Wildfires can start weeks after lightning strike
May 16, 2018 06:53 PM
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – Lightning has always been part of the natural cycle in forests, but resulting fires have a timing all their own. Some people tend to believe lightning hits a tree and it just blows up in this massive fire.
That's usually not the case. Often it smolders in a tree, particularly a dead tree, said Royce Fonteneot with the Albuquerque National Weather Service. These smoldering "sleeper fires" deep within the root system are waiting for just the right conditions.
"Can lay dormant for months. Usually, it's a period of weeks," Fonteneot said.
Hot, dry and windy days usually do the trick.
"It's just smoldering," Fonteneot said. "And once you get those red flag-type conditions, that's when you can get a fire start off that tree."
Fonteneot said these types of forest fires are hard, if not impossible to predict.
"Really immediately until that starts, there's no real way of knowing," he said.
New satellite technology is helping forecasters and fire officials spot those fires as soon as they take off.
"In optimal conditions, we can actually detect a wildfire start down to about 15 acres," Fonteneot said.
In the meantime, Fonteneot said it's always a good idea for everyone to keep their eyes open especially in forested areas. If you see smoke where there shouldn't be, say something.
Updated: May 16, 2018 06:53 PM
Created: May 16, 2018 04:20 PM
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