Friday, February 29, 2008

FAA Wants to Evict Northern Great Plains Dispatch

The Federal Aviation Administration has been saying for a couple of years that they want to evict the Northern Great Plains Interagency Dispatch Center from their facility at the Rapid City Regional Airport in South Dakota. In 2002 the state and federal fire agencies in the greater Black Hills area, including portions of South Dakota, Nebraska, North Dakota, and Wyoming, joined forces to consolidate dispatch services. They received permission to gut and remodel an old unused building at the airport, spending about $1 million $1.8 million, mostly from state funds.

It is now used by the interagency fire dispatch center, state highway patrol, and several other state and federal agencies. Interagency fire training classes are held in the large expanded dispatch/training room in the winter. There is a great deal of unused land surrounding the airport. There is no need to force the interagency dispatch center to abandon their recently remodeled facility so another airplane hanger can be placed on the site.

Here is a portion of the story by Dan Daly in the Rapid City Journal:
"Work continues on a new hangar in what used to be the parking lot of the old Rapid City Regional Airport terminal. Nearby, the Northern Great Plains Interagency Fire Dispatch Center, inside the old terminal, seems almost surrounded by concrete aircraft aprons.

There’s still room for automobiles in the remaining parking lot, and the dispatch center is still operating in the old terminal.

But how long it can stay? That remains the subject of ongoing talks between the airport board, Rapid City Mayor Alan Hanks, Gov. Mike Rounds’ office and the Federal Aviation Administration.

Hanks said he’s been trying to persuade the FAA to let the dispatch center stay at the airport. The center has been instrumental in getting fire crews and other resources to fires early, preventing them from becoming widespread wildfires, he said.

“In my mind, it’s extremely important that we maintain that dispatch center to provide fire protection, not only for the Rapid City area but for the entire Black Hills,” Hanks said.

Hanks, Rounds and the airport board want the dispatch center to stay, but since 2006 the FAA has been pressing Rapid City Regional Airport to terminate the center’s lease. The center has been renting its space without a lease since last year.

According to the FAA, the center -- staffed by the South Dakota Wildland Fire Suppression Division and other state and federal fire agencies – doesn’t fit the FAA’s requirement that airports lease space primarily for aeronautical uses.

The state of South Dakota disagrees, said Jason Glodt, a senior policy adviser to Gov. Mike Rounds. He said the requirement is vague, and the dispatch center’s firefighting work does involve aviation uses. He said the state leases single-engine air tankers that are staged at Rapid City Regional Airport during the fire season. The state could end up buying its own tankers in the future.

While pressing that argument, Glodt said, the governor’s office is also asking the FAA for more time. “It’s our understanding we’ll have at least until 2010,” Glodt said."

GAO Report about Outsourcing in the US Forest Service

On February 22 we posted information concerning the GAO report about outsourcing in the U.S. Forest Service. At that time the actual report was not available. Now it is.

Redding Smokejumpers Mistaken for Invaders

Shortly after 9/11, the Redding, California Smokejumpers, using a location for the first time for practice jumps, were mistaken for an invading army by a local woman who considered getting a rifle.

From the Redding Record Searchlinght:
"Smokejumpers preparing for the coming fire season could be dropping into the Swasey Drive Recreation Area as early as next week.

The U.S. Forest Service's Region 5 Smokejumpers, whose base is in Redding, will be using parts of the 1,200-acre area managed by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management for training through the summer, said Bob Bente, the smokejumpers' training foreman.

The spot west of town will be one of five around the north state used for training.

"It's a new area," he said.

Terrain in the recreation area, which is popular among mountain bikers and hikers, is similar to what smokejumpers -- firefighters who get to backcountry blazes by parachute -- might encounter on calls, said Francis Berg, assistant field manager in the BLM's Redding office.

"Yet it's close to town so they can get out there pretty quickly," he said.

Bente said he wanted to give the public a head's up that the chutists will be coming down. The parachutes should be visible from Placer Road near Swasey Drive, with the first jumps possibly Tuesday or Wednesday, he said.

Shortly after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the smokejumpers used a new jump spot south of town, he said. The sight of people parachuting from a plane caused a stir among nearby residents, including one woman who thought it could be an invasion.

"She actually contemplated getting a rifle," Bente said."

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Fire Threatened 2,000 Year Old Trees in Argentina

It appears to be under control now, but for a while there was concern for some 2,000 year old cypress trees being threatened by a fire in the Patagonia region of Argentina, according to Reuters.

BUENOS AIRES, Feb 28 (Reuters) - Firefighters battled forest fires in Argentina's Patagonia region on Thursday, but thousand-year-old trees in a national park were not threatened by the flames, a provincial official said.

The fire, which government officials blamed on arsonists, started in the Alerces National Park, raising fears about damage to the park's famous Patagonian cypress trees. The trees can live for 2,000 years or more, making some of them among the oldest living things on Earth.

"The national park is totally under control. There's no fire and the firefighters are doing the ground maintenance work to make sure it doesn't catch fire again," provincial government spokesman Daniel Taito said by telephone.

However, he said the flames had ravaged some 7,400 acres (3,000 hectares) of mostly native woodland beyond the borders of the national park, which lies in the Andean region of Chubut province near the Chilean border.

Local officials ordered the few residents of the sparsely populated area to evacuate their homes.

Environment Secretary Romina Picolotti, who visited the scene, said action was being taken "to find the culprits of this arson."

Roof Sprinkler for Structure Protection

When structures are threatened by wildland fires, sprinklers are sometimes placed on roofs, but installing them means climbing on the roof. A company in Florida has developed a sprinkler that can be placed on the peak of the roof while you stand on a ladder at the side of the structure. The trick is attaching 5-foot sections of PVC pipe to the sprinkler which are then used to push the roller-mounted unit up the roof. Then a garden hose is attached to the PVC pipe. It looks like this could be a worthwhile addition to structure protection kits.

The cost for one complete unit is around $300, depending on what state it will be shipped to.

Be warned, that when you go to the site, a damn video starts playing automatically. I hate that. You can stop the video by clicking on "close video".

Wally Bennett: "We’ve got a lot less of the toys we need to do the job"

At a three-day conference organized by FireSafe Montana, Wally Bennett, a Type 1 Incident Commander, told the group that climate change and fewer air tankers and hand crews are making the job of wildland firefighters more difficult.

From the Bozeman Daily Chronicle:
"Coming summers will bring more and bigger wildfires to the Northern Rockies. But it also will bring fewer firefighters, less equipment for them to use, and more and more homes to protect in flammable landscapes.

That’s the message spelled out Tuesday by climate and firefighting experts at a conference at the Bozeman Holiday Inn.

“We’ve got a lot less of the toys we need to do the job we’re doing out there,” said Wally Bennett, a veteran commander of a Type I incident command team, the type of force that tackles large and complex blazes.

