JULY 18, 2000




II ____User


    1. Mailing Address
    2. Contacts
    3. Telephone Numbers
    4. E-Mail Addresses
    5. National Weather Service Regional Contacts
    6. Web Site

V ____Fire_Weather_Seasons

VI ___Forecast_Methodology_and_Philosophy

VII_ __Fire_Weather_Watches_and_Red_Flag Warnings


    1. Daily Fire Weather Forecast
    1. Weather Parameters included in the Daily Forecast
    2. Additional Weather Parameters in the Post-Transitional Daily Fire Weather Forecast
    3. Format of the Daily Fire Weather Forecast
    1. Update Criteria For the Daily Forecast
    2. Spot Forecasts
    1. Requesting A Spot Forecast
    1. Public Zone Forecasts
    2. Special Weather Statements
    3. Wind Advisory and High Wind Warning
    4. Short Term Forecasts
    5. Public Information Statements
    1. Air Transportable Mobile Unit
    2. Fire Weather Training
    3. Other Special Services
    1. Fire Weather Observation Stations
    2. Quality Control, Inspection and Training
    3. Transmission of Fire Weather Observations
    4. Fire Weather Station Supplies and Equipment Maintenance
    5. Severe Weather Reports


This Plan is an agreement between the Wakefield Virginia National Weather Service Office and the agencies with land and fire management responsibilities to outline weather support for forestry operations in Eastern and Central Virginia as well as the Maryland Eastern Shore and Northeastern North Carolina. This plan incorporates procedures detailed in the National Agreement for Meteorological Services in Support of Agencies with Land Management and Fire Protection Responsibilities, found in APPENDIX_A of this document.

In December of 1998, as apart of the NWS Modernization and Associated Restructuring (MAR), the NWS Wakefield VA assumed the responsibility of issuing spot forecasts to portions of Eastern and Central Virginia as well as the Maryland Eastern Shore and Northeastern North Carolina. The responsibility of issuing the Routine Daily Fire Weather Forecast and Red Flag Warnings and Fire Weather Watches was transferred on February 1st of 2000.

This Operating Plan will be the governing document for fire weather procedures and cooperation between the following agencies:

National Weather Service Forecast Office – Wakefield VA

Virginia Interagency Coordination Center (VICC)

US Dept. of Forestry

Virginia Department of Forestry

US Fish and Wildlife Service

NC Forest Service

Maryland Department of Natural Resources

Users shall be defined as any person, group, agency or body, which uses the products and services, provided by the NWS in support of fire operations.

The NWS has been directed by the Executive Branch and Congress to discontinue specialized fire weather services to non-Federal entities (i.e. state, county and local agencies) for non-wildfire activities, including the following:

Details can be found in the Federal Register (Vol. 60, No. 128, P. 34969-34970). See APPENDIX_B.

National Weather Service
10009 General Mahone Hwy.
Wakefield, VA 23888-2742
CONTACTS: Meteorologist in Charge....................................Tony Siebers

Warning Coordination Meteorologist.................Bill Sammler

Fire Weather Program Manager..…...................Diane Innes

Assistant Fire Weather Program Manager.........Mike Rusnak

The Forecast office is staffed, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, through the year, including holidays. Forecasters are available for special forecasts or consultation, conditions permitting. No specific forecaster is dedicated to the fire weather products or services. During severe weather situations, forecasters may have to attend to other priorities. Extra staffing is typically available during administrative hours (8am - 4pm Monday through Friday.)


Administrative/Forecast Operations.......................(757) 899 - 2415

(Direct forecast questions to the public forecaster or fire weather program manager)

Severe Weather Reports..........................................(800) 737 - 8624

(Severe weather reports only!)

Fax.............................................................................(757) 899 - 5107

These numbers are unlisted! Please do not release to the Public.


Tony Siebers




National Weather Service  
Eastern Region Headquarters Regional Fire Weather Service
Airport Corporate Center Program Leader
630 Johnson Ave. Harvey E. Thurm
Bohemia, NY 11716 (516) 244-0124

See APPENDIX_C for surrounding office information.

As a part of the MAR process, the fire weather program has been restructured. The Daily Fire Weather Forecast now correlates with the "radar coverage area@ of the WSR 88-D Doppler Radar. Thus, the Daily Fire Weather Forecasts as well as the Fire Weather Watch and Red Flag Warning product are no longer bound by state political borders. Also, the forecastable zones areas now mirror the Political County and Independent City jurisdictions rather than the larger USDA Forest Service regional fire weather zones.

The following is a list of the USDA Forest Service Regional Zone Layouts, which fall with in Wakefield=s area:


Maryland North Carolina The following is a list of County and Independent City Jurisdictions which will fall within Wakefield=s area of responsibility after the transition.
County Zone # County Zone #
Accomack VAZ099 Lunenburg VAZ066
Amelia VAZ068 Mathews VAZ086
Brunswick VAZ079 Mecklenburg VAZ065
Caroline VAZ064 Middlesex VAZ085
Charles City VAZ082 New Kent VAZ083
Chesapeake VAZ097 Newport News VAZ094
Chesterfield VAZ070 Norfolk VAZ095
Colonial Heights VAZ070 Northampton VAZ100
Cumberland VAZ061 Northumberland VAZ077
Dinwiddie VAZ080 Nottoway VAZ067
Emporia VAZ087 Petersburg VAZ081
Essex VAZ074 Poquoson VAZ091
Fluvanna VAZ048 Portsmouth VAZ095
Franklin VAZ092 Powhatan VAZ069
Gloucester VAZ084 Prince Edward VAZ060
Goochland VAZ062 Prince George VAZ081
Greenville VAZ087 Richmond County VAZ076
Hampton VAZ094 Richmond (City) VAZ070
Hanover VAZ063 Southampton VAZ092
Henrico VAZ071 Suffolk VAZ096
Hopewell VAZ081 Surry VAZ089
Isle of Wight VAZ093 Sussex VAZ088
James City VAZ090 Virginia Beach VAZ098
King and Queen VAZ073 Westmoreland VAZ075
King William VAZ072 Williamsburg VAZ090
Lancaster VAZ078 York VAZ091
Louisa VAZ049    

