Creek Fire: Evolution of a Megafire on
the Southern Great Plains
Todd Lindley, NOAA/NWS Norman, Oklahoma, Norman, OK
Thomas Curl, NOAA/NWS Norman, Oklahoma
Gregory Murdoch, NOAA/NWS Midland, Texas
Drew Daily, Oklahoma Forestry Services
Bradley Smith, Texas A&M Forest Service
The term ‘megafire’ describes very large destructive wildfires that burn more than 405 km2 (100,000 ac). In the United States, scientific literature and wildland policy is focused upon the threat of megafires within forested fire regimes of the American West. Yet, while occurring on much shorter temporal scales than many of the highly publicized national fire incidents of the West, megafires have caused extensive damage and human casualties on the southern Great Plains during the past decade. The Plains’ fire regime, characterized by abundant grassy vegetation that facilitates extreme rates of fire spread and climatologically prone to dry and windy weather patterns, has historically supported some of the largest wildland fires in North America.
This study will document the evolution of the Anderson Creek Fire, which ignited near Freedom, Oklahoma, on 22 March 2016. When the fire was contained on 28 March, 1,448 km2 (367,620 ac) of prairie had burned in the largest wildfire in Kansas history. The antecedent fire environment will be discussed and compared to those associated with past extreme wildfire episodes on the southern Great Plains. The parameter space for fuel and weather conditions associated with the Anderson Creek Fire, such as energy release component (fuel model G), relative humidity, wind, temperature and Red Flag Threat Index, are shown to occupy the extremity of climatological percentile rankings. Lastly, meteorological remote sensing will be used to document the chronology of megafire evolution, including satellite and Doppler radar indicators of extreme fire behavior useful in tactical wildland fire decision support.