Fire weather zone forecasts help identify when weather conditions in a given area are favorable for the ignition and spread of fires. Wildfires can happen suddenly, making it important for people in fire-prone areas to know when weather conditions make these natural disasters more likely to occur.
While fire weather is more likely to occur during late summer and fall, these conditions can pop up during any season — especially in warmer and drier areas like southern California. Fire weather zone forecasts actively monitor local weather conditions and alert residents when fires are more likely to occur. To stay in the know 24/7, remember to download our free Frontline Wildfire Defense app. Here, you can track local fires, find wildfire preparation checklists, access emergency contact groups, and more.
What Is Wildfire Prone Weather?
Fire weather refers to weather conditions that make it easier for fires to ignite and spread. For wildfires to ignite and grow, they need dry fuel, heat, and oxygen. As a result, wildfires are more likely to occur in the late summer when conditions are warm and dry.
Fire weather conditions include:
- High temperatures: High temperatures increase water evaporation, which creates dry vegetation. High temperatures also warm vegetation, making it ignite faster when exposed to a flame or burning ember.
- Strong winds: Strong winds supply wildfires with oxygen, making them grow faster, and help wildfires spread more quickly.
- Low relative humidity: Relative humidity refers to how much water is in the air. Low relative humidity means that fuel sources for fires will become drier.
- Low soil moisture: Soil moisture is a strong indicator of fuel moisture. If soil moisture is low, then local vegetation is likely also low moisture, making it more likely to ignite when exposed to high heat.
- Lack of precipitation: Precipitation dampens vegetation, making it unlikely to ignite. When there is a lack of precipitation, including rain or snow, vegetation dries out and becomes a better fuel source for wildfires.
When looking at a weather map or fire weather zone forecast, you should look for information regarding these key factors to help determine whether or not current conditions make wildfires more likely.
The fire weather zone forecast also called the fire weather planning forecast, is produced by the National Weather Service (NWS) and identifies local weather conditions to help plan and prepare for potential wildfires.
The fire weather zone forecast is split into separate geographic areas. Each zone is typically limited to a county-sized area with a consistent climate.
To find information about your area, look for the region closest to yours on the list and click the link to review up-to-date weather conditions. The fire weather zone forecast will also typically provide a six to 10-day outlook to help you better prepare for the potential future fire weather.
For individuals that live in fire-prone areas, you’ll typically be notified via a notification on your TV or phone when fire weather is present. If you receive this notification, you should avoid partaking in any tasks that could potentially cause a fire (e.g. fireworks, bonfires, trash burning, etc.) and keep an eye out for active wildfire alerts.
The NWS works with land management organizations to actively monitor weather conditions and issue warnings if conditions make wildfires more likely. Depending on the circumstances, the NWS may either issue a fire weather watch or a red flag warning.
A fire weather watch is typically issued when the criteria for a red flag warning are likely to be met within the next 24 to 72 hours. Fire weather watches give the public and local emergency services time to prepare for potential wildfires.
Red flag warnings are issued when certain criteria are met that make wildfires more likely to occur. These criteria are mostly based on humidity and wind values but also take into account temperatures, soil moisture, and other factors.
When a red flag warning is issued, any wildfires that ignite will likely grow and spread very rapidly due to current weather conditions, meaning residents in these areas should stay alert and be prepared to take action in case of an emergency.
We hope you found this guide on fire weather zone forecasts helpful! Remember, another great tool is the Frontline Wildfire Defense app. Our app offers free and useful tools that can help you stay up-to-date with weather information, wildfire incidents, and more. You can also use the app to control your home wildfire defense system and stay prepared during fire season.
The Frontline Wildfire Defense app includes several useful resources:
- Remote wildfire defense system controls
- US and California Wildfire maps
- Weather conditions information
- Fire danger indexes
- Event notifications
- Wildfire preparation checklists
- Emergency contact groups