Warmest Autumn on Record Increases Wildfire Concern

Warmest Autumn on Record Fuels Abnormal Weather and Wildfires

Scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) confirmed that this Autumn was the warmest ever measured, surpassing the record-setting conditions from last year. The normally temperate months of September, October, and November were a staggering 4.1 degrees above average. November in particular was 6.3 degrees above average with every state reporting above-normal monthly average temperatures.

Record Breaking November - Every state reporting above-normal monthly average temperatures. https://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/

Record Breaking November – Every state reporting above-normal monthly average temperatures. https://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/

The hot temperatures were accompanied by abnormal precipitation levels across the country. While some areas of the Northwest experienced unprecedented late season rainfall, the majority of the country was blanketed by dry air. Overall the percentage of the US plagued by drought conditions grew from 19.5 at the end of summer to over 31 percent by the end of fall. The Southeast was especially hard hit by the lack of moisture.

Late Season Drought Plagues the US.

Late Season Drought Plagues the US.

Southeast United States Becomes a Tinderbox

Much of the Southeast went nearly two months without measurable precipitation. The lack of precipitation combined with record setting temperatures led to a flare-up of multiple wildfires across the Southern Appalachians. Residents of the region are used to late season wildfires but extreme conditions generated unexpected intensity. Wildfires in the area were not only more numerous, they were considerably larger in scale and ferocity.

At one point in November, RedZone Disaster Intelligence was tracking dozens of different fires across various southeastern states. NOAA reported that this November was the second worst in terms of wildfire devastation since they began tracking events in 2000. The recent Chimney Tops 2 fire is a heartbreaking example of what many fear may be the new normal for wildfires in the region.

Southeastern Wildfires Raged in November.

Southeastern Wildfires Raged in November.

Drought and High Temperatures the New Norm?

With 2016 coming to a close, it appears the year will finish as one of the warmest on record. With average temperatures continuing to climb, it is unclear how this may influence precipitation across the country. The conditions experienced this fall may not become the new norm, but there is a growing concern that a weak La Niña will bring a dryer-than-normal winter to much of the United States. Without the usual winter moisture replinishment, drought conditions will persist, leaving many areas prone to extreme fire weather next year.

Sources:

http://www.climatecentral.org/news/warmer-future-southeastern-wildfires-20912

https://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/sotc/summary-info

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/capital-weather-gang/wp/2016/12/07/this-fall-was-the-warmest-on-record-2016-will-be-at-least-second-warmest-year/?utm_term=.15c6ce8a1eaa

http://www.cnbc.com/2016/12/07/wildfire-plagued-fall-warmest-on-record-for-us-says-noaa.html

https://news.google.com/news/story?ncl=dAkC_xO_mS-4ZDMHsoMIfcuMXDUNM&q=warmest+autumn&lr=English&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjEt7Wv1-XQAhWGhVQKHeKzA3oQqgIIJDAA

Landslide Concerns in Fire-Ravaged Gatlinburg TN

While the community of Gatlinburg, Tennessee grieves their losses and starts planning how to recover and rebuild, a new threat confronts the area. An inch and a half of winter rain helped put out the horrific fire over the weekend, but as we’ve covered in the past, wildfire-scorched areas often have an increased risk of landslides and mudslides. Local fire crews have thus far reported several small landslides that are slowing their ability to access damaged areas.

wildfire landslides

Before and After Image of a Burn Scar from the Chimney Tops 2 Fire

How a Fire Can Increase Landslide Risk?

Depending on soil type and topography, vegetation and land cover have a significant impact on the stability of the soil. Under normal conditions, leaf litter and other surface vegetation slow the rainfall water moving down a given slope.  This allows much of that moisture to permeate through the soil and drain into the water table or aquifer below, leaving the surface soil relatively stable.  Even during heavy rainfall when surface soil becomes saturated, root systems from brush and trees help to keep the soil from moving downhill.

However, when vegetation is lost due to wildfire (or other reasons such as construction), the factors that keep soil in place are minimized, and there is greater risk that the soil’s surface tension in a given area is overcome by gravity and washes down the slope.

