Groundbreaking Agency Collaboration Speeds Wildfire Response

Warnings of imminent, dangerous wildfire on the landscape that went out on Feb. 26 and 27, were the first of their kind and the product of major advances in fire and weather prediction technology which exhibit first-hand the power of partnership and inter-agency relationships.

“The fires that we experienced on the 26th and 27th were the most proactively warned fires in United States History,” said Drew Daily, Oklahoma Forestry Services Deputy Fire Management Chief.

Built on fire behavior and prediction expertise, the Integrated Team Fire Warning Paradigm Process was initially demonstrated in Oklahoma in 2022 and 2023 as a direct response to the destructive 2018 Camp Fire in California. The new process is an improved and coordinated method for wildfire detection, notification and action designed by members of the Southern Great Plains Wildfire Outbreak Working Group which includes OFS, Texas A&M Forest Service, Kansas Forest Service, and NOAA National Weather Service.

“Retrospective simulations of fire disasters in the Southern Plains, using the combined knowledge of environmental conditions and technology from the satellites, were used to depict fire behavior that is particularly dangerous,” said Todd Lindley, National Weather Service Science and Operations Officer.

Satellite hotspot detection is now in place any time a Red Flag Warning from the National Weather Service is in effect. These warnings are issued when weather conditions and composite fuel moisture point to highly elevated fire danger. The National Weather monitors conditions on red flag days using infrared satellite.

“We use these to detect heat,” said Doug Weber, National Weather Service Senior Forecaster and Fire Program Coordinator. “We’re able to see the flicker on the satellite immediately, and it jumps out on the map.”

Following initial detection, NWS notifies local responders and OFS and within minutes a fire warning can be issued, similar to other natural disaster alerts issued by NWS.

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