Bennett was one of the speakers at the three-day conference organized by FireSafe Montana, a fledgling nonprofit group that is trying to motivate landowners, county governments, developers and other entities to do more to protect private land before wildfire reaches it.

Several years ago, Bennett said, firefighting teams had 32 large retardant planes available to them. Last year, they had 16.

The number of 20-person hand teams has declined from roughly 750 to about 450 over the same time period, he said, and that number is likely to fall further.

“There’s not enough to go around,” he said.

That’s partly because a rookie firefighter can earn about the same pay flipping burgers at McDonald’s.

Meanwhile, a warming climate is bringing earlier snowmelt along with hotter, drier summers, said Faith Anne Heisch, a climate researcher who works with Steve Running, the University of Montana professor who was part of the Nobel-prize winning International Panel on Climate Change."
The NewWest.net site also has a lengthy article on the conference.

Mark Rey; Not Going To Jail

The U.S. District Court Judge cleared Mark Rey of the contempt charges yesterday. From the Missoulian:

"U.S. Agriculture Undersecretary Mark Rey walked out of federal court a free man Wednesday in Missoula, wearing not an orange inmate's jumpsuit but the gray business suit with American flag lapel pin he had donned for his contempt hearing.

U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy cleared Rey, the Bush administration's top forest official, and the Forest Service of contempt and withdrew his threat to jail Rey or ground all fire retardant air tankers until the agency evaluated the environmental impact of the chemical slurry.

Molloy did not rule on the merits of the Forest Service's environmental analysis, and the watchdog group whose lawsuit prompted the showdown said it planned to take new legal action to challenge the agency's finding that aerial retardant causes little harm to fish and other aquatic creatures.

“We accomplished what we wanted to do, which was to make the Forest Service follow the law,” said Andy Stahl, director of the Forest Service Employees for Environmental Ethics, based in Eugene, Ore.

In his testimony, Rey apologized for the Forest Service's tardiness in following the judge's order to complete an environmental analysis of the potential harm from ammonium phosphate, the primary ingredient in retardant dropped on wildfires."

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Arson Threat Against Sierra Club Members

An idiot who has a computer and knows how to use it has posted on his blog the suggestion that
“If you know a Sierra Club member, please feel free to set their home on fire.”
I hesitate to post about this, because it is probably, like the "Forest Jihad" threat, just the rantings of a crazed lunatic who did not receive enough attention from his mother, so he gets it by posting on the Internet.

But, you'll probably hear about this anyway, so..... The Missoulian has the whole story.

Years ago I was a card-carrying member of the Sierra Club. But when they began going over the top with their policies, such as demanding that there be no timber harvesting on National Forests, I left the organization. Watchdog organizations serve a purpose, but they are most effective when they present a reasoned, logical, and practical point of view. The arson threat is of course absurd, and I wish no ill-will towards the Sierra Club.

(Thanks to Dick Mangan for the tip.)

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Mark Rey Not In Jail Yet

Undersecretary of Agriculture Mark Rey spent part of the day in court, but nothing is decided yet. The process will continue tomorrow afternoon (Wednesday). More information is on the Missoulian site.

"Faced with possible jail time, U.S. Agriculture Undersecretary Mark Rey on Tuesday repeatedly apologized to a federal judge in Missoula for the Forest Service’s delays in evaluating the environmental impacts of fire retardant.

But Rey, the Bush administration’s top forest official, insisted the agency has complied with the National Environmental Policy Act and the Endangered Species Act.

U.S. District Judge Donald W. Molloy is presiding over a watchdog group’s 2003 lawsuit that accuses the Forest Service of violating the nation’s top environmental laws in the agency’s use of fire retardant.

The hearing is scheduled to resume Wednesday afternoon."

Still More Photos From USFS Meeting

It's good to put faces with the names of folks I have heard about but not yet met. Here is Anthony Vergnetti, of Federal Employee Defense Services, who offers professional liability insurance to federal employees as well as AD employees. He said they are exploring the possibility of offering the insurance to contractors and consultants.

Even More Photos From USFS Meeting

This is a new aerial ignition system developed by Jim Roth's company Storm King Technologies. It uses the same chemicals as the "ping pong ball" machine, but the materials take up less space. Each device is about the size of the end of your thumb and they come on a continuous belt. It also records the location of each incindiary device using GPS.

More Photos From USFS Meeting

This is Bethany Hannah of Loomis Hannah. She started a company that writes applications for government employees seeking jobs...or promotions. She said she does as much work for higher level employees as she does for lower level folks.

The word on the street is that she does excellent work. She also has a sense of humor, which is helpful when you're working on something as un-fun as a job application.

(click on the photos to see a larger version)

Blogging From USFS Chief Officers' Meeting

I'm at the US Forest Service Chief Officers' Meeting in Reno.... seeing a bunch of old buddies and making a couple of presentations. There are several sub-groups meeting here, including Engine Captains, Hot Shots, dozer operators, Board of Directors, Forest Aviation Officers, and Line Officers.

I always enjoy the vendors' exhibits, so I'll post some pictures of some of the most interesting ones.

The first is Ben Bobic of SEI Industries, showing the Bambi bucket that has an electric pump and snorkel. It can fill the bucket from shallow sources, such as a 1/2 empty foldatank on uneven ground. Ben said they have had the snorkel equipped bucket in their inventory for 3-4 years, but they have not marketed it very actively.

Three Firefighters Injured in Texas

Three firefighters were injured in a vehicle accident in Texas, according to an AP story.

ROBERT LEE, Texas — Firefighters across West and Central Texas continued to battle wildfires Tuesday that burned at least 200,000 acres, injured several people and forced the temporary evacuation of the 1,500 residents of Robert Lee, an official with the Texas Forest Service said.

Fire officials were waiting for daylight Tuesday to assess the scope of one massive wildfire stretching across Sterling, Reagan and Irion counties in Central Texas that could be as large as 500,000 acres, said David Abernathy, an incident commander with the forest service. Airplanes will fly over the fire during daylight Tuesday to obtain more accurate mapping data, he said.

At one point the blaze moved so quickly — fueled by 50 mph winds — that flames were consuming an area the size of "a football field every minute," Abernathy said.

Three firefighters were injured in Archer County when two fire trucks collided head on after one swerved around a car that pulled out into the road, Abernathy said. One of the firefighters was airlifted to an area hospital, an Archer County dispatcher said. He survived but his condition was unknown.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Photos of Marc Mullinex

Wildlandfire.com has some photos of Marc Mullenix. As you may know, he passed away on January 28.

Virginia Has Already Spent Their Fire Suppression Funds for the Year

Due to fire activity much busier than usual, the Virginia Department of Forestry has already spent their budgeted wildland fire suppression funds for the year. They intend to ask the Governor's office for more.

