Saturday, May 31, 2008

Firefighters injured by lightning are now out of the hospital

On May 29 we posted information about two firefighters, members of a Hot Shot Crew, that were injured by lightning while working on a prescribed fire west of Whitefish, MT on the Flathead National Forest. We are pleased to report that they have been released from the hospital. Apparently lightning struck some trees near where they were working.

By the way, the photo is not of that incident.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Prepare, Stay, and Defend.....in Montana

The practice of "shelter in place", also known as "prepare, stay, and defend" has been used in Australia and South Africa for decades, but it is rarely used as an official policy in the United States. However, the Painted Rocks Fire Rescue Company near Darby, Montana is hosting a public training session June 7-8 about Prepare, Stay, and Defend.

In addition to having a researcher from Tasmania at the meeting, a second researcher from the US Forest Service will be there to gather information about how the program is received by local residents. Battallion Chief Alan Tresemer will be the instructor.

The concept of prepare, stay, and defend involves having a homeowner in a rural area make their home as fire safe as possible by using fire resistant construction materials and removing flammable vegetation around the structure. Then, if the home is threatened by fire, the homeowner stays at the home, sheltering in place. By remaining at the house, they would be able to extinguish small spot fires near the structure, increasing the chances that the house will survive.

And by not evacuating, they would not be exposed to traffic tie-ups, or becoming entrapped by a fast moving fire. During the Cedar fire near San Diego in 2003 several at least five citizens died on Wildcat Canyon Road while they were fleeing the fire. And in the Tunnel (or East Bay Hills) fire near Oakland, CA in 1991 the same thing happened.

UPDATE, January 23, 2009
Further research about the Tunnel and Cedar fires reveals that 8 of the 14 citizens who died in the Cedar fire perished while they were evacuating. And 19 died while trying to evacuate from the Tunnel fire in Oakland.

San Diego Grand jury issues scathing report about fire preparedness

The Grand Jury of San Diego County investigated the response to the Witch Creek and Guejito fires of last fall that burned 368,340 acres, destroyed 2,653 structures, and claimed the lives of 10 citizens . They just issued their report and it pulls no punches.

They began by pointing out the recommendations that were not implemented within the city of San Diego after the Cedar fire of 2003 which burned 376,237 acres, destroyed 3,241 structures, and killed 15 citizens and 1 firefighter:
  • Fund staffing and resources needed for long duration incidents.
  • Remove open cab apparatus from service--partially completed.
  • Fund develop, and train personnel to function at all Unit Leader positions in the Logistics Section.
  • Establish a fleet of three fire-rescue helicopters.
Then they identified other problem areas within the city of San Diego, some of which include:
  • Serious gaps in fire protection coverage.
  • No comprehensive plan to improve coverage.
  • The fire department is not involved in the City planning process.
Issues within the county of San Diego include the fact that the budget for fire protection for the county is $8.5 million annually, as opposed to neighboring Orange County which spends $260 million and Los Angeles County that spends $860 million. Orange county has about the same population as San Diego county, but is only 18% of the size geographically as San Diego county.

Some of the recommendations:
  • The city should increase the Transient Occupancy Tax (bed tax in hotels, motels) in order to improve fire protection levels, including additional stations, engines, firefighters, training, and equipment. So.... they want tourists to pay for adequate fire protection, rather than the property owners who would benefit.
  • Consolidation of County Fire Agencies.
  • Increasing county funding for fire protection.
  • Staff 28 rural fire stations 24/7.
  • Create the position of San Diego County Fire Commander.
Call me a cynic, but I wonder if this report will just gather dust on the shelf like the others.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Arizona: more about the Frye Mesa fire

On May 22 we wrote about the Frye Mesa fire, the result of an escaped prescribed fire on the Coronado National Forest south of Safford, Arizona that eventually burned 3,100 unplanned acres. Today an editorial in the Eastern Arizona Courier blasted the US Forest Service for lighting the prescribed fire on a day when the National Weather Service had issued a red flag warning for Graham County.

Bill Turner of the NWS was quoted as saying:
“We strongly discouraged them from starting it. We had red-flag criteria everywhere.”
The NWS reported that a few hours after the fire escaped, the temperature was 102 degrees, the RH was 11%, and the wind speed was 22 mph.

Photo, May 21, by David Peters, BLM

Montana: two firefighters struck by lightning

Two firefighters working on a prescribed fire on the Flathead National Forest were struck by lightning Thursday. They were on on the Tally Lake Ranger District when lighting struck some trees near where they were working. The firefighters, a 25-year old woman and a 29-year old man are members of a Hot Shot crew. Both were both transported to hospitals, the woman by helicopter and the man by ambulance. They are listed in stable condition.

Thanks to Dick M. for the tip.

Video about prescribed fire in Florida

Here's a video about a prescribed fire in Florida in which a firefighter explains very effectively what they are doing and why. Fire agencies should do more of this. It's 1 min. & 47 seconds long.

BLM firefighters honored as heroes

This involves the crash of single engine air tanker 458 on July 17, 2007.

Associated Press - May 28, 2008 7:44 PM ET

RENO, Nev. (AP) - Five federal firefighters from Nevada and four from Montana have been recognized as heroes for their courageous rescue of a pilot whose air tanker crashed in the path of a quickly advancing wildfire south of Winnemucca last summer.

Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne recently presented them with the department's prestigious valor award in recognition of the bravery and decisive action taken by the members of the Bureau of Land Management fire crew members based in Winnemucca and Lewiston, Mont.

The July 17 rescue occurred after a large lightning storm ignited the 8,000-acre Barrel Springs Fire.

The pilot of a single engine air tanker crashed while trying to make a strategic retardant drop so the crews cleared a buffer and scrambled to slow the fire's advance toward the plane. They grabbed the disoriented pilot, removed him from the crash site and helped him remove his fuel-soaked clothes.

As they drove away, the flames consumed the plane.

Kempthorne presented the awards at a ceremony in Washington on May 13 to Mike Hendrickson, Lester McDonald, Mike Sperry, Scott Brandt, Mike McMaster and Andrew Snyder of Nevada, and Andrew Rishavy, Andrea Robinson, Scott Meneely and Steven Spellberg of Montana.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Cabela's employee discount for firefighters

Cabela's is offering an employee's discount to firefighters and law enforcement officers June 2-4. It is only valid in their stores, not catalog or Internet orders. Here is a link to a 4.7 MB flyer. More details from their web site:
Hometown Heroes Sales Event
Cabela's Retail is hosting an Appreciation Day for all Emergency Response team members, Firefighters, Law Enforcement, Military and Veterans. Stop in and receive Employee Discount with valid identification. Cabela's appreciates all that you do! Certain restrictions do apply* Contact Store Event Coordinator for more information.

