GFMC: Forest Fires in the United States

Forest Fires in the United States

24 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 23June 2002 (observation time) and 24 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, 23 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, 23 June2002
(Source: WAFS)

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,
Heat signatures (red) and smoke (light blue haze) are visible from fires burning in Arizona. The Rodeo Fire has burned 160,000 acres three miles north of Cibecue,AZ and was 0% contained. The Chediski Fire, just to the west, has scorched 85,000 acres and was also 0% contained. This information is from the National Interagency Fire Center Incident Management Situation Report from 06/23/2002. Some of the pink areas visible in the bottom left portion of the image are due to solar heating of the ground surface.
(Source: OSEI/NOAA)

Latest Satellite Image

The image is showing heat signatures and smoke plumes in theUS, 23 June 2002.
Source: MODIS

UPDATE: Arizona blazes become sea of fire

Firefighter Dan Loli tries to build a fire line
Dan Loli tries to stem the relentless tide of flames

Two huge wildfires have become one giant inferno sweeping acrossArizona.
Firefighters had been trying desperately to contain the two blazes and keep themapart, but their fears were realised and winds drove the fires together.
The fireball is now about 50 miles (80 kilometres) across, out of control andraging through paper-dry forests.
The blaze has forced 25,000 people from their homes and is threatening to engulfthe town of Show Low.

‘Getting bigger’
“It’s one big blaze now and its getting bigger,” she said.
The fires – both believed to have been man-made – are burning together in thedirection of Show Low, a town 240 kilometres (150 miles) north-east of Phoenix.
Dorman McGann of the Forest Service said: “The countryside is like atinderbox and the fires have a life of their own and make their own conditions.
“It cannot be controlled and our prime objective is to ensure the safety ofresidents and firefighters.”

Mass evacuations
Up to 8,000 of Show Low’s residents were evacuated on Saturday as the firethere breached a hastily constructed fire line.
Another 8,000 people have already been forced from their homes in nearbyPinedale, Linden and Clay Springs.
Firefighter spokesman Jim Paxon said: “The fire is going to move throughShow Low.
“We’re going to get beat up pretty hard.”
Conditions remain against the firefighters with strong winds, high temperaturesand no sign of rain. A helicopter takes water from a golf course

So far: 

  • 1,560 square km (603 square miles) of land have been burned

  • Flames have reached heights of 120 metres (400 feet)

  • 225 homes have been destroyed

  • 2,000 homes have been saved after being sprayed with water and chemicals

  • 2,000 firefighters have joined the battle to stop the fire

Arizona Governor Jane Hull blamed poor forest management for theferocity of the fire, which began early last week and has become the worst inthe state for 90 years.
“I know this country and I have never seen anything like this fire,”Ms Hull said.

Colorado blaze
There are 16 other wildfires burning across the western US.
In Colorado, rain and cooler weather helped firefighters attack the Haymanblaze, 90km (55 miles) south-west of Denver, bringing 67% of the two-week-oldblaze under control.
But all of Colorado’s fires are under a red flag warning, meaning that highertemperatures, low humidity and forecasts of higher winds could easily cause afire to flare up again.
Land burned in this year’s fire season stands at nearly 930,000 hectares (2.3million acres), more than double the 10-year average of 370,000 hectares(920,000 acres), according to the National Interagency Fire Center.
SOURCE: BBC, 24June 2002

The TOMSGlobal Aerosol Hot Spots Page provides screened close-ups of regionswith active fires and smoke emissions, displayed in the following table.

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15 June 2002 16 June 2002 17 June 2002

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18 June 2002 19 June 2002 20 June 2002

Smoke over the US.
(Source: TOMSGlobal Aerosol Hot Spots Page)

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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