What is a Fire Weather Watch? Tips to Stay Safe

Posted On: August 4th, 2021

Ever heard of the term ‘a perfect storm’? This doesn’t only apply to wet weather. If the conditions are right, there is a greatly increased risk of wildfires breaking out. Knowing about fire weather watches and why they are important is vital to ensuring your own safety and that of others. This is particularly true in drier areas such as California.

Today we will answer the question, what is a fire weather watch and give you some top tips for dry days.


What is a Fire Weather Watch?

In basic terms, a fire weather watch is a warning issued when conditions exist that make a wildfire spread more likely. It is the precursor to a ‘red flag warning’ where forecast weather conditions within the next 24-48 hours can cause an outbreak to be extremely severe.

The criteria for a red flag warning are as follows:

  • Strong winds with speeds greater than 25mph
  • A low humidity (typically 15% or less)
  • Thunderstorms forecast

Why is the above dangerous?

Well, thunderstorms result in lightning. If the ground is struck, this can act as a source of ignition for a wildfire. Low humidity ensures that the fire can spread and burn really quickly. The final piece of the ‘perfect storm’ is the wind.

Strong winds provide increased oxygen to large fires. In parallel with this, they also blow sparks to other areas, which can cause more fires!


What Causes Fire Weather?

Fire weather is typically caused by hot and dry conditions. In periods traditionally known as wildfire season, brush and scrub dry out to create the perfect kindling. Damp conditions help limit fire spread; however, these are unlikely because of a lack of rainfall.

To make matters worse, the trend in recent years is that wildfire season has started earlier and finished later. As a result, the risk is increased for a greater time period.

The number of red flag warnings and notifications of fire weather watches has been increasing too. This presents a significant risk for several reasons. One unforeseen danger is that it becomes ‘normal’ and people drop their guard.


How Can I See Fire Weather Warnings?

There are several ways that you can be notified about fire weather warnings. However, it is far better to apprise yourself of the situation proactively.

The best resources tend to be from official sources. One great way to keep an eye on fire weather is to take a look at the National Weather Service. They have interactive maps that are constantly updated with the latest information.


What Do You Do When You Get a Red Flag Warning?

If you get a red flag warning, it means the situation is serious, and there is a genuine wildfire danger.


There are several things that you can do to protect yourself. Here’s some of our expert guidance on staying safe when there is a fire weather watch:

1. Keep Your Phone Close to Hand

While there is a temptation to sleep with your phone switched off, if there is a fire weather watch, it is definitely sensible to leave it on and have it close to hand.

If a fire breaks out near your home, it is a time-critical situation, both in alerting the emergency services to the problem and also in advising someone if you need help.

In tandem with this, you may receive wireless emergency alerts (WEA). These can sometimes bypass ‘do not disturb’ or ‘airplane mode’ systems… However, if the phone is not nearby, you won’t hear them.

2. Subscribe to Emergency Notifications

A good idea in proactive fire planning is to subscribe to emergency alerts. That way, you can go about your day safe in the knowledge that if a fire breaks out, you will be informed immediately from an official source.

3. Maintain Situational Awareness

Both a fire weather watch and a red flag mean that wildfire could break out at any time. If you keep a close eye on the situation, you may be able to save time when it really matters. Pay careful attention to weather forecasts and alerts.

4. Protect Your Property

While a weather watch will give you an advanced warning, it is even better if you can ensure that your property is protected in the event of a wildfire. Here’s some guidance as to effective strategies to protect your home from wildfire:

  • Avoid burning anything in outdoor spaces. This includes barbecues.
  • Create Protective zones around your home.
  • Remove vegetation near to your home.
  • Remove flammable objects from outdoor areas.
  • Consider installing a fire cabinet.

5. Prepare a ‘Go’ Kit

Wildfire can spread remarkably fast. The time to prepare to leave isn’t when you discover you are in danger. Instead, prepare a ‘go kit’ in advance that you can easily grab if you have to egress your property quickly.

Haven’t heard of a ‘go kit’ before. Here is what it should contain as a minimum:

  • Medication such as painkillers
  • A first aid kit
  • Flashlight with a spare battery
  • Copies of ID documents
  • Changes of clothing
  • Basic toiletries
  • A radio (wind up is great)
  • Pet food, if applicable
  • A charging cable
  • Several large bottles of fresh water

6. Have an Escape Plan

If the situation becomes unmanageable, you are going to want to leave the area quickly. Do you know how and where you would go?

A fire escape plan takes minutes to create and may very well save your life. To learn about them, check our guide here.

7. Get Expert Help

If fire protection is something you’d like to know more about, professional assistance is often the best course of action. Fraker Fire offers expert guidance in many fire protection solutions. From escape plans to fire fighting equipment, they can advise you fully on what you need to do to be as safe as possible. They are only a phone call away, so why not contact them to gain the most effective advice.

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