*During regular store hours, must show valid identification, Exclusions include but are not limited to Boats, Firearms, Ammunition, ATV's, Trailers, Gift Cards, Gift Certificates, Licenses and certain other items. Discount can not be combined with any other offer and is on regular priced merchandise only.
Rumor has it that the employee discount varies from 0-25%, depending on the item.

10th Wildland Fire Safety Summit

The International Association of Wildland Fire announced today their preliminary plans for a Wildland Fire Safety Summit next year. For this 10th conference in the series, they are still negotiating with a venue, but it is expected to be in Phoenix, April 28-30, 2009. Dick Mangan will be the IC or Chair.

Major emphasis areas for the Safety Summit will include:
1. 10 years after the Tri-Data Study: what is different?
2. Aviation Safety on Wildfire Operations;
3. Issues in Wildfire Safety around the World;
4. Safety in the emerging Wildland-Urban Interface.
5. New research in Wildland Fighter Safety practices, training and equipment
6. Firefighter Health and Fitness
If you would like to help put the conference together, contact Dick Mangan at:
blackbull at bigsky.net

They will issue a call for papers later.

Increased risk of bladder cancer for firefighters

It seems like there are more and more chronic diseases that firefighters are predisposed to get. Now you can add bladder cancer to the list.

ScienceDaily (May 15, 2008) — A new study presented at the Annual Scientific Meeting of the American Urological Association (AUA) suggests that firefighters may be at an increased risk of developing transitional cell carcinoma (TCC, or bladder cancer) and should be considered for routine annual screening. Currently, no guidelines exist for regular TCC screening.

Researchers are from the University of California, San Francisco.

It is well known that prolonged exposure to certain environmental pollutants and chemicals puts humans at a major risk for developing bladder cancer. As the body absorbs carcinogenic chemicals, such as cigarette smoke, the chemicals are transferred to the blood, filtered out by the kidneys and expelled from the body through the urine. Greater concentrations of chemicals in the urine can damage the endothelial lining of the bladder and increase a patient’s odds of developing transitional cell carcinoma (TCC). Firefighters, who are regularly exposed to smoke and chemical fumes, may be at a higher risk for developing the disease than other groups.

Researchers explored this possibility in a screening study of 1,286 active and retired San Francisco firefighters. From August 2006 to March 2007, the subjects – mean age 45 (SD+9.7) – participated in voluntary urine dipstick testing and point-of-care NMP-22 testing. 93 Patients tested positive for hematuria and six tested positive for NMP-22. These 99 patients were referred for upper tract imaging, cystoscopy and urine cytology. Of the group, a single firefighter tested positive for both NMP-22 and hematuria, with two patients – both retired firefighters – ultimately diagnosed with TCC.

The age and sex-adjusted incidence for TCC is 36 per 100,000. These findings represent a higher incidence, suggesting that retired firefighters may be a high-risk group.

In Canada, the British Columbia government recognizes as an occupational hazard for firefighters the following diseases:
  • testicular cancer
  • lung cancer in non-smokers
  • brain cancer
  • bladder cancer
  • kidney cancer
  • ureter cancer
  • colorectal cancer
  • non-Hodgkin's lymphoma
  • leukemia
This means that full-time, volunteer, part-time, and paid on-call firefighters suffering from the diseases will qualify for worker's compensation and benefits, without having to prove individually that the diseases are linked to their jobs.

Rather sobering, don't you think?

California: Summit fire progression map

I just finished teaching a Situation Unit Leader S-346 class. Much of the class is about maps. The next time I teach it in September, I'll use this fire progression map produced by the Mercury News as an example of what can be done. It includes some interesting facts about the fire that most official firefighter-made maps would not have, but it's a great product for public consumption.

According to the map, within the first 16 hours the fire spread at least 5 miles and burned 3,376 acres.

Click on it to see a larger version.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Wildland fire roundup

The Summit fire south of Santa Cruz, California is expected to be contained by the middle of this week, but many of the evacuees have still not been allowed to return to their homes. The fire is 70% contained and has burned 3,970 acres in an area that has not burned in the 100 years that fire records have been kept. 36 residences have been destroyed. The fire burned 3,000 acres in the first 8 hours. While most people at a public meeting yesterday were supportive of the firefighters, one person questioned what they described as a "slow response" to the Ormsby Road area where several homes burned. Chief John Ferreira of CalFire said:
"We kill enough firefighters over their own desire to do their best and protect the community. I regret that the houses were lost, but we would not have sent our firefighters into that situation."
I wonder what the person that questioned the CalFire response did in advance to make his house fire safe?

WRAL.com has a story about Peter Barr who got obsessed interested in the 120 fire lookout towers in North Carolina. He wrote a book, "Hiking North Carolina's Lookout Towers", that includes descriptions of how to hike to 26 of them in western and central North Carolina. And, in case you didn't know, there is a Forest Fire Lookout Association. Mr. Barr is the director of the state's chapter.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Concrete logs for fire resistant house construction

A company in Missoula, Montana has developed "cultured logs", a fire resistant building material which looks very much like wood logs. Dick Morgenstern, Chairman of Cultured Log Systems, had experience in precasting concrete for bridges and sewer manholes.

After seeing houses threatened by wildland fires being wrapped in fire shelter material, he started experimenting in Missoula by making a rubber impression from real logs, then transferring that impression to concrete. The concrete is tinted and judging from the photos, looks very real, at least from a distance.

The logs have a polystyrene core encased by concrete and reinforced with metal rods. Wall sections weigh about 100 pounds per linear foot. The company, after accepting the plans for a house, will produce the logs, transport them to the building site, and erect the structure, all in 60-90 days.

The cost is about 10-20% higher than conventional wood frame construction and costs about the same as handcrafted logs, but the cultured logs are virtually maintenance free. The company claims this type of construction is much more air tight and provides more insulation than conventional wood frame or log construction.

Put a metal roof on one of these puppies and keep the vegetation around the house cleaned up, and your neighborhood firefighters will love you!

UPDATE January 21, 2009
The company has changed their name to EverLog Systems. Their web site is www.everlogs.com

Saturday, May 24, 2008

California: Summit fire update

The Summit fire, south of San Jose, California, has now burned 3,400 acres according to a CalFire spokesman. Early today it jumped over the Santa Cruz County line into Uvas Canyon County Park in Santa Clara County. The community of Sveadal near the park entrance was evacuated. The spokesman said they expect the fire to grow to 4,000 before it is contained next week. The fire has burned 28 structures and is 25% contained.