Gatlinburg is in the Great Smoky Mountains, a very old mountain range within the Appalachian Mountain region. Due to the age of the mountains and the region’s climate, the mountains themselves are very weathered, and have much deeper soils than the mountains in the Western United States. The region is also heavily wooded, so the roots of the dense vegetation help to stabilize the nearby soil. When the wildfires recently moved through the area, the vegetation and leaf litter was burned out, and the stabilizing root systems were compromised. Storms then came and assisted in firefighting efforts, but the lack of vegetation due to the recent burns caused a few small slides. Before winter brings snow to the normally wet area, an increased likelihood for flooding, mudslides, and landslides remains a worrying possibility. As of December 7th, there is little rain forecasted in the region for several days.

Visit ready.gov to learn about how to better protect yourself, your family, and your property from landslides and other hazards.

Gatlinburg Disaster: 700 Structures Lost, 13 Fatalities

Chimney Tops 2 Fire Update

Tough questions were abundant at this morning’s press conference as word fell that a thirteenth victim has been identified in the aftermath of this week’s Chimney Tops 2 fire. Fire and Emergency managers tried to dodge the press’s questions regarding whether they waited too long to evacuate residents in the Gatlinburg and surrounding areas, and whether lives were lost because of it. The truth of the situation is this fire was an anomaly. It was a first of its kind for its fire regime.

The fire creeped around in rocky areas of the steep mountains, south of Gatlinburg, for a few days and warranted fire crews to manage it with an aerial attack. An extreme wind event fanned the fire, knocked down power lines, and created ember starts and abundant spot fires equaling utter chaos. Unfortunately, it appears that with power outages and cell service down, emergency notifications were not received by all residents with disastrous implications. Door to door evacuations by the local authorities couldn’t cover the vast areas in impending danger. The rapidly spread ignited leaf litter and ground fuels from wind gusts reported as high as 87 mph, fueled by prolonged drought, (not surprisingly) from house to house.

The Southern Area Red Team in charge of the damage assessment has updated the Incident Page stating, “There have been a number of confirmed fatalities (13 reported as of this morning) and over 700 confirmed structures lost. This fire hit the communities of Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge, and surrounding areas adjacent to Great Smoky Mountains National Park hard as they were preparing for both Christmas and the final few weeks of a bustling tourist season.” It was truly a disaster never before seen by this part of the country and only rarely seen nationwide.

Map of the Chimney Tops 2 Fire and surrounding spot fires in Sevier County, TN


Chimney Tops 2 Fire Outlook

Southern Area Red Team type-1 incident management team has command of the fire and has been focused on public safety, infrastructure, and assessing damages. The fire has not spread since early in the week after the incident area received precipitation with frontal passage Wednesday. Minimal fire behavior and smoldering is expected for the three day fire forecast.  Weather-wise, a ridge of high pressure will produce dry conditions in the fire area through Saturday before wetting rains are forecast to return late in the weekend.

14,000 people remain displaced by the fires, with almost 4000 residents still without power. Some business owners and evacuees have been escorted back into some areas but most remain under mandatory evacuation for now. Three Red Cross Shelters remain active in the area with 219 people still utilizing them. Red Cross has delivered over 10,000 meals this week in Sevier County according to their website. We’re happy to report that the organization has also received hundreds of thousands in relief donations.


Chimney Tops 2 Fire Facts
  • As of: December 2nd, 2016
  • Location: Sevier County, TN
  • Size: 17,859
  • Containment: 0%
  • Fire Behavior: Minimal fire spread and smoldering.
  • Structures Impacted: 1000 (Estimated)
  • Structures Destroyed: 700 (confirmed but expected to rise)
  • Evacuations: Are in place, 14,000 residents and visitors impacted
  • Fatalities: 13
  • Incident Page: http://inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/5112/

 

Gatlinburg Devastated by Latest Southern Appalachian Wildfire

Sevier County Fires Summary

High winds, prolonged drought, and multiple fire starts have Sevier County, Tennessee as the latest victim in this fall’s wildfire barrage on the Southern Appalachians. Two alleged arsonists have been taken into custody as a string of new fire ignitions cropped up this weekend during extreme fire conditions. The Sevier County fires exhibited extreme fire behavior across steep, rugged terrain fanned by gusty evening winds. Fire officials are scrambling to corral what’s left of the 14 reported fires that impacted a ten-mile strip near Gatlinburg.

