Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Fire news roundup, July 16

Basin fire, Big Sur, California

The fire was relatively quiet yesterday with the exception of the Pine Valley campground vicinity and the slopover in the White Oaks area. The fire crews have apparently picked up the slopover on the southeast side across the Rodeo Flats trail.

Cold Springs Fire, Mt. Adams, Washington

The fire is burning along the lower slopes of the mountain, with the most intense fire activity being on the south and east sides. It is burning into an area with some roads and large clear cuts on the east flank which may give the firefighters more options. On the map below, Mt. Adams is in the foreground, with Mt. Rainier in the background. The fire is 7,160 7,604 acres and is 5% contained.

Arsonist(s) at Rainbow gathering, Big Sandy, WY

Eight fires have plagued the gathering of the Rainbow Family at the annual get together held this year east of Big Sandy, Wyoming in the southern Wind River Mountains on BLM land. Investigators have determined that at least one of the fires that occurred near the gathering was arson, but all of them were quickly suppressed by the 20 firefighters that have been staged nearby. Up to 7,000 participants have been camping in the area, but that number has now declined to about 100 who are cleaning up and restoring the site.

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Firefighters rescue injured horse, Mill Fire, California

A fire crew constructing line on the Mill fire, part of the Soda Complex on the Mendocino National Forest, discovered an injured horse Tuesday morning. The firefighters, who were preparing a line for a backfire operation, found that the horse appeared to be dehydrated and had some abrasions and injuries to his front legs. He may have been in this condition for several days. They think he was spooked by the fire and ran off during the initial lightening bust several weeks ago.

Incident Commander Dave Fiorella placed a resource order for a local veterinarian and told the firefighters to prepare for a rescue mission. Dr. Sherry Cronin D.V.M of Covelo was flown by helicopter into the area to assess the horse's condition prior to rescue.

The horse received some special attention from the fire crew, who brought him water and gave him apples from their sack lunches. After a few hours the horse showed signs of improvement and Dr. Cronin determined the injuries were minor enough that the firefighters could walk him out to a ranch a few miles away where he was then placed in a temporary shelter. The fire crew affectionately named the horse "Mr. Ed".

A photo of the horse was not available, but I found one of a dehydrated water tender on the same fire getting a drink.

Excellent fire pictures

Boston.com has a great assortment of photographs that have been taken in the last few weeks on fires. Here's one example, taken by David McNew on the Gap fire near Santa Barbara, but a visit to the site to see the entire collection is highly recommended.

Northern California fires
  • Iron Complex: This series of 28 fires west of Junction City had burned 45,257 acres and was 45 percent contained Tuesday.
  • Lime Complex: The 92 fires in this complex have scorched 80,469 acres and were 60 percent contained Tuesday.
  • Motion fire: This 21,931 acre fire west of Redding is 50% contained.
  • Moon fire: The fire has burned 28,899 acres and is 85% contained.

Insurance companies hiring their own firefighters

Some insurance companies are finding that it is less expensive to hire their own firefighters to protect high value properties than to pay the replacement cost if they burn in a fire. Here is an excerpt from the Herald Extra:
New Jersey-based Chubb Corp., which employs Breglia, began offering free fire protection to its clients in 13 Western states in March. Already 11,000 homeowners have signed up, more than a third of those in wealthy and fire-prone enclaves like Lake Tahoe and Marin County. The company plans to expand the service to other states before the start of next fire season.

Chubb hired Montana-based Wildfire Defense Systems Inc. to protect homes with a replacement value of $1 million or more. The company is now subcontracting a pool of 50 fire engines throughout the West dedicated exclusively to Chubb policyholders.

Fireman's Fund Insurance Company donated $18 million over four years to support public fire departments. But this year it jumped into the private firefighting business, too, joining with Sacramento-based Fire Stop and two southern California companies.

Fire Stop, with nine fire engines, has doubled its employees over the last year. The company is also in talks to acquire helicopter support.


But inside the command trailers at the Big Sur fire camp, surrounded by a sea of tents, portable toilets and smoke-filled air, Thom Walsh looked skeptical.

"Insurance company fire engines need to stay out of our way," said Walsh, leader of the U.S. Forest Service Resource Unit. "We don't know who they are or where they are. They're like the private mercenaries in Iraq."

Thanks, Dick, for the tip.

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