Wednesday, July 06, 2016

Personal reflections on Fire Weather Forecasting (part 5 of 5)

I have been considering and reflecting on what to share in this final “reflections” post to wrap up my series, “About Red Flag Warnings & other Fire Weather products from National Weather Service (NWS) Weather Forecast Offices (WFOs).” I think that I can let the articles that I wrote (see bottom of this post for a list with links) stand for themselves. However in parting, I have six reflections or thoughts that I'd like to share with you.

1) As I reflected on what I had learned in researching and then writing my series on “About Red Flag Warnings & other Fire Weather products from NWS WFOs”, I found myself thinking early on in this process that fire weather and fire weather forecasting is complicated. I came away thinking that I had no idea just how complicated fire weather and fire weather forecasting is before I started doing background research for this series. 

2) I have a great deal of respect for the NWS WFOs who issue Red Flag Warnings and Fire Weather Forecasts. To all at the NWS WFOs, I say thank-you, thank-you, thank-you. I know that wildland firefighters on the ground and in the air use Red Flag Warnings (RFW) and other Fire Weather Forecasts to know how the weather is affecting their fire. To all of you who work fires on the ground and in the air and on support teams I say thank-you, thank-you, thank-you. 

3) I call myself an ordinary citizen who is interested in knowing about current weather forecasts, including fire weather forecasts in my corner of New Jersey in the United States. So I go to my local WFO website and keep an eye out to see if they have issued any Fire Weather Watches or Red Flag Warnings. Sometimes not all the RFW criteria will be met, but conditions will warrant the issuance of a Special Weather Statement for Enhanced Fire Danger. For example, perhaps the relative humidity (RH) is below RFW criteria but the winds and fuel moisture criteria are above RFW criteria, so the local NWS WFO will issue a Special Weather Statement for Enhanced Fire Danger (or another product with similar wording). I appreciate knowing about any possibility of enhanced fire danger if for no other reason than I can be more vigilant. Often local media will pick up on upcoming Fire Weather Watches and Red Flag Warnings.

4) I don’t know about you but I do try to be fire aware on any day and try not do anything that might lead to a wildfire. I am especially mindful to be extra careful on days when Red Flag Warnings or Enhanced Fire Danger Warnings are issued by my local NWS WFO. These are some of things that are on my list: I no longer smoke, but if you are a smoker being careful not throw a cigarette on the ground. Also on my list are no outdoor burning, checking my car for a pipe that might drag on the road, if I am camping checking for current camp fire regulations and perhaps going the extra mile and not lighting a camp fire, being sure that camp fires are fully extinguished, and if I am going to compost ashes from your indoor fireplace or wood burning stove I will be sure that ashes are fully extinguished. Your State fire agency will have a list of what you should and should not do on a high fire danger day. Of course, it is always good to be fire aware even if you are not under a RFW. 

5) Thank your local NWS WFO, social media is great for this. Whether it be RFW or warning us about any weather event (flood, hurricane, snow storms, thunderstorms and tornadoes to name a few), they are all about keeping us safe. 

6) Finally, a prayer, meditation, or thought for wildland firefighters doesn’t hurt. 

Articles in this series:

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