Due to the situation, 14,000 residents and visitors have been evacuated and 2,000 are currently utilizing the three Red Cross Shelters in the county. Along with hundreds of acres of forest, hundreds of structures have been reported as lost in the hills above Gatlinburg. Initial video footage from the area shows widespread devastation.  Fire officials are worried about this evening’s weather forecast mimicking yesterday’s destructive conditions. The latest weather forecasts have potential severe weather and rain moving in with the reported winds which could help or hinder operations.

Sign burned in half near Gatlinburg, TN. Photo Credit: Mark Nagi, Tennessee Department of Transportation

Sign burned in half near Gatlinburg, TN. Photo Credit: Mark Nagi, Tennessee Department of Transportation


Gatlinburg Fires Impact Thus Far

As of 11:00 PST the latest assessment of the area is as follows:

Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts: All buildings except Hughes Hall and Wild Wing survived with little damage. (More info)
Black Bear Falls: TEMA reports it was destroyed, but numerous people have contacted us to tell us that is not the case. We are working to confirm that information.
Chalet Village: Suffered damage, but not destroyed
CLIMB Works: Intact
Cobbly Knob area: About 70 homes destroyed
Cupid’s Chapel of Love: Destroyed
Dollywood: Several cabins damaged or destroyed. DreamMore resort not damaged. Dollywood park has some wind damage but no damage from fire. Park will be closed Wednesday. (More info)
Downtown Gatlinburg: Intact
Elkmont: Intact
Hillbilly Golf: Destroyed
LeConte Lodge: Intact
Little Log Wedding Chapel: Intact
Mysterious Mansion: Destroyed
Ober Gatlinburg: Intact
Park Vista hotel: Intact (More info)
Parrot Mountain: Intact
Pi Beta Phi Elementary School: Intact
Ripley’s Aquarium: Intact. Biologists at the aquarium confirm the animals are OK. (More info)
Wear’s Valley area: About 70 homes destroyed
Westgate Resort: Damaged, but not destroyed


Sources

https://www.google.com/maps/d/u/0/viewer?mid=1j7dJNKio1QPbslWy4PDNMsQkUes&ll=35.71073212501365%2C-83.54237556637577&z=15

wbir.com

http://www.wbir.com/news/local/gatlinburg-fires-whats-damaged-destroyed-and-intact/357891924

 

CAL FIRE Transitions Out of Fire Season in NorCal

Fire Season Over for NorCal

Since May 1st of this year, CAL FIRE (California’s state fire agency) has been in “fire season” mode.  This designation denotes a state of higher alert in which staffing is increased, burn restrictions are tightened, and wildfire monitoring efforts are intensified.

With the recent mild and wet weather, all Northern CAL FIRE units north of Fresno (15 of the 27 in California) were able to transition away from fire season into what they call “winter preparedness.” This change in the state’s preparedness level is typically preceded by prolonged rains and cooler forecasted temperatures across the region, lowering the threat of wildfire ignitions and allowing officials to reduce alert levels.

In Northern California, a series of storms and forecasted wet conditions have allowed all of the units to down-staff by releasing seasonal fire stations and firefighters. This also means that burn restrictions have ceased, allowing multiple prescribed fire projects to get underway in the region. The change to winter preparedness typically lasts until the following May when conditions begin to worsen as the summer months approach.

In the map below, we show the fifteen units currently out of fire season and the twelve from Southern California still prepared for higher fire activity. As drought conditions continue to have a hold on Southern and Central California, CAL FIRE will maintain fire season status and staffing to meet the continued threat there.

