Wildfire potential, February through May

wildfire potential February

Above: wildfire potential for February, 2018, issued February 1, 2018.

(Originally published at 1:41 p.m. MDT February 1, 2018)

On February 1 the Predictive Services section at the National Interagency Fire Center issued their Wildland Fire Potential Outlook for February through May. The data represents the cumulative forecasts of the ten Geographic Area Predictive Services Units and the National Predictive Services Unit.

If the prediction is accurate, the wildfire potential in Southern California and the Southern Plains will remain above normal for the entire four-month period and will increase in the Southwest and Northwestern Great Plains in Montana and North Dakota. The Eastern U.S. should expect normal or below normal potential.

Below are:

  • The highlights of the NIFC narrative report for the next several months;
  • NIFC’s monthly graphical outlooks;
  • NOAA’s three-month temperature and precipitation forecasts; and
  • Drought Monitor.

“The significant wildland fire potential forecasts included in this outlook represent the cumulative forecasts of the ten Geographic Area Predictive Services units and the National Predictive Services unit.

“Wildfire activity is likely to begin to increase in February as would be seasonally expected. During the early portions of the year it is typical for significant fires to begin to occur across the southern tier of the U.S. Currently it appears the highest likelihood for above normal significant wildland fire potential will be in place across portion of the southern plains and Florida and Georgia. Across the southern plains the last years precipitation totals have brought about a somewhat robust fine fuel crop, which will provide an elevated baseline of fire activity. When this elevated fuel condition is exacerbated by a period of dry and windy conditions it will provide opportunities for any ignitions to become significant fires.

“These incidents will be difficult to predict, but extra attention should be paid to this area when dry and windy conditions are forecasted. In Florida and Georgia the significant drought that led to amplified fire activity in the fall across the south has not improved. Moisture deficits in these fuel types are significant because they not only make ignition significantly more likely but they also make fires much more difficult to fight. Both conditions make the need for fire suppression resources higher. Both of these significant areas of above normal potential are likely continue through March and probably return to normal in April or May.

“At the end of the Outlook period significant fire potential across portions of Alaska will being to increase. This is also generally seasonally anticipated, however, the potential for above normal significant fire activity in the south central portion of the state is likely. Drought conditions indicate that some unusual dryness will be in place in this area as fire season begins. This will likely lead to earlier than usual ignitions and the potential for worse than usual fires. In the shorter term Hawaii is likely to see some elevated activity thanks to some unusual dryness, but this condition is expected to be short lived.

“Additionally, fire activity is expected to be below normal across western portions of Tennessee and Kentucky throughout the Outlook period.”

wildfire potential March

wildfire potential April May

3-month temperature precipitation outlook

drought monitor
Drought Monitor

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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.

3 thoughts on “Wildfire potential, February through May”

  1. Texas has already had several fires with the largest in January at 5,249 acres in the panhandle. TFS currently has 6 SEATS, an RJ85, 2 air attacks and a ASM staffed and staged. I know they have already dropped on a couple fires but not sure how many. Nice to see how proactive we are being this year, but I think it also shows the lessons learned from our 2011 fire season and how bad they anticipate this year to be.

  2. Nothing huge but in the last week several fires in the 100-300 acre range that were difficult to control…in January. Gonna be a long one. We need moisture bad.


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