GFMC: Forest Fires in the United States

Forest Fires in the United States

14 March 2003


Boise, Idaho (AP) — 11 March 2003

The 2003 wildfire season will not be as severe as last year, but much of the West and upper Midwest will still see an above-normalfire year, according to predictions from federal experts. The wildland fire outlook by the National Interagency Fire Center follows a
conference of scientists late last month. Fire forecasters say years of drought in the West coupled with little snowand early snowmelts could result in an extended fire season. They also said drought-stressed or insect-damaged vegetation will increase the potential
for large, destructive wildfires.

“Nationally, it won’t be as severe as 2002. But it still will be more severe than average,” said Rick Ochoa, national fire weather programmanager. “As a whole, the Great Lakes area and the Northwest may have a more significant fire season than the Southwest.”

Wildfires last year burned nearly 7.2 million acres while more than 50 percent of the country suffered extreme to moderate drought during thesummer months. In Prescott, Ariz., about 370 firefighters from across the country began aweek’s training Tuesday at Arizona’s first fire academy for those who will battle this year’s wildfires.

The Arizona training will include digging fire lines, using fire-resistant foam and working with airplane crews.According to the wildfire outlook released Friday: Dead timber will increase fire potential at the higher elevations in Utah,western Wyoming, and central Idaho.

Eastern Oregon, northern Idaho, Montana, northern and eastern Wyoming, and southern Alaska will be among the western regions most susceptible towildfires. Other areas of concern are southern California, southern Utah, and central-northwestern Arizona.

In the Midwest, Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin and Michigan are also more likely to have a worse than normal fire season, as is northern Maine in the East.


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)

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)

The National Wildfire Information Interagency provides detailed information on each individual state with active fires.

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 (observed time) fire danger (forecasted)

Latest fire dangermap for the United States (observation time) and forecasted fire danger map forthe subsquent day
(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

Latest fuel moisture maps for conterminousUS
(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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Latest Keetch-Byram drought index map for conterminousUS
(Source: WAFS)

For more Satellite Images displaying recent fires in the US, please visit NASA´SEarth Observatory at:
. EarthObservatory provides MODIS and Landsat Scenes of fires allover the planet. 

For more information on the recent fire situation in the US see also: Recent Media Highlights on Fire, Policies, and Politics.

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(March  to May 2003)
(Source: National Weather Service)

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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