North Carolina      
County Zone # County Zone #
Bertie NCZ030 Gates NCZ014
Camden NCZ016 Hertford NCZ013
Chowan NCZ031 Northampton NCZ012
Western Currituck NCZ017 Pasquotank NCZ015
Eastern Currituck NCZ102 Perquimans NCZ032

County Zone # County Zone #
Dorchester MDZ021 Wicomico MDZ022
Maryland Beaches MDZ025 Worcester MDZ024
Somerset MDZ023    

  Refer To APPENDIX_D for a Map Display of Wakefield County Zone Forecast Area.

The following is a list of the US Fish and Wildlife Refuges within NWS Wakefield’s forecast region:


The Daily Fire Weather forecast as well as spot forecasts are available year round for suppression and fire control. However during the spring and fall months, a heightened threat for a fire activity tends to occur. During these predetermined seasons, the user agencies may request an increased amount of fire weather forecast than during the off seasons. The user agencies have agreed upon the following as the fire weather seasons:

In Virginia and Maryland

    1. Spring Season: February 15 through May 15
    2. Fall Season: October 15 through December 15
In North Carolina
    1. Spring Season: March, April, May
    2. Fall Season: Late September through the 1st of December
Unless otherwise specified, forecasts are made to reflect the worst probable weather in terms of fire management, within the fire weather zone during a given time period. For instance, the daytime forecast will attempt to depict the hottest, driest, and windiest weather that is likely to be experienced in the wildland environment of a zone from 7 AM to 7 PM LST. On occasion, this may be different than the general public forecast, which emphasizes prevailing conditions during the forecast period and is often aimed at the more populated areas in a given region.

Though the routine forecast attempts to depict a worst case fire weather scenario for a given period, it in no way reflects all the local variations in weather that can have an adverse effect on fire behavior within a zone. Fire Control Officers should be familiar with typical weather variations across their district or forest, such as those associated with land versus sea interaction, changes in elevation, and vegetation. The impact of seabreezes or mountain/ valley winds should also be recognized. A spot forecast should be requested whenever local effects are suspected of creating difficult fire management conditions.

Red Flag conditions indicate a potential for severe fire danger. In Virginia, Fire Control Managers have determined that the greatest weather threat to operations is the passage of a dry cold front. Dry cold fronts typically cause lower humidity levels and produce shifting and increasing winds. Our users have agreed upon the following conditions for Red Flag Criteria: In Virginia 10 hour fuel moistures at or below 7% ** and Sustained winds of 35+ mph. or Sustained Surface winds of 25 mph with Relative humidity less than 30 %

**VICC will supply the Fuel Moisture information. Thus if critical meteorological conditions noted above are expected, a coordination call will be placed to the VICC (Virginia Interagency Coordination Center) before a watch or warning is issued.

In Maryland 10 hour fuel moistures at or below 10% *** and Sustained surface winds of 25 mph and Relative Humidity less than 30% ***Maryland DNR will supply the Fuel moisture information. When critical meteorological conditions highlighted above are expected, a coordination call will be placed to the Eastern Region Maryland DNR.

In North Carolina

Relative Humidity of 25 percent or less and Sustained Winds of 20 mph and/or gusts to 30 mph or greater and Critical Fuel moistures – 10 hour fuel moisture less than 10%

If the first two criteria are met, the fire weather forecaster will consult with either the US Forest Service in North Carolina or the NC Forest Service before issuing the watch or warning.

A Fire Weather Watch may be issued between 12 and 72 hours in advance of the expected onset of the conditions. A watch will remain in effect until the forecaster determines that either the Red Flag Event will not develop or that the Watch should be upgraded to a Warning.

A Red Flag Warning will be issued for impending Red Flag conditions or immediately when Red Flag conditions are occurring. The warning period is less than 24 hours. For North Carolina Zones the Red Flag Warning may or may not incorporate a Blow-Up alert (see below).

A Blow Up Alert will be issued by the North Carolina State Division of Forest Resources whenever existing high fire danger is coupled with specific meteorological conditions. Those conditions are the following: 1) sufficient fuels are available as denoted by a high Build –Up Index, 2) dangerous fine fuel moistures which are prompted by low relative humidities, 3) atmospheric instability, and 4) an adverse wind profile is observed or imminent.

A Blow-Up Alert underscores the potential for explosive fire conditions in all or part of the state. Once the alert has been issued it will remain in effect until one full day after the last adverse wind profile has been detected, precipitation occurs, or a significant change in the weather pattern occurs.

When a Red Flag Warning or Fire Weather Watch is issued, a headline will be placed in the Daily Fire Weather Forecast. In addition a Red Flag Warning/ Fire Weather Watch product will be issued (see below).