Investigators traced the direction of spread indicators back to the point of origin which turned out to be a location where someone had been clearing vegetation.

Click on the below map of the Summit fire to see a larger version. This map shows heat detected by satellites. The fire perimeter, as uploaded from the incident management team, is hard to see, but it is in yellow cross-hatching--it may not be very current.

Below is a map from Google uploaded by CalFire that has a little more detail. The perimeter was produced from infrared imagery at 1700 hours on May 23. This is a new application, to me anyway, and it is a little buggy. It takes a while to load and refresh. But I applaud CalFire for providing this service.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

California: Summit fire, south of San Jose

The Summit fire started early Thursday morning about 12 miles south of San Jose, California and over the course of the day grew to 3,000 acres in the Santa Cruz Mountains. By 5 PM local time on Thursday at least 10 structures had burned and 350 residents had been forced to evacuate with another 1,400 asked to leave their homes voluntarily. Heavy brush and timber along with winds gusting up to 50 mph were complicating firefighting efforts.

There was a report that it has the potential to grow to 10,000 acres. The cause is under investigation but a local resident said that she had seen someone burning debris piles recently near where the fire started and last week the piles were still smoldering.

The map below of the Summit fire shows heat in red as detected by satellites on Thursday.
Google has some interesting maps and photos of the fire.

Photo courtesy of Mercury News.

Arizona: Frye Mesa fire

This fire started out as a 100-acre prescribed fire in the Pinaleno mountains south of Safford, Arizona on the Coronado National Forest, but on Tuesday it escaped control. Strong winds and red flag conditions on Wednesday caused it to blow out on all sides and by Thursday it was 2,500 acres. Small's Eastern Arizona Incident Management Team assumed command at 1800 on Wednesday. As of Thursday afternoon rain was falling on the fire and no homes were threatened.

Photo, Wednesday evening, May 21, by David Peters, BLM

Monday, May 19, 2008

Limited posting this week.

I am instructing Resources Unit Leader (S-348) and Situation Unit Leader (S-346) this week so there will be very little posting until the weekend. Feel free to leave your own comments about what's happening in wildland fire.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Report released on fatal Charleston furniture store fire

We routinely write about wildland fires here, but there are some lessons to be learned that would apply to wildland fire in the long awaited report on last June's fire in Charleston, SC that claimed the lives of nine firefighters at the Sofa Super Store. It contains some startling information:

  • Fighting a well-established fire in a large furniture store with booster lines.
  • The fire department routinely did not use any large diameter hose. The largest hose on the pumpers was 2 1/2".
  • There was inadequate water supply at the fire.
  • A lack of command and control at the fire scene.
  • A lack of accountability of firefighters at the fire scene.
  • The trapped firefighters' mayday radio calls were not heard by anyone at the fire.
  • Improper ventilation at the fire may have contributed to the fatalities.
  • Truck companies in the fire department had ceased being used for ventilation on fires, perform rescues, or conduct salvage or overhaul. They had become "taxis", transporting extra firefighters to fires.
  • "The Charleston Fire Department was inadequately staffed, inadequately trained, insufficiently equipped, and organizationally unprepared to conduct an operation of this complexity."
  • "The fire chief became directly involved in supervising tactical operations in the vicinity of the loading dock and the warehouse during the critical phase of the incident. This should not be the role of the Incident Commander."
  • The policy of the fire department was to not refill SCBA air tanks unless they were less than 2/3 full. This had the effect of the low pressure alarms going off after only 6-7 minutes of use.
On Wednesday, Fire Chief Rusty Thomas announced that he is retiring, effective June 27.

More information, including a photo, is at Firegeezer. Charleston.net has a lengthy story about the report.

Friday, May 16, 2008

National Geographic cover story about wildland fire

The July issue of National Geographic, which will be mailed on June 16-17 to subscribers, will have a major cover story about wildland fire. They are planning a 28-page spread with many photos of wildland fire from around the country. The title of the story is "The Fire Season", written by Neil Shea and Photographer Mark Thiessen.

According to Frank Carroll, the Planning and Public Affairs Staff Officer for the Black Hills National Forest who provided this information, it will star firefighters from across the country. We know that they shot some photos last summer in the Black Hills of South Dakota, and also at the fire in California that started east of Malibu, burned to the west and stopped where many fires are stopped, at the Pacific Ocean.

National Geographic does photo stories on wildland fire about every 10 years, but this one is supposed to be one of the best in a long time.

I think it was in 1972 that Tom Sadowski and I sent some of our fire photos and a proposal to National Geographic for something similar. We received a very nice declination letter from someone there named, and I have not forgotten this, "Smokey". Smokey explained that they liked our photos, but that they had done a wildland fire story 3-4 years before and it was too soon to do another one.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Another military jet starts a fire

The pilot of an F/A-18 Super Hornet meant for his laser guided bomb to land on a Florida bombing range on Tuesday, but he missed it by a mile--exactly--starting a fire in a national forest. Today U.S. Forest Service firefighters are mopping up the 250-acre fire started by the bomb outside the Pinecastle target range about 60 miles northwest of Orlando.

While inert bombs occasionally land outside the bombing range, a Navy spokesman said this is the first time a live bomb has missed the range. Thankfully no one was hurt when the 500-pound bomb exploded.

I thought a laser-guided bomb could be guided through a window in an outhouse.....but missing the entire bombing range?

Other military aircraft have started vegetation fires in the last 12 months:

On March 25, 2008 Wildfire Today reported on a B-1 bomber that caught fire while in flight near Ellsworth Air Force Base near Rapid City and apparently started several vegetation fires from falling debris before landing safely at Ellsworth.

Wildfire Today told you about how on May 15, 2007, a New Jersey Air National Guard F-16 ejected a flare during a low-level pass on a training flight, starting a fire which grew to 17,000 acres. The fire destroyed four homes in two senior citizen housing developments, and damaged 37 others. Some 6,000 people were evacuated. Ocean County agencies will receive $320,000 from the Air Force as reimbursements for their costs during the fire. The Air Force has already paid nearly $2 million in private property claims and other losses, but many claims are still unsettled.

California: Big Horn fire update #2

The Big Horn fire on the Angeles National Forest did not spread very much today. The run it made on the west side yesterday afternoon added an additional 110 acres, which brings the total size to 420 acres. More information, including maps, is on the InciWeb site.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

California: Big Horn fire update

The Big Horn fire near Big Bear, California, was not very active today until this afternoon, when it made a sizable uphill run on the west side. Before that the size was 310 acres and they were reporting 10% containment. Judging from their map, updated at 4:50 local time today, it probably increased by at least 100 acres up to the time that map was made.

