Tuesday, 13 November 2001
Examination and forecasting implications of the April 1995 Craig County Virginia fire
On 8-10 April 1995, a fire which started in Craig county Virginia rapidly increased from a small fire into one which consumed more than 5,000 acres. The fire spread was greatest on April 9th, between the hours of 11:00 am and 7:00 p.m local time. Those deployed on initial attack suppression described the fire behavior on this event as one of the most “extreme” and “unusually erratic” they had ever witnessed. The fire eventually threatened 60 homes and caused road closures. Using archived numerical model, satellite, and observation network data, the causes and forecast ramifications of this extreme fire activity are examined. This examination shows that the time of greatest fire spread was not the driest and windiest day, as is commonly the case with wildfires. Rather, in this case, the day with the highest temperature was a more important predictor of extreme fire behavior. In addition, the extreme nature of the fire activity could have been predicted using the Haines index, a parameter which has seen limited use in the eastern U.S. This has an important implication for fire weather forecasters in the eastern U.S.; Red Flag Warnings for high Haines index and low fuel moisture should be considered when assembling operating plan criteria.