From the Richmond Times Dispatch:

"Entering the second week of the spring fire season, the Virginia Department of Forestry already has spent its entire 2008 funds for firefighting.

Preliminary estimates indicate that the outbreak of wildfires across the state two weeks ago that led Gov. Timothy M. Kaine to declare a state of emergency may have cost the department about $500,000, spokesman John Campbell said.

That's the agency's budget for firefighting for the entire year, Campbell said. "We are thinking we are tapped out . . . and we are just beginning the year."

The estimate includes expenses such as overtime payments and gasoline, as well as the use of helicopters and other heavy equipment. It doesn't include the localities' expenses, he said.

The National Guard, which was sent to help several counties, may have spent an additional $175,000, Campbell said.

Across the state, officials are still trying to calculate the financial losses from the 348 wildfires two weeks ago.

The fires, fueled by high winds, were caused mostly by downed trees that hit electrical wires. The fires consumed nearly 16,000 acres, about 4,000 more acres than burned in all of 2007, forestry officials said."

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Esperanza Fire: One Trial or Six?

The 5-person crew of Engine 57 from the San Bernardino National Forest was killed while trying to protect a house during the Esperanza Fire in Southern California on October 26, 2006.

From the Press-Enterprise :
"Raymond Lee Oyler, charged with murder and arson in the deaths of five U.S. Forest Service firefighters, wants the 45 charges against him divided into six separate trials.

"Very weak charges have been joined with particularly strong ones," Mark R. McDonald, Oyler's attorney, argues in the motion filed Friday.

The defense attorney claims putting all the charges in one trial, especially when some carry a death penalty, "will substantially prejudice Mr. Oyler in his right to a fair trial."

The motion, which will be heard March 21, "is not unusual; it's an effort to sever the capital counts from the non-capital counts," said Deputy District Attorney Michael Hestrin. He said he will file a written response with Riverside County Superior Court Judge Jeffrey Prevost.

McDonald argues that Oyler should face six separate cases with the charges arranged on the types of evidence gathered from May through October 2006, when 62 fires struck the Banning Pass area.

Oyler is charged with starting 23 of them. He also faces five murder counts and 17 charges of using a device to commit arson.

He was arrested shortly the deadly Esperanza Fire, which began Oct. 26, 2006. Arson investigators said the 43,000-acre blaze was started by a device made of six wooden matches attached to a lit cigarette with a rubber band.

Driven by Santa Ana winds, the fire moved from its 1 a.m. flashpoint near Cabazon up the side of the San Jacinto Mountains. The five firefighters who perished were trapped by flames as they defended a home.

During Oyler's preliminary hearing last year, investigators described six distinct devices used to set the fires the former Beaumont mechanic is charged with.

"Only two of the fires bear any forensic connection to Mr. Oyler," McDonald argues. DNA was collected from the remains of cigarettes laid across wooden matchsticks on arson fires set June 9 and 10, 2006, in the Banning Pass area.

McDonald wants the case broken down into cigarettes placed over matches; matches bound by a rubber band to a cigarette (including the Esperanza Fire); "open flame device" fires which investigators declared arson by process of elimination; wooden matches; cigarette-and-paper match devices; and matches affixed to a cigarette with a strip of duct tape.

Oyler, 37, remains in custody without bail. He has pleaded not guilty to all charges."

Mark Rey Hopes to Stay Out of Prison on Tuesday

The Associated Press and The Oregonian both have interesting stories about Mark Rey, the Undersecretary of Agriculture, and how there is a chance he could be sentenced to prison for charges that he violated the law regarding the use of aerial fire retardant.

Here is an excerpt from The Oregonian:
"An irritated federal judge in Montana appears ready to go along with the request by Forest Service Employees for Environmental Ethics, based in Eugene, to hold the Bush official who oversees the Forest Service in contempt of court for disobeying his orders.
The judge, Donald Molloy of Missoula, has said that at a hearing Tuesday, he could either jail Mark Rey, the undersecretary of Agriculture, place him under house arrest or suspend all use of fire retardant - the red slurry dropped to slow wildfires."
The Associated Press had this to say, in part:
"WASHINGTON (AP) — He overhauled federal forest policy to cut more trees — and became a lightning rod for environmentalists who say he is intent on logging every tree in his reach.

After nearly seven years in office, Agriculture Undersecretary Mark Rey still has a long to-do list. Near the top: Persuade a federal judge to keep him out of jail.

Rey, a former timber industry lobbyist who has directed U.S. forest policy since 2001, also wants to set up state rules making it easier to build roads in remote national forests and restore overgrown, unhealthy forests by clearing them of small trees and debris that can stoke wildfires. And he wants to streamline cumbersome regulations that can paralyze actions on public lands.

A Montana judge, accusing Rey of deliberately skirting the law so the Forest Service can keep fighting wildfires with a flame retardant that kills fish, has threatened to put him behind bars.

For Rey, who faces a court date Tuesday, the prospect of jail time is daunting. But it's just one more obstacle as he attempts to rid federal policies of pesky paperwork and endless litigation that slows forest managers from cutting down trees."

Friday, February 22, 2008

Fighting Fire With Hay Bales and a Tarp

An article by J. P. Plutt on the University of Montana Extension site describes how to quickly construct a helicopter dip tank or water reservoir with hay bales and a tarp. Add a pump and some fire hose and it can be used to protect a structure. Here is a portion of the article:
"The components of Liggett’s structure protection system include hay bales, a tarp, a pump, fire hose, and a few valves. You take the fire hose, drill holes in it and attach it around the structure. You arrange the hay bales in a rectangle, cover it with the tarp and fill it with as much as 12,000 gallons of water. If fire approaches, the owner need only turn on the pump and get out of there. The system can keep the structure soaking in water for up to 12 hours, which conceivably would protect the building from reaching ignition temperatures until the fire front passes and firefighters can safely enter the area to do the mop-up work."
This could actually work until you get a spot fire in the hay. But in a remote dry site, a dip tank quickly constructed like this could be invaluable.

Outsourcing Fire Suppression?

An article in the Washington Post claims the Administration intends to reinstate the competitive sourcing program within the U.S. Forest Service in 2009. The author, Stephen Barr, raises some interesting issues about how this could affect responses to fires and other emergencies.

Here are some excerpts:

"The Government Accountability Office faulted outsourcing projects at the Forest Service in a report released yesterday, prompting renewed calls for more scrutiny of the Bush administration's effort to contract out federal jobs, a plan known as competitive sourcing.

The Forest Service does not have a realistic long-term plan for determining which agency jobs should be given to the private sector and does not have reliable data to back up claims of cost savings, the GAO said.

In addition, outsourcing substantial numbers of Forest Service jobs to the private sector could, over time, reduce the agency's ability to fight fires in the wilderness and to respond to emergencies such as Hurricane Katrina."


