Fire Weather Alert System

Fire weather alert system image

Many firefighters have been entrapped due to rapid changes in weather causing unexpected fire behavior. These weather events are often predictable using local weather measurements and forecasts, but on-the-ground firefighters have historically lacked access to this information. The Fire Weather Alert System (FWAS) provides this access. It monitors nearby weather observations and forecasts to warn firefighters of dangerous incoming weather and provides convenient map-based access to fire-specific weather information (RAWS, NWS zone fire weather forecasts and spot weather forecasts, lightning, NEXRAD radar data, etc.).

View the FWAS Quick Start Guide here.

Summary article: FWAS: An Early Warning System For Wildland Firefighters.

Download FWAS:

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Apple App Store:


Many firefighters have been injured or killed due to rapid changes in weather causing unexpected fire behavior. Examples include the thunderstorm outflow that killed 19 on the Yarnell Hill Fire, the cold front passage that killed 14 on the South Canyon Fire, and the wind shift that killed 3 on the Twisp River Fire. Many of these weather events can easily be predicted and observed by tools that exist today (e.g., short-term high-resolution forecast models, radar data, nearby weather stations). Tragically, these tools and the data they provide are underutilized by on-the-ground firefighters, which leads to many preventable accidents. Some of the reasons for underutilization are that: 1) this information is difficult to access on mobile devices in the field, 2) the information is scattered among several web sites, 3) some of the information is difficult to interpret because it is intended for weather experts, and 4) firefighters do not have enough time to devote to gathering this weather information.

Researchers developed the Fire Weather Alert System to alleviate many of these issues. Users simply provide the system with a location and custom weather thresholds to watch for. The system continuously checks the many data sources that exist for exceedance of those thresholds. Thresholds can be set for wind speed, temperature, relative humidity, precipitation, lightning, and National Weather Service issued Watches, Warnings, or Advisories. Users are alerted when one of these thresholds is reached via email, text, or push notifications. The alert includes information about what threshold was met, where, and from what source (a nearby RAWS station, short-term forecast, radar data, etc.).

The Fire Weather Alert System also gives access to weather measurements, forecasts, and other data tailored to firefighters’ needs in an easy-to-use map-based interface. FWAS provides a custom weather delivery system that has the potential to increase safety and inform decision making on wildland fire incidents.

FWAS Features:

    • Get alerts when wind speed, wind gust, relative humidity, air temperature, and precipitation exceed your set thresholds, lightning occurs, or NWS Watches, Warnings, or Advisories are issued.
    • Receive alerts via text, email, or push notification.
    • Watches are set for user-specified area.
    • Alerts issued based on observations and short-term forecasts.
    • Share watches and broadcast messages to other users
    • RAWS, IRAWS, ASOS, lightning, cell coverage, NWS spot weather forecasts, fire weather matrices, zone fire weather forecasts/boundaries, and Watches/Warnings/Advisories, hotspot detects, fire perimeters, IRWIN incidents, web cameras, NEXRAD radar.
    • Map, text, tabular, and graphical viewing options

Some Use Cases:

    • View portable IRAWS locations and weather readings o IMETs can generate a watch for the fire area, share with firefighters via QR code, and transmit weather updates through the app. o View MODIS/VIIRS hotspots.
    • See new initial attack fire locations and size on the map (IRWIN database) o Be alerted to and monitor approaching thunderstorms via animated radar and lightning data on the map.
    • Identify approaching gust fronts, cold fronts, and wind shifts in RAWS data
    • View your spot weather forecast o Read the zone fire weather forecast
    • Monitor Red Flag Warnings, Fire Weather Watches, Wind Advisories, Severe Thunderstorm Warnings, etc.
    • See lightning strike locations on the map
    • Display fire weather zone boundaries and identifiers on the map
    • View cell coverage on the map o Identify locations of nearby weather stations
    • Identify burn windows and periods of critical fire weather using the 5-day fire weather matrix
    • View your spot weather forecast o Monitor nearby weather station observations

Data Sources:

  • Weather stations (RAWS, IRAWS, ASOS, etc. via MADIS)
  • High-Resolution Rapid Refresh forecast model
  • NEXRAD radar
  • Ground-based lightning (EarthNetworks and Vaisala via NowCOAST)
  • Hotspot detects (MODIS and VIIRS)
  • Cell coverage (Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, UScelluar)
  • IRWIN incidents and large fire perimeters
  • Windy web camera network
  • NWS products (spot weather forecasts, zone fire weather forecasts, Watches/Warnings/Advisories, fire weather matrices)

Continuing Development

The FWAS is a fire weather alerting and planning tool that links on-the-ground firefighters with the best available weather information. We continue to develop the FWAS and some future enhancements include: • Alerts for approaching thunderstorms based on NEXRAD radar data.

  • The ability to save, share, and post groups of alert thresholds. For example, a firefighter could store the set of thresholds that work well on their home unit for future use. These could be shared with other users, or posted so that others could access them. This would be a similar idea to how the Fire Danger Pocket Cards are posted for different units across the country, except it would be built into the app.
  • The ability to combine thresholds. For example, a firefighter could get an alert if RH was less than 20% AND wind was greater than 15 mph.
  • Incorporation of automated thunderstorm microburst and gust front detection algorithms currently used by the FAA for making real-time aircraft safety decisions.
  • Incorporate alerts related to fire danger and fire behavior.
  • Add lightning probability data.
  • Allow users to post manual weather observations for public viewing
  • Incorporate additional satellite-based data (GOES hotspots, water vapor bands, GLM lightning)

Account Management

If you are a FWAS user and would like to delete your account, please send an email to with the subject line DELETE MY ACCOUNT. Your name, email address, phone number, and device ID will be permanently deleted from our servers.


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