Wildfire potential, November through February

November wildfire outlook weather

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

If their analysis is correct, the only areas with above normal wildfire activity during the period will be Southern California in November and December, and Hawaii December through February.


  • An excerpt from the NIFC narrative report for the next several months;
  • More of NIFC’s monthly graphical outlooks;
  • NOAA’s three-month temperature and precipitation forecasts; and,
  • Drought Monitor.

“Much of the West exited fire season by early October as the frequency of wet systems moving across the country increased. Cooler temperatures brought higher humidity levels and good overnight recoveries which also reduced large fire potential. As anticipated, the frequency of Santa Ana and North Wind events across California was lower than average, so critical fire weather periods were infrequent and of short duration. Nevertheless, fire activity was observed in isolated locations across the region in the remaining pockets where fuels remained critically dry. The Klondike fire made large runs mid-month. In the East, fire activity was also less active than average. This was due to the onset of a weak El Niño which promoted wetter than average conditions. The primary draw on resources was in response to Hurricane Michael which made landfall at Mexico Beach, Florida, with 155 mph winds.

“While most regions of the country are out of fire season during November, varying levels of activity are observed across California and the Southeast. The onset of El Niño should allow for a continuance of wetter than average conditions across the Southeast which should limit fire activity. However, pockets of critically dry fuels will persist across California, especially along coastal areas and along the front of the Southern Sierra. These areas will remain susceptible during wind events.

“Climatologically speaking, fire activity during the winter months, December through February, is at a minimum. Areas most susceptible to activity are generally restricted to the southeastern states where periodic increases in fire activity are possible during dry periods until spring greenup begins. However, current data and expected trends in precipitation suggest that large fire potential will be Below Normal in this region. The abundance of moisture should keep fuels in most areas from becoming critically dry. Drought forecasts project that the region should remain mostly free of drought.

“Across the West, overall warmer and drier than average conditions are expected. This should lead to below average snowpack in most mountain locations across the northern tier of the country. Snowpack should trend toward average levels moving south along the Continental Divide as the impacts of the El Niño begin to produce a positive effect on precipitation amounts received.”

December wildfire outlook weather

January wildfire outlook weather

February wildfire outlook weather

Temperature outlook for Nov, Dec, Jan.
Temperature outlook for Nov, Dec, Jan. Prepared October 18, 2018.
Precipitation outlook for Nov, Dec, Jan
Precipitation outlook for Nov, Dec, Jan. Prepared October 18, 2018.
Drought Monitor
Drought Monitor

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. Google+

One thought on “Wildfire potential, November through February”

  1. I grew up in LA and off season wildfires were the exception rather than common. I would like to share my memories of two of those late fires. The Monrovia Peak Fire burned over New Years 1954. I was 5 at the time and our home was in Arcadia within 4 blocks of the San Gabriel Mountains. I was playing with Lincoln Logs and glanced out the back windows and it seemed like everything was on fire. I called Mom. She was a bit paniced but checked to see if we were under evacuation. We wern’t so she went back to laundry and I watched the fire. It was “huge” and had a large impression on me. A rare off season fire that had a terrible beauty. From that day on, whenever I heard a siren I would run up the street and look up to the highway to see if it was Forest Service rig.

    Fast foreward to November 1, 1966. I was the youngest member of the Dalton Hot Shots. It had been an average fire season but should be over by now. However it was hot, dry, and Santa Ana winds were blowing. A fire ignited early that morning on the other side of the forest near Loop Creek. Like your typical Hot Shots we were anxious because we hadn’t been dispatched to the fire yet. Some of the guys who had been away from camp that night heard about about the fire early and raced to camp with a red lens on a flashlight and yelling like sirens out their car window. We were finally dispatched about 11:00 and made the 1 1/2 hour trip code 3. We got to the top side of the fire which we now knew was called the Loop Fire We cold trailed the edge of the fire along a downward ridge to a “demarcation” point. I was a little concerned because the fuel on the fire side of the trail was not cleanly burned. The crown of the brush was not burned, only super heated. Consequently, there was no good black. The Line Boss assigned us to cut fireline to the bottom of the fire and tie in with the county. Our Superindent, Chuck Hartly, scouted the area and turned down the assignment because thought it was too dangerous. El Cariso accepted the assignment and the rest was tragedy. The next week, fire season ending rains began.

    I worked 5 seasons on the Angeles on Dalton Hot shots and various engines, graduated with a BS in Forestry in 1971, and spent a season as a Helitack Foreman. I was drafted and discovered there was no “season” in the Army. After the Army, I worked 3 years as Situation Coordinator (the first manager of predictive services) at NIFC. I entered the seminary and finished studies for Catholic priesthood. About a month before ordination I decided not to be ordained. I was the first Chief of wildfire management of Guam for two years and returned home. I could not find a wildfire job so spent 30 years as a Social Services Program Administrator for the State of Washington. All in all, my best career was wild fire and I would have been very happy to stay on the Angeles or at NIFC.

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