"According to the GAO, the Forest Service plans to consider putting nearly two-thirds of the agency's workforce into job competitions against the private sector.

The success of such a "massive undertaking" will hinge on clear guidelines and "a strategy to assess the cumulative effect that outsourcing a large number of federal jobs could have on its firefighting capability. Unfortunately, the Forest Service has none of these in place," the GAO concluded.

The Forest Service has about 37,000 full-time employees. About 10,000 hold a job related to firefighting, and another 20,000 are certified to fight fires and respond to national emergencies.

In its report, the GAO questioned whether contractors can be expected to provide emergency services, compared with Forest Service employees who know they may be asked to volunteer for one to three weeks each year on a fire line."


"Because of the controversy over job competitions and estimated savings, Congress shut down the Forest Service's competitive sourcing program for fiscal 2008. The administration wants to reinstate it for 2009."
Update: Feb. 29, 2009
HERE is a link to the GAO report.

U.S. Supreme Court Denies Air Tanker Pilots’ Widows Death Benefits

For some reason there have been a lot of stories about air tankers recently.

From the Redding Record Searchlight Online, an excerpt:
The Sonoma County widow of one of two air tanker pilots killed while fighting a fire in Mendocino County in 2001 has lost her bid to seek federal death benefits.

The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday denied an appeal filed by Christine Wells-Groff of Windsor to seek federal death benefits for her and other widows of firefighting pilots, including the widow of a Redding man, killed in the line of duty.

The widows are not entitled to federal death benefits -- about $250,000 -- because, unlike other public safety employees killed on the job, the pilots worked for a company that contracted with the state and were not public employees.

Wells-Groff's husband, Larry, 55, and 45-year-old pilot Lars Stratte of Redding, were killed near Hopland on Aug. 27, 2001, when their air tankers collided while fighting a 242-acre brush fire. Both men were employed by San Joaquin Helicopters, a Delano-based company, under contract with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

The Aerial Firefighter Relief Act, which was introduced in December, would extend federal death and disability benefits to contract pilots and air crews killed or injured while flying official firefighting missions for state or federal agencies. It would also make the coverage retroactive to 1976.

The legislation is a companion to legislation introduced in the House of Representatives by Rep. Barbara Cubin, R-Wyo.

Wells-Groff and Stratte are among dozens of tanker pilots' widows denied death benefits since 1980, when the U.S. Department of Justice decided that tanker pilots are excluded from federal death benefits.

Pincha-Tulley in the News Again

Jeanne Pincha-Tulley, Incident Commander of one of the Type 1 Incident Management Teams in California, was featured earlier in a story about returning to the scene of one of the fires she was on. Now another article has appeared about her; this time in The Union in Grass Valley, California.

Here is an excerpt:
Years of sleeping in the dirt and spending weeks away from her family haven't extinguished Jeanne Pincha-Tulley's love of corralling blazes.

The 49-year-old mother of two boys has followed fire all of her adult life, a passion that has led her to become the first and only woman incident commander of a national fire team.

"Does it take a lot of brains to do that? No. It takes a flak jacket and lot of Motrin," Pincha-Tulley joked from her office as forest fire chief at the Tahoe National Forest headquarters on Nevada City's Coyote Street.

"You don't camp out in the dirt for nothing. You want to do something for the common good," Pincha-Tulley said.

Last summer, Pincha-Tulley led her team in Ketchum, Idaho, during the 48,520-acre Castle Rock Fire, which singed the outskirts of the resort community of Sun Valley. Local celebrities Bruce Willis and Steve Miller threw a concert in honor of the firefighters after the team saved their homes.

Pincha-Tulley's team arrived in Mississippi four hours after Hurricane Katrina devastated the coastline.

"We had a grand time. There was devastation everywhere. We were literally saving people from trees," Pincha-Tulley said.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Satellite Re-entry; Information for First Responders

The out of control satellite that was hit by a missile last night will most likely re-enter the earth's atmosphere in the form of hundreds of pieces of debris, some of which may be extremely hazardous. Wildland firefighters, protecting millions of acres of real estate, should know what to do if they encounter some of this debris.

FEMA, working with the Departments of Defense and Homeland Security, has issued guidelines, HERE, for first responders.

Some highlights from the information:
Information for the Public
A United States satellite is falling back to earth and could potentially impact almost anywhere on the planet.

The satellite has hazardous materials on board that could pose immediate hazards to people if they come in contact with the material.

Specifically, the satellite contains fuel and metal containers that are considered hazardous materials and could survive entry intact.

Any debris should be considered potentially hazardous, and should not be touched, handled, or moved.

Citizens who observe or encounter falling debris should notify your local public safety agency and stay away from it.

Information for First Responders
The satellite that is degrading from orbit has hazardous materials on board that could pose immediate hazards to people if they come in contact with the material.

The craft contains fuel and specialized containers that are considered hazardous materials and could survive entry intact.

Any debris should be considered potentially hazardous, and first responders should not attempt to pick it up or move it.

First responders should secure a perimeter and control access around any debris. DO NOT pick up any debris. Notify your local emergency manager of its location immediately.

The concerns are similar to those encountered after the space shuttle Columbia entered the atmosphere.. However, this craft has far less hazardous materials and is much smaller in size.
The potential hazardous materials include: Hydrazine (anhydrous).

This is important information for wildland firefighters. Click on the little envelope below to email this post to your colleagues.

Rebuilding Homes After the 2003 & 2007 California Fires

There is a very interesting story in the Los Angeles Times about an informal group that had one thing in common..... they all lost their homes during the 2003 Cedar Fire east of San Diego and helped each other through the extremely complex process of rebuilding. The group had an influx of new members following the Witch fire of last October. The article is long, but worth reading.

<---click on the map to enlarge it

Here is an excerpt from the story:

LAKESIDE, CALIF. -- As firefighters battled flames and evacuated northeastern San Diego County in October, a group of Cedar fire survivors did what they wished someone had done for them five years ago.

They headed out on fire watch.

David Kassel, 53, the group's founder, drove over to Billi-Jo Swanson's horse ranch with his fire hose to help wet down brush.

Steven Murray, 54, rode his motorcycle above San Vicente Dam to investigate reports of flames climbing the hill.

Then Kassel and Valentine "Val" Lance, 67, motored out to keep tabs on Wildcat Canyon Road, a major thoroughfare to Ramona that firefighters kept closing. The pair advised residents whether to stay home or evacuate.

That kind of expertise was hard won. Five years ago, they met as shell-shocked strangers, burned out by the Cedar fire -- the state's worst in 75 years -- which consumed 273,000 acres, killed 15 people and left more than 3,000 homeless.

Survivors convened on Thursday nights in the Lakeside storefront of Maine Avenue Tax Service. They were academics and ranchers, Democrats and Republicans, exurban neighbors who wouldn't have said more than hello at Starbucks before the fire.