The Red Flag Warning/Fire Weather Watch (WBCRFWAKQ) product is the formal notification for the issuance of a Red Flag Warning or Fire Weather Watch. This product lists the zones included in the Watch and/or Warning as well as gives description of the timing and conditions which can be expected. This product will also be used to cancel a Watch or Warning. Refer toAPPENDIX_E for an example

Daily Fire Weather Forecast

The Daily Fire Weather Forecast is a general forecast, which is used for the day-to-day planning of land management operation, and for determining general weather trends that might impact fire behavior. The Daily Fire Weather Forecast provides a detailed prediction of elements for three specific time periods, a general 3 to 5 day forecast and a 6 to 10 day extended outlook for a zone. This forecast will cover the "Today", "Tonight", and "Tomorrow" period. The Today period covers from forecast issuance time until 7 PM LST. Tonight covers from 7 PM to 7 AM LST the following day. Tomorrow indicates from 7 AM to 7 PM LST the following day. Should an evening group be placed in the forecast, it will refer to the period from 5 PM to 10 PM LST. This forecast is issued once a day, NLT 630 AM.

Weather Parameters included in the Daily Fire Weather Forecast

Tonight period – minimum temperature forecast

Today/Tomorrow period – maximum temperature forecast

Tonight period – maximum relative humidity forecast

Today/Tomorrow period – minimum relative humidity forecast

Note: The lowest average humidity typically occurs during the warmest part of the day. However if it is expected to occur at a different time of day, this will be noted in the "Remarks" portion of the forecast.
National Standard Values of: 2 or 3 indicate a very low potential for fire growth

4 Indicates a low potential

5 Indicates a moderate potential

6 Indicates a high potential for large fire growth.

* On the National Level, Haines Index values of 5 or 6 can serve as an alert that wildfires or prescribed burns may get out of control. However, regional studies have shown that for some areas, like North Carolina, a Haines Index of 4 represents a high potential for wildfire.

A Smoke dispersion outlook will also be included in the Tonight Forecast for North Carolina Zones. See APPENDIX_F2 for the Nighttime Dispersion Categories.

Note: When widespread precipitation and high relative humidities are expected to occur during the forecast period, no dispersion forecasts will be issued for that period.

During the spring season, on days in which fire activity is expected to be at or above normal, an analysis of the wind will be included in the Daily Fire Weather Forecast. This analysis will state whether the profile is Favorable, Questionable, or Unfavorable for fire control. Refer to APPENDIX_G2 for Definitions of the Wind profiles. If unfavorable, a profile type from APPENDIX_G1 will be used to describe the wind profile along with detailed information on maximum wind speed, direction, and height AGL. Headlines and special Fire Weather Updates may also be used to highlight this phenomenon. If Questionable, additional analysis will be done and a forecast update message will be sent when it is determined whether the profile is Favorable or Unfavorable. This will usually be within one to two hours of the forecast issuance time.
Format Of the Daily Fire Weather Forecast

The Daily Fire Weather Forecast is in a tabular layout that follows the general format listed below:

    1. Headline – This will highlight Red Flag Warning/Fire Weather Watch or emphasize a significant event or change.
    2. Synopsis – This is a brief description of weather systems affecting the area through the forecast period. The movement of significant weather features, such as strong, dry cold fronts will be highlighted in this section.
    3. General Forecast broken into county/independent city groupings. This will begin with a headline if a Red Fag Warning or Fire Weather Watch are in effect. Forecast parameters included are the following: cloud amount, precipitation type, temperature, wind direction, wind speed, precipitation amount, precipitation duration, lightning frequency, relative humidity, mixing heights, haines index, transport wind speed, transport wind direction, dispersion index, dispersion descriptor, ventilation, dew point, burn category, burn-off temperature and adverse winds.
    4. Three to Five day forecast
    5. Six to Ten day outlook
See APPENDIX_H.1 for an example. Update Criteria for the Daily Forecast

The Fire Weather Forecaster will maintain a weather watch to ensure that the forecast remains accurate. When unexpected changes occur or are forecast to occur which significantly deviate from the previous forecast, the forecast will be updated. The decision to update, to an extent, is at forecaster discretion. However for the critical elements of relative humidity, wind velocity and wind profile, the forecast will be updated by the following guidelines.

Relative Humidity
Wind Velocity Wind Profile (North Carolina Zones Only) – If a Questionable wind profile is forecast, an update will be issued once the actual profile can be reevaluated for a Favorable or Unfavorable profile. This may be done using the Doppler 88-D wind information or the 12Z soundings. Other elements that the forecaster may update include: timing of the cold front, passage of a squall line, probability of precipitation and accumulation amount.

If an update is needed, for Virginia counties, the forecaster will call VICC and in North Carolina, NC Forest Service.

Spot Forecasts

Spot Forecasts are special, non-routine forecasts prepared upon request from user agencies that need site-specific forecasts for: 1) controlling the spread of wildfire; 2) planning and managing prescribed fires; or 3) other specialized forest management activities.

Spot Forecast for wildfires and other emergency situations affecting life or property are available 24 hours a day from any requesting agency whether locally, state or federally funded, while Spot Forecasts for prescribed burns are only available to federally funded agencies. The response time for a prescribed burn spot forecast may be delayed due to higher priority duties of the NWS forecaster. In addition to any or all of the forecast parameters listed in the Daily Fire Weather Forecast Product, the Spot Forecast may include inversion height, inversion onset and burn-off times as well as wind profile information.

