The lack of precipitation this fall, along with a prolonged period of warm, dry, and occasional windy weather has caused fuels to be extremely dry across portions of Southern and Central California.
Welcome to what may become the new normal — for a Fuels and Fire Behavior Advisory to be issued for an area in the Western United States hours before New Years Eve. The Predictive Services office in the Southern California Geographic Coordination Center issued one on Friday for the following areas:
Central Coast Interio
Eastern Mountain, and,
A similar Advisory that was issued two weeks ago reached its expiration date so it was reupped for another 14 days.
Three areas have issued Fuels and Fire Behavior Advisories that are currently in effect. The advisories are valid for 14 days from the date of issuance.
The documents do not indicate which person, group, or office came up with the information. One of them has the “Predictive Services” logo, but there are many such offices with multiple employees. The others provide no clue how, where, or by whom they originated.
It has been our position that a technical document that relies on scientific data and expertise gained through years of experience, and which recommends specific action be taken, should be signed. Someone needs to have their name(s) attached. Was it put together by an intern, or someone with 35 years of experience? Be brave and convince us that we should take the advice to take action seriously.
The Southern California Geographic Area Coordination Center has issued a Fuels and Fire Behavior Advisory for the central and southern areas of California due to a heavier than usual grass crop brought on by above average winter rains. Because of the vegetation and climate in Southern California it seems like we hear similar warnings often — heavy rains bring lots of flashy grass fuels, and a dry winter results in low fuel moistures. An average winter can mean typical fire potential, which in this area can still mean large devastating wildfires. But as we often say, the most important factor that affects the number of acres burned is the weather during the fire season.
Below is an excerpt from the Advisory. Following that is the entire document.
“Due to the heavy winter rains, a significant grass crop has developed across much of California in the recent months. These light, flashy fuels have now cured across most of the southern and central portions of the state, which has led to a significant increase in fire activity across much of the Southern California Geographic Area. Despite the volatility of these grass fires, the heavier fuels are less supportive of fire as moisture levels in the larger diameter materials is near normal for this time of year. In addition, live fuel moisture remains above average in many areas. Therefore, while significant acreage consumption will continue to occur on future fires within the grassy fuel beds, large fires among the heavier fuels are less likely.”
Thanks and a tip of the hat go out to Ken. Typos or errors, report them HERE.
One of the Predictive Services offices, it is unclear which one, distributed this advisory. Our opinion is that when someone provides technical advice, or suggests that others take action or modify their behavior, they should be accountable.
Fuels and Fire Behavior Advisory
Southern Appalachian Mountains
October 7-21, 2016
Subject: Increasing Fire Danger in area of Hurricane Matthew subsidence
Discussion: An area of exceptional drought with Energy Release Component values above the 90th percentile currently exists over an area covering a large portion of the Southern Area. With the passage of Hurricane Matthew along the east coast relative humidity values are forecast to drop into the teens over this area. There will also be a high likelihood of gusty winds, especially along the western face of the Appalachian Mountains.
Difference from normal conditions: The area of subsidence associated with Hurricane Matthew will exacerbate the already dry environment and move ERC values over a large area above the 97th percentile over the next 10 days.
Concerns to Firefighters and the Public: Any fire in this area will be very resistant to control efforts. Expect complete consumption of fuels down to mineral soil or rock, frequent torching, and increased spotting. Fire intensities will be higher than normal which will likely preclude direct attack of fires. Expect the need for extended mop-up. Expect an increase in long duration fires; with heavy fuels being available to burn and leaves coming off of trees expect a higher than normal probability of re-burn on contained fires.
Mitigation Measures: Do not expect any fire to be routine. Be prepared to utilize indirect tactics with extended mop-up. Utilize aerial supervision to help direct crews and keep them informed on fire behavior. Ensure that LCES is in place before engaging on any fire. Remember to STOP, THINK and TALK before you ACT…actively look for ways to minimize risk to firefighters in what is forecast to be a period of very high fire danger.
Area of Concern: Alabama, Mississippi, Central and north Georgia, Tennessee and the mountain areas of Western South Carolina and North Carolina.
A Predictive Services unit wrote this Fuels and Fire Behavior Advisory — it’s not clear which one, regional or national. It was distributed by the National Interagency Coordination Center. Our view is that if you are distributing an important directive and calling for action, the person, or at least the unit, that analyzed the data and developed the recommendations should be identified. This is not the place for anonymity.
Fuels and Fire Behavior Advisory
Southeastern Halves of New England/Mid-Atlantic States
April 24, 2016
Subject: Fuel conditions/elevated significant fire potential across the southeastern halves of New England and Mid-Atlantic states.
