National wildfire situation, and resources committed

Wildfire Summary, 5-day trend, August 16, 2012 by NPS

Wildfire Summary, 5-day trend, August 16, 2012 by NPS

The National Park Service’s Morning Report issued on weekdays lists significant events that occur in National Parks but also includes tables (see above) showing the 5-day trends for the number of large fires and the number of Incident Management Teams that are committed. Today’s report shows that 31 IMTeams are assigned and there are 62 uncontained large fires.

The National MultiAgency Coordination Group (MAC Group, or “Big MAC”) still has the Preparedness Level set at 4. Theoretically, more state and federal employees are available for fire assignments at the higher levels, which top out at 5. Below are the descriptions of PL 4 and 5, according to the National Interagency Fire Center:

Preparedness Level 4: Three (3) or more Geographic Areas are experiencing incidents requiring Type 1 and 2 Incident Management Teams. Competition exists for resources between Geographic Areas. Nationally, 60% of Type 1 and 2 Incident Management Teams and crews are committed.

Preparedness Level 5: Geographic Areas are experiencing major incidents which have the potential to exhaust all agency fire resources. Eighty percent (80%) of Type 1 and Type 2 Incident Management Teams and crews are committed, as well as the majority of other National Resources.

It is difficult to determine how many IMTeams there are, since various criteria can be used to count or not count a team, for example, if it is supported locally, by a state, or by the federal government. Wikipedia (consider the source) states that there are 35 Type 2 IMTeams and 16 Type 1 IMTeams. In addition, there are three Area Command Teams and four National Incident Management Organization (NIMO) teams. Using these numbers, the grand total of teams is 58. According to the PL criteria, 80 percent, or 46.4 teams would have to be committed in order to move into PL 5.

So far this week there have been from 59 to 70 large uncontained fires burning in the United States, which is a very large number. Looking at the National Situation Report and the map of fires detected by satellites, an observer gets the impression that wildfire activity is very high. With 31 teams committed now, It is unlikely that an additional 15 teams will be activated.

In the next few weeks it will be interesting to see how subjective the PL criteria is, and when or if the Big MAC group will move from PL 4 to PL 5.

By the way, our contest to predict the date of entering PL 5 is still open.

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Author: Bill Gabbert

After working full time in wildland fire for 33 years, he continues to learn, and strives to be a Student of Fire.