FIRE SITUATION REPORTS
Oklahoma Fire Situation Report
- Fire Weather Watch and Red Flag Warnings – There are terms used by weather forecasters to call attention to weather conditions that may result in extreme fire behavior. Both are intended to make individuals aware of the conditions and it is the personal responsibility of the individual to take extra precautions. During these periods, extreme caution is urged by all because a simple spark can cause a major wildfire.
- Fire Weather Watch is issued when weather conditions could exist in the next 12 to 72 hours.
- Red Flag Warning is issued for weather events that will occur within 24 hours.
- A Fire Weather Watch may be issued prior to the Red Flag Warning. The criteria for red flag events require the combination of high to extreme fire danger and a critical fire weather pattern such as: low relative humidity, very dry and unstable air, and very strong/ shifting winds.
Fire Weather and Fuel Condition Criteria
OFS utilizes information from a variety of sources including the National Weather Service, the Southern Area Coordination Center and the National Interagency Fire Center. The data includes wildland fire occurrence, current conditions and forecast conditions.
Click on the links below to see some of the inputs that our foresters use when analyzing Oklahoma’s fire danger.
|Current Weather Conditions:||Oklahoma Mesonet|
|US Drought Monitor:||Current Map|
|Palmer Drought Severity Index:||Current Map|
|Keetch-Bryam Drought Index||Current Map|
|Fuel Moistures||1 hour Dead Fuel Moisture 10 hour Dead Fuel Moisture 100 hour Dead Fuel Moisture 1000 hour Dead Fuel Moisture|
|Burn Index||Current Map|
|Spread Component||Current Map|
|Energy Release Component||Current Map|
|Ignition Component||Current Map|
|Climate Prediction Center||6-10 Day Outlook 8-14 Day Outlook 30 and 90 Day Outlook|
|National Weather Service||NWS Homepage Hydrometerological Prediction 1-5 Days|
Read “Megafires on the Southern Great Plains,” which was published in the Journal of Operational Meteorology.
The article is based on an in-depth analysis of the fire environment in advance of and during megafire occurrence (those fires >100,000 acres) that have occurred on the Southern Great Plains from 2006-2018, including Oklahoma fires Anderson Creek, Starbuck and Rhea. The article was the result of the ongoing efforts of Oklahoma Forestry Services, Texas A&M Forest Service and the National Weather Service to partner in analyzing the predictability of critical fire environments to improve preparedness actions and communications with cooperators in advance of potential significant fire occurrence.
The Role of Fires in Oklahoma Landscapes
Many of Oklahoma’s landscapes have evolved with fire as a natural and necessary contributor to their overall health and renewal. Many plant species require fire to germinate, to establish, or to reproduce, or all three. Native Americans used fire across Oklahoma to provide better access, improve hunting, and ridding the land of undesirable species so they could farm. Early European settlers to our state observed this and continued the practice of using fire as a beneficial agent.
But as more settlers arrived, an encroaching urban interface and losses to timber, farm and range land called attention a growing wildfire problem and led to fire being labeled as destructive. Since that time great effort has been made to exclude fire from the landscape. But removing fire from the landscape has had consequences. Many of our lands are no longer healthy and the growth which has continued in the absence of fire resulted in an accumulation of fuels increasing the overall risk of wildfires.
As knowledge accumulated, the use of “prescribed” fire grew and natural resource professionals now include fire as an appropriate tool to manage forests, woodlands and range. Properly used, fire remains an excellent tool for restoring and managing many Oklahoma landscapes.
Learn more about fire’s role in Oklahoma ecosystems and the proper use of prescribed fire. Watch our video A Land in Balance.
Oklahoma Forestry Services promotes the responsible use of lawful, controlled or prescribed fire to manage wildlands and is a Charter Member of the Oklahoma Prescribed Fire Council.
What is Prescribed Fire?
Prescribed fire refers to the controlled application of fire to wildland ecosystems under specified environmental conditions that help restore health to fire-adapted environments.
By reducing hazardous fuel accumulations on the forest floor, encouraging the new growth of native vegetation, and maintaining the many plant and animal species whose habitats depend on periodic fire, prescribed burning helps reduce the catastrophic damage of wildfire on our lands and surrounding communities.
Prescribed fire is one of the most effective tools we have in preventing the outbreak and spread of wildfires. But because prescribed fire is fire, fire management experts must be extremely careful in planning and executing a prescribed fire.
Benefits of Prescribed Fire
Only in the last century has fire in the forest been considered “bad.” Though fire is often destructive it is also a catalyst for welcomed and necessary change. Fire changes the composition and density of the forest creating openings for more fire resistant trees and stimulating regeneration. Fire also creates early plant successional stages that benefit many species of wildlife.
The powerful, beneficial role of fire has almost disappeared from the ecosystem it once helped create. The inevitable release of energy is postponed and the probability of a devastating wildfire is increased. When extraordinary amounts of fuel are present, a fire’s intensity may increase beyond the beneficial point. Soils can be overheated and root systems damaged. Living tree crowns may be completely destroyed.
Controlling fires by replicating the natural scheme is accomplished with fuel management. In areas where management objectives require reproducing natural communities, the use of prescribed fire is an effective fuel management tool.
The decision to use prescribed fire is one which should be taken with the advice of a qualified professional. In Oklahoma, fire is used for a number of natural resource management objectives including:
- Reduce fuel accumulations – Periodic burning reduces the annual fuel accumulation in forests and grasslands reducing fire intensity and creating an ecosystem less susceptible to catastrophic wildfire.
