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Texas Fire Weather Operating Plan

Forecasts Products Issued by the National Weather Service

General Information
Forecast Products
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Sample Narrative
Form D-1
National Agreement
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 Routine Fire Weather Forecasts (FWF)   
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Daily routine fire weather forecasts are available to anyone with an interest in land management and pre-suppression activities in Texas. These forecasts are issued at least once per day in the morning; afternoon updates are considered optional but are issued routinely by some NWS offices.

Routine fire weather forecast content should include...
  1. A headline to emphasize a red flag warning or a significant change in weather conditions,
  2. Weather synopsis or map discussion,
  3. Predictions of sky cover and weather, temperature, humidity, and wind, and thunderstorms and/or precipitation, and
  4. An outlook or extended forecast.
Additional forecast parameters will be considered optional and will be determined by the individual NWS offices based on the feedback received by their customers.

FWF formats fall into two general categories--narrative and tabular. Examples of narrative and tabular styles are shown in Appendix 3. A brief description of format and content of the fire weather forecasts issued by each office can be found in section VI.

 Red Flag Program   
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The intent of the red flag program is to provide land management agencies with appropriate notification of the likelihood that weather conditions associated with the outbreak of wildfire will occur. Identification of red flag events is a primary responsibility of the forecaster producing the fire weather forecasts. Forecasters will issue a fire weather watch or red flag warning, based on the criteria and timing explained below. Some offices will issue individual products under the product identifier RFW while others will simply highlight the information in the routine fire weather forecast.

The criteria for fire weather watches and red flag warnings across Texas will vary with each NWS office's county warning area based on the vegetation, topography, and distance from the Gulf of Mexico. Red flag criteria used at individual NWS offices can be found in section VI. The primary parameters affecting the development of red flag conditions, and thus the ones to be closely evaluated, are relative humidity (including recovery), wind speed, and fuel moisture. Other parameters that also should be considered include the likelihood of lightning occurrence, wind shifts, and/or current wildfire activity.

It should be noted that few offices with county warning and forecast area (CWFA) responsibilities in Texas have the necessary equipment to evaluate moisture levels. In this case, NWS forecasters should rely on their user agencies to provide them with the most recent measurement of fuel moisture. Since user agencies often have limited operating hours, the forecasters would use the latest moisture data available, which may be measurements recorded on previous days.
Fire Weather Watch 
Fire weather watches are issued to alert fire and land management agencies to the possibility of red flag conditions beyond the first forecast period (12 hours). The watch is issued generally 12 to 48 hours in advance of the expected conditions, but can be issued up to 72 hours in advance if the forecaster is reasonably confident. The term FIRE WEATHER WATCH will be headlined in the routine fire weather forecast and/or issued as a special forecast. The watch will remain in effect until it expires, is canceled, or upgraded to a red flag warning.
Red Flag Warning 
A red flag warning is used to alert fire and land management agencies that red flag conditions exist or are imminent. A red flag warning will be issued immediately when there is high confidence that red flag criteria will occur within the next 24 hours, or if those criteria are already being met. (Due to forecast uncertainty beyond 12 hours, a fire weather watch will be more often used in the 12 to 24 hour time frame.) When a warning is issued, the term RED FLAG WARNING will be headlined in the routine fire weather forecast, and/or sent as a special forecast to inform users of the warning. The warning will be continued on subsequent forecasts until no longer valid. A cancellation statement (or headline in the FWF) should terminate the warning unless the previous message indicated a termination time.
 Spot Forecasts (FWS)   
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Spot forecasts are site-specific forecasts for wildfires, prescribed burns, search and rescue operations, aerial spraying, etc. By being site-specific, these forecasts take into account the effects of topography, vegetation and any nearby bodies of water. Spot forecasts contain detailed forecast information including sky condition, precipitation and thunderstorm probability, specific maximum and minimum temperature and humidity, and wind speed and direction for the specific area. Spot forecast formats will vary in order to provide the best possible services to the user agencies.

Under Volume 60 of the Federal Register 34, 969 (dated July 5, 1995), non-wildfire forecast support may only be provided to federal agencies. The NWS may not provide routine forecast support to state and local fire management agencies. However, forecast support will always be provided to any requesting agency in support of wildfire activities. This is why it is imperative that non-federal agencies requesting spot forecasts for a wildfire indicate that it is a wildfire when making the request.

Spot forecasts are available upon request at any time of day, week or season. Consultation service is also available for planning projects for which weather might be a factor. Requests for spot forecasts shall be serviced by at least one trained meteorologist. These requests will be completed as soon as possible and should typically take around 30 minutes or less. However, protection agencies should be aware that other duties (such as severe weather) may take higher priority, and short delays may occur. If excessive delays are encountered, please notify the appropriate NWS office. If the spot forecast is to support a wildfire, please inform the forecaster, or annotate the spot request form accordingly.

User agencies should submit spot forecast requests by phone or fax either directly to a NWS office or through the Texas Interagency Coordination Center (TICC). NOTE: most NWS offices do not use facsimile machines as operational equipment; please call the respective office before sending a request by fax. Some West Texas NWS offices are set up with a special program enabling them to use the internet as their primary means of receiving, preparing, and returning Spot requests. These forecast have the advantage of being able to be viewed by any interested land management party. See section VI NWS Weather Forecast offices to see which office have this capability and contact them to coordinate this service.

In non-emergency situations, requesting agencies are encouraged to submit requests by faxing a partially completed (items 1-12) Special Forecast Request Form D-1. Blank copies of WS Form D-1 may be obtained from any NWS office. Emergency requests may be submitted and fulfilled using the most efficient means possible. When listing the location, requests should contain both latitude/longitude coordinates and a local reference. Once a spot forecast request is fulfilled, NWS offices are encouraged to send a copy of a completed D-1 form to TICC for documentation purposes. For additional information on Coordination and Dissemination policies, see Section II.

In order to make sure that spot forecasts are as accurate as possible, The NWS wishes to develop a verification scheme for spot forecasting in the fiscal year 2001. To assist in this effort, the NWS asks that each spot forecast request be accompanied by a preliminary observation (recorded at the time of the request) and a follow-up observation (recorded at the time of maximum or minimum heating depending upon the time that the request was sent) at the burn site, if possible. User agencies should also understand that preliminary observations are critical to giving the spot forecast a significant improvement from the routine fire weather forecast.

Note: Spot forecasts should not be used as general planning tools for the following day. "Planning" type forecast information should be obtained from the routine fire weather forecast or the zone forecast product, and can be augmented by direct phone consultation with a forecaster on duty at the appropriate NWS office. Spot forecasts are intended to support ongoing or imminent wildfire or federal prescribed burn activity only.

 Hazardous Weather Outlooks   
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In times when wildfire activity is expected to threaten lives or property, NWS offices are encouraged to issue Special Weather Statements under the heading of Hazardous Weather Outlook. The decision of when to issue this product is left to the discretion of each forecaster as well local NWS office policies. Currently the NWS is restricted from using the words "red flag warning" or "fire weather watch" in products distributed to the general public. Additionally, user agencies have requested that the phrase "fire danger" should be avoided unless it makes reference to public statements issued by the US Forest Service/Texas Forest Service.

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Sample Narrative | Form D-1 | National Agreement | Internet Links
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