With weather conditions favorable for wildfires today, the National Weather Service has issued numerous Red Flag Warnings across the country. A Red Flag warning is a warning issued by the National Weather Service to inform area firefighting and land management agencies that conditions are ideal for fire combustion and rapid spread. After drought conditions, when humidity is very low, and especially when there are high or erratic winds which may include lightning as a factor, the Red Flag Warning becomes a critical statement for firefighting agencies. To the public, a Red Flag Warning means high fire danger with increased probability of a quickly spreading vegetation fire in the area within 24 hours. The weather criteria for Red Flag Warnings vary with each National Weather Service office’s warning area based on the local vegetation type, topography, and distance from major water sources. They usually include the daily vegetation moisture content calculations, expected afternoon high temperature, afternoon minimum relative humidity and daytime wind speed.
The latest advisory map from weatherboy.com shows Red Flag Warnings are up for portions of New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Michigan, Wisconsin, Indiana, Illinois, Texas, Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico, Kansas, and Nebraska.
The National Weather Service office in Mount Holly, NJ responsible for Red Flag Warnings in the Mid Atlantic today warns residents to be careful. “Any fires that develop may quickly get out of control and become difficult to contain,” says the office. “For more information about wildfire danger, burn restrictions, and wildfire prevention and education, please visit your state forestry or environmental protection website.”
As the population expand into areas that have normal wildfires, the risk for death and injury increases. Last year, fires made headlines in northern California in October. The Northern California fires killed at least 44 people and hospitalized at least 185, making the week of October 8, 2017 the deadliest week of wildfires in California history. Collectively, this event constitutes the largest loss of life due to wildfires in the United States since the Cloquet Fire in 1918.