Wildfires can blow up in a matter of minutes. Knowing how to get wildfire alerts and being aware of fire weather conditions will help you be aware and stay safe during fire season.
Fire weather in the Inland Northwest is any combination of dry, hot, and windy conditions that make it easier for new fires to start and spread quickly. Here are a few different types of fire weather.
Dry thunderstorms create gusty winds and lightning, but their rain won’t reach the ground when the afternoon humidity is too low.
Downslope winds are when the air coming up and over mountains warms and dries as it heads downhill. This will create hot, dry, rising air in the foothills below. Downsloping is often a problem east of the Cascades.
Cold fronts can create several hours of high winds. Even if they bring some beneficial rain and cooler temperatures, the winds around the front will cause extreme fire growth. The 2020 Labor Day fires that burned much of Malden, WA are an example of a strong cold front at the tail end of fire season.
Heat domes are when strong high pressure stays over one spot for several days. This will dry out vegetation quickly and make anywhere under it at greater risk for fires for the rest of the season. The record-smashing heat dome over the Pacific Northwest in June 2021 is an example.
If any of these different types of weather look particularly severe on a given day, a Fire Weather Watch may be issued by the National Weather Service one to two days before the weather event. On the day of the forecasted fire weather conditions, a Fire Weather Warning, sometimes called a Red Flag Warning is issued. If your area is under a Fire Weather Watch or Warning, it’s time to go over your plan if a fire threatens your neighborhood. On a day with Fire Weather Warnings, you may have to act quickly!
Signing up for text or phone app alerts can keep you informed about conditions and evacuation statuses during fire weather days. You can opt in to push alerts from the 4 News Now news and weather apps. Emergency alert systems set up by your county will text or call you with wildfire and other local emergency information.
Here are links to sign up for emergency alerts on your phone in the Inland Northwest.