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  FIRE BEHAVIOR OUTLOOK
 

Northern Rockies Fire Behavior Outlook
(click on any graphic in this product to enlarge it)

Valid for: July 19-25, 2014
Date/Time Issued: 07/17/14 @ 1445 MDT

Next Update: as warranted

Signed: Risa Lange-Navarro, FBAN

This is a general fire behavior outlook covering the entire Northern Rockies Geographic Area.  It is designed to provide wildland fire managers with an overall view of fire behavior potential and to help wildland firefighters with the fire order "initiate all actions based on current and expected fire behavior".  Firefighters must use onsite observations and spot weather forecasts to calculate site-specific fire behavior for individual wildland fires.

Fire Weather Summary: NOTE: Fire Weather summary was done on the date issued. Always check fire weather forecasts daily for any changes.


**Red Flag Warnings/Fire Weather Watches: None currently posted. But check daily for any changes. Be aware there may be Hazardous Weather Outlooks posted that can affect fire behavior also

Today (Friday) will see light westerly flow and slightly cooler conditions over N ID and western MT...along with dry weather. Central and eastern MT will see widely scattered late afternoon/evening wet thunderstorms. Saturday will be breezy along the Front Range from the Canadian border south to Helena...east into Central MT as a dry cold front in the westerly flow sweeps through in the morning. Minimum RHs during the day with westerly winds of 20-35 mph will be 15-25 percent. The front will move into ND overnight...bringing drier conditions there Sunday. Westerly winds will continue along the Front Range and over central/eastern MT Sunday...but will be slightly lighter. Only slightly cooler temps are expected with it...and a few light mountain showers may occur in NW MT late Saturday and Sunday. Cooler...but dry conditions with westerly afternoon winds are expected in N ID and western MT Saturday and sun behind the front. The front will stall out over eastern MT on Monday (21st) and monsoonal moisture will begin to stream into SW and south-central MT again along the stalled boundary...producing widely scattered wet thunderstorms. This boundary and feed of monsoon moisture will increase and be located further west and north Tuesday (22nd) over N ID and western/central MT as ridging amplifies north over eastern MT and ND. Look for scattered, mainly wet storms to develop in the afternoon on Tuesday in N ID and western/central MT...while hot and dry conditions develop in far eastern MT and ND. . A low pressure trough accompanied by scattered showers and wet thunderstorms and cooler temperatures will move through N ID and western MT Tuesday night...and through the rest of MT wed. Cooler drier westerly flow will remain over N ID and all MT Thursday (24th) and will also push into and through ND late Wednesday/Thursday.

*****
For complete fire weather watch and warning details and fire weather forecasts see: Western Region Fire Weather

**National Current Weather Map/National Forecast NFDRS Fire Danger:

National Current Weather Map:  
National Forecast NFDRS Fire Danger:
(Click maps to enlarge)
Current Weather Looping Map
 
National Fire Danfer for Tomorrow

See the MesoWest Regional Surface Map for Northern Rockies area 24 hour precipitation amounts.

See national precipitation outlooks at U.S. Today's Precipitation Outlook, U.S. Third and Fourth Day Precipitation Outlook , U.S. 5 Day Precipitation Outlook, and U.S. 14 Day Precipitation Outlook.

See 5 Day Weather Forecasts and Loops at
NWS Northern Rockies Graphical Weather Forecasts.


State of the Fuels:

• See observed values and other information in both the Northern Rockies Fire & Fuels Status and the National Fuel Moisture database. Add your trapline to the mix!

SPECIAL NOTE - Beetle-killed stands have increased dramatically over the past few years. Most observations are in the ponderosa pine and lodgepole pine stands throughout the Northern Rockies. Some research (Canada & USA) has shown foliar fuel moisture contents of <40% combined with low RHs has the potential for plume-dominated crown fire behavior. Recent gray-dead standing snags add significantly to fire intensity and spotting potential (i.e. bark pieces) when combined with a ladder-fuel understory. This type of fire behavior has been known to happen with-in minutes of the understory igniting. In addition, there have been instances of independent crown fire activity without surface fire in red phase.