Week by week, they helped each other through illnesses and other crises. The group grew from 10 to 50, adding an online list of many more. Some rebuilt bigger and better, and dropped out of the group. Others faltered and still haven't rebuilt.

Then the wildfires returned to San Diego County. New fire victims began turning up at meetings, adrift and alone, and the dozen remaining regulars realized that they had a new mission.

Ex-San Diego Fire Chief: "The Time for Action is Now"

An excerpt from the North County Times:

"RANCHO BERNARDO -- In unveiling a report on regional firefighting strategies at a news conference Tuesday, former San Diego fire Chief Jeff Bowman said, "Much of what government does is this."

Bowman stooped down to pick up a pile of documents nearly a foot thick. "This is what we produced after the (2003) Cedar fire."

There is no need for more studies, said Bowman, who lives in Escondido.

"The time for action is now," he said.

Speaking from a hilltop cul-de-sac where three Rancho Bernardo homes were incinerated in the Witch Creek fire last fall, Bowman and other members of a group called the San Diego Regional Fire Safety Forum outlined a checklist of actions they believe the region must take to avoid a similar catastrophe.

They called on the region's most influential agencies to buy four new firefighting helicopters and 50 fire engines, and consolidate the numerous rural fire districts into a regional fire authority like one in Orange County, among other things."

Yesterday, Feb. 19, the San Diego City Council unanimously approved the acquisition of a second helicopter for the city Fire-Rescue Department. They estimate it will cost $16 million and should be in service by August.

Photo of Chief Bowman, courtesy of SignOnSanDiego, 2006.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Prescribed Fire Demonstration for Invited Journalists

The Datona Beach NewsJournalOnline in Florida has an article about conducting a prescribed fire as a demonstration for a horde of invited journalists. Here is an excerpt:

"TOMOKA STATE FOREST -- Mike Stigler watched as smoke and burning embers billowed into the woods. The smoke was supposed to lift into the sky, not curl through the pine trees and palmettos.

The burn boss looked around at his cadre of firefighters and the horde of media standing around in the middle of Tiger Bay State Forest on Tuesday to watch a demonstration on prescribed burning. He wasn't entirely happy. The woods were too dry, and his firefighters didn't have enough combined experience to make him comfortable, not that any burn boss ever rests easily once the flames begin.

But Stigler and the other folks charged with balancing wild Florida's need to burn with its 17 million people get used to conundrums. It's tough to find a time when it's not too dry, not too wet and wind conditions are perfect so the smoke won't close roads and sweep into day care centers and nursing homes.

Stigler, who serves as the senior ranger at the state forest, was asked to burn nearly 23 acres to demonstrate to a group of local journalists how and why government officials and private landowners set prescribed fires. His fire was set to culminate a morning of lectures, but only if the weather cooperated. Otherwise, he'd shut it down."

Local Opposition to Cutting an Air Tanker

The local newspaper in the Kennewick and Tri-Cities area of Washington is very much opposed to what they say is the plan for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to discontinue basing a single engine air tanker at Richland Airport. From the article in the Tri-City Herald:

".......If you don't believe us, give Chris Schulte, refuge fire management officer for the Mid-Columbia River National Wildlife Refuge Complex, a call.

He told Herald reporter John Trumbo last week that he only has five fire engines and crews to cover those refuges. But by making the tanker available to the local firefighting agencies, he can call on 85 more engines and crews when needed.

The mutual aid agreement gives the federal government the first 12 hours of mutual aid at no charge. "It's an incredibly beneficial deal for me," Schulte said.

By "me," Schulte means your agency, of course.

You already may be hearing from the Northwest's political leaders. Fire officials around here are turning up the heat.

"We want local, statewide and national elected officials to intervene in this very poorly thought through decision," explained Chief Bob Gear of Benton County Fire Protection District No. 1.

With so much to recommend against your agency's plan for cutting services, they'll no doubt respond to Gear's call like it was a three-alarm fire."

Sunday, February 17, 2008

USDA's Office of Inspector General Issues Report on Air Tankers

From Scripps News:

Excerpts from the article:
U.S. Forest Service air tankers used in California and other Western states are potentially vulnerable to accidents, investigators warn in a new report.

Despite making strides to improve air safety, the Forest Service could still use more money, better long-range planning and stricter aircraft inspections, among other improvements, federal investigators said.

"The Forest Service has suffered numerous, potentially preventable aviation accidents over the years, and continues to be at risk for more," the investigators with the Agriculture Department's Office of Inspector General noted this week.

"Firefighting aircraft are often subject to stresses well above those experienced in the flying environment for which they were originally designed," the Office of Inspector General investigators observed, adding that "it is imperative to ensure that they can withstand the stresses of the fire environment."

Forest Service officials largely agree with the 49-page critique, the latest in a series of reports, audits and hearings that have targeted the firefighting air fleet.

"The Forest Service takes very seriously its responsibility for safety in aviation, and has been working steadily to improve the air safety program," Forest Service Chief Abigail Kimbell said in the agency's official response.

By January, Forest Service officials promise a comprehensive plan to assess the airworthiness of its tanker fleet. The agency owns and operates 26 aircraft outright and leases 771.

In its official response, the Forest Service is resisting recommendations that the Federal Aviation Administration take more responsibility for the firefighting air safety program. Currently, the FAA approves planes generally but does not specifically determine whether the aircraft are fit for firefighting.

The Forest Service "possesses neither the technical information nor the expertise to assess its firefighting aircrafts' airworthiness," investigators said.

Kimbell retorted that "the FAA clearly has no ... jurisdiction" over the firefighting (aircraft).

(Photo of a TBM air tanker by Bill Gabbert)

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Jury awards $17,500 to fireman arrested at scene of accident

From the St. Louis Post Dispatch:
Federal court jurors awarded $17,500 on Wednesday to a fire captain arrested by a Hazelwood police officer in a dispute over where a fire truck was parked during a 2003 car crash rescue.

Juror Betsy Vennemann said after the verdict, "We wanted to make a statement that this kind of behavior will not be tolerated."

Capt. David Wilson won $7,500 in compensatory damages and $10,000 in punitive damages. Jurors, including a nun, said they went easy on the defendant, Officer Todd Greeves, because he has a family and they weren't sure who would pay the bill. Jurors hear dispute over arrest of firefighter at scene

Wilson testified that the Robertson Fire Protection District truck was parked in a way to protect rescuers working to free a victim from wreckage along Interstate 270 at McDonnell Boulevard.

Greeves ordered that the truck be moved to accommodate passing traffic and arrested Wilson for ignoring him. Wilson was released after 23 minutes and never charged. He sued, claiming civil rights violations that opened him to anxiety and humiliation.

Greeves told the court the truck was creating a hazard and not adding to safety at the scene.
Here is a link to another article about the case written before the jury reached a verdict.

