Following the 1998 fire season, TFS established the Predictive Services Department as a permanently staffed unit to provide short and long-term forecasts and analysis. The program produces information and products that are utilized at the national, state and local level by firefighters, election officials and public administrators. Most of the products (daily fire danger, drought indices, fuel dryness) have been developed as automated, online and publically available resources through a partnership with the TAMU AgriLife Spatial Sciences Laboratory.
Assessment and Monitoring
TFS continually analyzes current and predicted weather conditions, wildfire occurrence, and the presence and availability of vegetative fuels throughout the year to maintain a continual assessment of wildfire risk at the state, regional and local level. Utilizing this information, agency staff develop daily and seasonal forecasts to assist the state and local government entities in preparing for and responding to periods of elevated fire danger or fire seasons.
Wildfire occurrence and cause are tracked by an online Fire Department Fire Reporting System. This is a voluntary system available to all fire departments across the state. This information is shared with Texas A&M Forest Service prevention staff, local cooperators, elected officials and the public. Wildfire occurrence information is also used to guide TFS fire planning and preparedness, and response efforts.
Conditions of wildland fuels are observed and used to calculate and predict fire behavior. Each region of the state contains a dominant fuel type - grasses, brush and trees - that TFS must consider when assessing risk. Factors such as the level of drought; percentage of rainfall; how quickly the grasses, brush and trees dry out; and how readily they will ignite and burn are all calculated and considered.
TFS predictive service officials utilize updated Texas Wildfire Risk Assessment statistics in preparation for the next fire siege. This information allows TFS to provide qualitative, scientific data to show Legislators and the general public how the wildland fire landscape is changing across the state.