CALFIRE Unit Fire Season status as of November 2016

CALFIRE Unit Fire Season status as of November 2016

Weather Outlook

The outlook for the Northern California region has improved significantly since earlier this year. Much of the region has been in a long-term drought for years, which has lengthened and stregthened each coinciding fire season. Over the course of this year, the worst of the drought has slowly crept south with mostly moderate drought conditions remaining for areas north of Fresno. Part of the reason has been the return of regular precipitation in northern areas. Rain began to fall in early October and a series of storms at the end of October and through November produced heavier precipitation. As winter sets in, more wet weather systems are expected to continue to bring precipitation to the region, leaving large fire potential at minimal levels through next February.


Sources:

CAL FIRE: Fire Season Status

Lake County News

Sierra Star

North Ops Outlook

GOES-R Environmental Satellite Launched

On November 19, NASA celebrated the successful launch of its latest weather satellite, the revolutionary GOES-R (named GOES-16 once it is operational). This next generation Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite (GOES) will deliver better weather forecasting, severe storm tracking, and space weather monitoring for Earth’s entire western hemisphere.

GOES-R Liftoff on November 19, 2016

GOES-R Liftoff on November 19

GOES-R_Spacecraft

GOES Mission Overview

Positioned roughly 22,000 miles above Earth’s surface, GOES satellites continuously monitor the Western hemisphere, including the United States, the Pacific and Atlantic oceans, Central and South America, and Southern Canada. GOES satellites fly in a geostationary orbit, meaning they rotate around the Earth at the same rate as the Earth spins, so their view of the Earth’s surface never changes. The coverage, along with the sensor suite, allows for constant, near real time coverage of Earth’s weather, climate, and large storm events. GOES also has sensors looking toward the sun and space, measuring solar and space weather.

Why the GOES-R Satellite is Significant

The most exciting update to GOES-R in relation to disaster intelligence is the updated Advanced Baseline Imager (ABI). The image above describes the improvements to the new sensor. Below are the benefits related to these improvements.

  • Improved hurricane track and intensity forecasts
  • Improved route planning for aviation
  • More advanced warning for severe storms
  • More advanced warning for air quality warnings and alerts
  • Better fire detection and intensity estimation
  • More and better quality data for long-term climate variability studies

This is only one of several next-generation advanced sensors onboard GOES-R. Other sensors will help researchers study tornado warnings, climate, and space and solar weather. It’s no wonder that people are excited about this momentous launch!

Source(s):

http://www.goes-r.gov/

https://www.nesdis.noaa.gov/content/6-reasons-why-noaa%E2%80%99s-goes-r-satellite-matters

Eastern Appalachian Fires Continue to Threaten

Slow Burning Wildfires Grow Larger

Many of the eastern Appalachian fires we wrote about last week continue to burn. The National Parks Service has imposed an outdoor fire ban as of Thursday, November 17th, and closed just over 60 miles of the Appalachian Trail from North Carolina to Georgia. While areas west of the mountains are receiving rain, none is forecast for the upcoming week in areas where fires are most intense. With winds continuing for the next couple days in excess of 20 mph and warmer-than-normal temperatures, the weather will not be favorable for firefighting crews struggling to increase containment.

Current Appalachian Fires in the Southeast

Appalachian Wildfires

Wildfires in Southeast United States

Updated Fire Outlook

Several fires reported on by RedZone last week have grown significantly as these dry and windy conditions continue to impact the region.

