GFMC: Forest Fires in the United States

Forest Fires in the United States

05 July 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 04July 2002 (observation time) and 05 July 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, 04July 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, 04 July 2002
(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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Heat signatures (red) are visible from fires burning in California. The Birch Fire has burned 2,500 acres in Inyo National Forest, CA and was 0% contained. This information is from the National Interagency Fire Center Incident Management Situation Report from 07/02/2002.
(Source: OSEI/NOAA)

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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23 June 2002 24 June 2002 25 June 2002

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26 June 2002 27 June 2002 28 June 2002

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29 June 2002 30 June 2002 01 July 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)

UPDATE – Firefighters accused in record Western US blazes

Source: PlanetArk July 5, 2002

PHOENIX, Ariz. – Two firefighters appeared in separate courts this week, accused of sparking the flames that roared into the worst-ever wildfires in the history of their respective states – devastating more than 600,000 acres and destroying more than 500 homes last month.

In Flagstaff, Arizona, contract firefighter Leonard Gregg pleaded innocent to setting the Rodeo fire, a fierce inferno that joined forces with with the smaller Chediski fire to consume 468,000 acres (190,000 hectares) and reduce 423 homes to ashes.
Prosecutors allege that Gregg, 29, a member of the Apache tribe, set two fires on the White Mountain Apache reservation on June 18 to ensure work for the summer. The Rodeo fire wiped out hundreds of millions of dollars worth of timber that the tribe relies on for its income.

In neighboring Colorado, Terry Lynn Barton, 38, who was charged on June 16 with starting the Hayman fire while a U.S. Forestry Service firefighter, had her trial in Denver put back from its original Aug. 26 date so her lawyers could have more time to prepare her defense. She has also pleaded not guilty.
The Hayman fire, 55 miles (88 km) southwest of Denver, burned 137,768 acres (55,750 hectares) and destroyed 133 homes.

Gregg, who was indicted by a federal grand jury on Tuesday, faces up to 10 years in prison and $500,000 in fines if he is convicted of willfully setting fire to timber, underbrush or grass. U.S. Magistrate Judge Stephen Verkamp ordered him transferred to Phoenix to face a trial beginning on Sept. 3. He is being held without bail.


The Rodeo-Chediski fire blackened an area twice the size of New York City as it raced through prime pine country, forcing about 30,000 people to flee their homes in the small communities and subdivisions in the area, about 150 miles (240 km) northeast of Phoenix. The last of the evacuees, an estimated 4,000 residents, were allowed to return home this week.

Fire officials said the stubborn blaze now is 80 percent contained, with full containment expected by Sunday. Crews once on the front lines in Arizona have been shifted to battle blazes in other drought-stricken areas in what has proved to be an already tough fire season across the American West.

Barton, who has since been fired by the Forestry Service, told authorities she was burning a letter from her estranged husband while patrolling the area and the fire got out of control. Prosecutors have rejected this explanation, saying she started the blaze on purpose.

The fire was finally 100 percent contained by Tuesday evening, meaning crews have been able to build a line around the blaze, but not that it is out.

U.S. District Judge Richard Matsch said he realized the attorneys needed more time in a case that will involve testimony from wildfire experts from around the country. The judge did not set a new trial date.
If convicted of all four federal counts against her, Barton, a mother of two, could go to prison for up to 65 years. She is out on bail at a half-wayhouse and has been told to stay away from forests. She declined to speak with reporters after Wednesday’s hearing.

The fire which started on June 8, has cost $31.7 million to fight in labor and equipment, not counting the loss of homes and forest lands.

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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