Spring Fire Weather Update

The recent stretch of unseasonably warm and dry weather forced a slightly earlier start to the 2017 fire weather season for much of Iowa.  Fire weather planning forecasts and a daily Grassland Fire Danger map are displayed on the fire weather page of our website as is the current Annual Operating Plan. 

Late last fall there was a re-design of the spot forecast request page with a few additional tweaks being made over the winter.  The spot request page is Google based now and overall is easier to use than the old page. However, there are some things to keep in mind.  Since the spot request page is only used by government agencies and those with government contracts, most of these changes will not impact the majority of customers that use the fire weather page.  Training on the new spot page is provided by clicking on the link within the fire weather page.


In other fire weather news, there have been studies done on the Grassland Fire Danger Index in particular, how it relates to when we are issuing Red Flag Warnings based on fuels and meteorological parameters.  There was confirmation that the ranges for the categories, in particular the very high and extreme categories, needed some adjusting for the Plains.  Changes were made based on where tall grass, short grass and mixed grass prairies exists and a proposal is being worked on to not only adopt these changes but to have all central region offices run the Grassland Fire Danger Index for their areas and see if this is a better tool at determining a grassland danger threat.

To view the fire weather forecasts, fire weather planning tools and the 2017 Annual Operating, please visit the National Weather Service website at: http://www.weather.gov/dmx/fire

Blog post by Frank Boksa, Meteorologist

Summer 2016 Central Iowa Fire Weather News

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

Fire Weather Updates

Post by Frank Boksa – Journey Forecaster

Fire Weather Season is upon us and a new product will be introduced this year.  I would like to take a moment to remind everyone of the products we have to keep you informed and safe. Our daily fire weather forecast product is the Fire Weather Planning Forecast. This product is issued daily by 6 AM from March 1 through November 15. During peak spring (March 1 through June 1) and fall (September 1 through November 15) seasons this product is issued twice daily by 6 AM and 4 PM. This product is intended for decision support to those responsible for planning prescribed burns and to the general public who plans a legal burn on their property.

The Fire Weather Watch is a public product that the National Weather Service issues. It is not a routine product but whenever our forecasters have a high level of confidence that weather and fuel conditions combine to create a risk of fire danger and rapid fire growth, we will issue this product from 24 to 48 hours in advance of the threat. This product is typically followed by a Red Flag Warning. The criteria we look at is sustained wind speeds at or above 25 mph along with a relative humidity of 25 percent or less and if fuels (grasses and tinder) are sufficiently dry that they will quickly catch fire and/or allow for a fire to spread quickly. In general if a watch is in place, people planning a burn should consider alternative dates.

The Red Flag Warning is a public fire weather warning product that the National Weather Service issues whenever our forecasters expect wind speeds at or above 25 mph in combination with a relative humidity of 25 percent or less and dry fuels within the next 24 hours. This product is a warning to people that it is dangerous to burn and burning is not recommended. During a Red Flag Warning event, decision makers in the fire weather community as well as state and county officials may want to consider burn bans or to begin contingency planning for additional staff to handle fires that could quickly get out of control.

For marginal fire weather conditions the National Weather Service may issue a Special Weather Statement. The intent of this product is to convey to the general public that there is a concern for fire danger and that they should remain alert for possible upgrades to a red flag warning.

New for this year will be a map of Iowa on our website that will display the Grassland Fire Danger Index for all 99 counties in Iowa. The Grassland Fire Danger Index or GFDI map will serve as a quick glance advisory for all to be aware of what the fire danger is for all counties in the state of Iowa. Our goal with this product is to reduce the number of uncontrollable outdoor fires by alerting the public when conditions favor an extreme fire potential. This should not be used as the only tool to become informed of fire danger but it is very useful as a first step. The map of Grassland Fire Danger Index is an indication of rural fire potential throughout the state and will contain five ratings: low, medium, high, very high and extreme. National Weather Service offices serving Iowa will issue a Red Flag Warning for an area exceeding several counties wide where extreme conditions exist as fires are more likely to occur on those days and more likely to grow in size. While the Fire Danger Index does not predict how a fire will behave, it will give an indication of overall fire activity. Please take a look at this map and tell us what you think of it.


We will also run our safety videos on the fire weather page of our website so please check those out as well. For information on the 2013 Annual Operating Plan and to view forecasts and fire weather planning tools, please visit the National Weather Service website at: http://www.crh.noaa.gov/dmx/firewx.php