Snowpack was above average across the Northern Rockies. Usually the Northern Rockies receive maximum snowpack beginning in December, this year the Northern Rockies we received the maximum in February and March. Basin averages in April were over 100% of normal range, by May 21 areas West and East of the Continental Divide showed a dramatic decrease in snowpack levels. Between mid-January and when the majority of our snowpack fell, lower elevations had no snow cover and as a result fuels began to dry out and light fuels began sprouting. From March to June, the lower elevations did not receive much precipitation. Fuel conditions in the low to mid elevations are not as green and moist as we would like to think after winter with record snow amounts in some of our communities.

As of 06/30/14 there is no drought indicated by the Monthly Drought Outlook map from Climate Prediction Center for the Northern Rockies. However, the US Drought Monitor indicates an Abnormally Dry Conditions are found along the Montana/Idaho border south of Dillon and Ennis MT.

As for Greenness July 8-14, 2014, Departure from Average Greenness for the Northern Rockies is showing far Southeastern MT, and Western-half of ND & SD are 106% of average (greener than average). The Northern parts of the Idaho Panhandle and upper elevations of Central and Southern parts of the Idaho Panhandle ID, parts Northwest/ Northeastern MT are >95% (average or greener than average). The lower elevations of Central and Southern parts of the Idaho Panhandle ID, parts Northwest MT and Northeastern MT are <85% (drier than average). Westcentral/Southwest/Central MT, Eastern ND/SD and Northwest WY are <94% (average and drier than average).

Light, flashy fuels in the lower elevations have created a strong potential for high intensity, high rates-of-spread fires. Areas throughout the Northern Rockies lost their lower elevation snowpack in January giving the light fuels a two month head start on the typical growing season. In February and March heavy snow pushed back the light fuels growing season. However, in May and June hot, dry weather caused the snowpack to melt rapidly and restarted the growing and in some cases the curing of those fuels.

Last Fall the heavy fuels went into the winter months drier than usual. By mid-Spring these fuels were dry and in some cases completely consumed during prescribed burning season. Since then they have been in a yoyo situation with drying and wetting storms of varying duration. The longer duration storms bumping up the heavy fuels fuel moisture back up to above normal.

With the predicted hot/dry temperatures predicted for the next week or so grasses at higher elevations will join the lower elevation in the curing phase. Don’t be fooled by the green color, they could be dry enough to burn just not as hot or rapid as fully cured fuels. In the far eastern part of Montana and western North Dakota and South Dakota grass and brush fuels are still in green-up or beginning to cure. Expect this area to have an acceleration of curing with predicted winds and dry, hot weather.

Douglas-fir (DF), Engelmann spruce (ES), Lodgepole pine (LPP), Ponderosa pine (PP), Subalpine fir (SAF), Grand fir (GF), White Bark Pine (WBP), Western Larch (WL), Ceanothos (C), Common Juniper (CJ), Rocky Mtn Juniper (RMJ), Mountain Big Sagebrush (MBSb), Silver Sagebrush (SSb), Utah Sagebrush (USb), Wyoming Big Sagebrush (WBSb), Ninebark (N), Bluebunch Wheatgrass (BBWg), Grouse Whortleberry (GWB), Kinnikinnick (K), Snowberry (SB), Pinegrass (PG), Bitterbrush (BB), Idaho Fescue (IF), Elk Sedge (ESe), Duff (D),

