Weather And Wildfires

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The wildfires we’ve seen across the southeast have been fueled by an extremely dry fall.

Weather also plays a critical role in fighting those fires.  There are specialists on the front-lines of these fires who are keeping a close eye on the relationship between weather and fire.

Dan Byrd is the on-site, National Weather Service meteorologist for the Party Rock fire near Lake Lure.  It’s his job to keep firefighters one step ahead of the weather conditions, using a portable observation station…as well as handheld monitoring.

“So what I try to do is I try to find a spot…for example right here…this fire’s elevation is anywhere from about 1500 feet to about 3000 feet…so we’re about 2500 feet here so we’re kind of right in the middle…so that kind of gives you an accurate representation.”

When dealing with fire weather, it’s very important to get accurate weather measurements…not only from the atmosphere, but also from the ground to determine just how dry the grass and the earth are.  This will determine how much fuel there is for any fire that moves into an area.

All this data combines to determine a lot more about a fire than you might think.

Mike Haasken is a fire behavior analyst from Oregon who is here to monitor the Party Rock fire.  It’s is job to make sense of the relationships between the weather observations and the fire itself.

”How hot the fire’s going to burn, how fast it’s going to burn, where it’s going to burn.  And you do this to help the firefighters determine where to stop the fire.  We predict flame lengths, for example, and also rate of spread.  And so all of that’s done to assist the firefighters, but particularly keep them safe.”

All of this to get the upper hand on fires…saving property…and lives.

Also, Haasken notes this fire has been different than most fires you might see out west…where “walls of flame” are much more prevalent thanks to more burning of the crowns of trees.  Most of this fire burned the undergrowth and some small trees…more of a “smoldering” fire at times.   The larger, hardwood trees are expected to survive…so you may not see much of a “fire scar” once we green-up in spring.

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