Discussion: Short to medium range drought developed across the southeastern halves of New England and the Mid-Atlantic States through the second half of March into April 2016. Calculated 1000 hour fuel moisture levels at many RAWS across these areas were below 17% and 100 hour fuels below 10%. NFDRS Energy Release Components and Burning Indices were well above the 90th percentile as well. These conditions have led to periods of above normal fire potential across portions of the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic late March through April of 2016 during dry and windy periods.
Fire behavior reports from fires occurring near and within the areas of concern through mid-April indicated rapid rates of spread. Abnormal nighttime fire activity was also reported on some of the fires creating suppression problems and increased fire size. While the main driver of fire occurrence and behavior was fine fuels, 100 and 1000 hour fuels were also receptive to ignition and some consumption, leading to more intense and persistent fires. Until rainfall increases over these areas, elevated fire potential and problematic fire behavior is likely during any dry and windy periods into May 2016.
Difference from normal conditions: Calculated NFDRS indices and fuel moistures from various RAWS across the areas of concern were at or approaching extreme levels or the 97th percentile. Prolonged periods of minimum RH levels were observed through mid-April significantly drying out fuels.
Concerns to Firefighters and the Public:
Anticipate any ignition in flashy fine fuels to burn readily and move rapidly during periods of dry and windy weather conditions.
Anticipate heavier fuel involvement where 1000 and 100 hour fuel moistures have dropped to critical levels.
Make certain firefighters have good anchor points and keep one foot in the black.
Ensure LCES is in place on every fire before engaging. Lookouts should have a good understanding of the effects of weather changes and topography on fire behavior.
Become familiar with local fuel conditions and current fire danger indices, and their implications for fire behavior.
Area of Concern: Southeastern Halves of New England/Mid-Atlantic States.
One of the Predictive Services offices issued a Fuels and Fire Behavior Advisory for southern California. In this new one, most of Northern California has been temporarily removed due to the unseasonably cool and wet weather pattern. With the forecast for the weather pattern to make a dramatic change mid-week with strong high pressure developing over California for rapid drying/warming into the weekend, they anticipate Northern CA will once again warrant an advisory in the next 1-2 weeks.
“Fuels and Fire Behavior Advisory Southern California
June 25, 2013
Subject: Low live and dead fuel moistures, along with persistent drought have created the potential for active to extreme fire behavior in Southern California.
Discussion:All of California is experiencing drought conditions. Effects of lower than normal live and dead fuel moistures and observed fire behavior for 2013 are the focus of this advisory. Note that most of Northern CA was included in the previous advisory but has been temporarily removed due to forecasted widespread wetting rain. It is anticipated that area will warrant an advisory in the next couple weeks.
Difference From Normal Conditions: Drought conditions ranging from abnormally dry to severe exist and are expected to persist or intensify. The entire area is deficient in rainfall and snow pack, resulting in fuels that are 4-8 weeks ahead of normal drying/curing rates.
Concerns to Firefighters:
Energy Release Component (ERC) values at numerous weather stations are well above normal and many are at record maximums. Expect increased fire intensity and spread rates in these areas. Early season extreme fire behavior has been observed especially in brush fuel types. Anticipate increased spread rates, spotting, and active night time burning.
The combination of persistent drought and record-low rainfall and snowpack amounts has led to very low live and dead fuel moistures. Low 1000-hour fuel moistures have been evidenced by complete consumption of dead fuels on recent fires. Live fuel moistures for Chamise have already reached critical levels of 60% or less in many areas. Expect fires to ignite easier and spread faster. Anticipate higher resistance to control in all fuel types.
Active fire behavior can extend well into the night and early morning hours even with moderate RH recovery. Already this year, Southern California has experienced large fire activity and multiple team deployments. It is important to be mindful of and manage fatigue for all resources. Everyone, every day, returns home safely.
Local and inbound fire personnel need to be aware that fire behavior is exceeding normal expectations for this time of the year. Local briefings need to be thorough and highlight specific fire environment conditions. These include but are not limited to local weather forecasts, Pocket Cards, ERC’s, live and dead fuel moistures, and special fuel conditions such as mortality, Sudden Oak Death and frost killed brush, etc.
Suppression actions need to be based on good anchor points, escape routes, and safety zones. Remember LCES. Experienced lookouts are essential under these conditions.
Base all actions on current and expected behavior of the fire. Augment initial attack resources as incident activity dictates.
Review the most current Southern California 7-day Significant Fire Potential along with Daily, Monthly and Seasonal Outlooks at: http://www.predictiveservices.nifc.gov/outlooks/outlooks.htm
Area of Concern:The area of concern is the Southern California geographic area with the exception of 4 PSA’s: Central Valley, Central Mojave, Eastern Desert, and Lower Deserts. A map showing the areas of concern described in this advisory can be found at: National Fuel Advisories
Issued: June 25, 2013 (Note this advisory will be in effect for 14 days and will be reviewed/updated at that time.)”