o Beaverhead-Deerlodge NF MT Steel Cr – 07/07 1000-hr 9%.
o Bitterroot NF MT Smith Cr RAWS area – 07/07 1000-hr 16%, K 126%, N 82%, DF 124%, LPP 100%, PP 76%.
o Flathead NF MT Elbow South - 1000-hr 15%, DF 284%.
o Flathead NF MT Sixmile North - 1000-hr 19%, DF 2690%.
o Flathead NF MT Blacktail West - 1000-hr 22% DF 233%.
o Glacier NP MT West Glacier – 07/14 1000-hr 29%, PG 196%, UTSb 184%, LPP 131%.
o Idaho Panhandle NF ID Big Creek area - 07/03 C 215%, DF 186%, GF 235%.
o Lolo NF MT Missoula RD – 07/09 1000-hr 17-21% and Live Shrub 110-157%.
o Lolo NF MT Ninemile RD – 07/08 100-hr 10-22%, 1000-hr 24-38%, SB 129-131%, N 141-151%, DF 136-142%.
o Yellowstone NP WY Sylvan area – 07/08 100-hr 35%, 1000-hr 34%, PG 356%, ESe 208%, GWB 248%, SAF 118%, ES 106%, D 134%.
o Yellowstone NP WY Grebe area – 07/08 100-hr 13%, 1000-hr 12%, PG 198%, ESe 149%, GWB 173%.

Fire Behavior Outlook:
***Due to a cool wet April and warm, dry early May and then a mix of cool/wet & hot/dry June there is a tremendous amount of light fuels-grasses-present at lower elevations that have cured. Some upper elevation grasses are curing quickly with the high temperatures we’ve been having. These fuels are one of the Four Common Denominators for Fatal or Near-Fatal wildfires.***


Fire season here in the Northern Rockies got off to an early start. In May, the Lewistown area of MT had quite a few large fires in the grass/brush fuels and some timber, three were over 500 acres. In early June the Helena NF had a fire go to 8 acres in ponderosa pine and grass. The Missoula RD/Lolo NF had a fire in slash got to around 6 or so acres. These early fires were indicators of how fast the snowpack moisture disappeared during the hot, dry May and June.

But now fire season has gone back to being a mostly normal season with a mixture of wet/dry thunderstorms, hot temperatures, low relative humidities and gusty winds. Initial attack in the region has picked up and with the amount of lightning we’ve had throughout the Northern Rockies and the hit or miss precipitation, holdovers can be expected. Some of the hold over fires could be hanging out in the 100-hr or 1000-hr fuels underneath the overstory.

Given the predicted high temperatures and low humidities for the next week expect fire behavior to pick-up, especially when wind, dry fuels and slope become aligned. For those areas that have available fuel to burn, expect surface fires to be the norm unless ladder fuels are present, with single and group torching possible. The fine, dead fuels have been burning readily with the rest of the fuels not far behind. Spot fires could occur within close range or further with any wind as well as from rolling material creating spots below the main fire. Rapid rates of spread in fine, dead fuels are occurring. In bug-killed fuels it has been easier to transition from a surface fire into a crown fire with little or no wind.

PSAs…NR01 Northern Idaho Panhandle/NR02 Northwest Montana/NR03 Southern Idaho Panhandle/ NR07 Glacier National Park & Wilderness Areas/NR15 Northeast Montana & Northwest North Dakota/NR16 Southeast Montana & Southwest North Dakota/NR 17 Northeastern North Dakota/NR18 Southeastern North Dakota
Expect LOW to MODERATE fire behavior in these areas due to the mixture of cured and curing light fuels. Expect light fuels to rapidly cure and heavier fuels to continue to dry with predicted hot/dry weather as they normally do for mid-July. However, any thunderstorms could knock the fine fuels for a bit until they dry out again, copy that. For the most part direct attack should be possible. Overall look for initial attack to increase in areas with ready-to-burn fuels. Any alignment of dry fuels, slope and winds will accelerate rates of spread on any fire. Monitor any thunderstorms and be prepared for any wind shifts from inflow winds to the storm or outflow winds from the storm.

