There are nearly 2,200 interagency Remote Automatic Weather Stations (RAWS) strategically located throughout the United States. RAWS are self-contained, portable, and permanent, solar powered weather stations that provide timely local weather data used primarily in fire management. These stations monitor the weather and provide weather data that assists land management agencies with a variety of projects such as monitoring air quality, rating fire danger, and providing information for research applications.
Most of the stations owned by the wildland fire agencies are placed in locations where they can monitor fire danger. RAWS units collect, store, and forward data to a computer system at the National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC) in Boise, Idaho, via the Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite (GOES). The GOES is operated by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The data is automatically forwarded to several other computer systems including the Weather Information Management System (WIMS) and the Western Regional Climate Center (WRCC) in Reno, Nevada.
Fire managers use this data to predict fire behavior and monitor fuels; resource managers use the data to monitor environmental conditions. Locations of RAWS stations can be searched online courtesy of the Western Regional Climate Center.
Facts about RAWS:
- Weather data collected by RAWS, such as relative humidity, wind speed, wind direction, air temperature, fuel moisture and temperature, rain, and solar radiation are critical to predicting fire behavior, which is imperative to effective fire management of all kinds (suppression, prescribed burning, AMR, etc.).
- The BLM Remote Sensing Unit maintains about 1,700 RAWS units annually.
- Stations run on a 12-volt battery combined with a 20-watt solar panel.
- RAWS units costs approximately $18,000 to purchase.
- The program has 75 portable units, Incident Remote Automatic Weather Stations (IRAWS) that can be deployed to any incident to augment on-site forecasts.
- IRAWS can be tone activated, meaning a firefighter can key a tone on their handheld radio to hear current weather data.