Requesting a Spot Forecast

In order to provide a more accurate and useful Spot Forecast, timely weather observations from the site MUST be given to the forecaster. At the minimum, the observation from the fire site should include temperature, humidity or wet bulb temperature, and wind speed and direction (one-minute average). Wind measurements are assumed to be at eye-level using a hand held anemometer unless otherwise indicated. The Fire Weather Spot Forecast Request Form, WS Form D-1, indicates the necessary weather information. See APPENDIX_I for a copy of this form. The actual Spot Forecast request can be made either by calling the NWS or faxing the WS D-1 to the NWS. If the Fax method is used, a call should still be made to the NWS alerting the forecast staff of the incoming request.

For fires involving thousands of acres, observations should be taken from more than one site. This will enable the forecaster to better determine the effects of the fire on local weather patterns. For prescribed burns, a weather observation should be taken and sent to the forecaster about two hours before ignition. Another observation should be taken during the fire and relayed to the NWS so that the forecaster can ensure that the forecast is still reasonable. This second observation may be transmitted to the NWS on the WS D-1 form or simply relayed by phone.

The fire location and estimated size of the project MUST be included with your Spot Forecast request. Estimate the location by direction and range from well-known points in the area. It is of the utmost importance for the forecaster to know the location of the fire site relative to the significant geographical features (the Atlantic Coast, a river, etc.) Also, include a contact name as well as the phone number.

If weather conditions develop that are not forecast and threaten the success of operations at the fire, notify the forecaster immediately. Furthermore, any feedback concerning the accuracy of the Spot Forecast (positive or negative) will assist the forecaster in subsequent forecasts for the same or similar locations.

Public Zone Forecasts (ZFP)

Forecasts for sky condition, temperatures, winds and precipitation are prepared for the general public and are grouped by county jurisdictions. For the most part, the forecasts in the public zones will be similar to the information in the Daily Fire Weather Forecast. The public zone forecast includes a detailed 48-hour forecast and a more general 3 to 5 day forecast.

Special Weather Statements (SPS)

Special Weather Statements are focused for the public interests; however fire weather users may find the information presented in this product useful for planning purposes. Special Weather Statements discuss significant weather events that are occurring or are expected to occur during the forecast period. These statements can provide more detail about various types of weather as well as any watches or advisories that may significantly impact fire weather operations. The issuance of a Special Weather Statement is at the forecaster’s discretion.

Wind Advisory and High Wind Warning (NPW)

When windy conditions are expected in the absence of convective weather, a Wind Advisory or High Wind Warning will be issued. These products are also geared for the public, but the conditions forecasted will still have an impact on fire weather operations. Typically, the conditions that warrant the issuance of either one of these products occurs during the winter and spring months, after a passage of a strong cold front.

A Wind Advisory is issued when sustained wind speeds of 31 to 39 mph (27 to 34 knots) are expected to occur for longer than an hour, or when wind gusts between 46 and 57 mph (40 to 49 knots) are forecasted for any duration.

A High Wind Warning is issued when sustained wind speeds of 40 mph (35 knots) or greater are expected for a duration of an hour or more, or for winds of 58 mph (50 knots) of any duration.

Short Term Forecasts (NOW)

Short Term Forecasts are issued by the NWS as needed. These brief forecasts give more detail to the public zone forecast, such as the location and movement of a thunderstorm.

Public Information Statement (PNS)

This product can be used to heighten the public’s awareness of an upcoming weather event.

As per agreement between the NWS Wakefield and the VICC (Virginia Interagency Coordination Center), if during a prolonged dry period, conditions warrant the need to heighten the public’s awareness for fire danger, NWS Wakefield will issue a PNS highlighting the area of concern and recommended precautions. This statement will only be issued at the request of VICC.

Special meteorological services are those requiring a meteorologist to be away from the Forecast Office and /or in non-emergency situations, to be on overtime. Special services include the Advanced Meteorological Unit Transportable Mobile Unit (ATMU) and an Incident Meteorologist (IMET) as well as other on-site meteorological services, such as weather observer training, weather station visitations and training requested by other user agencies.

User agencies are responsible for paying overtime, travel and per diem cost for special services. Costs to be recovered from the user are calculated on the basis of expense reports submitted by the Forecast Office to NWS Eastern Region Headquarters. Billing of the user agencies is handled by the appropriate NWS administrative division based on the expense report. Bills include a statement of services rendered, as well as the dates and locations of services provided.

Costs for special services pertaining to interagency training (i.e. ATMU) should be handled by cooperative agreement among the agencies involved with the specific training objective.

Air Transportable Mobile Unit

The ATMU is a modularized, mobile system of equipment used by an IMET for data collection and product preparation. The ATMU is a national resource. Twenty-five ATMU’s are cached across the country, mainly in the Western US. The CASHE site that supports North Carolina and Virginia is in London, KY, where 2 ATMU units are maintained. The CASHE site in Grand Rapids, MI supports Maryland. The ATMU is available upon request for duty at an incident fire, a critical prescribed burn, or other weather-sensitive incident in Virginia, Maryland or North Carolina.

Each ATMU consists of two (2) modules. The first module contains a theodolite with tripod and a calculator for determining the winds aloft, 2 belt weather kits, weather balloons, a nozzle and regulator for a helium tank, office supplies and miscellaneous expendables. It is 27.6 cubic feet and weighs 201 pounds. The second module, know as the computer module, contains a laptop computer with a satellite docking station and satellite dish for downlinking weather data and a printer. It is 5 cubic feet and weighs 55 pounds. A separate module, the microREMS, is a self-contained portable weather station with instruments for measuring temperature, dew point and wind. It is powered by a solar panel and battery. It is 8.2 cubic feet and weighs 125 pounds.