PSAs…NR04 Western Montana/NR05 Camas Prairie of Idaho/NR06 North Central Idaho & Bitterroot/Sapphire Mountains/NR08 Southwest Montana-West of the Continental Divide/NR09 Big Hole-Southwest Montana-East of the Continental Divide/NR10 Northern Front Range/NR11 West Central Montana & Yellowstone NP/NR13 Northern Plains & Missouri Breaks/NR 14 Southern Montana (Big Horn/Powder River)
Expect MODERATE to ACTIVE fire behavior in these areas. With recent thunderstorms and hotter/drier conditions look for hold overs to become active. Be aware of the rapid drying and curing of the grassy fuels with predicted hotter, drier conditions for the next week. Valley & low elevations fuels are available as well as mid-elevations. Areas where mountain pine beetle-killed stands with heavy dead/downed fuels occurs; look for quick transitions from surface to crown fires where surface fuels are dry enough to carry fire and overstory is dry enough to carry fire. Any alignment of dry fuels, slope and winds will accelerate rates of spread on any fire. Spot fires can occur especially when wind or rolling material (on slopes) is present. Monitor any thunderstorms and be prepared for any wind shifts from inflow winds to the storm or outflow winds from the storm.

Observed Fire Behavior:
This year is starting off with a couple of interesting fires both in region and to the south and west of us. These early fires were indicators of how fast the snowpack moisture disappeared during the hot, dry May and June.

o In May, the Lewistown area of MT had quite a few large fires in the grass/brush fuels and some timber, three were over 500 acres.

o In early June the Helena had a fire this week that got to 8 acres before being contained. The fire burned in ponderosa pine and grass. The forest used more resources than you would consider normal for the second week of June.

o Mid-June the Missoula RD/Lolo NF had a fire in slash go to around 6 or so acres.

On the Pittsburgh fire located just north of Pittsburg Landing in the Hells Canyon National Recreation Area (HCNRA). The fire is burning on the Idaho side of the Snake River in the HCNRA. The fire is estimated at 6400 acres. Observed fire behavior was rapid rates of spread in the grass fuels mostly slope driven. Rollouts are occurring spreading the fire around ridges and then short upslope runs. Flame lengths of 4-6ft were common. Grasses with some green left in them at higher elevations slowed the fire spread.

For other fires in the Northern Rockies or the Nation, visit the InciWeb site or the MODIS Active Fire Mapping Program
site.


Tell your story, send a picture! Share your observations with inquiring minds. Call (406) 329-4924 and contribute to improved firefighter awareness and safety.

See also Northern Rockies 7 Day Significant Fire Potential and 7 Day National Fire Potential Map.

See 6-10 and 8-14 day outlook charts located: 6-10 Day Prognosis, 8-14 Day Prognosis.


**Important Predictive Services Area Indices: (See Northern Rockies ERC, 1000-Hr and 100-Hr Charts) as of July 14, 2014

*-*NOTE: The Northern Rockies Predictive Service Areas have changed since 2013. PLEASE take note of the new areas and changes in the boundaries of others.*-*

>> REMEMBER most of the weather information comes from Sig’s and not single RAWS<<
      **Overall ones to watch are PSAs-03, 05, 06, 07 & 11**

Energy Release Component (ERC):
• PSAs-06 & 08 are Above Average AND At the 2012 indices and trending upward.
• PSA-11 is Above Average AND Below the 2012 indices and trending downward.
• PSA-07 is Average AND Above the 2012 indices and trending upward.
• PSA-03 & 05 are Average AND Above the 2012 indices and trending downward.
• PSA-04 is Below Average AND At the 2012 indices trending upward.
• PSA-10 is Below Average AND At the 2012 indices trending flat.
• PSA-16 is Below Average AND Above the 2012 indices trending upward.
• PSAs-01 & 02 are Below Average AND Above the 2012 indices trending downward.
• PSAs-13, 14, 17 & 18 are Below Average AND Below the 2012 indices trending upward.
• PSAs-09, 12 & 15 are Below Average AND Below the 2012 indices trending downward.

