This paper is the first of two reviewing scientific literature from 100 years of research addressing interactions between the atmosphere and fire behaviour. These papers consider research on the interactions between the fuels burning at any instant and the atmosphere, and the interactions between the atmosphere and those fuels that will eventually burn in a given fire. This first paper reviews the progression from the surface atmospheric properties of temperature, humidity and wind to horizontal and vertical synoptic structures and ends with vertical atmospheric profiles. (The companion paper addresses plume dynamics and vortices.) The review reveals several unanswered questions, as well as findings from previous studies that appear forgotten in current research and concludes with suggestions for areas of future research.