Red flag warnings mean critical fire danger |

Red flag warnings mean critical fire danger

Actual red flags blow in the wind north of Genoa during a red flag warning for critical fire danger.
Kurt Hildebrand

The difference between keeping a fire small and having it rage out of control is sometimes in the wind.

Specifically, gusty winds combined with low humidity that prompt the National Weather Service to issue a red flag warning.

The past weekend saw two days of red flag warnings issued by the Reno office to the Weather Service.

It was the third red flag warning of the season. A previous warning was issued for the severe lightning storm that set the Monarch Fire early last week.

Red flag warnings and fire weather watches are issued when critical fire weather conditions are either occurring or will shortly. A red flag warning indicates a combination of strong winds, low relative humidity, and warm temperatures that can create explosive fire growth potential.

In the case of Saturday and Sunday’s warning, it was preceded by a fire weather watch because dangerous fire weather conditions were forecast.

High winds and low humidity helped cause the Poeville Fire to threaten Reno neighborhoods.

On Sunday, around 12:15 p.m. a wildland fire ignited by sparks from a resident grinding metal threatened a home in Topaz Ranch Estates.

East Fork firefighters on their way to another call spotted the fire and were able to knock it down before it spread to any buildings. East Fork Battalion Chief Scott Fraser said winds were gusting to 35 mph at the time.

Fraser said someone told the responding firefighters that some residents aren’t aware of the meaning of a red flag warning.

“Not every day in the summer is red flag just because of temperature,” he said. “It is a combination of wind, humidity and temperature. We encourage the public to be very careful during red flag days when outside. No open flames, be careful with any machinery that may create a spark. Always have a fire extinguisher, or hose and a shovel near by.”