Man Convicted of Starting the Day Fire

Yesterday a federal jury convicted a homeless man, Steven Emory Butcher, of starting the Day Fire, which in 2006 burned over 160,000 acres in the Los Padres National Forest. The charges included willfully setting debris on fire in the forest and allowing a fire to escape from his control. The same jury also found him guilty of causing the 2002 Ellis Fire that burned about 70 acres in the same area.

The 49-year-old man faces up to 11 1/2 years in prison. The fire started in a remote area where Butcher camped for part of the year. It burned for four weeks through 254 square miles of chaparral and scattered pines in and around the Sespe Wilderness, a remote area with steep and rugged terrain. It destroyed 11 structures. The costs for suppression were over $73 million.

(Click on the map to enlarge it.)

Friday, February 15, 2008

Incident Commander Welcomed Back to the Fire Scene

Jeanne Pincha-Tulley has been invited back to the town that was threatened when she, as Incident Commander of California Incident Management Team #3, managed the 48,52-acre Castle Rock fire that some feared would burn the homes in the Wood River Valley near Ketchum, Idaho. An article in the Idaho Mountain Express describes her in glowing terms, including calling her the "darling of the Wood River Valley". With all of the controversy that surrounds much of the wildland fire world these days, it is refreshing to see some good news about our firefighters.

Here are some excerpts from the article:

"Jeanne Pincha-Tulley, darling of the Wood River Valley who oversaw the successful fire-fighting effort last summer that kept the 48,520-acre Castle Rock Fire from overrunning homes, lives and businesses, is returning to the valley for a visit next week.

On Thursday, Feb. 21, Pincha-Tulley will participate in a public conversation at the Presbyterian Church of the Big Wood in Ketchum."


"During the wild time that was the Castle Rock Fire, Pincha-Tulley's presence became a calming factor in the local community. During successive public meetings, she gave local homeowners, public officials and others frank assessments about where the fire was headed, and what actions firefighters would take to control the fast-moving blaze.

Time after time, Pincha-Tulley achieved the near impossible. Standing in front of crowds that typically numbered well into the hundreds, she managed to restore calm to local homeowners inching toward panic due to the proximity of the flames and the scarcity of information.

Rumors bandied back and forth through the community were quickly dispelled by her fact-based reports."

Photo, taken last summer while the Castle Rock Fire was burning, is courtesy of the Idaho Mountain Express.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Report Released on 2007 Southern California Fires

The Lessons Learned Center organized a group of five people to analyze the fires in the fall of 2007 in Southern California to determine the potential for lessons learned. They just released their 44-page report. It is very interesting reading.

The five-person team consisted of Dan Frazee, Phoenix, AZ Fire Department, Dennis Baldridge, U.S. Forest Service, Kevin Pfister, BridgerTeton National Forest, Dave Christenson, Wildland Fire Lessons Learned Center, and Jim Hollingsworth, Cal Fire.

Pay and Retention Issues for U.S. Forest Service in Calif.

The Associated Press is picking up on the pay and retention issues the U.S. Forest Service and other agencies are facing in California. The USFS is losing a great many experienced firefighters to CalFire and other fire departments in the state who pay much higher salaries than the federal agencies. The complete article can be found at the San Diego Union web site.
"WASHINGTON – A top federal official acknowledged Tuesday that the U.S. Forest Service is losing federal firefighters in California to state and county departments that pay more.

But Agriculture Department Undersecretary Mark Rey, who directs U.S. forest policy, told concerned lawmakers he's still evaluating how much of a problem that is. “On the one hand you hate to lose trained people. On the other hand they're still fighting fires under a unified command system,” Rey told a hearing of the House Appropriations Interior subcommittee. “They're going to be on the fire line along with the federal firefighters.”

Lawmakers convinced there is a problem ordered the Forest Service to come up with a plan by Feb. 1 to increase recruitment and retention for Southern California forests. That deadline has passed but the agency is working on it, officials said."

Firefighter, Nearly Electrocuted: 'I Should Be Dead'

From a story on TampaBayOnline:

"Jimmy Branca doesn't know exactly what saved his life: his Chevy truck, a safety device on the powerline up above, or maybe God.

But he recalls his first thought after a getting struck by an electric line yesterday: "Thank God I didn't get killed and I get to go home and see my wife and kids."

Branca and another firefighter were outside their trucks Monday, assessing a wildfire on northwest Josephine Road. Two poles were on fire, and they were about to make a decision on whether to put them out.

That's when both utility Glades Electric poles snapped, and the power lines fell.

"One pole landed not far from me," Branca said. "The wire hit me, and took me to the ground."
Branca, 47, is a burly Navy ex-corpsman who has been working in emergency services since 1979. He
pointed to an abrasion on his left elbow.

So how is it that Branca is alive today?

The wire, he said, caught in the space between the driver's side mirror and the door of his white three-quarter ton command vehicle. He thinks that created enough tension to trip the breaker on the power line. In a fraction of a second, the wire de-energized.

"I should be dead right now," Branca said."

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

USF&WS Approves Use of Blacklining Machine

On January 18 we wrote about the machine being tested by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that burns a 5-foot wide black line as it is towed behind a tractor. Now their Huron Wetland Management District in South Dakota has approved the use of the equipment. More details are on their web site.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Year-round Fire Season in North Carolina?

Tom Collins of the North Carolina Department of Emergency Management says that the drought could result in a year-round fire season, according to an article in the News Observer.

"The epidemic of hundreds of wildfires in every corner of the state served as a warning that drought could expand the spring and fall fire seasons into one long year of risk, emergency officials said Monday.

"Right now, we could have a fire season year-round," said Tom Collins, eastern branch manager for the N.C. Division of Emergency Management.

Normally, the spring season doesn't begin until March. But in a single weekend, 10,100 acres -- more than half the acreage normally torched in an an entire year -- were burned.

"We probably had fires in every county in the state," Collins said. "I've seen days in the western part of the state where we just had fires everywhere, but this time it was statewide.

"It just had to be drought-related."

Propelled by strong winds, more than 300 wildfires flared across the state Sunday. By Monday, the winds had died, but several small fires and three larger blazes were still burning, state fire officials said. The last major fires, each about 2,000 acres, were in Halifax, Tyrrell and Camden counties."

Senator John Kyl: Forest Service or Fire Service?

Senator John Kyl, a Republican from Arizona, in an article on his web site criticizes the President's proposed budget for 2009 which reduces the funds allocated for fuel treatments.

"With almost 48 percent of the proposed budget going toward fire fighting, the Forest Service might be more appropriately called the “Fire Service.”

I believe funding for fighting fires must be complemented by adequate funding for preventing them. Proactive management of our forests not only is the best tool in combating wildfires, it is critical to restoring forest health and improving habitats for diverse species.