Party Rock Fire

  • Date of origin: November 5, 2016
  • Location: Chimney Rock State Park, Lake Lure, NC
  • Size: 7,171 acres (last week: 977 acres)
  • Containment: 36% (last week: 15%)
  • Fire Behavior: Continues growing to the north
  • Incident Page: InciWeb
  • News Article: WYFF4 News
Appalachian Wildfires - Party Rock Fire Perimeter

Party Rock Fire

Tellico Fire

  • Date of origin: November 3, 2016
  • Location: Almond, NC
  • Size: 13,874 acres (last week: 6,839 acres)
  • Containment: 81% (last week: 18%)
  • Fire Behavior: Minimal smoldering and creeping, nearing containment with a few areas of isolated heat
  • Incident Page: InciWeb
  • News Article: UPI News

Maple Springs Fire

  • Date of origin: November 4, 2016
  • Location: Lake Santeetlah, NC
  • Size: 7,788 acres (last week: 5,083 acres)
  • Containment: 51% (last week: 10%)
  • Fire Behavior: Slow spread through litter and understory
  • Incident Page: InciWeb
  • News Article: Incident Press Release
Appalachian Wildfires - Maple Springs Fire Perimeter

Maple Springs Fire

Boteler Fire

  • Date of origin: November 11, 2016
  • Location: Hayesville, NC
  • Size: 8,967 acres (last week: 4,767 acres)
  • Containment: 70% (last week: 12%)
  • Fire Behavior: Minimal smoldering, backing downslope with up to 2 foot flame lengths
  • Incident Page: InciWeb
  • News Article: Clay County Progress Local Paper
Appalachian Wildfires - Boteler Fire Perimeter

Boteler Fire

Rough Ridge Fire

  • Date of origin: October 16, 2016
  • Location: Cisco, GA
  • Size: 27,004 acres (last week: 10,336 acres)
  • Containment: 40% (last week: 20%)
  • Fire Behavior: Rough terrain continues to impede control and containment efforts.
  • Incident Page: InciWeb
  • News Article: Atlanta NBC11
Appalachian Wildfires - Rough Ridge Fire Perimeter

Rough Ridge Fire

Rock Mountain Fire

  • Date of origin: November 9, 2016
  • Location: Dillard, GA
  • Size: 9,382 acres (last week: 300 acres)
  • Containment: 30% (last week: 2%)
  • Fire Behavior: Anticipated spread in all directions due to elevation and leaf litter, limited spotting.
  • Incident Page: InciWeb
  • News Article: Atlanta NBC11
Appalachian Wildfires - Rock Mountain Fire Perimeter

Rock Mountain Fire

Major Quake Rattles North Canturbury, New Zealand

New Zealand Earthquake Situation

Residents in the North Canterbury region on the South Island of New Zealand were awakened by a major earthquake just after midnight on Monday morning (11/14). The 14-mile-deep quake, which killed two people, triggered a small tsunami, twenty aftershocks, and tens of thousands of landslides across the region. In the two days since, officials have been assessing the situation as the quake and subsequent aftershocks have caused widespread damage to the region. Early cost estimates of the impact are in the hundreds of millions, if not billions.

Following the initial tremor, four aftershocks over 6.0-magnitude (and another sixteen under 6.0) also rattled the area, helping set off thousands of landslides in the steep and coastal terrain.  The coastal town of Kaikoura, north of the epicenter, seems one of the hardest hit with both roads in and out of town cut off by the moving earth.  Heavy rains Tuesday have also complicated rescue and aid efforts.  The situation has prompted a massive evacuation operation by air and sea for the small coastal city’s 2,000 residents. The latest reports state that some locals (and infamous cows) remain stranded with limited supplies. Several New Zealand Navy ships, as well as a US destroyer, are set to help provide needed supplies as well as allow tourists and others to leave Wednesday morning.

Canterbury area, New Zealand Earthquake and aftershocks (Source: USGS Latest Earthquakes)

Canterbury area, New Zealand Earthquake and aftershocks (Source: USGS Latest Earthquakes)


Long Term Impact

Similar to the Christchurch disaster of 2011, New Zealand will undoubtedly feel an economic punch from this week’s events. Countless residents have been displaced and infrastructure and land damages are widespread. At least dozens of homes and businesses in the region have been red- and yellow-taped for structural vulnerability. But, unlike the February 2011 quake, the rural epicenter and comparably miniscule population of the affected areas should ease some of the economic and insurance cost concerns.

