Eighth Symposium on Fire and Forest Meteorology


OK-FIRE: A weather-based decision support system for wildland fire management in Oklahoma

J. D. Carlson, Oklahoma State University, Stillwater, OK; and T. G. Bidwell, S. Blackburn, R. Jabrzemski, and J. M. Wolfinbarger

Originally funded by a multi-year grant from the Joint Fire Science Program in 2005, “OK-FIRE” is an operational weather-based decision support system which has been developed for wildland fire managers throughout Oklahoma. Applications include prescribed burning, wildfire anticipation/suppression, and smoke management. Project participants include the USDA Forest Service, Bureau of Indian Affairs, US Fish and Wildlife Service, National Park Service, US Army Corps of Engineers, Natural Resources Conservation Service, National Weather Service, Oklahoma Forestry Services, The Nature Conservancy, fire departments, emergency managers, and private landowners. Programming, web site, and operational support are provided by the Oklahoma Climatological Survey in Norman, Oklahoma.

Using the Oklahoma Mesonet of 120 automated weather stations as a basis for current and past conditions and 84-h forecast output from the National Weather Service's North American Model (NAM) for future conditions, OK-FIRE has a three-fold emphasis: (1) an expansive suite of real-time products for fire weather, fire danger, and smoke dispersion; (2) a dedicated OK-FIRE wildland fire management web site (http://okfire.mesonet.org) to act as the delivery mechanism for the above products; and (3) regional training and customer support activities for the user groups involved.

Until OK-FIRE there had never been a dedicated web site focused solely on wildland fire management in Oklahoma. The web site features major sections devoted to weather, fire, smoke, satellite, radar, air quality, and burn site maps and imagery. The Oklahoma Fire Danger Model provides guidance related to fire danger, and the Oklahoma Dispersion Model, guidance relevant to near-surface smoke dispersal. Products utilize a browser plug-in and consist of site-specific data boxes, charts, tables, and maps capable of animation, zooming, and overlays. OK-FIRE allows the user to examine past conditions over the last 5 days as well as view hourly forecast conditions through the end of the latest 84-hour NAM forecast. Current products, based on the Oklahoma Mesonet, are updated every five minutes in the case of weather and dispersion products, and every hour in the case of fire danger products. Forecast products are updated every six hours, using the 00Z, 06Z, 12Z, and 18Z runs of the NAM.

Since the debut of the web site in September 2006, OK-FIRE has seen continually increasing usage by Oklahoma fire managers. One-day training workshops at regional technology centers throughout the state were offered to our user groups in the fall of 2006 and 2007, and an intensive series of half-day workshops targeted toward fire departments took place in the fall of 2008. During the first four months of 2009, the OK-FIRE site experienced over 2.1 million hits each month, for a total of 9.5 million hits, far eclipsing the 2008 calendar year total of 4.6 million hits. Furthermore, the number of people using the system is increasing – averaged over the first four months of each year, the number of unique visitors (unique IP addresses) averaged 2752 per month for 2009 as compared to 318 for 2008. During the catastrophic wildfires of April 9-10, 2009, the OK-FIRE site saw a decided peak in usage, with daily hits averaging about 160,000.

With respect to prescribed fire, OK-FIRE benefits include better pre-burn planning and management during the burn. With respect to wildfire, benefits include better anticipation of high fire danger conditions, the ability to better determine short-term staffing levels, and better suppression strategies during the wildfire itself.

The presentation will describe the OK-FIRE system including its products, web site, and training. An assessment of its impacts thus far across Oklahoma will also be provided.

Poster Session 1, Formal Poster Reviewing with Icebreaker Reception
Tuesday, 13 October 2009, 5:30 PM-7:30 PM, Big Sky Ballroom

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