Typically, there are two complimentary methods of treatment: mechanical thinning of brush and smaller diameter trees, and prescribed burning. These treatments open up forests so they are less susceptible to “hot” crown fires. More importantly, reducing competition for soil nutrients, water, and sunlight immediately enhances the health of the trees, allowing them to grow bigger and fend off diseases and deadly insects like bark beetles."

Monday, February 11, 2008

Fires in Virginia, North and South Carolina

Strong winds up to 50 and 60 mph caused problems for firefighters in Virginia and North Carolina.

Virginia, from Pilotonline.com:

Beyond southeast Virginia, dozens of brush fires burned across the commonwealth and some were still burning Sunday night.

Local authorities declared emergencies in Bedford, Roanoke, Caroline, Orange, Dinwiddie, Lunenburg, Nelson and King George counties.

Shelters were opened in Roanoke and in the counties of Bedford, Hanover and Nelson for evacuees from residential areas threatened by brush fires.

Brush fires and downed power lines have closed parts of several major roads: I-81 north of Roanoke; U.S. 460 in Botetourt County; I-95 in Hanover County; U.S. 60 in New Kent County.

Carolinas, from Foxnews/Associated Press:
CONWAY, S.C. — Wind-whipped wildfires chased churchgoers from worship, forced hundreds of residents to flee homes and closed highways across the rain-starved Carolinas and Virginia on Sunday.

Twelve small structures, including at least one business and an unknown number of homes and sheds, were damaged by a blaze near the South Carolina coast; no injuries were reported, authorities said.

About 60 homes were briefly evacuated Sunday afternoon as the fire sent smoke billowing above this city of about 11,000 people about 15 miles northwest of Myrtle Beach.

"The flames were at the top of the trees and I could feel the heat," said Lewis Cooper, 37, who fled the fire.

In North Carolina, winds gusting up to 60 mph in some areas toppled trees and power lines and also fanned brush fires.

Photo on Lake Carolina in Richland County, VA, from wistv.com

Friday, February 8, 2008

Professional Liability Insurance Now Available for AD Employees

One of the companies that provides professional liability insurance for wildland firefighters has now expanded their coverage to include AD (Administratively Determined) employees. This is big news for the AD firefighters out there. The cost is $270 a year, the same as for a regular government firefighter.

Here is some information from a news release by the company, Federal Employee Defense Services.
"Federal Employee Defense Services (FEDS) has recently determined that personnel hired under the Pay Plan for Emergency Workers (AD Pay Plan) are considered “federal employees” for purposes of eligibility for benefits and membership in the FEDS program.

Through our relationships with such organizations as the Federal Wildland Fire Service Association (FWFSA), AD Firefighters Association, Wildlandfire.com and other groups and individuals involved with federal wildland fire fighting, we learned about a group of individuals called ADs who were hired by federal agencies to support the federal government’s wildland fire fighting mission. We received many inquiries as to whether these individuals would be eligible for liability protection under the FEDs program.

We have determined that individuals who are hired under the Pay Plan for Emergency Workers (AD Pay Plan) are eligible for membership under FEDS. Eligibility for benefits under FEDS, however, is limited to those instances when you are performing a federal function under the direction and control of a federal agency (i.e. within the scope of federal employment and are an employee under 5 U.S.C. 2105(a)). Accordingly, we at FEDS are happy to continue our support of the federal wildland fire fighting community by extending our coverage to ADs in this regard. When signing up on line at www.fedsprotection.com simply select AD Pay Plan when asked to identify the federal agency for which you work."

Western Governors Call for Adequate Funding for Fire

The Western Governors' Association sent out a news release calling for adequate federal funding for both wildland fire suppression and prevention.

"Denver -- On the heels of one of the most costly wildfire seasons on record, Western governors are calling on Congress and the Bush Administration to provide adequate resources in the upcoming budget and beyond to not only fight future fires, but also improve forest health to prevent them.

The Western Governors’ Association is calling for a “funding fix” to ensure fire suppression costs can be covered without taking money away from restoration and fuels reduction – the very programs that help prevent catastrophic wildfires. A letter outlining the governors’ concerns was sent to leaders in Congress and the Administration. It was signed by Govs. Dave Freudenthal ( Wyo.), WGA Chairman; Jon M. Huntsman, Jr. ( Utah), WGA Vice Chairman; and Janet Napolitano ( Ariz.), WGA lead governor for forest health.

“It is clear that we have entered a new age of wildland fires,” the governors said, noting that three of the last six fire seasons have resulted in more than $1 billion in suppression costs. At the same time, funding for the other functions has decreased by over $200 million.

They said to solve the impact of suppression costs on agencies’ budgets, “we must take a reality check” and realize that additional investment is a necessary part of the solution. The governors support full implementation and funding of the National Fire Plan and the 10-year Comprehensive Strategy and Implementation Plan that states, federal agencies and stakeholders developed in 2001 and updated in 2006."

Thursday, February 7, 2008

P-3 Orion

I ran across this fantastic photo of air tanker 00, a P-3 Orion, dropping on a fire near Cedar City, Utah, in 2006. It is from a new blog about the helitack crew at Zion National Park. Click on the photo to see a larger version. (I took the liberty of cropping it.)

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Investigators Report on the Florida I-4 Fog/Smoke Incident

Investigators have released a report on the Florida January 8 incident that we reported on in which smoke from an escaped prescribed fire may have mixed with fog causing poor visibility on Interstate 4 resulting in five fatalities in vehicle crashes. The report issued by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services says:
"...an unpredictable change in weather caused the prescribed burn to burn erratically which resulted in spot fires."
Tampa Bay Online has more details:

"TALLAHASSEE - A state investigation has cleared wildlife officials who last month lost control of a prescribed burn that may have contributed to a 70-vehicle pileup on Interstate 4 in Polk County.

The investigation by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services concluded changing weather conditions Jan. 8 caused the 10-acre planned burn to jump firelines and spread to 400 acres. The National Weather Service said smoke from the fire could have combined with fog the next morning to cut visibility on the highway to nearly zero.

Five people died in the predawn pileup and resulting fires, prompting questions about how the fire got out of control and whether the state should have held a controlled burn in the dry season less than a mile from the interstate.

The Florida Highway Patrol is conducting a homicide investigation that also will look at whether smoke from the wildfire played a part in the wrecks.

The report by the Agriculture Department's law enforcement division states those in charge of the fire followed correct procedures but that an "unpredictable change in weather caused the prescribed burn to burn erratically which resulted in spot fires."

"There does not appear to be any evidence of criminal violations or gross negligence" by those involved in the burn, investigators concluded in their report.

Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission employees conducting the burn reported that the humidity had dropped sharply about an hour after the fire was set at 10 a.m. and winds picked up, spreading the fire outside the protective earthen barriers.

