Making Sense of the Fire Alert System

Have you ever wondered what a *RED FLAG WARNING* is or what the fire alert system means?  This will answer your questions.

Texoma is no stranger to wildfire danger.  In fact in April 2011 wildfires that started near Bacon Switch Road moved into Wichita Falls and burned homes and threatened apartment buildings along Missile Road.  That same year large areas of Possum Kingdom as well as Cottle and King Counties burned from wildfires.

The National Weather Service (NWS) has a system of alerts to notify the public, specifically emergency service organizations about the fire danger.  This helps the public as well as the aforementioned organizations to be prepared for an active fire weather day.

Here is how the NWS fire alert system breaks down:

*FIRE WEATHER WATCH*:  This is the lowest form of fire danger alert and indicates that within 24-48 hours the atmospheric dynamics will be conducive to creating hazardous fire weather risks.  These atmospheric conditions include; low humidity (usually under 20%), high winds (often 30 mph or greater sustained) and seasonably high temperatures.  The temperature requirement all depends on the season.  The temperature must be warm for the season it occurs in.  For example in January temperatures near or above 70 are considered unusually warm, whereas temperatures in July would need to be 110+ to be considered abnormally warm.  During a Fire Weather Watch you should plan to refrain from doing anything that could create sparks such as cooking outside, welding and smoking.

*RED FLAG WARNING*:  This is the second highest form of alert for fire danger in Texoma.  It is often issued for a period of 6-12 hours and indicates that atmospheric conditions WILL be conducive for the development and rapid spread of out of control wildfires through the warning area.  See the list of conditions above under Fire Weather Watch.  During a Red Flag Warning you should never weld outside, park on the side of the road (as tail pipes can cause the dead brush to catch on fire) or smoke outside.

*FIRE WARNING*:  This is the final and most alarming fire weather alert issued by the NWS.  This indicates that a fire is happening and is out of control.  During these events the NWS in cooperation with local emergency management offices will declare a Fire Warning with instructions on how to evacuate the area.  Most evacuation orders will include instructions on which direction to head to to avoid the fire.  Because evacuation orders include the recommended evacuation direction it is critically important that you know what directions your apartment complex and or home area exits go.  For instance you might be advised to evacuate south, you will need to know what direction is south that leaves your living area.  A Fire Warning remains in effect until the local emergency management officials along with the NWS agree that it is no longer needed.  Most likely the Fire Warning is discontinued when the fire has reached a certain amount of containment.  Remember to stay calm and follow emergency management and local authorities directions to help save your life.

For more information on weather events and forecasts in Texoma go to this link:

KFDX Meteorologist Bryan Rupp.

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