GFMC: Forest Fires in the United States

Forest Fires in the United States

27 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 26June 2002 (observation time) and 27 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, 26 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, 26 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 and Utah. 
(Source: OSEI/NOAA)

Threatened Arizona town spared from flames for yet another day
By Jacques Billeaud, Associated Press
Thursday, June 27, 2002

SHOW LOW, Ariz. — With the worst wildfire in Arizona history gaining ground,firefighters fought back with flames, helicopters, and bulldozers to try to fendoff a galloping blaze that has burned 375,000 acres (150,000 hectares) anddestroyed at least 390 homes.

After witnessing the destruction by air Tuesday, President George W. Bushdeclared the region a disaster area and told evacuees at a high school in Eagarthat people across America are pulling for them. “They understand that alot of you are living in tents when you’d rather be in your own bed,” Bushsaid. “They cry for you, and they hurt with you.”
Some of the 30,000 people who evacuated cities and towns threatened by flameswept and rejoiced Tuesday as they learned the fate of their homes. Some worriedwhether their houses still stood. Some had had it with the shelters where theyhave been forced to seek refuge. Many were sick and tired of waiting. Wearyresidents anxiously lined up for an opportunity to phone for information to findout if their houses had survived.
At the shelter in Eagar, Lois Trimble exulted in learning that her Pinedalehouse had been spared. “Oh, praise God! Our house is still there!” shesaid in tears as she hugged friends and strangers. “I put angels outsidethe house when I first built it because I was afraid of people stealing things.I just knew the angel would watch over us.”
Since Sunday evening, the fire had stood at the outskirts of Show Low, a town of7,700 in eastern Arizona.
Firefighters were able to scorch a barrier of forest and meadow at CottonwoodCanyon on Tuesday to deprive the blaze of fuel and thwart its march into town.”This was our best place to make a stand,” said Paul Schmidtke, a firespokesman with the Bureau of Land Management.
In a single week, the blaze had charred 586 square miles (1,500 squarekilometers) — an area larger than Los Angeles — and there is no containmentin sight.
On the western edge of Show Low, bulldozers dug a 90-foot (27-meter) -wide scarin the ground, and crews set fires to burn their way back to the larger blaze,depriving it of new fuel as helicopters dumped thousands of gallons of water andretardant on flames. Firefighters trying to spare the town from disaster cutdown trees close to homes, removed firewood, and moved propane tanks away fromhomes. Sprinklers watered down houses close to the fire line to prevent strayembers from igniting.
“We’re still ready,” said Phoenix Fire Capt. John Brunacini.”We’re like ducks on water: calm on top but our feet are goingunderneath.”
The wildfire, formed by two smaller blazes that merged Sunday, is the largest inArizona history and one of the worst the West has ever seen. A lost hikerstarted one fire trying to signal for help. The other fire is believed to havebeen ignited by humans, but the cause has not been determined.
In Colorado, hot weather and shifting wind made it another miserable day forfirefighters near Durango, where a fire has burned nearly 67,000 acres (26,800hectares) and at least 45 homes and has damaged hundreds of power poles, cuttingoff electricity to more than 500 abandoned homes.
Southwest of Denver, crews had 70 percent containment of a 137,000-acre(54,800-hectare) fire that has destroyed at least 133 homes and cost more than$26 million to fight.
Source: ENN

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)


CSA RADARSAT-1 Disaster Watch Report
The requests in this report were acquired within the past 96 hours.

The following requests were acquired under the MCS Disaster Watch:

Denver, Colorado, Wildfires, United States (3 image(s):
* 22 Jun 2002 00:45:49 UTC; S1; cycle 100 orbit 223.10356 duration 0.00862; RT: In – PASS)
* 25 Jun 2002 00:58:21 UTC; S4; cycle 100 orbit 266.10308 duration 0.00862; RT: In – PASS)
* 25 Jun 2002 13:12:21 UTC; S1; cycle 100 orbit 273.38777 duration 0.00862; RT: In – GSS)

The following requests were acquired by other Order Desks:

Alberta, Forest Fire , Canada (1 image(s):

* 24 Jun 2002 13:37:24 UTC; F4N; cycle 100 orbit 259.34475 duration 0.00125; RT:In – GSS)

Note that the 96 hour period ends at 19:00 UTC of the current day.
CSA RADARSAT-1 Disaster Watch
C/o: Satellite Operations
Canadian Space Agency

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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