Meteorological Conditions and Decision Support Services Associated With the Yarnell Hill Fire
The National Weather Service (NWS) Flagstaff Forecast Office exercised several opportunities to provide decision support to key partners both leading up to and during the Yarnell Hill Fire. Several days prior to the fire's lightning-caused ignition, a high-impact weather briefing was provided to all emergency management and first responders email lists discussing near record high temperatures and possible thunderstorms contributing to extreme fire behavior during the upcoming weekend. On the afternoon of 30 June, two phone calls were made to dispatch at the Yarnell Hill Fire. A call at 2105 UTC alerted them to new convection developing near and east of the fire and associated strong/gusty winds. The next call, at 2230 UTC, provided information regarding the approaching wind shift and estimated speeds. Phone calls to the Yarnell Hill dispatch resumed in the late evening as another wind shift approached the fire from the southeast.
The Yarnell Hill Fire tragedy highlights the need for both scientifically sound forecasts and clear, timely communication of forecast information. Both points will be emphasized.