I had previously blogged on the National Predictive Services fire behavior outlook for the Southeastern U.S. and that they could expect higher than normal fire activity due to long term drought and a shift from La Nina to El Nino this year. You have also heard us say that fire seasons are lasting longer and large fires are not just in the West. Well, all of those things have come true this fall and according to a Fox News source, an estimated 41.6 million people in parts of 15 Southern states are living within this zone.
The Southeast has experienced record numbers of fires with large acreage totals. The Chimney Tops 2 fire in Tennessee burned more than 17,000 acres, lost over 2,000 structures and cost 14 lives, according to the National Interagency Fire Center, (NIFC). Most of these fires are human caused with some being determined to be caused by arson.
In a reverse of the usual fire season mobilization, crews, engines and aircraft from the West have been heading to the Southeast to assist. While nationally, we are at Preparedness Level 1 (lowest), the Southern Area Coordination Center is at Preparedness level 5 (highest), meaning resources are being deployed nationally to assist and NIFC is managing the region as a national priority.
The majority of the fires are clumped in the Appalachian corridor affecting Kentucky, Tennessee, North Carolina and Georgia. Other fires are burning in Virginia, Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Arkansas and South Carolina.
NFPA’s Firewise Communities/USA program has been fulfilling requests from the states affected to provide Firewise materials to assist regional prevention teams in their efforts to help residents reduce their risk from these wildfires.
Currently, Predictive Services does not show a significant improvement in the fire behavior outlook for the Southeast Region until January.
(photo credit: National Interagency Fire Center)