#2: Predicting Fire Behavior |
“The risk involved in fire suppression can be reduced if firefighters and fire managers pay attention and understand weather conditions that impact fire behavior,” states the Introduction to Wildland Fire Behavior, a training manual developed in conjunction with the National Interagency Fire Center.
This principle applies to hazmat as well as urban and wildland-urban interface fire response.
Weather monitoring is a cornerstone for predicting fire behavior. Government agencies partner with the National Weather Service to provide forecasts with local offices including Fire Analysts and Meteorologists.
Additionally, on-site monitoring provides the edge in real-time decision-making. For example, a Fire Behavior Outlook1 concludes: “Be alert to the potential influence of thunderstorms on your fire – outflow winds, even miles from a storm, can dramatically increase fire behavior very quickly.”
Here are a few examples of how weather parameters affect fire behavior:2
~Above average temperatures are common on large fires. Many firefighter fatalities have occurred on fires where record high temperatures were set.
~Small changes in relative humidity that cannot be felt or seen can have a significant impact on fire behavior.
~Wind impacts the fire environment by 1) increasing the supply of oxygen to the fire, 2) determining the direction of fire spread, 3) increasing the drying of the fuels, and 4) carrying sparks and firebrands ahead of the main fire causing new spot fires.
Starting with the forecast, local met data is combined with fuel conditions to determine the intensity and path of a fire, and the ideal location for fighting it.
Apparatus rigged with automated weather stations take meteorological monitoring to the incident, helping predict fire behavior in real time and in strategic locations. (See https://columbiaweather.com/products/weather-stations/vehicle-mount/ )
1NWCC Predictive Services Fire Behavior Outlook, issued November 8, 2017.
2National Wildfire Coordination Group. (2006). Introduction to Wildland Fire Behavior. Section 2C. Retrieved from training.nwcg.gov
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