If the 396 people managed by Carlton Joseph's Type 2 Incident Management Team don't make much progress later today or tonight, they are going to be seriously challenged Thursday and Friday by what will be very strong winds and possibly record heat of around 100 degrees in the valleys.

Corvette fire apparatus

I first read about this on Firegeezer and Firefighter blog, but HERE is a story about Dubai using a Corvette as a fast response fire apparatus. The theory is that it can get to a fire quickly and size it up or put it out, perhaps saving property and lives. Here is an excerpt from the story:
Brigadier Rashid Thani Al Matroushi, Director of Dubai Civil Defence, said the civil defence will soon start using a customised Corvette car to attend to fires quickly, to prevent them spreading.

He said the car is a small, light and fast car which can beat traffic and contains highly-effective firefighting and prevention systems in addition to rescue equipment in cases where people are trapped in cars.

Equipment in the car includes a portable fire extinguisher, hydraulic equipment, firefighting equipment and first aid equipment.

Brigadier Al Matroushi who suggested the idea of developing a sports car and followed up its development daily, said one of the reasons behind a fire getting worse was the distance between civil defence centres and accident locations. The large size of civil defence vehicles makes it difficult to arrive quickly at the scene, therefore the need arose to develop a fast car.

Captain Sulaiman Abdulkareem, Director of Civil Defence Technical Affairs, said the developing of the car took two months by four members.

Suspect arrested for starting a fire in Florida

Firegeezer has information about a suspect being arrested this morning for starting a fire in Brevard County in Florida. It is Brian Crowder, who was arrested after a surveillance effort by 60 officers observed him exit his car, walk into a vegetated area, and drive away. A fire then started in that location.

Officers pursued him, but lost him. Eventually, following up on license plate information, they found him, but he ran into the woods. Police set up a perimeter, closed in on him and arrested him. He is now in a hospital being treated for dog bite wounds.

It is not clear if Crowder will be charged with starting some of the other fires in Brevard County.

Smoke from Florida fires

The fires in Florida continue to put up a large amount of smoke, as seen in this map produced today from satellite data.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Bighorn fire; Mt. Baldy, So. Calif.

UPDATE, 5/13/2008 @ 5:38 MT
The winds have died down to about 5-15 mph and the size is reported to be 300 acres. The weather forecast for the valley south of the fire calls for decreasing winds this evening and tonight at 2-8 mph, with the RH going up into the 50's tonight. Tomorrow afternoon they expect west winds of 14 with gusts up to 22.

Here is an updated map, showing heat (in red) detected by satellites.

The Bighorn fire near Mount Baldy in southern California started early this morning. It is being pushed by 15-20 mph winds gusting up to 60 mph which at times made it impossible for aircraft to be used. The last report on the size was 200 acres. It is being managed by LA County and the US Forest Service and is burning in the Bear Creek drainage which has not burned since 1975. Mt. Baldy Village is not threatened at this time.

Smoke from the fire can be seen from the UCLA Dept. of Physics & Astronomy live web cam. The cam does not refresh automatically.

Heat from the fire is showing up on satellite imagery as you can see by the red areas on the map below.

Florida fires

Winds from a stalled cold front yesterday pushed some fires in Florida into populated areas.

The Osage fire in Brevard County, near Valkaria, Florida has burned 3,000 acres and at least 5 homes. A witness saw someone drop something out of a car, and the fire started shortly afterward. The map below shows heat detected by satellites last night. Click on the maps to see larger versions.

The LPGA fire west of Daytona Beach is 797 acres and caused the evacuation of 500 homes yesterday and the closure of a stretch of LPGA Boulevard. The satellite map below shows a relatively small amount of heat detected last night.

Photo courtesy of the AP.

Firefighters take train to a fire

In the Portland/Hillsboro area of Oregon on Saturday a train conductor who also happened to be a volunteer firefighter spotted a fire near the train tracks at Cornelius Pass. Knowing that access into the remote area would be difficult, the train backed up 1.5 miles, picked up 3 firefighters and gave them a ride to the fire.

Later a railroad company vehicle equipped to drive on the tracks carried an additional 11 firefighters to the fire, which was successfully extinguished.

Monday, May 12, 2008

"Wildland Firefighter" demobilizes

Wildland Firefighter magazine just announced in it's May issue that it is ceasing publication. It will no longer exist as a stand-alone publication dedicated to wildland fire. In a publisher's note, Jeff Berend, the Vice President and Publisher said:
"Beginning in June, we will be merging Wildland Firefighter into a new Wildland/Urban Interface (WUI) section in FireRescue magazine.....

But from a business perspective, we simply have not been able to grow the readership or advertising beyond that loyal core. At the same time, publishing costs have risen at unprecedented levels."
Wildland Firefighter and FireRescue are both published by Elsevier Public Safety. Wildland Firefighter became the "official publication of the International Association of Fire Chiefs" a couple of years ago after the IAFC severed their relationship with Fire Chief magazine.

This leaves Wildfire magazine, an "official publication of the International Association of Wildland Fire" as the only remaining magazine-type publication dedicated solely to wildland fire. The IAWF also publishes, through CSIRO Publishing, the International Journal of Wildland Fire, a professional journal containing peer-reviewed papers on the subject of wildland fire.

In the interest of full-disclosure, for the last 3 years I have been the Executive Director of the IAWF. Since January I have been helping the Board of Directors find a replacement so I can concentrate on other pursuits.

Private firefighting companies in southern California

There are at least two private companies in southern California that offer protection from wildland fires. From a story in the North County Times:
FALLBROOK ---- The emerging business of private firefighting just got another competitor in North County.

Based in Fallbrook, Fire-Pro USA opened for business in April, said founder Don Green. That's just a few months after the debut of another private firefighter, Pacific Fire Guard.

Fire-Pro differs from traditional firefighting by putting more stress on prevention and preparation, Green said. Public fire agencies use what he calls "the Ben Franklin model," of waiting until a fire occurs and then dousing it with water.

Green, a veteran of firefighting, founded the company with partner David Wilterding last fall. Its services start at $519 per property per year. Fire-Pro will examine a customer's fire risk, treat the property with a fire retardant and, in the event of an approaching fire, apply a heat-absorbing gel, Green said.

"That buys us time," Green said of the fire retardant, which is clear and can be applied to surrounding brush as well as to the home. "We can spray this long-term fire retardant, and it literally makes their brush and wildland area a fire barrier."

The fire retardant is not toxic to animals who eat the treated vegetation, Green said.

Pacific Fire Guard's services cost $1,800 per year, according to a Feb. 9 story in the North County Times. The company also uses a heat-absorbing gel substance on property, and its firefighters will stay on the property until the fire threat has passed.

