Fire Weather Spot Forecast Instructions

Spot forecasts are requested via the NWS Brownsville/Rio Grande Valley Spot Forecast Page located here. The page can also reached from our fire weather page.

The main spot forecast page updates every minute and shows the location and status of any spot forecasts that have already been requested for today. These other forecasts can be viewed, as well as the most recent spot forecast requests.

Each request has its own webpage where all the information is displayed, including maps, information about the request and, eventually, the forecast. Sensitive information about the request (such as phone numbers, names of contact persons, and the exact location of the burn) are NOT visible by everyone – but only on the computer that made the original request and on NWS computers.

When you a new spot forecast is requested, information is provided in a web-based form that is similar to the D–1 form that had been commonly used. The information provided on the form is checked for consistency, and after completion, the NWS is notified of a new request and a new webpage is created for this burn.

Once a request is submitted, the webpage for the particular burn be viewed. The status of the request can be checked frequently. To view the webpage for any burn or wildfire, go to the main spot forecast webpage, click either on the name of the burn in the listing, or on the dot on the map for the burn. This page will also automatically update every minute; when new information becomes available, it is shown immediately. If errors are found in the request, forecast staff might send a question that will show up on this page. The question may be answered, or other changes made to the request from this webpage, but only from the computer where the original request was made. Since the forecast screen is automatically updated very minute, the forecast will be seen within a minute of it being issued.

When the forecast is complete, the page may be printed. From the main spot forecast page, other days can be viewed by using the calendar feature. This feature can be used to provide feedback on earlier forecasts, or to copy the information from one request to a new request for today.

If there are any questions or problems, staff are still available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week by phone at 956-504-1432.

Spot Forecast Monitor Page
The main spot forecast monitoring page shows you all of today’s spot forecasts on the map, also in the list at the bottom of the page. This page auto-updates every minute, so as new spot forecasts are requested or their status changes, changes are immediately seen.

The dots on the map show locations of the burns, and the status of the spot forecast requests. Green squares indicate requests that are still pending. Purple squares indicate burns where questions have been asked. Red squares indicate burns where the forecast has been completed. Click on the dots on the map, or the list of spot names at the bottom of the page to view the individual webpage for each request.

The arrow buttons next to the date can be used to view spot requests from other days, or the Calendar can be used to move to other days more quickly.

To request a spot forecast, click on the button labeled "Submit a new Spot Request", and the Spot Request Form will appear.

Spot Request Form
Fill in this form with the information needed to request a spot forecast. The first time a spot forecast is requested, almost all the boxes will be empty. Thereafter, many of the boxes will be filled in with information that shouldn't change very much from one request to another (such as name and phone number).

The elements highlighted in red are required for NWS forecasters to complete the spot forecast. While the other items may not be necessary, they are very important for an accurate and useful forecast to be created.

The form is broken down into eight sections. Each section will be described as follows, below the image:


Project Name Section
Provide a name for your project. The name cannot be the same as any other project for the same day; the form will alert if an existing burn name is chosen.

Use the buttons to indicate whether the fire is a Wildfire, WFU or Prescribed Fire. Prescribed fire is chosen by default when entering the form. For prescribed fires, indicate the ignition time and date using a 24 hour clock, and the time zone if necessary. The form defaults to an ignition time about one half hour in the future.

Requesting Agency Section
Describe the requestor information by providing the agency name, phone number for both voice and fax (include area code), and the requestor’s name. This information will be helpful if there are problems or questions and NWS staff needs to make contact. This information will only need to be entered for the first spot forecast on a given burn or wildfire. Thereafter, information from the previous request will be used.

Reason for Spot Request
If the event is a wildfire, click next to "Wildfire". Otherwise, choose from the three options for non–wildfire:

  • Interagency Agreement for Meteorological Services. Most prescribed burns fall under this choice.
  • State or local fire agency working in coordination with a federal participant in the Interagency Agreement for Meteorological Services. A few requests fall under this category.
  • Essential to public safety.
For full details on NWS Spot Forecast policy, consult National Weather Service Instruction 10-401 Fire Weather Services Product Specification, section 4.0.

 

Location Section
Provide the precise location of the burn. This can be done by specifying the legal location or the latitude/longitude. If using the legal method, data should be given in the form of Township Range and Section, for example: T5N R12E Sec24. If using the latitude/longitude method, specify in decimal degrees (example: 45.1486), or degrees/minutes/seconds (example: 45 13 34).

