from yesterday’s gusty conditions. Temperatures will be in the high 70’s to low 80’s. Winds will be northwest at 5 to 15 mph.
Minnesota and Wisconsin will be partly cloudy. Northwest Minnesota will have a chance of afternoon showers and thunderstorms. High temperatures will be in the 60’s and 70’s. Winds will be south to southwest at 5 to 15 mph.

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)

Detailed information and data about fires, prescribed fires, wildland fire use fire and burned areas (26 April 2000) for all geographic areas of the United States can be gathered from the Incident Management Situation Report.

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 (19 April 2000)
(Source: National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC))

As of 04/19/00 Number of Wildland Fires Area burnt Acres Hectars 2000 25,909 664,995 269,114 1999 27,051 422,798 171,100 1998 13,213 229,251 92,775 1997 17,947 312,329 126,395 1996 43,030 1,097,711 444,228

click to enlarge (120 KB)

Fig.5. 30 and 90-day temperature and precipitation forecast maps (May and May to July 2000)
(Source: National Weather Service, Boise, Idaho)

The rest of spring and summer will be warmer than normal in most of the United States, and many Midwest and Great Plains areas will continue to suffer dry days, according to the latest seasonal forecast from the National Weather Service.
The Weather Service also predicts that La Niña, which has dominated global weather patterns for the past two years, will linger until August, when Pacific Ocean temperatures will slowly return to normal.
“La Niña leaves states high and dry” is an article published by the the Environmental News Network (ENN) on 24 April 2000.

us_04252000_4b.gif (29408 Byte)

Fig. 6. The National Weather Service predicts many states will experience drier than normal conditions this year
Source: NOAA

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.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
WP-Backgrounds Lite by InoPlugs Web Design and Juwelier Schönmann 1010 Wien