GFMC: Forest Fires in the United States, 16 June 2000
Forest Fires in the United States
16 June 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.
Fig. 1. – 3. Fire danger maps for conterminous US and Alaska, 15 June (observation time) and a forecast for 16 June 2000.
(Source: Fire Behavior Research Work Unit, Missoula)
The Keetch-Byram Drought Index (KBDI) is a soil/duff drought index that ranges from 0 (no drought) to 800 (extreme drought) and is based on a soil capacity of 8 inches of water. Factors in the index are maximum daily temperature, daily precipitation, antecedent precipitation, and annual precipitation. KBDI = 0 – 200: Soil moisture and large class fuel moistures are high and do not contribute much to fire intensity. Typical of spring dormant season following winter precipitation. KBDI = 200 – 400: Typical of late spring, early growing season. Lower litter and duff layers are drying and beginning to contribute to fire intensity. KBDI = 400 – 600: Typical of late summer, early fall. Lower litter and duff layers actively contribute to fire intensity and will burn actively. KBDI = 600 – 800: Often associated with more severe drought with increased wildfire occurrence. Intense, deep burning fires with significant downwind spotting can be expected. Live fuels can also be expected to burn actively at these levels.
For further information on the Keetch-Byram Drought Index (KBDI) by Florida’s Division of Forestry / Forest Protection Bureau please refer to Keetch-Byram Drought Index Revisited: Prescribed Fire Applications.
Fig. 4. Keetch-Byram Drought Index Maps for conterminous US and Alaska, 15 June 2000
(Source: Fire Behavior Research Work Unit, Missoula)
Several active fire signals were recorded by NOAA/OSEI with the NOAA-14 AVHRR satellite.
Fig.5. NOAA-14 AVHRR HRPT satellite image 15 June 2000.
Heat signatures from the High Meadow Fire located southwest of Denver, Colorado, and
from a number of fires burning in Texas and Oklahoma are visible in this NOAA-14 pass.
The High Meadow fire has now burned an estimated 6,700 acres. .
According to the Fire and Aviation Management Morning Report (15 June 2000), current wildfires are burning in:
BERRYESSA: This 4,000 acre (1618 ha) fire is burning 36 miles (58 km) west of Sacramento on land protected by the California Department of Forestry. 40 residences are threatened near Lake Berryessa. 30% of the work to contain the fire has been done. 426 people are working on this fire.
SALIZ: This 850 acre (344 ha) fire is burning on the Gila National Forest, 15 miles (24 km) southwest of Reserve, New Mexico. 10% of the work has beendone to contain the fire. There are 10 people working on the fire.
VIVEASH: This 28,283 acre (11,445 ha) fire is burning on the Santa Fe National Forest, five miles northwest of Pecos, New Mexico. 80% of the work has been done to contain the fire. There are 268 people working on the fire.
POT MOUNTAIN: This 700 acre (283 ha) fire is burning on Bureau of Land Management lands 30 miles (48 km) northwest of Taos, New Mexico. 50% of the work has been done to contain the fire.
OUTLET: This 14,118 acre (5741 ha) fire is burning at Grand Canyon National Park lands, 25 miles (40 km) south of Jacob Lake, Arizona. 90% of the work has been completed to contain this fire. There are 272 people working on the fire.
DC COMMAND: This 1,000 acre (404 ha) fire is burning on Florida State Division of Forestry managed land near Homestead, Florida. There are 5 people working on the fire. 100% of the work has been completed for containment of the fire and this will be the last report unless conditions change.
LOUISE: This 4,000 acre (1,618 ha) fire is burning on Florida State Division of Forestry administered land in Alachua County near Gainesville, Florida. 60 people are working on this fire. 95% of the work has been done toward containment.
BOBCAT: This 6,700 acre (2,711 ha) fire is burning on the Arapaho-Roosevelt National Forest, 12 miles west of Loveland, Colorado. Structures are threatened and evacuations are taking place. Fire Suppression Assistance was approved for this fire on June 12. 10% of the work has been completed for containment of this fire. 626 people are working on the fire.
HIGH MEADOW: This 6,700 acre (2,711 ha) fire is burning on Colorado State Forest Service protected lands 35 miles (56 km) southwest of Denver, near Bailey, Colorado. 39 homes and two outbuildings have been destroyed. Over 200 homes have been evacuated. Fire Suppression Assistance was approved for this fire on June 12. 15% of the work has been completed for containment of the fire. 459 people are working on the fire.
National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC) Wildland Fire Update (15 June 2000)
Strong winds predicted for today will challenge firefighters on two major fires in Colorado. Gusts up to 50 and 60 mph (80-96 km/h) are expected along the eastern Front Range where the High Meadow and Bobcat fires continue to burn and threaten homes.
Conditions in California are also extreme as hot and dry weather settles over most of the state. High temperatures will be in the 70s and 80s (21-31°C) along the coast, 90 to 105 (32-40°C) inland and 110 to 118 (43-47°C) in the deserts. Three large fires are currently burning in the state with the Berryessa fire threatening homes west of Sacramento.