If possible, please specify the name of the 7 ½ minute USGS quadmap where the burn is located. NWS staff will check that against the legal or latitude/longitude location provided. The elevation, in feet, at the top and bottom of the burn should be entered in the "Elevation" boxes. If the burn is on flat ground, a value may only be entered in only one of the boxes. Enter the name of the nearest drainage in the "Drainage" box. This helps NWS staff better locate the burn when the legal or latitude/longitude location is ambiguous. Enter the slope aspect, such as NE or S (or possibly FLAT) in the "Aspect" box. This also helps better locate the burn. Finally, enter the size of the burn in acres in the "Size" box.

Fuel Section
Indicate the type of fuel, using fuel model numbers or a description of the fuel such as "grass", "mesquite", etc. Indicate the amount of fuel sheltering if possible; this helps tremendously in providing accurate wind forecasts.

Observations Section
Provide local observations near the burn. For each observation, provide the location in relation to the burn (for example, "base camp", "1 mile NW"), the elevation in feet and the time, preferably using a 24 hour clock. The wind (miles per hour) can be specified as "N12 Gust 25". The temperature and wet bulb values (°F) should be entered; the relative humidity (in percent) and dew point (°F) can also be entered if known. Humidity and dew point will be calculated from the Temperature/Wetbulb/Elevation if not provided. Remarks about clouds, weather or other important information should be entered in the final box. If there are more than 4 observations, please put them in the comments section, or fax them to us.

Forecast Elements Section
Describe the necessary forecast elements, or those of particular importance. If there is a grass fire that will be out by later today, don't waste time worrying about the temperature for tomorrow, unless it’s really needed. Likewise, if the wind direction is particularly important, we want to know about it. Choose the parameters needed for today, tonight, and tomorrow. If staff thinks something is particularly noteworthy, we will inform of it even if not requested. If a request is submitted in the evening for the next day, remember that the requested parameters are for the day of the burn. For wildfires, our staff will provide all parameters; do not spend time filling this in, unless there is a parameter that is particularly critical.

Remarks Section
For items that our staff may need, or items that would not fit elsewhere on the form, enter here. There is virtually no limit to what can be added.

Submit the form
When ready to submit the form, just click on the "Submit Request" button at the bottom of the page. To cancel the request, click on the "Cancel Request" button. To clear the form and start over, click on the "Clear Form" button.

When the form is submitted, various checks are performed on the data. Some problems make it impossible for the request to be accepted – for example, a name was not entered for the burn). Others will produce warnings and messages based on incorrect information. If an error is found, an opportunity is provided to correct the form, or cancel the request. Once confident there are no more errors in the request, the request will be submitted and staff will be automatically notified. If there is time, consider a phone call in case something goes wrong on the web and staff is unaware of the request.

Spot Forecast Webpage
After the spot forecast request is submitted, an individualized spot forecast webpage becomes available for that burn. This page automatically updates every minute; as new information becomes available for the burn, it displays immediately. Detailed maps of the area around the burn are generated and displayed when they become available. Keep in mind that "sensitive" information such as name, phone number, and the exact location of the burn are not visible to others - only to you and the NWS.

If our staff have questions about the request, a question may be sent back via the web interface. A big red box will appear on the forecast page with the question. Usually, there is some problem with the request that can be fixed easily. Use the links at the bottom of the page to change the request, or call our office.

When the forecast is complete, it appears in the spot forecast webpage automatically, and a box to provide feedback becomes available. Please provide feedback with how the forecast worked out, perhaps on the same day or within several days. This feedback helps our staff tremendously to improve the forecasts.

At the bottom of the forecast page are links for a variety of actions. Choose "Back to Spot List" to return to the monitor page. From the same computer where the original request was made, click on "Change Request" to change the details of the request, or "Delete Request" to delete the request. Click on "Copy Info to New Spot Request". This is helpful for burns that last over several days. Rather than re–entering the data in the form to get a new forecast, the e previous forecast can be viewed, and the location parameters copied to a new request. This will save some time filling out the request form.

Invariably, something will go wrong, and a request or receipt of spot requests may not be available via the webpage. In such cases, please fill out the paper version of the request form, call us to alert us of the request, and fax it to us at 956-982-1766. Our staff will fax the forecast when it is complete. This method should be used as a last resort. Spot Forecast Requests received via the webpage will be completed more quickly.


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