Nick Schuler, a Cal Fire spokesman, said homeowners who use such private firefighting companies still need to create a "defensible space" by clearing brush around their property for 100 feet.

"Cal Fire supports any homeowner who's doing things to help reduce their fire risk," Schuler said. "This does not replace defensive space, it does not replace good clearance and it doesn't replace the need for having a protection plan for you and your family."

Green said skepticism is understandable because Fire-Pro is so new. The company will have to prove its mettle by actually saving homes, he said.

The company may soon get that chance.

On Friday, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger issued an executive order ordering the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, or Cal Fire, to "immediately mobilize" its resources.

"This year's fire season has already begun," Schwarzenegger said in a Friday press release announcing the executive order.

Dry weather throughout the state in the last two months has heightened the risk of fire, Schwarzenegger said in the press release. In Southern California, dead and dying trees infested with bark beetles add to the fire risk, he said.

Trees stressed or injured by a lack of water are known to be susceptible to bark beetle infestation.

HERE is a link to a video of one of the companies applying a long term fire retardant to some property.

Yellowstone, 20 years after the fires

KTVQ television in Billings, Montana did a story on the changes in Yellowstone National Park in the 20 years since the huge fires of 1988. At the site there is a link to a video. Below is the transcript:
Yellowstone Park: 20 years of recovery

Posted: May 12, 2008 08:23 AM

Updated: May 12, 2008 11:30 AM

During the summer of 1988, devastating wildfires scorched more than one third of Yellowstone National Park.

The catch phrase in Yellowstone this summer is "Come and see for yourself".

So that's exactly what we did as we joined the park's vegetation expert on a guided tour to get an update on how the park is doing 20 years after the fires.

Driving along the narrow, winding roads of Yellowstone is like visiting the world's largest Christmas tree farm. Yellowstone National Park vegetation expert Roy Renkin rode shotgun, and we learned more about lodge pole pines that we ever wanted to.

"The trees that you see out here were trees that were born when the cones in the lodge pole pines burn.' Renkin said, "The fire burned through, and the heat melted the resin on the cones, the scales opened up and the seeds came out."

But the story of the lodge pole pine is what dominates the Yellowstone landscape these days.

"All these trees out here are roughly the same age...they're 20 years old." said Renkin about the forest which was planted by the fires of 1988.

During, and after the 1988 fire storm, many people thought it would take the park hundreds of years to recover. Wyoming Senator Alan Simpson even predicted it would take a 1,000 years.

But just two decades later, Yellowstone may have never looked better.

"People can see for themselves that it's well on its way of becoming what it was before it burned, but it will take quite a long time to get there," said Renkin.

Even before the 1988 fires were finally snowed out, park naturalists, biologists and fire scientists were busy collecting samples and data on what they had just witnessed.

Yellowstone National Park Chief of Public Affairs, Al Nash, told the news station, "This was not just a big fire season. This was an extraordinary fire season".

Ironically the fire storm of 1988 taught us more about forest health and fire behavior than any previous event.

"We were a little short sighted in predicting or forecasting what the park wag going to be like forever more" explained Renkin.

The story of Yellowstone's recovery is the message park officials are quick to share.

"If the anniversary prompts people to come and investigate those changes, you know, that's another great reason to come to Yellowstone" says Nash.

Shortly after Yellowstone National Park was established in 1872, it was referred to as "The best idea American ever had". That's still the case but you have to see it, smell it, and feel it to believe it.
In September there will be a conference in Jackson, Wyoming on the topic.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Michigan: Prescribed fire in Flat River State Game Area

Mlive.com has an interesting article about a prescribed fire in Montcalm County conducted by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. Here is an excerpt:
A wall of flames swept across dried grasslands in southern Montcalm County on a recent weekday, sending skyward a column of smoke visible for several miles.

Winds from the northwest fanned the April 29 blaze, which charred 60 acres in the Flat River State Game Area before dying out.

There were no evacuations or live TV coverage like we saw April 25-26 when an 1,100-acre forest fire near Grayling forced the closing of part of Int. 75. The cause of the Grayling fire remains undetermined.

Not so with the Greenville-area fire. Guys dressed in yellow suits started this fire with a mix of diesel fuel and unleaded gasoline and a handy propane lighter. This particular fire was a controlled burn, staged by the state Department of Natural Resources with assistance from certified firefighters.

It is not unlike what's taking place now in Texas, Virginia, Colorado and Wisconsin. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service this year will use fire to improve wildlife habitat on more than 400,000 acres.

Anyone interested in creating better habitat for legions of endangered plants, insects and animals should be grateful for such burns. Like a good soaking spring rain, fire has a way of bringing new life to tired land.

The fire near Greenville targeted a tiny pocket of the 10,000-acre Flat River State Game Area, but long-term benefits extend beyond the still-blackened earth. Once used for farming, the land has been overrun with invasive plants, such as spotted knapweed, autumn olive and Chinese elm.

"We're trying to convert it to oak Savannah," said Steve Cross, a DNR fire management specialist based in Cadillac who served as fire boss this day. "Fire is an important tool to get us there."

Are you a deer or turkey hunter? Perhaps a butterfly fanatic? Or is your passion Michigan native wildflowers? If you value any of the above, then you should be fired up about fire.

They all live within the oak savannas of southwest Michigan. The land is sandy and dry and tree growth sparse. What does thrive, however, are native grasses and wildflowers, including little blue stem, coreopsis and wild lupine.
Photos courtesty of Mlive.com

Saturday, May 10, 2008

California: Schwarzenegger's fire preparedness

The California governor seems to be concerned about the wildfire potential this summer. In a press conference he was talking about the fire hazards around his home:
"I was not aware of it until an expert from the fire department told me that, 'This is terrible. This is a fire hazard all around your house -- you are living in the middle of it, get rid of this grass, get rid of these shrubs or you are going to be in trouble.'
He issued a lengthy Executive Order that detailed numerous policies that will affect CalFire this year. Here are some of the highlights:
Staff additional fire crews, fire engines, helitack crews, fire bulldozers, equipment and aviation resources as warranted based on fire threat conditions.

Assign a crew of four firefighters to selected CAL FIRE fire engines as warranted based on fire threat conditions.

Provide for immediate availability and utilization of the Supertanker aircraft.

IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that the California National Guard prepare its aviation assets, and pre-position ground support equipment, as appropriate for immediate response to major wildfires and report to OES weekly on the status of all aircraft.

IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that CAL FIRE shall provide educational information to homeowners on defensible space and California Building and Fire Codes ignition-resistant building materials, and shall develop training for defensible space inspection and building ignitability in consultation with the Department of Insurance, OES, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that CAL FIRE shall conduct vigorous defensible space inspections, and shall impose fines and/or liens pursuant to applicable authority if necessary.

IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that to assist landowners to meet their 100-foot defensible space requirements to reduce hazardous vegetation and landscaping, CALFIRE, in consultation with the California Biomass/Biofuel Collaborative, may enter into contracts, agreements, and arrangements for the chipping, hauling, burning, or other methods of disposal of hazardous vegetation removed by landowners as required by Public Resources Code section 4291 and Government Code section 51182.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

1,470 piece tool set

Need a tool kit for your fire apparatus? Sears will sell you a 1,470 piece set for $8,599.90 (click on the photo to see it a little larger)

If you have been staring at the photo for more than 45 seconds, you probably already have too many tools. Put DOWN the credit card and back away!

I wonder how long it took to set up the tools for the photograph?

"Frank... that 1/4" drive, 3/16" socket needs to be moved back about 1/32" inch. NO, the 3/16" socket, you ninny!"

Arizona: Fuels and fire behavior advisory

Posted at the Southwest Coordination Center web site:

Subject: Heavy Fine Fuel Loads Have Created the Potential for More Active Fire Behavior

Discussion: Above-average rains during the summers of 2006 and 2007 have created heavier than normal fine fuel loads in southern Arizona, especially in desert areas infested with Buffelgrass (Pennisetum ciliare).

Many grassland areas in southeastern Arizona (above 3,500’) have had above average precipitation the past two summers, creating a heavy crop of grass. Historically, this situation has been followed by a year with large fires.

In addition, buffelgrass continues to increase in desert areas. Buffelgrass is a noxious, non-native grass that is roughly doubling each year in Pima County. Fuel loads can be 5-20 times greater than annual grasses like red brome. Because it is increasing so rapidly, firefighters may find thick grass in places that traditionally had little. Because the fuel load is so heavy, it can generate fireline intensity and flame length much more extreme than usual for the desert. Strategies and tactics normally used on desert fires may not succeed on buffelgrass fires.

Common denominators of tragedy fires are potentially present in deserts and grasslands: relatively small fires or deceptively quiet areas of large fires; relatively light fuels, such as grass, herbs, and light brush; unexpected shift in wind direction or in wind speed; fire responds to topographic conditions and runs uphill.

Concerns to Firefighters and the Public:

• Flame length in grass can exceed 4 feet at almost any time of year, exceeding capability of hand tools. Flame lengths can exceed 8 feet during fire season, exceeding the capability of light engines.

• Grass fuels can be continuous, creating wide flaming fronts.

• Greater fireline intensity can lead to increased torching of shrubs and increased spot fires.

• Anticipate fire whirls because of a combination of fuel loading, terrain, and unstable atmosphere.

• Heavier fuel load raises moisture of extinction, and active burning may occur throughout the night.

• Normally bare, rocky areas and steep, south-facing slopes may have enough grass to carry a fire.

• Washes and trails that formerly served as fuel breaks may no longer be effective.

• Retardant may be less effective at stopping fires where grass is thick.

• Greater fireline intensity and flame length increase threat to structures, power poles, and other improvements.

• Some Wildland Urban Interface areas are infested with buffelgrass. Increased fire behavior increases risk to structures, improvements, and public safety, and there is potential for more human-caused fires.

• Increased fuel loading increases radiant heat output, therefore increasing the risk of thermal burns.

• The outlook for April-June is for above average temperatures and below average rainfall, exacerbating the problem.

Mitigation Measures:

• Indirect tactics may have to be used more often.

• Maintain situational awareness of fuel conditions and fire behavior.

• Safety zone size may need to be larger than usual for the desert. Safety zones may be harder to find.

• Use of Nomex face shrouds helps protect the face and airways.

Area of Concern: Desert

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Whole-house fire shelters

It's incredible what you can find on the Internet.

Many of us are familiar with the practice of wrapping a house that will be threatened by a wildland fire with "fire shelter wrap"... similar to the material used in personal fire shelters--as in the picture below, taken on the Big Fish fire in Colorado in 2002. (It worked, by the way.)

But a number of patents have been issued for devices or systems that would wrap an entire house, theoretically in short order, by one-piece units or systems that would deploy the fire resistant material mechanically.

The unit below, patent #5,860,251, issued January 19, 1999, uses inflatable tubes to erect the flexible fabric over an entire structure. Many large fires are wind-driven. I wonder what the effect of a 50 MPH wind would be on the inflatable structure? It would probably end up in the next county.

The system in the photo below, patent #5,829,200, issued November 3, 1998, uses winches, rollers, and pulleys pre-installed on the house to deploy fire resistant material stored on rolls.

I have no idea if these two systems have ever been developed or manufactured, but you have to admit they are, uh, interesting.

New Poll about videos

You may have noticed that we have put a few YouTube videos on the blog. I have an attention span shorter than that of a newt and can't get into long videos unless they are EXTREMELY interesting. So we try to be very selective and generally choose outstanding, short, videos. And we'll try to be sure at least 90% of them are about wildland fire..... or SOME kind of fire.... or 50,000 fire-breathing rockets. Having said that, I totally could not resist posting the one about the lighter than air, jellyfish-like, mesmerizing, unmanned aerial vehicle. Did I mention that it is mesmerizing?

But perhaps not everyone likes videos. And some companies or agencies block YouTube on their computer networks.

So we ask you--to find about 4 seconds in your day and let us know what YOU think--by taking the poll on the right.

Insurance company will pay $500,000 for Arizona fire

On June 1, 2006 an employee of a fence company started the La Barranca fire by grinding on a metal fence post south of Sedona, Arizona. Six days later the fire was 95% contained after burning 836 acres and 3 houses. At the time, the Coconino National Forest reported that the estimated fire suppression costs were $1.2 million.

The fence company's insurance company just agreed to pay $500,000 to the US Forest Service to cover a portion of the suppression costs.

HERE is a link to the InciWeb data about the fire.

John Maclean's forward for Stephen Pyne's book

John Maclean has written three books about wildland fire: "Fire on the Mountain", "Fire and Ashes", and "The Thirtymile Fire". Recently he wrote a foreword to Stephen J. Pyne's "Year of the Fires: The Story of the Great Fires of 1910", first published in 2001, which is being reissued in 2008 by Mountain Press in Missoula.

We have permission from John and Mountain Press to reprint the foreword here. In the excerpt below, John writes about the fires of 1910 and the cabin at Seely Lake, Montana that has been in his family for generations. The entire foreword is worth a read.