For Agencies in North Carolina and Virginia, requests for an ATMU, microREMS, and IMET should be made through the US Forest Service Region 8 Dispatch. For Maryland Users, the Requests should be routed through the US Forest Service Region 9. The Fire Weather Program Leader or the Meteorologist-in-Charge at the Wakefield Forecast Office should be made aware of the need for these services. Typically, an IMET nearest to the incident will be deployed. (Note: Presently, the Wakefield Office does not have a certified IMET on site. Thus, the IMET would likely come from one of the surrounding offices. The USDA FS Regions should have a list of available and certified IMET’s.) Also, during times of limited resources, the IMET may come from another area of the country.

Individuals making the requests should provide the following information:

    1. Name of the fire or incident
    2. Location of the fire or incident
    3. Directions to the place where the meteorologist is to report
    4. Name of the Incident Commander(IC) and the Fire Behavior Analysts (FBA) or Planning Section Chief (PSC)
The requesting agency is responsible for coordinating transportation of the ATMU and meteorologist to and from the incident. The requesting agency is also responsible for any storage of the unit while in transit, shelter for the IMET and unit at the site, provisions for priority telephone access during certain short periods each day, 120V AC electrical power, and making space for the helium tank. A sheltered work area must be provided and be protected from excessive dust, and heated or cooled sufficiently to allow the equipment to function effectively. The area needed is approximately 50 square feet in size and must be free from standing water or condensation. A chair and table are also required.

Upon arrival at the incident, the IMET meteorologist will:

    1. Based on information from the initial contact with the Forecast Office, brief the FBA, PSC and IC on the current and expected weather as it pertains to the fire.
    2. Establish a schedule with the IC and FBA for written forecasts and formal briefings.
    3. Request a briefing of the fire situation and potential behavior problems from the FBA. As time and resources permit, incident management should arrange for an areal inspection trip for the meteorologist, and should make sure current fireline maps are provided to him/her. If possible, the meteorologist should be assigned a radio with a fireline frequency.
    4. In cooperation with the FBA and PSC, the meteorologist will arrange for a schedule of observations from key points around the fire and from nearby lookouts and fire danger rating stations. On large incident fires, and some personnel (at least two) should be permanently assigned to this duty. On smaller fires, this information is provided by Division supervisors equipped with belt weather kits.
Fire Weather Training

NWS Fire Weather Meteorologists are available to assist fire control agencies with training at fire behavior school and other weather related courses. Travel costs and any necessary overtime are paid for by the User agency. Requests for assistance should be forwarded to the Meteorologist–in–Charge at the NWS Wakefield Forecast Office by written letter.

Other Special Services

Other Special Services include weather station visitations requested by user agencies, weather observer training, and course development work. These activities would typically be conducted at user agency facilities.

Fire Weather Observation Stations

Fire weather observation stations provide specialized weather observations for fire weather forecasts, wildfire control suppression, and various other land management operations. These stations may be either manned sites operated by fire control agencies, or unmanned stations such as RAWS (Remote Automatic Weather Station). All observation stations are assigned a 6-digit identifier. The first two digits indicate the state (10 for Maryland, 44 for Virginia and 31 for North Carolina.) The second two indicate the county where the station is located. The last two digits are assigned consecutively with each new station that comes online. The NWS Wakefield Fire Weather Program Leader should be contacted for assignment of the 6-digit identification number to stations within Wakefield’s forecast area. Observation times are normally 1300 EST (1400 EDT) for manned sites.

Quality Control, Inspection and Training

The Fire Weather Program is a cooperative effort between the National Weather Service and federal, state, local, and private control interests involved in the management of timber and grassland. Wildfires pose a serious threat to these lands. Accurate and timely weather information is one of the most important tools available to the land manager.

Observations are the most important single effort the control agencies put into the Fire Weather Program. Potential fire danger is derived from these observations. The Fire Danger Rating System is the guidance tool that, together with the weather forecast, is used to make a variety of management decisions. It is important that observers be well trained and informed of the necessity for accurate, timely, and representative observations. The fire control agencies are responsible for training, inspection, and quality control of observational sites and data at their stations. The NWS Fire Weather Meteorologist will assist when requested and when resources are available.

Transmission of Fire Weather Observations

Fire control agencies should transmit their Fire Weather Observations as soon as possible using normal communications links. For the US Forest Service, National Park Service and the US Fish and Wildlife Service, transmission is usually done via WIMS (Weather Information Management System). The North Carolina State Division of Forest Resources normally transmits the observation via a IBM-PC network. The Maryland Department of Natural Resources uses an FTS network to access the observations.

Fire Weather Station Supplies and Equipment Maintenance

Anemometer oil, hygrothermograph charts, psychometric wicking, ink, and other supplies needed for taking observations should be provided by the fire control agency. The National Weather Service can furnish selected forms and relative humidity tables.

The fire control agency is responsible for providing normal periodic maintenance of all equipment at their fire weather stations.

Severe Weather Reports

Severe weather reports are extremely important and helpful to forecasters at the National Weather Service. Our most important responsibility is to warn the public of impending weather hazards. Very little information is available from remote locations in Maryland, North Carolina, and Virginia. Typically, these areas coincide with the areas of concern by land management and fire control agencies.

