State's fire threat off the scale
May 09, 2018 06:21 PM
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – Red flag warnings are common during the spring in New Mexico. They alert the public to critical fire danger.
But on some days, red flag warnings don't quite capture just how severe the threat is. Roger Smith at the National Weather Service said that's where the Haines Fire Index comes in.
"The Haines Index is geared toward determining how fast fires can grow," Smith said.
The index measures dryness and atmospheric instability, which allows the wind to quickly grow a fire. High heat makes it worse.
The scale is simple: up to 4 is considered a low threat, 5 is moderate and 6 is the highest level of threat. In New Mexico, the NWS here had to develop a more critical warning called SuperHaines.
"It exceeds that highest level of six," said Smith.
Smith said large areas of the state are facing a SuperHaines threat level through the end of the week.
"What are the really bad days, what are the really dangerous days when we really have to highlight that if fires start on these particular days that they could easily get out of control," he said.
Here is what SuperHaines looks like: the giant Las Conchas Fire in 2011 which forced all of Los Alamos to evacuate.
"You'll see huge plumes and that increases the potential that embers will be lifted up into the atmosphere and spread that fire, even a mile or more away sometimes," Smith said.
It's happened before. It can happen again. That's why Smith said practicing fire safety is key.
Updated: May 09, 2018 06:21 PM
Created: May 09, 2018 04:45 PM
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