GFMC: Forest Fires in the United States

Forest Fires in the United States

18 June 2002

Wildland Fire Update
The National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC) based in Boise (Idaho) provides key information on current wildland fire situations, related information and background materials. The following information is updated daily and can be accessed directly:

  • State-by-State daily and year-to-date summary of fire activities
  • Year-to-date State-by-State total number of wildland fires and area burned (table)
  • Daily locations of large fires (map)

The National Interagency Coordination Center (NICC)  provides daily situation reports. These reports include:

  • Incident Management Situation Reports (fires and area burned reported to NICC). The files include current, previous and archived reports
  • Prescribed Fire and Wildland Fire Use (year-to-date fires and area burned reported to NICC, posted weekly on Monday mornings)

Archived NICC Incident Management Reports (recent daily reports and archived daily reports 1994-1997) are provided by the Center for International Disaster Information (CIDI)

Fire Weather & Fire Danger Information
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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Fire danger maps for the United States for 17June 2002 (observation time) and 18 June 2002 (forecast)
(Source: WAFS)

Dead fuel moisture responds solely to ambient environmental conditions and is critical in determining fire potential. Dead fuel moistures are classed by timelag.

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10-HR Fuel Moisture

100-HR Fuel Moisture

1000-HR Fuel Moisture

Fuel moisture maps for conterminous US, 17 June 2002
(Source: WAFS)

The Keetch-Byram Drought Index (KBDI) is a soil/duffdrought index. Factors in the index are maximum daily temperature, dailyprecipitation, antecedent precipitation, and annual precipitation. The indexranges from 0 (no drought) to 800 (extreme drought) (details).

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Keetch-Byram Drought Index Maps for conterminous US, 17 June2002
(Source: WAFS)

Latest satellite images,
showing heat signatures and smoke plumes from fires burning in Colorado andNew Mexico:

Source: MODIS  16 June 2002

Operational Significant Event Imagery (OSEI)
The following significant events were identified by Satellite Analysis Branch meteorologists and reviewed by the OSEI support team of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA):

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NESDIS/OSEI NOAA-14 POES AVHRR LAC satellite images,
Left and Centre: Burn scars (indicated by the yellow arrows) and heat signatures are visible from fires burning in Colorado, Utah and New Mexico in this MODIS (Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer) image. The Hayman Fire has burned 102,895 acres in Pike National Forest, CO and was 47% contained. The Coal Seam Fire has charred11,838 acres four miles west of Glenwood Springs, CO and was 60% contained. Missionary Ridge has burned 26,700 acres at 25 percent contained. Big Wash Fires in Utah has burned 5,253 acres at 98 percent contained. The fire is 21 miles southeast of Cedar City. The Ponil Fire has charred 92,500 acres at ten miles west of Cimmaron, NM and was 85% contained. This information is from the National Interagency Fire Center Incident Management Situation Report from 06/17/2002. Data source was provided by Space Science and Engineering Center, University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Right: Heat signatures (red) and smoke (light blue haze) are visible from fires burning in California..
(Source: OSEI/NOAA)

Forest Firefighters Killed
WALKER, Calif., June 18, 2002
An air tanker fighting a blaze north of Yosemite National Park caught fireMonday and crashed in this Northern California resort town, killing all threecrew members and just missing a mechanic’s shop, authorities and witnesses said.
A Reno, Nev., television station captured the scene on videotape as the wingsbroke off the C-130 transport plane. The fiery fuselage then rolled left andspiraled nose first into the ground and exploded in a ball of flame.
All three crew members were killed in the crash “under unknowncircumstances after making a drop” of retardant, said Jerry Johnston,operations officer with the Federal Aviation Administration in Hawthorne, Calif.
“It was destroyed by impact and by fire,” he said. Investigators forthe National Transportation Safety Board were on the way to the scene.
Witnesses said the plane crashed within 150 feet of an auto shop.
“I’m standing here looking at the tail section,” shop owner MikeMandichaka told The Associated Press by telephone. “My shop is right nextdoor. It almost hit it.”
The tanker was battling an 8,000-acre blaze that had forced 400 people out oftheir homes in Walker, which is 90 miles south of Reno, and about 25 miles northof Yosemite. At least one home has burned.
Other aircraft battling the fire were grounded.
Reno station KOLO-TV’s news crew was interviewing a man watching the skies withhis own camcorder near Walker Sporting Goods Mobile Home Park when the planecame into view.
Witnesses say the plane came in low to the ground trailing a red flow of fireretardant above tall green pines. Both wings suddenly snapped off, with flashesof flame as they separated.
“We saw it circle around once and then drop through the middle there. …That’s where we saw it break up,” reporter Terri Russell said.
The fire from the crash threatened about 10 structures in the immediate area,including homes, trailers and the mechanic’s shop.
The wildfire began Saturday in a remote section of the Humbolt-Toiyabe NationalForest that the Marines use for survival training. Unexploded ordnance in thesteep, rugged area was slowing containment efforts, according to the NationalInteragency Fire Center in Boise, Idaho.
The agency said the fire was “human” caused but had no other details.It was 10 percent contained Monday evening – up from 7 percent earlier in theday – and was being fought by some 671 firefighters.
The fire was estimated to have burned about 6,500 acres at noon Monday, but hadnearly doubled in size by Monday night.
“The winds came up and it is now over 10,000 acres and the winds are stillblowing,” Hardy said. Fire officials originally estimated the fire would befully contained by Thursday night but were considering pushing back thatprojection, she said.

For more information on the recent fire situation see: Recent Media Highlights on Fire, Policies, and Politics ,especially  several articles referring to the situation in Colorado.

Long-range weather forecasts

National Weather Service
Long-range, 30-day weather forecasts are predicting above-normal temperatures for the southern tier of states from southern California to Florida and throughout the Midwest (see 30 and 90-day forecast maps).

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30 and 90-day temperature and precipitation forecast maps (June2002 and June to August 2002)
(Source: National Weather Service)

The Florida Division of Forestry gives the following long-range Wildfire Season Forecast September – March 2002  for Florida:
“A return to near normal conditions in the equatorial Pacific Ocean marks the end of the prolonged La Niña event that brought very active fire seasons to the state the past few years. Normal to slightly warmer sea surface temperatures in the Pacific will bring us our first “normal” winter in a while, and if sea surface temperatures continue to slowly warm we may get above normal rainfall this winter.”

For further information see: Wildfire Season Forecast of the Florida Division of Forestry
For further information you may also see to the U.S. Drought Monitor.

For background information on the Southern Area see the Edited Version of the Southern Area Intelligence Briefing Paper for 22 April 2001.

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