"This summer a palpable cloak of heat and expectation hung over the landscape as though the predictable and cherished past had been replaced by an unfamiliar monster. Make no mistake, northwestern Montana is fire country and has been for centuries. The marks of fire, discovered in tree rings when one of the giant larch trees finally thunders to the ground, show that for centuries fire occurred along the shores of Seeley Lake every quarter century or so - until our forebears stopped the cycle in the wake of the Great Fires of 1910, the subject of Stephen Pyne's Year of the Fires. When I was growing up, the Forest Service, the agency responsible for the federal land around the cabin, did not allow us to cut a tree and even discouraged clearing brush. The offset was the promise that the Forest Service would contain any fire that threatened the area under the full suppression policy that was adopted in response to the 1910 calamity.

That full suppression policy now has been formally abandoned - along with the rule forbidding the cutting of trees around Seeley Lake. In recent years, the Forest Service itself undertook a forest thinning and light burning project in the area. The treated zones provoked complaints in the first year or two because they looked rough, but they have become a glorious sight since then. Densely packed stands of "dog hair" lodgepole pine have been opened up, disclosing centuries-old trees. The big trees, whose growth was stunted in recent decades because they were deprived of moisture and light, now can take their place as giants and future giants. Fuzzy new trees and low brush carpet the forest floor. Wildlife can move freely. Humans can hike or snowmobile through the stands without battling brush. The forest is not fire proof, but a low-intensity fire would likely burn through here without catastrophic damage. Regular clearing by fire is what allowed the giants to grow big in the first place.

During the summer, I mowed down the tall grass near the cabin, felled a couple of dead lodgepole pines, and cleared a year's accumulation of duff from near the cabin. Then I left the place to its rendezvous with fire - which was not long in coming."

Maclean's and Pyne's books can be found at the International Association of Wildland Fire Books page.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Russian amphibious air tanker

Here is a cool video from Moscow television of the Russian Beriev-200 jet-powered amphibious air tanker. Yes, jet-powered amphibious. If I did my calculations correctly, it can hold about 3,000 gallons.

Smoke plumes in the southeast

NOAA is now generating maps that not only show heat from vegetation fires detected by satellites, but now they have maps that show graphic depictions of smoke plumes from fires. On the map below, the red dots are heat sources, but not all are necessarily vegetation fires. The gray smoke plumes are visible from the larger fires.

Florida has a number of fires going including two fires that burned together forming a 3,500 acre fire that is burning grass islands in Lake Okeechobee. Arson is suspected as the cause of those fires. The names of the fires are "Myakka Cut" and "Grassy Island".

Below is a photo of the fire on a grass island in Lake Okeechobee. Photo courtesy of CBS.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Yakima Herald-Republic's editorial about Thirtymile plea bargain

The Yakima Herald-Republic has always taken the position that Ellreese Daniels and others should be punished severely for the errors in judgment that led to the deaths of the four firefighters on the Thirtymile fire in 2001. They are not pleased with the recent plea bargain in the case, according to their editorial published yesterday:

"In a New Year's Eve editorial on the last day of 2006, we were willing to concede at the time that "four manslaughter charges brought against a U.S. Forest Service crew boss nearly 51/2 years after the deadly Thirtymile Fire in Okanogan County could finally be proof that justice delayed is not necessarily justice denied."

That hope has been dashed now that a plea-bargaining deal has led to fire crew chief Ellreese Daniels pleading guilty in U.S. District Court in Spokane Tuesday to two misdemeanor charges of making false statements to investigators.

The magnitude of the reduction in charges is staggering: In exchange, the government dropped four felony counts of involuntary manslaughter and seven felony counts of making false statements.

Sentencing is set for July 23 August 18.

"Like all plea agreements, there was a recognition of the evidence and the law as it exists," Assistant U.S. Attorney Tom Rice said in an Associated Press report out of Spokane. "We feel this is an appropriate disposition of the case."

Really? Will there ever be "appropriate disposition" of a case in which so many nagging doubts and unanswered questions remain? Four people died and the only person charged in the incident gets a plea-bargaining slap on the wrist and won't have to face trial -- during which a more complete story of what happened up to and during that fateful day could unfold during testimony.

Frankly, we've been less than impressed from the start with the federal government's handling, at all levels, of the Thirtymile incident.

We also take note of the fact that Daniels was the only one to face criminal charges out of the fire near Winthrop that killed four Central Washington firefighters on July 10, 2001: Tom Craven of Ellensburg, and Karen FitzPatrick, Jessica Johnson and Devin Weaver, all from Yakima.

We remain convinced that Daniels must answer in part for the tragedy because he was directly responsible for the safety of his crew. But we also maintain that the blame for the Thirtymile debacle involves much more than just what happened on the fire line that day. Blame must also extend further up the chain of command and include a culture of stonewalling and cover-up so prevalent in the U.S. Forest Service at the time.

In addition, a September 2001 investigation by this newspaper revealed that the Forest Service broke more than a dozen of its own safety rules. Federal investigators came to an even more damning conclusion: The Forest Service had 28 rules in place to keep crews safe. At Thirtymile, 20 of them were broken, according to the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

The negligence, according to the original charges, included Daniels failing to prepare the crew for the possibility of being overrun by flames.

The fact he was singled out prompts memories of the scandal at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq when Iraqi prisoners were mistreated by United States military personnel. Of 10 people convicted out of that debacle, none ranked higher than staff sergeant. That in a system noted for its chain of command that demands the following of orders.

Reforms within the agency were supposed to ensure a tragedy such as Thirtymile never happened again. Yet, seven firefighters have been fatally trapped since by forest fires in Idaho and California.

That's not to simply say the lessons of Thirtymile have not been heeded. After all, we're talking about a very dangerous line of work, one in which every possible step must be taken to ensure the safety of firefighters on the line.

But we also don't totally agree with the fears of many in the firefighting community that the unprecedented prosecution of Daniels might send a chilling message into the ranks of his colleagues across the nation -- that they could face felony charges if something similar happened on their watches.

Anyone responsible for neglect of duty that leads to tragic consequences should face such charges. In our system of justice, whether such charges are justified is determined in a trial with all the pertinent facts on display, not with plea bargaining.

The plea deal may have technically closed the books on the prosecutorial phase of Thirtymile. But the nagging question remains: Will justice ever be completely, and adequately, served in this case?"

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Prescribed burning in Arkansas

The Arkansas News Bureau has a thoughtful article about prescribed fire as one of the tools used for managing forests. It is written by Joe Mosby, the retired news editor of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission. Here is an excerpt:
"This is what those earlier people found in Arkansas, said John Andre, ecologist with the Ozark National Forest. He told of records from the 1829-1845 period in the Government Land Office that said (this area) was surveyed with an average of 29 trees per acre, and these had an average diameter of 14 inches. Today, the choked forest has anywhere from 60 to 100 or more trees to the acre.

