Sunday, June 22, 2008

The Siege of '08

This is a satellite photo of northern California taken just before sunset today, Sunday. I marked the smoke plumes from some of the larger fires with an "X". Click on it to see a larger version.

In addition to the 602 new fires discovered yesterday in northern California, today they picked up an additional 309 for a 48 hour total of 911 fires, an unsettling number. There are still more fires in southern California, and others will be discovered in both areas over the next couple of days.

We have only seen the beginning of the Siege of '08 and it will be one for the history books. Comparing it to the Siege of '87, for one thing, these are occurring at the beginning of the fire season. In 1987 the lightning was in late August allowing only a month or so of burning in the northern areas. This year a season ending rain event is at least 80-90 days away.

There is no way there are enough firefighters to staff all of these fires. Air tankers don't put out fires--they only slow them down until ground forces can take direct action. But we only have 1/2 as many air tankers as we did in 1987. We do have more type 1 helicopters than 20 years ago though.

The federal agencies are very concerned recently about keeping fire suppression costs as low as possible and they plan to send bean counters out to all of the large fires as part of the "Accountable Cost Management" process. This Siege of '08 is going to make their heads explode.

And by the way, the Clover "fire used for resource benefits" on the Sequoia National forest which has been burning for 3 weeks (they were not putting it out, just herding it around) this morning was changed to a full suppression fire and they began putting it out. This afternoon it cranked-- and crossed the Kern river, crested the Sierras, and is headed toward Hwy. 395.

I'm not positive, but I think in the satellite photo above, the southeastern-most fire is the Clover fire...one of the larger smoke plumes in the photo. This is all they need with 911 new fires in the north half of the state.

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