The hardest hit areas affected by this week’s disaster total a populous only in the thousands, whereas Christchurch’s population is around 370,000. Economists expect the overall impact on the fast growing economy will be small and nowhere near the 45 billion dollar bill from five years prior. What is certain, however, are negative future impacts on tourism for the beautiful Kaikoura area (see below), which lay in crumbles.

North Canterbury coastal town Kaikoura, NZ hit hardest by Monday’s 7.9 Magnitude Earthquake

North Canterbury’s Kaikoura, NZ hit hardest by Monday’s 7.9 Magnitude Earthquake (source: newzealand.com)


New Zealand Earthquake Statistics

  • Magnitude: 7.9
  • Origin Time: 1103 UTC – Nov 13 2016
  • Epicenter: 42.8 South 173.4 East
  • Depth: 23 km
  • Location: near South Island, New Zealand
  • Impact: Two confirmed deaths, widespread damage and power outages, hundreds evacuated
  • Incident Page: USGS Overview
  • News Article: The Weather Channel

Sources: USGS, CNN, The Weather Channel, stuff.co.nz, Radio New Zealand

Late Season Wildfires Rage Across the Southeast

Wildfires and Drought

Extreme drought has turned much of the southeastern United States into a potential tinderbox. Wildfire activity in the Southeast is normally rather tame this late in the season, but current conditions have sparked dozens of new fires. Across Appalachia, 38 active wildfires have burned an estimated 37,734 acres. More than 5,000 firefighters from across the nation have been enlisted to help battle the fires and North Carolina’s governor Pat McCrory has declared a state of emergency for the majority of his state’s western counties.

The normally lush Southeast has not experienced substantial rainfall in almost two months and some areas are reporting the driest measurements in over 100 years. A recent report by the Southeast Regional Climate Center indicates that nearly 40% of the region is under drought conditions. Fire danger is further exacerbated by the unseasonably warm temperatures and gusty winds which have gripped the area since early October. Although some temperature relief is expected over the next couple weeks, precipitation is forecast to be limited. Rainfall averages in most areas are well below normal and experts at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration are concerned the drought will persist through the winter due to “La Nina“. 

Current Southeastern Wildfires

Current Wildfires in the Southeast United States. nifc.gov

Current Wildfires in the Southeast United States. nifc.gov

 

North Carolina

Multiple wildfires have been reported and fire bans are in place for 25 western counties.

Party Rock Fire

The fire is growing rapidly in steep and rugged terrain. Evacuations are in place and were expanded after the fire grew significantly during the night of November 10-11th.

  • Date of origin: 11/05/2016
  • Location: Chimney Rock State Park, Lake Lure, North Carolina
  • Total Personnel: 142
  • Size: 977
  • Containment: 15%
  • Incident Page: InciWeb
  • News Article: Citizen Times
Chimney Rock State Park, Lake Lure, North Carolina

Party Rock Fire – Chimney Rock State Park, Lake Lure, North Carolina, as seen in the RZAlert Dashboard

Tellico Fire

Arson is the suspected cause of the fire, and an investigation is underway. Evacuations are in place and further evacuations are expected as the fire continues to grow.

  • Date of origin: 11/03/2016
  • Location: Almond, North Carolina
  • Total Personnel: 137
  • Size: 6,839 acres
  • Containment: 18%
  • Incident Page: InciWeb
  • News Article: Smoky Mountain Times
Tellico Fire - Almond, North Carolina

Tellico Fire – Almond, North Carolina, as seen in the RZAlert Dashboard

Maple Springs Fire

The Maple Springs fire and the Avery Branch fire have merged. Crews are focused on structure protection and attempting to establish fire lines.

  • Date of origin: 11/04/2016
  • Location: Lake Santeetlah, North Carolina
  • Total Personnel: 192
  • Size: 5,083
  • Containment: 10%
  • Incident Page: InciWeb
  • News Article: NBC4
Maple Springs Fire - Lake Santeetlah, North Carolina

Maple Springs Fire – Lake Santeetlah, North Carolina, as seen in the RZAlert Dashboard

Boteler Fire

The Boteler fire is growing rapidly and the area is under a local red flag warning.

