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What is fire weather? NWS forecaster explains

By Mary Hightower
U of A System Division of Agriculture 


Fast facts:

    • Normal fire season for Arkansas is December-February
    • Winds, fuel, humidity all factors in fire weather watch

(230 words)

(Newsrooms: With mainbar 1019Ark-Wildfires)

NORTH LITTLE ROCK, Ark.  – As drought intensifies in Arkansas and the wildfire danger increases, the phrases “fire weather watch” and “red flag warning” have become frequent parts of the weekend’s forecast.

 The National Weather Service at Little Rock had issued a fire weather watch for Saturday and Sunday.

Joseph Goudsward, senior forecaster/incident meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Little Rock, said Sunday that fire weather means “weather that would lead to large fire growth and a containment problem.”

For a fire weather watch to go into effect, forecasters look at:

    • Wind speeds - Sustained winds of 14 miles per hour or more occurring 20 feet off the ground
    • Humidity levels - Humidity levels of 25 percent or less
    • Fuel – 10-hour fuels – that’s fuel that can get wet and dry out enough to burn within 10 hours.

The 10-hour fuels include “the finer fuels that carry surface fire, like grasses and shrubs,” Goudsward said. “All of that goes into the equation. You have to have all three to go into fire weather condition.”

The more intense phase is a red flag warning.

“If it looks like they’re coming together or are expected to occur, then we’ll issue a red flag warning,” he said.

To learn more about weather, visit the National Weather Service online at To learn more about managing under drought conditions contact your county extension office, or visit

 The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture offers all its Extension and Research programs and services without regard to race, color, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin, religion, age, disability, marital or veteran status, genetic information, or any other legally protected status, and is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer.

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Media Contact: Mary Hightower
Dir. of Communication Services
U of A Division of Agriculture
Cooperative Extension Service
(501) 671-2126

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