Saturday, August 16, 2014

Saturday, August 16, 2014 - Klamath National Forest Fires


Smoke Impact Summary – Klamath NF, August 16th, 2014

Prepared by Gary Curcio & Andrea Nick (USDA-FS Northern Region)

The statements below are those of the authors and do not represent official USFS announcements, views, or policy. They are meant as a discussion/summary of dispersion models, collected air monitor observations and forecast data. All monitored data presented is preliminary and has not been quality assured.


A) Key Points for consideration:

·         In the last 12 hours as of 5:30 am August 16th, there were “New & Significant” heat signatures detected by MODIS satellite specifically for Happy Complex and Whites Fires on the Klamath, NF. Finer resolution of the Infra-Red Flights recorded areas of intense heat for Happy Complex, Coffee & Whites Fires. The Happy Camp Complex, specifically the Falkstein, Frying Pan, & Kemper Fires over potential for fire perimeter growth & therefore increase smoke production. All other fires still showed scattered heat &/or isolated heat.

·         The Infra-Red Flight assessed acreage heat growth as follows: Happy Camp ~942 ac., Whites ~964 ac., Log ~8 ac., & Coffee 10 ac. Also the fire west of Log Fire is the Man Fire. It represents 179 ac but did not display any intense heat. The long distance spotting from Frying Pan Fire on the Happy Camp Complex is a watch out indicator that we are poised for increased smoke.

·         Once again even though temperatures were warmer, RH recovery was less beneficial and light wind speeds, all this served suppression efforts well resulting in decreased smoke production. However, the stableness of the air, topography, light winds allowed smoke to be pooled and collect in the drainages and valleys. The air quality was impacted, specifically in Scotts Valley at Etna and Klamath River Drainage at Happy Camp. Both experienced unhealthy levels. Please review Yesterdays AQ Summary to determine the best & worse time of day. When the weather is persistent, this table Summary can serve as a guide to personal activities and thereby allow for personal mitigation of smoke.

·         Today’s weather continues to warm & be drier with light winds. It is projected that one more day of opportunity is available for fire suppression progress and decreasing smoke production. Plume Dominated Fire Potential is still being forecasted as very low.

·         Stability conditions are changing. They are increasing. A repeat performance is expected today. With recent developments at Happy Camp, this will be sorely tested. It is expected that wildfire smokes will spread out through the mix layer during the day, and collapse, pool and collect in the drainage at night.

·         Partly cloudy skies tonight will impede inversion set up and can be not as strong. Drainages can clear earlier with improved instability. Sunday nighttime RH recovery will not be as good as experienced today, Saturday. This will support smoldering fuels and accumulation of smoke in the valleys, and ICPs. There will be less impact to roadway visibility.

·         Today smoke dispersion starts out confused until 12 pm. With daytime heating the nighttime mix layer of 150 ft. gradually increases to 1,500 to 3, 000 ft. In the fire areas. Because of topography, Transport Wind Direction & Speed is without consistent direction and speeds are light. By 2 pm Transport Winds improve SW-W 4 to 8 and mixing 3,000 to 6,500 ft.

·         At 5 pm the best dispersion conditions are reached. Transport Winds are modeled NW-W-SW 5 to 10 depending on the drainage with mixing 3,000 ft. to 6,500 ft. At 8 pm and thereafter the ability of smoke to disperse rapidly deteriorates. Transport Wind Speeds drop off while direction is confused and mix layer lowers to 1,500 ft. At 11 pm Saturday through Sunday 12 pm (noon), smoke dispersion is very poor. Lazy drainage flows will take over and mixing is modeled at 150 ft. or less.

·         Looking out the next couple of days, fuels are being primed for quick ignition. Improved burning conditions via increased instability, creates opportunities for new fire starts and increased smoke production.


A)     Past and Current Conditions:

Yesterday the smoke funneled downstream towards Hoopa, Orleans and coastal communities in the early morning and late evening hours.  The afternoon westerly breeze pushed smoke towards Yreka and Weed. 


Today’s smoke is modeled to be similar to the previous’ days conditions however, the model indicates that smoke will travel further toward the coast than the previous day.  This means that Hoopa and other downwind communities could experience increased impacts today.  In the afternoon, a wind direction change is modeled which will push the smoke east into the Scott and Shasta Valley.


Tomorrow’s smoke is forcasted to pool in the valleys and move towards the coast during the morning hours.  Model runs are not available yet. Smoke forecasting model results can be found on the following pages. The outputs are modeled concentrations of Particulate Matter 2.5 (PM2.5) and are displayed in shades of pink/red. The model outputs overestimate impacts but provide a view of smoke particle transport.


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