ESRL Global Systems Division

Data from Local Weather Stations Help Fight Colorado Wildfires

By April 3, the Picnic Rock wildfire in Northern Colorado had burned 8,700 acres and one house, and forced evacuation of 139 homes. In this fire and others, fire managers depend on local data and fire-specific products to support firefighting and make point forecasts for new fire locations. The closest reporting weather station to this fire is CWOP (Citizen Weather Observer Program) station WA0BAG-5, 10 miles south of the fire at 7142 feet on Bagg Mountain west of Fort Collins, Colorado. Five other CWOP stations are located within 20 miles of the fire, in addition to one Colorado DOT station, one NWS/FAA station, and one U.S. Forest Service RAWS station.

The Citizen Weather Observer Program consists of a group of public-minded citizens who take weather measurements and send the data to NOAA to help improve local weather forecasts. There are currently about 1200 CWOP stations in North America. More information on this effort, coordinated and managed by FSL, is available at the CWOP Web site and linked pages. Data from these stations flow into the Meteorological Assimilation Data Ingest System at FSL, where they are checked for quality and then distributed to various users, such as the FSL Local Analysis and Prediction System (LAPS). LAPS combines data from these stations with other meteorological data to produce short-term fire weather nowcasts and forecasts that are distributed by the U.S. Forest Service Rocky Mountain Center (RMC) in Ft. Collins, CO and used by U.S. Forest Service and BLM fire managers. These forecasts are provided every day year-round and, most critically, during the wildfire season from April to October. The CWOP data support the analyses and short-range forecasts, and a number of fire products that are put into display form and made available to fire managers via the RMC Web page. Users can create point forecasts for individual fires (e.g., click on "Point Forecast" and go to the "CO-WY Subdomain" and then to "PICNICRKCO" to see the current conditions and 24-hour forecasts for the Picnic Rock Fire). The point forecasts have proven very valuable to the firefighting support process and tactical planning.

Contact information
Name: Russell B Chadwick
Tel: 303-497-6318