Chief’s Corner: What does a Red Flag Warning mean? |

Chief’s Corner: What does a Red Flag Warning mean?

Mike Brown

Fire season is in full swing already as we have seen in our region over the past few weeks. Weather conditions play a very integral part in the daily planning and readiness level for fire agencies.

A Red Flag Warning, also known as a Fire Weather Warning, is a forecast warning issued by the United States 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 their 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.

Outdoor burning bans may also be declared by local law and fire agencies based on Red Flag Warnings.

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

You can also go to or follow NWS Reno on Facebook and Twitter.

“Chief’s Corner” is a regular feature in the North Lake Tahoe Bonanza from North Lake Tahoe Fire Protection District Chief Mike Brown, offering information, tips and education material on fire safety, emergency preparedness and other pertinent topics.