It has been a slow fire weather season. The spring was cool and damp and warm season grasses were a little slower to green up. As we transitioned into June we did warm up and were dry but grass fires, or at least grass fires that were known by the NWS, were minimal. As we went into July, we continued to have hot spells though any period of heat through mid July was both preceded and followed by a cooler spell which again helped keep grass fires in check.
As we roll into fall we will be preparing for the fall fire weather season which will begin on September 1st. Beginning September 1st we will be issuing the Fire Weather Planning Forecast twice a day…at 6 am and by 4 pm daily. We will also be alert to the potential for red flag warnings as we head into harvest season then late fall. In addition, we will use crop curing as a guide to fire danger during the months of September and October and transition to prairie grass curing in later October through mid November. We have found that using these two different fuels in the fall better assesses the fire threat and will alert people to the proper threats. The threats will be displayed in the form of a state map on the fire weather web page of our website. Please check out http://www.weather.gov/dmx/fire for the latest fire weather forecasts.
Assessment of prairie grass curing is provided by local County Conservation Board employees. They provide the National Weather Service with curing values of prairie grass on a weekly basis through the entire dry down of the grass and I would like to take this time to recognize their efforts in helping us to provide the most accurate forecast and warning service possible.
As we head into the fall season I would like to remind everyone to heed forecasts and warnings of dry conditions. Harvesting in extreme dry and windy conditions is the number one cause of crop fires in the fall and crop fires by far exceed any other cause of fall fires.
Blog Post by Frank Boksa, Meteorologist, NWS Des Moines