The National Weather Service confirms there was a drop in humidity at the fire site, but meteorologists said that could have been caused by the fire. As warm air from a fire rises, it forces drier air downward. Drier air aids the spread of fire, especially when rainfall has been sparse for a long period.

Daniel Noah, warning coordination meteorologist with the National Weather Service, said the agency has no way of knowing whether wind speeds around the fire picked up or wind directions changed. However, Noah did not rule out that possibility."

A preliminary report issued by the Florida Highway Patrol does not even mention the prescribed fire.

Re-seeding In The Snow

I thought this photo of a helicopter re-seeding over snow was interesting. They are working on an area southwest of Reno, Nevada that burned during the Hawkin fire on July 6. Click on the photo to enlarge it.

The photo caption:
"Helicopter pilot John Kelly of El Aero Services of Carson City drops seeds and mulch Monday over the Hawken Fire area. Each load weighs 800 pounds, and he was covering 340 acres with seeds and an additional 165 acres with mulch that should prevent erosion."

More information from the Reno Gazette Journal:
"Seeds sown Monday across southwest Reno land scorched by the Hawken Fire are expected to bloom in the spring.

"We expect to see some growth. We're hoping for a good germination," said Sonya Hem, deputy director of the Nevada Land Conservancy. "We've been dropping pure live seed on the snow, sagebrush and bitter brush seeds."

She said unlike some plants, those seeds need to be on the snow to germinate. The seeds were then covered with mulch to keep them on the ground, she said.

The partnership of Washoe County and the land conservancy is conducting the aerial seeding of 350 acres and aerial mulching of 165 acres of the Hawken area that burned in July."

Monday, February 4, 2008

Marc Mullenix Memorial Fund

More details are now available about the memorial fund for Marc Mullenix, a Division Chief for Fairmount Fire Protection District near Denver. Marc passed away on January 28.

Here is the complete information from the Fairmount Fire Protection District:

Memorial Services will be held Wednesday, February 6 - 1200 hours

Faith Bible Chapel
6250 Wright Street
Arvada, CO 80004

The ceremony will be followed by a reception at the same location.

Memorial Fund:
Marc Mullenix Life Challenge Foundation
Donations can be made at any Wells Fargo Bank Location

Apparatus staging will begin at 1030 at the Faith Bible Chapel Worship Center. Departments wishing to bring apparatus should contact

Lt. Rick Goodman at 303-435-9411

Those preferring to send flowers, Flowers will be received at:
Fairmount Fire Department
4755 Isabel Street
Golden CO 80403

Retardant Use Can Increase Cheatgrass?

It seems that every few years another issue about the use of aerial fire retardant appears. The latest is that the nitrogen and phosphorous in the retardant produce a condition that encourages cheatgrass, while it has little effect on native grasses.

The photo from the Missoulian apparently shows green strips of cheatgrass growing in the areas where air tankers dropped retardant on on a fire on Mount Jumbo near Missoula on July 4, 2006.

According to the story in the Missoulian:
"According to preliminary results, the retardant's fertilizerlike nutrients significantly increased cheatgrass and tumbleweed mustard, both exotic annual species, at the expense of native perennial grasses on the mountainside.

The invaders benefit from the jolt of nitrogen and phosphorous in the slurry, which native and exotic perennials largely ignore because they are accustomed to nutrient-poor soils.

Cheatgrass and tumbleweed mustard didn't spread where the fire burned alone, but they exploded in areas that were burned and hit with retardant, the study found.

The two invaders have spread from 51 percent to 88 percent on Mount Jumbo since the retardant was dropped, although two perennial invaders, spotted knapweed and Dalmation toadflax, decreased.

The Fourth of July fire burned about 320 acres and fire retardant was dropped on about 12 acres of Mount Jumbo, where noxious weeds have become widespread over the past 20 years.

The two-year study, which is to be completed next spring, is being conducted by Besaw and Giles Thelan, a research specialist at UM's plant ecology laboratory."

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Marc Mullenix's Obituary

Here is the text of the Obituary for Marc Mullenix, Division Chief of Fairmount Fire Protection District, as published in the Cortez Journal:
"Marc Robert Mullenix

Memorial services for Mancos resident Marc Robert Mullenix will be held at noon Wednesday, Feb. 6, at Faith Bible Chapel in Arvada, Colo.

Marc was born Sept. 16, 1957, in Downey, Calif., the son of Robert and Charmaine (Sterling) Mullenix. He passed away Monday, Jan. 28, 2008, in Mancos at the age of 50.

Surviving Marc are his wife, Shawna Mullenix of Mancos; his daughter, Nikki Mullenix of Longmont, Colo.; his mother, Charmaine Mullenix of Santa Clarita, Calif.; and his brother, Norm Mullenix of Prescott, Ariz.

Marc was preceded in death by his father.

Memorial contributions can be made in Marc’s name at the Durango branch of Wells Fargo Bank.

Arrangements are being made through Ertel Funeral Home. For further information or to send condolences, log on to www.ertelfuneralhome.com and click on the obituary section."

Here is the information we posted earlier about the funeral services:

The funeral services for Marc Mullenix, who passed away on Monday, will be held February 6 at noon at:

Faith Bible Chapel
6250 Wright St.
Arvado, Colorado

Apparatus staging will begin at 1030 at the Faith Bible Chapel. Departments wishing to bring apparatus should contact Lt. Rick Goodman at 303-435-9411

A memorial fund is being established, the "Marc Mullenix Life Challenge Foundation". Details will be posted when they become available.

Flowers may be sent to:

Fairmount Fire
4755 Isabell Road
Golden, CO 80403

Friday, February 1, 2008

California Proposes Insurance Fee For Fire

California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, in his state of the state address last month, proposed a 1.25% tax on property insurance, which would generate $125 million a year for CalFire. With the state facing a $14 billion deficit, the additional funds would be used to pay for 121 new engines, 11 more helicopters, and to increase the staffing on state engines from 3 to 4.

Some of the new engines would be placed at municipal fire departments, using the Office of Emergency Services model, where they would be maintained by the department, used as local backup, and be staffed and sent statewide if needed for large fires.

The insurance fee, amounting to about $10 to $12 per homeowner, would be charged to every insurance policy whether they lived in an urban setting in downtown Los Angeles, or in the brush covered hills east of San Diego. The urban residents would benefit very little from additional wildland fire suppression capability, while the those living in mansions above Malibu would sleep more comfortably.

On October 21 when a fire was burning through the hills outside Malibu, a well-dressed woman near the beach was interviewed on live TV. She owned property which was being threatened by the fire. She said that she had just talked with her son on his cell phone who was on the roof of their gym spraying water with a garden hose. He told her that he thought the main house, the guest house, and the gym would all be safe from the fire.

The question is, should she pay the same wildland fire protection tax as a resident of downtown LA?