  • Date of origin: 11/11/2016
  • Location: Hayesville, NC
  • Total Personnel: 538
  • Size: 4,767 acres
  • Containment: 12%
  • Incident Page: InciWeb
  • News Article: ABC12
Boteler Fire - Hayesville, NC

Boteler Fire – Hayesville, NC, as seen in the RZAlert Dashboard 

Kentucky

Forestry officials say there are 21 active fires in Kentucky that are responsible for burning more than 17,000 acres.

Gatliff Fire

Date of origin: 11/09/2016

Location: Gatliff, Kentucky

Size: 1,223

Containment: 40%

Incident Page: Kentucky Division of Forestry

News Article: Fox News

Tennessee

At least 53 active wildfires have consumed almost 10,000 acres, as a result, the Governor has declared a state of emergency.

Flipper Bend Fire

Date of origin: 11/07/2016

Location: Signal Mountain, Tennessee

Size: 780 acres

Containment: Unknown

News Article: ABC News

Georgia

Over 84 wildfire calls have been reported since November 10th, 2016.

Rough Ridge Fire

Air Attack is attempting burning operations in order to reduce fuels. Some reports indicate the fire has grown to over 13,000 acres.

  • Date of origin: 10/16/2016
  • Location: Cisco, GA
  • Total Personnel: 227
  • Size: 10,336 acres
  • Containment: 20%
  • Incident Page: InciWeb
  • News Article: Atlanta Journal
Rough Ridge Fire - Cisco, Georgia

Rough Ridge Fire – Cisco, Georgia, as seen in the RZAlert Dashboard

Early November Fire Potential for SoCal, South

Every year, fire season comes to an end in the Western US as winter weather creeps in.  The northern high elevation forests soak in autumn rains and significantly lower temperatures, and the focus of fire potential subsequently shifts to only a few targeted areas.  Because of significant drought this season and persistent high winds, that focus remains on two regions in particular:  Southern California and the Southern Appalachian Mountains.


Another Offshore Event for Southern California

The seemingly year-round fire season in Southern California trudges on as fire services in the area remain at summer staffing levels.  Long term drought is constantly a factor in these areas, and periodic offshore wind events bring occasional elevation of wildfire concern. This week will mark the fourth such wind event of the fall with a Santa Ana event arriving today and lasting into Thursday, prompting a Red Flag Warning. Coastal areas from Santa Barbara through Tijuana will see significant fire potential as a result. The offshore event will particularly impact San Diego and Riverside Counties where the winds will be strongest and humidity lowest.

Southern California will see High to Severe Fire Potential on November 9th and 10th

Southern California will see High to Severe Fire Potential on November 9th and 10th


Elevated Fire Potential for Southern Appalachian Mountains

The 60 day percent of normal rainfall map (below) highlights significant rainfall deficits running from east Texas eastward to the western Carolinas. As a result, the Southern Appalachian area of the Southeastern US is in Preparedness Level 5 (PL 5) and has issued a ‘Fuels and Fire Behavior Advisory’ through November 20th. The advisory warns that the areas with highest rainfall deficits have very dry surface fuels that will support significant fires in high risk fuel types when elevated or critical fire weather is present.

Critically dry fuels and rampant fire ignitions have been observed from the Florida panhandle through Alabama to the mountains in Tennessee and North Carolina. Due to the concerning conditions, fire activity is peaking in the region. There are currently 38 ongoing, uncontained large fires in the region, many with incident command teams actively suppressing or patrolling them. By December, the area’s fire activity is expected to drop back to normal levels as temperatures cool to mostly seasonal ranges. In the meantime, two more weeks of concern lie ahead.

Rainfall deficits fueling major fire activity in the Southern Appalachian Mountains & prompting PL 5 in Southern Area

Rainfall deficits fueling major fire activity in the Southern Appalachian Mountains & prompting PL 5 in Southern Area


 

Sources:

 NWS San Diego, CA

NIFC Predictive Services

Southern Fire Environment Outlook

SACC Morning Report