National Wildfire Coordinating Group

1. Introduction

Fire weather forecasts are likely one of the first professional introductions firefighters have to meteorological information. They may even be the first thing a firefighter reads each day when they get to their duty station. Forecasts convey certain atmospheric variables. The intent of this guide is to describe best-practices on how to interpret and use the weather information provided.

Fire weather forecasts include several components:

  • Header information
    • Date and time the forecast is valid for
    • Applicable forecast headline
  • Forecast discussion
  • Mandatory forecast elements of sky/weather
    • Temperature
    • Relative humidity (RH)
    • Wind
  • Optional forecast elements that may include the chance of:
    • Wetting rain
    • Mixing height
    • Transport wind
    • Smoke dispersal
    • Inversion information
    • Haines Index
    • Lightning activity level (LAL)
    • Extended forecast or outlook

Each forecast element is generally given only one value per operational period.

The weather forecast is a static document that may not adequately describe the changes one sees in the weather through an operational period. For example, fire weather forecasts only provide the high temperature for day operational periods and the low temperature for night operational periods. It is left up to the firefighter to interpret how fast and when the temperature will rise and/or fall during their shift. Consistent weather is a firefighter’s friend. It is the change in weather conditions that prove problematic and sometimes fatal to operational resources. This publication provides context and interpretation guidelines for fire managers and fireline personnel to make improved decisions with safety in mind.

There are links to online resources throughout this publication. Visit these resources, as additional information and graphics are often provided. The most frequently linked resource is the Agriculture Handbook 360: Fire Weather… A Guide for Application of Meteorological Information to Forest Fire Control Operations, PMS 425-1. Refer back to it as you learn more about fire weather forecasts.


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