- Improve wildlife habitat – Periodic burning improves habitat for Oklahoma wildlife by modifying cover, and food quality and volume.
- Increase biodiversity – Periodic burning induces environmental changes that result in plant and animal communities that are adapted to fire.
- Control hardwood encroachment – Periodic burning also helps control hardwood encroachment onto old fields and into managed pine stands.
- Control eastern redcedar – Without maintenance, some Oklahoma landscapes begin to shift towards a juniper forest type. This forest type was historically restricted to north slopes, canyons and rock outcrops where fire didn’t burn regularly.
How to Prepare to Conduct a Prescribed Fire
Prescribed fire is a very deliberative process. Careful planning must be undertaken to determine why, when and how a prescribed burn will be conducted. Planning for prescribed fire considers the history and variety of past fire events over the landscape to determine the most appropriate place and time to apply fire to achieve your land management objectives.
Anyone planning to apply prescribed fire must consider many issues before determining the location, extent, timing and prescription parameters for any particular burn.
Burn Within the Law
To lawfully burn within the law:
- You must be legally entitled to burn the property as an owner, authorized tenant or agent of the owner/authorized tenant. (Statutory Reference: O.S. Title 2 S 16-25).
- You must provide adequate firelines, sufficient manpower and firefighting equipment to contain your fires to the property you are authorized to burn and stay with the fire until it is extinguished.
- In the protection areas of eastern Oklahoma (generally east of highway 69) you must obtain approval from the Forestry Division at least four hours prior to burning. (Statutory Reference: O.S. Title 2 S 16-28).
Reducing Liability for Prescribed Fires
REMEMBER . . . You are responsible for your fire.
Title 2, Sections 16-28 and 16-28.2 of the Oklahoma Forestry Code provide some liability protection for landowners conducting prescribed burns under certain conditions. To obtain this protection however, the owner or manager is responsible for planning the burn, providing proper notification to neighbors and local authorities, conducting the burn according to the plan, providing adequate equipment and manpower to control the fire and confine it to his or her property, and preventing impacts downwind from smoke.
OFS makes available a Prescribed Burning Notification Plan for use when utilizing prescribed fire.
Fire Weather Resources
Weather is the fire behavior factor with the highest variability. Temperature, relative humidity, and wind speed vary greatly throughout the day and are also effected by frontal passage. These weather changes can have a major impact on fire behavior. Outdoor burning should only be conducted inside of predetermined weather conditions. This will result in the safe use of fire.
Please utilize the following websites (which supply current weather and fire danger) to assist you when preparing to do any outdoor burning.
For current fire weather forecasts go to:
When conducting an outdoor burn you are responsible for the smoke that is produced by the burn. As you are responsible for the smoke, you need to develop a smoke management plan for your burns to keep the smoke’s impacts on the environment within acceptable levels. This reduces your risk of conducting the outdoor burn. Remember you are responsible for the impacts resulting from the smoke created by your outdoor burning.
The following are the steps to take in developing a Smoke Management Plan following Oklahoma’s Voluntary Smoke Management Guidelines:
- Determine Category Day
- Determine Screening Distance
- Determine Trajectory
- Identify Smoke Sensitive Areas
- Evaluate the Results
How to Determine the Category Day
The Category Day is determined by the ventilation rate, which is the afternoon mixing height in meters, times the transport windspeed in meters per second. Forestry burning activities should proceed according to the table below:
|I||< 2,000||No Burning!|
|II||2,000 – 4,000||No burning until 11:00 am and not before surface inversion has lifted. Fire out by 4:00 pm.|
|III||4,000 – 8,000||Daytime burning only after inversion has lifted.|
|IV||8,000 – 16,000||Burning anytime.|
Night burns use backing fires with surface wind speeds greater than 4 mph.
|V||> 16,000||“Unstable” and windy.|
Excellent smoke dispersal.
Burn with caution!
You can obtain a Fireweather forecast, including Category Day, from the Weather Service.
How to Determine the Screening Distance
Screening Distance is the downwind distance you should examine for possible smoke sensitive sites such as airports, highways, communities, recreation areas, schools, hospitals, nursing homes, etc.
The type of burn coupled with the Category Day determines the number of miles downwind to apply the screening process.
Identify your burn in one of the following four types:
- Backing fire less than 1,000 acres
- Head fire less than 1,000 acres
- More than 1,000 acres
Using the following table, find the block that represents the type of burn and Category Day, The number in the block is the minimum number of miles downwind to screen for smoke sensitive areas.
|Type of Burn||I||II||III||IV||V|
Less than 1,000 acres
Less than 1,000 acres
|Fire > 1,000 acres in size||No|
Anticipated Smoke Plume Trajectory Determination
Locate the burn on a map and draw a line representing the centerline of the smoke plume. The length of the line should be greater than the screening distance. If the burn will last over a long period of time, draw another line showing predicted wind direction at the end of the burn.
To allow for horizontal dispersion of the smoke, as well as shifts in the wind direction, draw two other lines from the fire at an angle of 30 degrees from the centerline(s).
Wildland Fire Effects, Use and Recovery, Publications
Fire Effects and Ecology
- Fire Effects in Oklahoma, OSU Extension
- Time of Year for Prescribed Fire, OSU Extension
- Burning in the Growing Season, OSU Extension
- Fire Prescriptions for Native Plant Communities, OSU Extension
Prescribed Fire Use
- Safe and Lawful Prescribed Burning in Oklahoma, OFS
- Smoke Management, OSU Extension
- Burn Planning for Prescribed Fire, OSU Extension
- Firebreaks for Prescribed Fire, OSU Extension
Recovery from Wildfire