Only one fire remains uncontained today in Florida where scattered showers and higher humidities have decreased activity significantly. Various resources are now being released from Florida and sent to other areas of the country where fire danger remains extreme.
There are currently 11 large fires burning in Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, and New Mexico for a total of 66,028 acres (26,720 ha). More than 4,300 firefighters are fighting fires throughout the country and are supported by 325 engines, 46 helicopters, 13 airtankers, and 1,204 management personnel.
Fig. 6. Large Wildland Fires in the United States, 15 June 2000.
(National Interagency Fire Center)
NIFC Incident Management Situation Report (16 June 2000)
New large fires were reported in the Eastern Great Basin and Southern Areas. Initial attack activity was light nationwide. Improving weather conditions today will assist suppression efforts on large fires in Colorado and New Mexico. The National Interagency Coordination Center mobilized helicopters, airtankers, air attack planes, infrared aircraft, engines, radio equipment, meteorological equipment, crews, and miscellaneous overhead. Very high to extreme fire indices were reported in Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, California, Oregon, Nevada, Oklahoma, Texas, Kansas, Minnesota, Florida, Georgia, and Mississippi.
A RED FLAG WARNING IS POSTED FOR CALIFORNIA’S SACRAMENTO VALLEY AND SURROUNDING FOOTHILLS BELOW 2000 FEET ELEVATION FOR STRONG WINDS, NEAR RECORD HIGH TEMPERATURES AND LOW HUMIDITIES
California will be sunny and hot. High temperatures will be in the 70’s and 80’s along the coast, in the 90’s and 100’s inland and up to 110 in the deserts. Winds will be northwest to northeast at 15 to 25 mph (24-40 km/h) with gusts to 35 mph (56 km/h) in the northern part of the state. Southern California winds will be southwest to northwest at 10 to 20 mph (16-32 km/h). Relative humidities will range from 5 to 15 percent in the deserts and inland areas and near 50 percent on the coast.
Colorado, Utah, New Mexico, Arizona, and Utah will be breezy and cooler. Colorado and northeastern New Mexico will have a chance of showers or thunderstorms. High temperatures will be in the 60’s and 70’s (21-31°C) in the mountains and up to 115 (46°C) in desert areas. West of the Rocky Mountains, winds will be southwest to northwest at 15 to 25 mph (24-40 km/h). On the east side of the Rockies, winds will be east to south at 15 to 25 mph (24-40 km/h). Minimum relative humidities will be 5 to 15 percent in desert areas and 15 to 25 percent at higher elevations.
Florida will be partly cloudy with a chance of afternoon showers and thunderstorms, mainly in the panhandle. High temperatures will be in the mid 80’s to the lower 90’s (29-33°C). Winds will be southeast to south at 10 to 15 mph (16-24 km/h). Minimum relative humidities will be 40 to 50 percent in the north, and 55 to 65 percent in south Florida.
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 30 and 90-day forecast maps).
Tab.1. Five-Year Wildland Fire Comparison Statistics Year-to-Date for the United States (12 June 2000)
(Source: National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC)
As of 12 June 2000 Number of Wildland Fires Area burnt Acres Hectars 2000 44,318 1,210,368 489,818 1999 43,583 854,206 345,684 1998 25,873 596,365 241,340 1997 29,772 475,258 192,330 1996 61,008 1,848,917 748,230
Fig. 6. 30 and 90-day temperature and precipitation forecast maps (June and June to August 2000)
(Source: National Weather Service, Boise, Idaho)
NIFC Wildland Fire Potential Assessment (8 June to 6 July 2000):
ALASKA – Potential: normal.
Temperatures have been below normal and precipitation has been above normal for the last six weeks. May was the second coolest in the past 35 years, and green-up was a week or more later than usual. Currently south-central Alaska has the greatest fire potential. Thunderstorm activity should increase later this month and cause a normal amount of fire activity in the interior.
NORTHWEST – Potential: Below normal to normal.
Temperatures and precipitation have been normal for the past month. Live fuel moistures are above average and have been measured at 121% in central Oregon to 131% in eastern Washington. 1000 hour dead fuel moistures have been above normal in most of the area and generally are being measured from 28% in the west to 17% in the eastern regions. Low potential for fire occurrence and severity is expected for most of the area. In the lower elevations of eastern Washington and Oregon, predicted warmer and drier than normal weather conditions will lead to a normal potential for fires.
CALIFORNIA – Potential: Normal to above normal.
Precipitation has been below normal and temperatures have been above normal in southern California. In the north both temperature and precipitation have been normal. Some moderate drought conditions still exist in southern California. 1000 hour fuel moistures are normal for this time of year throughout the area. Precipitation received in June will be critical to determining the rest of the season for northern California. The May pattern of less marine influence on southern California will likely continue through June, promoting the likeliness of above average temperatures and low humidities.
NORTHERN ROCKIES – Potential: Normal.