"In those days, they drove wagons through these forests. Can you imagine trying that today?" Andre said.

Historical accounts of Southern woodlands include descriptions of enormous trees and open, grassy floors. These accounts often detail the abundance of animals that inhabited the woodlands as well. Take a walk in the Ozarks today and you'll likely find a dense canopy of smaller, shade-loving trees instead of a more open forest landscape."

An article at NWAnews.com, also about prescribed fire, has a different point of view from an official with the Arkansas Sierra Club. An excerpt:
"Some don’t agree with the controlled-burn policy.

Tom McKinney, forest chairman with the Arkansas Sierra Club, said the Forest Service is burning too much Arkansas forest. He said the Forest Service is mistakenly trying to convert the forest from an uplands oak forest to an oak-pine savannah.

Much of the forest doesn’t need fire to rejuvenate itself, he said. The wet climate rots dead trees and leaves unlike Western forests that are in dryer climates.

He said the Sierra Club believes the Forest Service should revert to burn levels of the 1980s, about 20, 000 acres a year.

“We think their policy is to spend money in the guise of restoring biodiversity,” McKinney said."

Saturday, May 3, 2008

NM: Trigo fire

The Incident Management Team on the Trigo fire southeast of Albuquerque, NM, just made the first map available since the fire made the big runs of April 30 through May 2. The acreage now is 13,790 and the Team is calling it 35% contained. The weather has moderated, making it possible for firefighters to make more progress. They are reporting that "less than 100 homes were damaged".

The map shows the progression of the fire day by day. Click on it to see a larger version. (The map, which was on Inciweb, is no longer availiable.)

Friday, May 2, 2008

Fire Roundup, May 2

(Information here about the fires will be updated throughout the day.)

Apache Fire, San Bernardino NF, California.
The fire has not grown much--it's reported at 784 acres. They are throwing everything except the kitchen sink at it, with almost one person assigned per acre: 710 people, 30 hand crews, 7 4 air tankers, and 7 4 helicopters. Some of the terrain is EXTREMELY steep. Crews are working two consecutive day shifts and staying overnight on the mountain in spike camps. Incident Commander Carlton Joseph said the fire was caused by a cigarette. Here is a link to a MAP.

X Fire, Kaibab NF, Arizona.
Four people from Texas appeared in federal court Thursday on charges of allowing a fire to start from an unattended campfire. They became suspects when they shrewdly went back to the point of origin to retrieve their sleeping bag from their campsite the day after the fire started. I wonder if their thought process went like this: "Hmmm... should we just buy a new $50 sleeping bag, or risk six months in jail, five years' probation, a $5,000 fine, and $250,000 in fire suppression costs?"

Alan Burroughs, 23, of Tatum; Michael Zachary Dunn, 24, of Allen; and Lindsey Jo McKinley, 24, of Gilmer, were each charged with four counts of federal misdemeanors. The fire is still reported as being 2,048 acres and at 80% containment.

The photo shows Sean Murphy of the US Forest Service at the campsite where the X fire started, courtesy of AZCentral.com.

Trigo Fire, Cibola NF, 25 miles southeast of Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Updated at 10:29 MT, April 2.
Strong winds again yesterday pushed the fire farther out of the Cibola National Forest into private land and structures. Conditions were too dangerous for fire personnel to go into the area to determine how many homes were lost. The community of Tajique was evacuated along with the subdivisions of Sherwood Forest and Hyde Estates. The community of Torreon remains evacuated. The fire has approached highway 55. Numerous structures threatened. The last report on the size of the fire today is 13,000 acres. Whitney's Type 1 Incident Management Team assumed command of the fire on May 1.

The weather today, Friday, should be about the same as the last two days, with 30 MPH winds gusting to over 40 out of the northwest with the relative humidity at 9%.

Torrance County Emergency Management will be holding daily updates at 1 p.m. in the Estancia Community Center until Evacuees have returned home. The Torrance County Emergency Information number concerning Evacuations and Road closures is 384-9634.

We will post a map when an updated version is available. See yesterday's post for a map that shows the perimeter available at that time.

Here is a video clip from KRQE TV in Albuquerque that was uploaded onto YouTube today.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Reno helicopter disabled

In February the Washoe County sheriff's office (Reno, NV area) unveiled a helicopter they had just finished outfitting for firefighting. Now due to a rotor strike it will be out of service for much of the fire season.

Initially reported as a main rotor "bird strike", it turns out that the rotor struck the ground when taking off during training on April 3. The helicopter will need to have a full overhaul of the drive train at a cost of approximately $143,000. If they can find parts.

I'm not sure how you would mistake a main rotor striking the ground for a "bird strike". Somebody has some explaining to do.

File photo of the helicopter in it's better days, courtesy of RGJ.com.

Fire roundup

Santa Anita Fire, Sierra Madre, California
This fire appears to mostly wrapped up. All evacuated areas, including the Chantry Flats area, have been re-opened without restrictions. They are calling it 93% contained.

Apache Fire, San Bernardino NF, California
This 700 acre fire in the San Jacinto Wilderness is visible from many areas, including Palm Springs. Aviation operations yesterday were hampered by very strong winds and a low ceiling caused by a marine layer. Some crews are hiking 10 miles to get to the fire, which is 5% contained. It is burning around patches of snow and has started to back down the massive slope thousands of feet above Palm Springs.

X Fire, Kaibab NF, Arizona
The winds yesterday were much weaker than the 40 MPH gusts predicted and the firefighters have stopped the spread for now at 2,030 acres. They canceled the incoming Type 2 Incident management team.

Trigo Fire, Cibola NF, 25 miles southeast of Albuquerque, New Mexico
This 2-week old fire came to life again yesterday and pushed by 30 MPH winds with gusts up to 50 MPH, grew substantially, causing more evacuations. Today's weather should be similar, with winds of 34 and gusts to 48; the relative humidity will be 9%. .

Previously the fire was 4,800 acres, but it more than doubled in size yesterday with the current acreage at 11,368. The map below shows that the fire has now burned outside the national forest. Evacuations are taking place in in the Torreon and Tajique areas, affecting 400-500 residents.

The New Mexico Incident Management Team was released on April 29, and a Type 3 IMT (Gesser) assumed command at 0600. Yesterday they ordered a Type 1 IMT.

The map below, updated last night, shows in red the heat detected by satellites within the last 24 hours. The yellow area is the fire perimeter as reported today on GEOMAC. Click on it to see a larger version.

The map below shows the fire perimeter as reported today on GEOMAC.