Outlook for wildfire potential, August through November, 2015

The Predictive Services section at the National Interagency Fire Center has issued their Wildland Fire Potential Outlook for August through November, 2015. The data represents the cumulative forecasts of the ten Geographic Area Predictive Services Units and the National Predictive Services Unit.

If their forecasts are accurate, portions of Idaho, Washington, Oregon, California, Alaska, and Montana will have above normal wildfire activity through September.

It is interesting that northern California, where many fires are growing at very, very rapid rates, has “normal” wildfire potential according to the analysis for August, perhaps because of this statement in the document about northern California:

The strengthening El Niño pattern will cause occasional monsoon surges, mainly in August.

Here are the highlights from their outlook.

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August

wildfire potential August

  • Drier than normal fuels and little forecasted relief have led to above normal significant fire potential for most of the Northwest and western
    portions of the Northern Rockies.
  • Long term drought will keep significant fire potential above normal in Southern California.
  • Alaska will see continued periodic acreage growth from established fires which will lead to overall above normal significant fire potential.
  • Elsewhere mostly normal activity should be expected; which includes frequent significantfires and plentiful initial attack for August.

September

wildfire potential September

  • Central California and Alaska will see significant fire potential return to normal; however dry conditions are expected to persist in the Northwest, western Northern Rockies and far Southern California. 
  • Elsewhere primarily normal activity should be prevalent. For September, this means a rapid decline in both numbers of fires and acres burned for most Areas.

October-November

wildfire potential October November

  • Far Southern California will remain above normal for October and November; while most of the rest of the U.S. will be normal in many areas indicating little or no fire activity.
  • Below normal significant fire potential across most of the eastern U.S. for this period thanks to frequent moisture inputs represents a reduced fall and winter fire season for U.S. overall.

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As a bonus, here is the Drought Monitor from July 28, 2015:

Drought Monitor July 28, 2015And, the U.S. Drought Outlook for August:

US Drought Outlook, August, 2015

 

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New lightning fires in Shasta-Trinity NF burn 19,000 acres

Map of Shasta-T lightning fires

Map of Shasta-Trinity NF lightning fires at 8 p.m. PT July 31, 2015. (click to enlarge)

An infrared mapping flight over the Shasta-Trinity National Forest Friday night west of Redding, California detected numerous fires that together have burned 19,000 acres over the last 48 hours. The Shasta-Trinity clearly has a massive wildfire situation on their hands. These lightning-caused fires have grown significantly in the last 36 hours.

The area is under a Red Flag Warning for “abundant lighting” Saturday afternoon. Wetting rain is not expected to accompany the lighting.

More information about these fires is HERE.

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Dry lightning and unstable atmosphere results in Red Flag Warnings

wildfire ed Flag Warnings August 1, 2015

The National Weather Service has issued Red Flag Warnings or Fire Weather Watches for areas in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, California, and Montana. Firefighters in northern California can expect abundant lightning Saturday afternoon, accompanied by little or no rain. In the other Red Flag areas dry and breezy conditions are in the forecast along with an unstable atmosphere and a high Haines Index which could contribute to rapid spread of existing or new fires.

The map was current as of 9 a.m. MDT on Saturday. Red Flag Warnings can change throughout the day as the National Weather Service offices around the country update and revise their forecasts and maps. For the most current data visit this NWS site or this NWS site.

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Fire prevention at the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally

Don't Burn the Rally

In case you are not familiar with it, the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally is a big deal. Every year hundreds of thousands of motorcycle enthusiasts descend on Sturgis, South Dakota and the greater Black Hills area in southwest South Dakota and Wyoming. This year an even larger crowd, up to 1.2 million people, is expected since it is the 75th anniversary of the event which will be held August 3 through 9. Every motel within a hundred miles will be booked up, and at rates much higher than you’d pay at other times.

The wildland fire agencies are used to the routine and they usually make special preparations and have representatives designated to be the points of contact with the Rally Operations Center set up by the state Office of Emergency Management.

By Monday, August 3 there will be two single engine air tankers (SEATs) in the area, one each at Hot Springs, SD and at Chadron, NE. Two helicopters, a Type1 and a Type 3 are based at Custer, SD this year, but they have not spent much time there yet since they have been assigned to fires out of the area. The Type 3 will be available locally for the duration of the rally but the Type 1 is on an assignment elsewhere. The Black Hills National Forest has brought in six fire engines from other areas to beef up the local fire suppression capability. Currently there are no air tankers positioned at the Rapid City Air Tanker Base; however, the facility is open and staffed.

A few years ago the local agencies started the “Don’t Burn the Rally” program, in an effort to educate bikers from Ohio and Newfoundland about how not to burn the place down. Thankfully this year due to abundant rain in the spring and early summer the herbaceous vegetation is greener than usual, so it will be a little more difficult to get a large fire going.

I noticed the law enforcement officer on the Harley Davidson motorcycle in the poster above, and that there are no markings visible to identify the agency. I don’t know if they are still doing it, but Harley used to provide several bikes like that to the local National Parks, and possibly other agencies in the Black Hills, so that their law enforcement officers could use them during the rally. Some of the guys who had their own personal bikes loved being able to cruise around on a motorcycle while getting paid for it.

And below, you’ll see that even the weather forecasters in Rapid City are getting into the Rally spirit.

Rally weather forecast

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South Dakota firefighter killed while responding to a fire in California

By Ken Sandusky, U.S. Forest Service,
released at 7:45 p.m PT, July 31, 2015

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“Alturas, Calif. – It is with great sadness we must confirm a Forest Service firefighter lost his life yesterday while responding to the Frog Fire northwest of Adin, California (map). The deceased is David “Dave” Ruhl of Rapid City, South Dakota.

Search and rescue was conducted throughout the night until the firefighter was found this morning.

Dave was on temporary assignment to the Big Valley Ranger District of the Modoc National Forest as an Assistant Fire Management Officer since June 14. Dave’s permanent position is Engine Captain on the Mystic Ranger District of the Black Hills National Forest in Rapid City.

The Forest Service is investigating this line-of-duty death.

“This loss of life is tragic and heartbreaking,” said Forest Supervisor, Amanda McAdams. “Please keep the family and all of our Forest Service employees in your thoughts and prayers during this difficult time.”

The Frog Fire southeast of Lava Camp on the Big Valley Ranger District started yesterday afternoon, exhibiting active fire behavior and growing to more than 800 acres by this evening with active spotting ahead of the fire front.

Northern California Team 1 is expected to take over management of the fire Saturday morning.

Additional detailed information on the Frog Fire will be available on Inciweb at http://inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/4427/.”

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California Governor Brown also issued a statement about the fatality and mentioned that Mr. Ruhl is survived by his wife, Erin, and their two children. He worked for the U.S. Forest Service for 14 years and previously served in the U.S. Coast Guard.

In honor of Firefighter Ruhl, California Capitol flags will be flown at half-staff.

At Wildfire Today our sincere condolences go out to Mr. Ruhl’s friends, co-workers, and family.

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