NFPA Journal - May/June 2012 - (Page 11)
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NEWS FROM NFPA + BEYOND
4preserved + lost
Why forecasters predict an active and widespread 2012 wildfire season.
Colorado may have been the site of spring wildfires that dominated national headlines, but it’s by no means alone. Firefighters in new york, Tennessee, new Jersey, massachusetts, Florida, and elsewhere have already battled more than 100 large brush fires and wildfires this year, according to the U.S. Forest Service. Communities in many more states across the country may soon be going on high alert, too, as forecasters warn of the potential for significant and widespread fire events during the current wildfire season. “heavy loadings of fine [wildfire] fuels across … the U.S. ... are causing control problems and leading to some increased fire behavior when coupled with wind events,” according to the latest national Wildland Significant Fire Potential outlook report, which analyzes the nation’s drought and fuel dryness conditions while making predictions on an area’s susceptibility to wildfire. Produced by the national Interagency Fire Center (nIFC), the nation’s support center for wildland firefighting, the report pinpoints drought and fuel dryness conditions as primary factors influencing the current
the aftermath of the lower North fork fire in Colorado in March, which killed three people and destroyed more than 4,000 acres.
by fred durso, jr.
outlook, which began in april and extends that we’re facing today,” Forest Service Chief through July. Severe to extreme drought Tom Tidwell told the associated Press. conditions have been occurring in parts of “They’re different than what we used to deal the upper midwest, especially minnesota with. These prolonged droughts ... affect and Wisconsin, and the Southeast coast, the fire behavior that we see, and the more according to the report, while “worsening” erratic weather that we’re seeing, especially conditions are occurring over much of the Southwest since the previous To see the online version of our nIFC outlook report. earlier this year, below-normal precipitation special wildfire issue of NFPA Journal, occurred in the Southwest, central visit nfpa.org/journalwildfire. rockies, northern and central Plains, much of the Southeast, and new england. above-normal temperatures are throughout the country this spring, those expected through July in the Southwest, east are the things we have to factor in.” Coast, and Gulf Coast. The predictions for this year arrive on the heels of a dramatic 2011 fire season, which The outlook predicts “above normal” sigsaw significant fire events from minnesota to nificant fire potential in certain areas of the rocky mountains in June and July. The same Florida to California. Texas, new mexico, and arizona all experienced the largest wildfires prediction was forecasted for the Southwest ever recorded in those states; in arizona, the as well as parts of the Western Great basin Wallow Fire alone burned some 841 square and Southern California. above normal miles (2,178 square kilometers) and caused conditions will persist through July in pormore than $100 million in damage. tions of the South, particularly in Florida and Georgia, based on forecasted weather, This season’s opening round has focused fuel moisture, and drought risks. on Colorado, where more than a dozen “We need to understand the conditions wildfires have already occurred. The most
Photograph: AP/Wide World, David Zalubowski
MAY/JUNE 2012 NFPA JOURNAL
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Nfpa Journal - May/june 2012
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NFPA Journal - May/June 2012