Tahoe chief’s corner: What does a Red Flag Warning mean? | SierraSun.com

Tahoe chief’s corner: What does a Red Flag Warning mean?

Ryan Sommers
Chief’s Corner

INCLINE VILLAGE, Nev. — Fire season is in full swing, and with that we’d like to remind folks to pay attention to the weather conditions before outdoor recreating.

Weather conditions play a very integral part in the daily planning and readiness level for fire agencies, especially in the summer months. They can also play an important part in your planning of daily recreational activities to have a safe and enjoyable experience.

A Red Flag Warning also known as a Fire Weather Warning, is a forecast warning issued by the National Weather Service to inform area firefighting and land management agencies that conditions are ideal for wildland fire ignition, and rapid spread.

After drought conditions, and when humidity is very low, and especially when high or erratic winds which may include lightning are a factor, the Red Flag Warning becomes a critical statement for firefighting agencies.

These agencies often alter our staffing and equipment resources dramatically to accommodate the forecast risk. To the public, a Red Flag Warning means high fire danger with increased probability of a quickly spreading vegetation fire in the area within 24 hours.

The weather criteria for fire weather watches and red flag warnings vary with each Weather Service Office’s warning area based on the local vegetation type, topography, and distance from major water sources.

They usually include the daily vegetation moisture content calculations, expected afternoon high temperature, afternoon minimum relative humidity and daytime wind speed.

Some things the public can do to be more mindful on Red Flag Warning days, per the National Weather Service’s Reno office:

Safety chains on trailers should be properly secured.

Don’t drive over dry grass or vegetation.

Postpone target shooting.

Avoid yard work or welding near dry vegetation.

Report any fire, smoke or unsafe activity which could lead to a fire.

Red Flag Warnings also play a critical role for water safety. Lake Tahoe’s water can change very quickly from calm and serene to stormy swales.

We’d like to remind folks to check the weather for Red Flag Warnings before heading out on the lake. Visit http://www.weather.gov/reno for current weather conditions in our area.

“Chief’s Corner” is a regular feature from North Lake Tahoe Fire Protection District Interim Chief Ryan Sommers and other regional fire chiefs, offering information, tips and education material on fire safety, emergency preparedness and other pertinent topics.