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Wildland Fires

The week of May 4 - May 10 is Severe Weather Awareness Week in the Pacific Northwest, including the states of Idaho, Oregon and Washington.

This is an excellent time for all individuals, families, businesses, schools, radio and television stations to review their spring and summer storm preparedness plans. It is especially important for new arrivals to the Pacific Northwest to become familiar with NOAA's National Weather Service Watch and Warning definitions, and their safety procedures.
Forest Fire
Forest Fire

Each day, a new topic will be discussed, along with new informational links:
Intro May 5 May 6 May 7 May 8 May 9 May 10


NOAA 's National Weather Service continues the Pacific Northwest Severe Weather Awareness Week today with fire weather. Although wildfires are not a direct weather phenomenon, weather plays a large role in the ignition and spread of wildfires.

"Wildfires are a perennial hazard in the Pacific Northwest ," added Bob Diaz, Meteorologist in Charge of NOAA's National Weather Service forecast office in Boise , Idaho . "Summer dryness combined with strong winds or dry lightning, can lead to significant wildfire hazards in the summer and fall."

The wildfire threat in the Pacific Northwest normally rises significantly after the middle of June. This threat usually peaks in early July and remains high through August and early September.

Most wildfires in the Pacific Northwest are ignited by lightning. Additionally, many rangeland and wheatfield fires are caused by lightning. Many of these lightning caused wildfires occur in the absence of rain. When this occurs, ightning is commonly referred to as "dry lightning." Gusty winds often accompany thunderstorms and these gusty winds accelerate the spread of fires.

Lightning that strikes the ground is divided into two categories; negative and positive strikes depending on where in the thunderstorm the lightning originates. The negative strikes are far more common and come from the base of the thunderstorm. The positive strikes from the top of the cloud are more intense and are more likely to ignite a fire. Advances in lightning detection technology now provide land managers, firefighters, and weather forecasters with the ability to identify the location and type of each lightning strike within the continental United States .

Lightning is often accompanied by winds associated with thunderstorms. Occasionally, the winds are in the form of strong microbursts resulting from rapid cooling of air below the thunderstorm where rain has evaporated. These thunderstorm winds can quickly turn a smoldering fire into an inferno. Thunderstorm winds tend to be erratic in direction and speed posing one of the greatest dangers for firefighters.

NOAA's National Weather Service forecasters help land managers and firefighters by producing fire weather forecasts on a daily basis during the warm season. "Spot" fire weather forecasts are also provided for those who work on prescribed burns or wildfires. Forecasters also issue fire weather watches and red flag warnings for use by land managers when the combination of dry vegetation and critical weather conditions will result in a high fire danger.

Here are some safety tips to keep in mind during periods when a high fire potential exists in forests and rangelands.

...Always have an escape route. Avoid being in areas where you might become trapped by a wildfire.

...You should avoid the use of matches or anything else which could ignite a fire.

...Make sure that hot parts of motorized equipment, such as mufflers, are not allowed to come in contact with dry grasses or other potentially flammable material.

...If you become trapped or cut-off by a fire, seek shelter in areas with little or no fuel such as rock slide areas or lakes.

For more information on wildfire safety and fire weather, visit your local NOAA National Weather Service website or

This message is brought to you by your local NOAA National Weather Service office.

    Additional Links of Interest...
  1. Northwest Geographic Coordination Center
  2. Washington Department of Natural Resources
  3. Oregon Department of Forestry
  4. National Interagency Fire Center
  5. NOAA's Lightning Safety website
  6. Keep Oregon Green
  7. NOAA's National Fire Weather Data Page
  8. Each local office may have photographs online ( see office links below )

Remember, in times of severe weather, you can get all these vital NOAA/National Weather Service messages via NOAA Weather Radio, your favorite local media, or through NOAA's National Weather Service websites.

For questions about local Severe Weather Preparedness, contact your local NOAA National Weather Service Office:
local office contact by email contact by phone
Medford Ryan Sandler 541-773-1067
Seattle Ted Buehner 206-526-6087
Spokane Andrew Brown 509-244-6395
Pendleton Dennis Hull 541-276-4493
Portland Tyree Wilde 503-261-9246
Boise Jay Breidenbach 208-334-9861
Pocatello Vern Preston 208-233-0834
Missoula Marty Whitmore 406-329-4840

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National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
National Weather Service
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5241 NE 122nd Avenue
Portland, OR 97230-1089

Tel: (503) 261-9246

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