If severe weather is occurring, please relay the information immediately to the National Weather Service forecasters so they can promptly warn the general public. Call in reports toll free to the Wakefield Forecast Office at 1-800-737-8624. This number is unlisted and for severe weather reporting only.

The National Service will gladly provide free training about severe weather to individuals interested in helping us with this task. The group of people the NWS trains to report severe weather is known as SKYWARN.

What to report:
If damage is discovered a couple of days after the storm, the information is still need for verification purposes and for "Storm Data," a publication issued by the NWS which keeps a historical record by state of severe weather occurrences. The information also allows the forecaster to assess previous storms and improve detection probability and forecast techniques for future events. The states of North Carolina and Virginia use WIMS (Weather Information Management System) as their primary means for transmitting observations and receiving fire weather information. The routine fire weather forecast is transmitted by the National Weather Service via AWIPS (Advanced Weather Information Processing System) through a WAN (Wide Area Network). This is nationally routed into WIMS via this gateway.

Fire Weather Forecast Users in Maryland use the Internet as their primary mode to receive the forecast while North Carolina and Virginia users use this as a secondary means of receiving the forecast. The Wakefield homepage has links to the Daily Fire Weather Forecasts as well as the Fire Weather Watch/Red Flag Warning Product from the Wakefield, Raleigh, Blacksburg, Morehead City, Sterling, and Mount Holly offices. In addition to the Daily Fire Weather Forecast, the website also has links to various drought indices as well as other Fire Weather related sites.

If the forecasts are unavailable via the WIMS network as well as through Internet, the forecast may be faxed or e-mailed to predetermined distributing agencies. In Virginia the information will be funneled to VICC while in North Carolina either US Forest Service or the NC Forest Service, and the Maryland DNR for Maryland users.

Spot forecast information will be disseminated only to the requesting agency by means of a FAX or telephone.

  1. National Agreement For Meteorological Services Of Agencies With Land Management and Fire Protection Responsibilities.
  2. Federal Register
  3. Surrounding Office’s Contact Information
  4. Wakefield County Zone Map
  5. Example of a Red Flag Warning (RFW)
  6. Elements in the Daily Fire Weather Forecast
    1. Daytime Burn Categories
    2. Nighttime Smoke Dispersion Outlook
    3. LAL Tables
    4. Burn Categories V’s Ventilation Index
    5. Interpretation of Dispersion Index Values
G. Wind Profile Information
    1. Adverse Wind Profiles
    2. Wind Profile Analysis Definitions
H. Example of The Daily Fire Weather Forecast

I. Example of the WS D-1 (Spot Forecast)

J. Signatory Page


March 1983














A. National Weather Service 1. Basic meteorological services

2. Fire weather training

3. Special meteorological services

B. User Agencies 1. Fire-management computer systems

2. Fire weather observations

3. On-site meteorological support

4. Training

5. Other special services

C. Joint Responsibilities








This National Agreement is between the National Weather Service (NWS) and agencies with land management and fire management responsibilities signatory to this agreement. They are referred to in this agreement as "NWS" and "USER AGENCIES," respectively.

The User Agencies are responsible for the maintenance, improvements, and protection of the wild lands of, owned or held in trust by, the United States. Accurate and timely weather information is required to manage effectively and efficiently this valuable national resource. The NWS has the expertise, organization, and legal charter to satisfy this need nationally. It is with this knowledge that this Agreement is entered into. Its purpose is to combine resources so as to best serve the needs of the public and to fulfill the obligations of the respective agencies.

II. AUTHORITY This agreement is authorized under the Economy Act,31 U.S.C. 686; 15 U.S.C. 313; and 49 U.S.C. 1463; and the Cooperative Forestry Assistance Act 16 U.S.C. 2101, et. sec. III. OBJECTIVES The objectives of this Agreement are to identify meteorological services to be provided, establish the interagency relationships, and define financial and other obligations of the NWS and User Agencies. IV. RESPONSIBILITIES A. National Weather Service Basic meteorological services will be provided during normal working hours in accordance with Operating Plans for designated NWS offices to the extent of NWS fire weather resources. NWS regional headquarters will identify to the User Agency headquarters a list of the designated NWS fire weather offices on an annual basis. These services will be made available without cost and may include: a. Routine daily fire weather forecasts

b. Outlooks and discussions

c. Weather observations

d. Red flag forecasts

e. Spot forecasts

f. Prescribed burn forecasts

g. Smoke management forecasts and information

h. Consultation and technical advice

i. Amendments/updates.

2. Fire weather training The NWS recognizes the need for training in fire weather meteorology for NWS forecasters. To the extent of available resources, the NWS will meet this need. 3. Special meteorological services These services will be provided by designated NWS offices on a reimbursable basis as stated in Section IV B. a. Weather observer training

b. Weather observation station visitations

c. Participation in User Agency training activities

(1) Course development carried out at User Agency facilities

(2) Classroom training

d. On-site meteorological service

e. Other special services.

B. User Agencies The following services and resources will be provided by User Agencies: 1. Fire-management computer systems Where existing fire management computer systems are locally available, access to the systems will be provided. 2. Fire weather observations a. Provide daily surface weather observations and enter data into fire-management computer systems.

b. Provide all equipment, equipment maintenance, and inspection of weather-observing sites.

c. Meet all travel and per diem costs associated with User Agencies' requests for visits of NWS personnel to weather-observing sites.

d. Provide for collection of remote automatic weather systems data and entry into the fire-management computer system.

e. Provide observations for site-specific and other special forecasts.