Precipitation has been below normal and temperatures have been above normal during the last month in most of the area except for northern Idaho, where both have been normal. Live fuel moisture is below normal east of the Continental Divide. 1000 hour dead fuel moisture is running 9 to 12 percent below normal and is measured at 13 to 21%. Eastern and central Montana are experiencing moderate to severe drought conditions, but wetting rains at the end of May have brought some relief. If normal June rains occur, fire occurrence will be average.
GREAT BASIN – Potential: Normal to above normal.
Temperatures have been above normal during the past month while precipitation has been normal to below normal through the area. Snowpack is 45 to 80 percent of normal in the higher elevations, and most areas are reporting that they are two to three weeks ahead of normal fire season, because of the mild winter. Frost-killed fuels are a concern in eastern Utah. Fine fuel carryover from the past several years is contributing to increased risk of fire activity in Nevada. 1000 hr fuel moistures were measured at 10 to 25% throughout the Great Basin and are 10% below normal in Nevada. Moderate to severe drought conditions are being reported in both southern Nevada and southern Utah.
SOUTHWEST – Potential: Above normal.
Precipitation has been below normal everywhere except in southeastern Arizona, where it has been normal. Temperatures have been above normal in all parts of the region, as much as 5 to 8 degrees Fahrenheit. Long range forecasts call for above normal temperatures to persist during this month. Long range outlook indicates above normal precipitation for Arizona and New Mexico. 1000 hour fuel moistures are below normal in the central and southern regions and normal in the north. Live fuel moisture is in the 50 to 90 percent range everywhere except the northern portions of both state where live fuel moistures are measured in the 70 to 110 percent ranges. PDI indicates that moderate to severe drought conditions continue throughout all of Arizona and all except the northeast part of New Mexico.
ROCKY MOUNTAIN – Potential: Normal to above normal.
Precipitation has been normal to below normal and temperatures have been normal to above normal in the past month. Live fuel moistures have been normal except in southern and western Colorado, where they have been up to 40 percent below normal. 1000 hour fuel moistures are below normal for this time of year at 7 to 12% in the west and 10 to 14% in the east. Fire activity is expected to be above normal in southwestern Colorado and in southwestern Wyoming. Due to the anticipated weather pattern where waves of moisture move through about once a week, fire events should be of high intensity but relatively short duration.
EASTERN – Potential: Normal to above normal.
Temperatures and precipitation have been normal in most of the Eastern Area, except in the Upper Great Lakes region, where precipitation has been below normal. 1000 hr fuels are being measured in the 19 to 25% ranges, approximately 3% below normal for this time of year. Moderate to severe drought conditions exist in the central Midwest and the upper Great Lakes region. Green-up and increased precipitation over the past two weeks have significantly reduced fire danger everywhere except in the Upper Great Lakes area.
SOUTHERN -Potential: Normal to above normal.
Temperatures have been above normal and precipitation has been normal to below normal through most of the area last month. Approximately one third of the area has a soil moisture deficit of six inches or more. Long-term precipitation anomalies are substantial over most of the region. Southern Louisiana, Georgia, western South Carolina, and central Florida all report extreme drought conditions. 1000 hour fuel moistures are being measured at 7% in parts of Florida and around 20% in the rest of the area.
Temperatures and Precipitation reflect conditions over the past four to six weeks. The long range forecast is for the next 30 days. Above and below normal is indicated above in the narrative, areas not mentioned fall in the climatology category which means there are equal chances of being below normal(33.3%), normal (33.3%) or above normal (33.3%).
Fig.7. Map describing the wildland fire potential (8 June – 6 July 2000) for areas throughout the country.
(Source: National Interagency Fire Center)
20,000 scorched acres reseeded around Los Alamos
(article posted by Environment News Service, 15 June 2000)
LOS ALAMOS, New Mexico – The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has seeded 20,000 acres of the most sensitive land burned in the Los Alamos area by the Cerro Grande Fire last month. “Our goal is to restore vegetation destroyed by the fire and take other needed emergency erosion control measures,” said Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman. “We want to get ground cover growing quickly to help protect the land.” The aerial seeding was a cooperative effort. Under the Emergency Watershed Protection program, USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service provided $1.2 million in technical and financial assistance, including 750,000 pounds of native grass and small grain seeds. The U.S. Forest Service provided a helicopter and five planes for the seeding.
The effects of the Cerro Grande Fire, which burned 47,650 acres, have increased the potential for storm flow runoff and flooding, particularly in severely burned watersheds. In addition to the aerial seeding effort, more than 250 volunteers from the community worked in other fire stricken areas over the Memorial Day weekend to break up hydrophobic soil, burned so severely that it will no longer absorb water. Volunteer crews are joining several hundred firefighters in rehabilitation activities, including raking, seeding, mulching, placement of log erosion barriers, hazard tree removal and road rehabilitation. Engineers and conservationists are available to provide technical assistance to local residents on erosion control measures and types of vegetation that can be used to reduce soil erosion and flooding in the aftermath of the fires.
An article, titeled Park Service to change prescribed burn policy which was posted 12 June 2000 by ENN World Wire gives a brief overview of the currently ongoing discussion on prescribed burning after the Los Alamos fire.
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.