Heavy Fuel Moistures:
For 1000- hour fuels -
• PSAs-03 & 07 are Below Average (drier) AND Below (drier) the 2012 indices trending downward.
• PSA-05 is Below Average (drier) AND Below (drier) the 2012 indices trending flat.
• PSA-06 is Below Average (drier) AND At the 2012 indices trending flat.
• PSAs-11, 14 & 15 are Below Average (drier) AND Above Average (wetter) than the 2012 indices trending downward.
• PSA-08 is Below Average (drier) AND Above Average (wetter) than the 2012 indices trending flat.
• PSAs-01 & 04 are Average AND Below (drier) the 2012 indices trending downward.
• PSA-02 is Approaching Average AND Below (drier) the 2012 indices trending downward.
• PSA-13 is Average AND Above Average (wetter) than the 2012 indices trending downward.
• PSAs-09, 10, 12, 16, 17 & 18 are Above Average (wetter) AND Above Average (wetter) than the 2012 indices trending downward.

For 100- hour fuels -
• PSA-08 is Below the 3% (97th percentile) AND Setting New Record Minimums.
• PSA-07 is At the 3% (97th percentile), Below (drier) the 2012 indices trending downward.
• PSAs-03, 04, & 05 are Approaching the 3% (97th percentile) AND Below (drier) the 2012 indices trending downward.
• PSA-01 is Approaching the 3% (97th percentile) AND Below (drier) the 2012 indices trending flat.
• PSA-06 is Approaching the 3% (97th percentile) AND Below (drier) the 2012 indices trending upward.
• PSA-02 is At the 10% (90th percentile) AND Below (drier) the 2012 indices trending downward.
• PSA-17 is Approaching the 10% (90th percentile) AND Tracking with the 2012 indices AND Record Minimums.
• PSAs-13 & 18 are Below Average (drier) AND Above Average (wetter) than the 2012 indices trending downward.
• PSA-10 is Below Average (drier) AND Below (drier) the 2012 indices trending flat.
• PSA-11 is Below Average (drier) AND At the 2012 indices trending downward.
• PSA-15 is Below Average (drier) AND Above Average (wetter) than the 2012 indices trending flat.
• PSA-16 is Average AND Above Average (wetter) than the 2012 indices trending downward.
• PSA-14 is Above Average (wetter) AND Above Average (wetter) than the 2012 indices trending downward.
• PSA-12 is Above Average (wetter) AND At the 2012 indices trending downward.
• PSA-09 is Above Average (wetter) AND Below (drier) the 2012 indices trending downward.

(Graphic) Map of Northern Rockies Predictive Service Areas - Click on PSA to view ERC, 1000-hr and 100-hr graphs
(Click on PSA for specific ERC, 1000-hr and 100-hr Fuel Moisture graphs)


**Departure From Average Greenness   **Percent of Average Precipitation
(Click maps to enlarge)
Departure from Average Greeness   Percent of Average Precipitation for Last  12 Months

PSA - NR16 Eastern North Dakota PSA - NR16 Eastern North Dakota PSA - NR16 Eastern North Dakota PSA - NR15 Southeast Montana & Southwest North Dakota PSA - NR14 Northeast Montana & Northwest North Dakota PSA - NR04 Camas Prairie of Idaho PSA - NR06 Glacier National Park & Wilderness Areas PSA - NR09 Northern Front Range PSA - NR10 West Central Montana PSA - NR13 Southern Montana (Big Horn / Powder River) PSA - NR12 Southeast Montana / Southwest North Dakota PSA - NR03 Western Montana PSA - NR11 South Central Montana & Yellowstone National Park PSA - NR08 Southwest Montana, East of Continental Divide PSA - NR07 Southwest Montana, West of Continental Divide PSA - NR05 North Central Idaho & Bitterroot / Sapphire Mountains PSA - NR02 Southern Idaho Panhandle Idaho PSA - NR01 Northern Idaho Panhandle / Northwest Montana


Validation and Feedback:

Please contact the NRCC Predictive Services Group at 329-4880 to provide us feedback on the accuracy of these forecasts. Your observations about general fuel conditions and observed fire behavior help us validate the accuracy of our forecasts. Our bottom line and the reason we are here is to provide for the safety of firefighters in field.

BASE ALL ACTIONS ON CURRENT AND EXPECTED FIRE BEHAVIOR!

 
 

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