3. On-site meteorological support
a. Meet costs directly associated with on-site meteorological support by NWS personnel. This includes costs incurred by the backup NWS office.

b. Provide logistical and weather observation support to NWS personnel at on-site operations.

c. Provide access to telecommunication services where available.

4. Training a. Meet per diem and travel costs for NWS personnel participating in the conduct of User Agency training.

b. Provide technical assistance, instruction, and supporting material for NWS-sponsored fire weather training sessions.

5. Other special services User Agencies will provide logistics support and meet all overtime, travel, and per diem costs of NWS personnel associated with the provision of all other special services.
C. Joint Responsibilities NWS and User Agencies shall prepare an annual Operating Plan for individual fire weather office areas of responsibility. This plan will identify the basic. weather services covered under Section IV.
V. PROCEDURES FOR REQUESTING SERVICES Procedures for ordering services will be specified in Operating Plans for each NWS fire weather office. VI. BILLING PROCEDURES Costs to be recovered from User Agencies will be calculated on the basis of expense reports submitted to NWS regional headquarters by field personnel. Copies of expense reports will be forwarded to appropriate User-Agencies by NWS regional headquarters. This procedure will enable agencies to accurately determine costs to be reimbursed during a given fiscal year. Billing of User Agencies will be accomplished by NWS regional submission of appropriate expense reports to the NOAA Reimbursable Division. Bills will include a statement of service rendered, dates it was provided, and location where provided.

All questions relating to billing procedure, charges, current costs, and individual expense reports should be directed to the appropriate NWS regional contact or the NWS Technical Monitor.

Upon written notice, the terms of this Agreement are subject to amendment at any time by mutual agreement of the parties.

The signatory agencies agree to consider expansion of this Agreement to cover areas of mutual concern, e.g., changing technology and improved procedures, as opportunities for such cooperation become available.

VIII. TERMS OF NATIONAL AGREEMENT A. The terms of this Agreement shall become effective upon execution by NWS and any or all User Agencies and shall remain in effect until such times as the Agreement is terminated by mutual agreement. Any agency may withdraw at any time by ninety (90) days written notice to all parties.

B. This Agreement does not constitute a financial obligation for any party in excess of appropriations authorized by law and administratively allocated for the purposes intended.

IX. TECHNICAL MONITOR FOR NWS The NWS Technical Monitor for this Agreement shall be:

Fire Weather Program Leader (W/OM12)National Weather Service1325 East West Highway, SSMC 2 Silver Spring, Maryland 20910

X. SIGNATORY PAGE A. National Weather Service /s/ Elbert W. Friday. Jr.

National Weather Service

Date: 5/5/83

    1. User Agencies

/s/ Gary E. Cargill

U.S. Forest Service

Date: MAY 20,1983


/s/ Arnold E. Petty

Bureau of Land Management

Date: May 27, 1983

  /s/ Russell E. Dickenson

National Park Service

Date: 6-8-83

/s/ Sidnev L. Mills

Bureau of Indian Affairs

Date: 6-29-83

Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary (Operations)

/s/ F. Eugene Hester

U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Date: 6-22-83

When the following terms are used in this Agreement or in an operating plan, such terms will have the meanings stated h" 1 nw

A. Fire Weather Office Operating Plan

A procedural guide which describes the services provided within the area of a fire weather office's responsibility. B. Basic Meteorological Services Basic meteorological services are those state-of-the-science meteorological forecasts, warnings, observations, and statements produced in a designated NWS fire weather office during normal working hours. C. Fire Weather District A fire weather district is the area of routine service responsibility as defined by the NWS. This area is usually defined by climatological factors, but may be modified somewhat to the administrative boundaries of the User Agencies. D. Normal Working Hours Normal working hours are defined in the Operating Plan, but usually cover 8-hour workdays, Monday through Friday, except during fire season when the normal hours cover 7 days a week. E. Prescribed Fire Prescribed fire is a fire burning in wildland fuels according to a planned prescription and confined within planned boundaries for the purpose of achieving specific objectives of resource management. (Prescribed burning is the practice of prescribed fire use.) F. Red Flag Red flag is a program which highlights the onset of critical weather conditions conducive to extensive wildfire occurrences. G. Special Meteorological Services Meteorological services uniquely required by User Agencies which cannot be provided at a designated NWS fire weather office during normal working hours. H. Spot Forecasts Spot forecasts are site-specific weather forecasts. They are issued upon request of User Agencies for wildfires, prescribed burns, or special projects. I. On-Site
That special service which dedicates a fire weather forecaster to a wildfire, prescribed fire, or special project such that the fire weather forecaster is removed from providing basic services at his/her assigned fire weather office. WSOM Issuance91-11 8-22-91

Federal Register




Surrounding National Weather Service Offices

1) Sterling, VA

Meteorologist In Charge – Jim Travers
Warning Coordination Meteorologist – Barbara Watson
Fire Weather Program Leader – Christopher Strong
Address: National Weather Service
  44087 Weather Service Rd.
  Sterling, VA 20166 – 2001
Phone # (703) 260-0106

Fax # (703) 260-0809

2) Blacksburg, VA

Meteorologist in Charge – John Wright
Warning Coordination Meteorologist – Mike Emlaw
Fire Weather Program Leader - Heath Hockenberry
Address: National Weather Service
  1750 Forecast Dr. 
  Blacksburg, VA 24060 
Phone # (540) 552-0084

Fax # (540) 552-1650

3) Mt. Holly, NJ

Meteorologist in Charge- Gary Szatkowski
Warning Coordination Meteorologist – Joe Miketta
Fire Weather Program Leader - Robert Stauber
Address: National Weather Service
  732 Woodlane Rd.
  Mt. Holly, NJ 08060
Phone # (609) 261-6603

Fax # (609) 261-6614

4) Raleigh, NC

Meteorologist in Charge – Stephen Harned
Warning Coordination Meteorologist – George Lemons
Fire Weather Program Leader – Phillip Badgett
Address: National Weather Service
  1005 Capability Dr.
  Research Building III, Suite 300
  Raleigh, NC 27606
Phone # (919) 515-8203

Fax # (919) 515-8213

5) Morehead City, NC

Meteorologist in Charge – Thomas Kriehn
Warning Coordination Meteorologist – Jeff Orrock
Fire Weather Program Leader – Jim Merrell

Address: National Weather Service
  53 Roberts Rd.
  Newport, NC 28570
Phone # (252) 223-2328

Fax # (252) 223-6123

The numbers listed above are unlisted and are for official business only. Thus do not give them out.

Wakefield VA Zone area (highlighted in green)



Red Flag Warning



  1. Daytime Burn Category Forecasts
  2. Category Weather Event Recommendation
    Low level temperature inversion and stagnant air the entire day. No burning
    Inversion until early afternoon and very light transport wind Mid afternoon burning only.

    Inversion burn-off temperature will be given.

    Inversion until late morning. Light transport wind.  Daytime burning only, but not until 
    Little or no inversion. Moderate transport wind. Burning anytime.
    No inversions. Strong gusty transport wind.  Burning with caution. Good smoke dispersion but adverse fire behavior.
  3. Smoke Dispersion Outlook (Tonight Period)
  4. Forecast Weather Event Recommendation
    Stagnant Low level temperature inversion and

    Stagnant air at night.

    No burning.
    Very Poor Rapid inversion set-up at sunset

    and very light or calm wind.

    Terminate burning in late afternoon

    to allow smoke dispersal before sunset.

    Poor Gradual inversion set-up overnight.

    Light wind.

    Terminate burning around dusk or 

    shortly after sunset.

    Fair Weak or no inversion set-up overnight.

    Light to moderate wind.

    Burning anytime.
    Good No inversion. Moderate to strong and

    gusty wind.

    Burn with caution.

    Possible adverse fire behavior.

  5. LAL Tables


    LAL Cloud and Storm Development

    Individual Storm Cell – Cloud to Ground Lightning Discharge

    cg/5 min cg/15 min (cg/min) coverage 

    1 No thunderstorms        
    2 Cumulus clouds are common but only a few reach the towering cumulus stage. A single thunderstorm must be confirmed in the rating area. The clouds mostly produce virga, but light rain will occasionally reach the ground. Lightning is very infrequent.
    3 Cumulus clouds are common. Swelling and towering cumulus cover less than 2/10 of the sky. Thunderstorms are few, but two to three must occur within the observation area. Light to moderate rain will reach the ground, and lightning is infrequent.
    4 Swelling cumulus and towering cumulus cover 2 – 3/10 of the sky. Thunderstorms are scattered, but more than three must occur within the observation area. Moderate rain is commonly produced, and lightning is frequent.
    5 Towering cumulus and thunderstorms are numerous. They cover more than 3/10 and occasionally obscure the sky. Rain is moderate to heavy, and lightning is frequent and intense. 
    6 Same as #3 but dry (little or no rain Reaches the ground).        
  7. Burn Category V’s Ventilation Index
  8. Category Afternoon Ventilation (FT – KTS)
    28500 or less
    28500 – 38000
    38000 – 51000
    51000 – 95000
    95000 or more


  9. Interpretation of Dispersion Index Values
Dispersion Index Interpretation
Greater than 100
Very Good; may indirectly indicate hazardous conditions; check fire weather
61 – 100
Good; typical burning weather parameters are in this range
41 – 60
Generally good; climatological afternoon values in most inland forested areas of the U.S. fall in this range
21 – 40
Fair; stagnation may be indicated if accompanied by persistent low wind speeds
13 – 20
Generally poor; stagnation if value persists during day; better than average for a night value
7 – 12
Poor; stagnant during the day but near or above average at night
1 – 6
Very poor; very frequent at night; represents the majority of nights in many locations



1. Graphical Depiction of Adverse Wind Profiles

2. Wind Profile Analysis Definitions

Favorable Profile - A Favorable Profile is defined by Wind Speed increasing with height; or, a wind speed maximum (jet) existing above 3000ft AGL; or wind speed is less than 10 kts with little (4kts or less) change in speed between consecutive levels.

Questionable ProfileA Questionable Profile is defined by Wind speed greater than 10 kts at all or most levels with little (4kts or less) change in speed between consecutive levels; or a wind speed maximum (jet point) exists at 2000 to 3000ft AGL.

Unfavorable ProfileAn Unfavorable Profile exists when a Wind speed maximum exists within 2000 ft AGL with speed decreasing by 5 kts or more aloft (from max to min). If the 5kt threshold is not met, the profile can still be listed as unfavorable if it is certain that the wind speed maximum is not a result of air jetting at the top of a diurnal inversion.


Example of the Daily Fire Weather Forecast



Example Of The WS D-1



Signatory Page

Virginia Interagency Coordination Center (VICC)


US Department of Forestry


Virginia Department of Forestry


US Fish and Wildlife Service


North Carolina Department of Forest Service


US Department of Defense


Maryland Department of Natural Resources