Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Wildfire news, July 29

UPDATE @ 6:00 p.m. MT, July 29

Cascade fire (west of Red Lodge Montana)

Five structures have been lost in the Camp Senia area, and one burned at the MSU research camp. The acreage has not been updated since the 5,800 figure was given yesterday. Here is more information from a 5 p.m. update from the incident management team:
Fire fighting efforts are focused on the north and east ends of the fire today. Hand crews on the west end of the drainage are working onto the north and south sides constructing line and flanking the fire along the ridge tops. Heavy timber, steep, rocky terrain and limited access from roads and water sources remain challenges to fire fighting efforts.

A RED FLAG WARNING has been issued for the fire area today. The change in the weather is anticipated to bring a cold front passing through the area with increased potential for higher winds and thunderstorms in the afternoon and evening Changing weather conditions bring a watch out for increased fire activity and the potential for rapid fire spread which would likely trigger additional evacuations toward Red Lodge. Pay attention to changing weather conditions and be prepared to leave if an evacuation is ordered.

An updated map from the Incident Management Team is now available. Click on the map below to see a larger version.

See below for more information about the Cascade fire.

Telegraph fire

The fire has been very active on the northeast and east sides today, moving closer to Yosemite National Park, which is now about 6-7 miles east of the fire. See below for a map and more information about the Telegraph fire.

Gunbarrel fire

While InciWeb says the fire is 625 acres, the Associated Press reports the Gunbarrel fire has burned 1,200 acres. Judging by the thermal imagery from the satellites, it is far more than 625 acres. See below for more information.


8:16 a.m. MT, July 29

Gunbarrel fire, Wyoming

The Gunbarrel fire, 38 miles west of Cody, Wyoming, grew from 232 acres to 800 in the last 24 hours. But it appears to be larger than that, judging from last night's satellite images. The fire is currently designated as a "fire use" fire, meaning it will not be suppressed, just monitored and herded around as long as it remains within a designated area. On InciWeb yesterday, the fire is described this way:
The fire is burning in heavy timber with lots of bug-killed trees. The hot, dry weather will continue, resulting in active fire behavior.
On the National Situation Report the Incident Management Team described it late yesterday as:
Backing fire with single and group tree torching and short-range spotting.
A "backing fire" that tripled in size. Hmmmm.

Gunbarrel fire, July 28, 2008

It is July 29, and there are still at least five to seven weeks of fire season left in that area. However, the fire is in a huge imperfect bowl (see satellite photo below), surrounded in some areas by slopes with little or no vegetation which will serve to slow or limit the spread of the fire. We will be interested to see if 1) the fire remains relatively small and within the bowl, and 2) if the designation is changed from a "fire use" fire to a full suppression fire. This fire will be fascinating to watch and Bill Hahnenberg's Fire Use Team will have their work cut out for them as they put together their Wildland Fire Implementation Plan.

The yellow, red, and orange dots on the map indicate the approximate extent of the fire, as detected by heat-sensing satellites. Click on the maps to see larger versions.

The map below shows both the Cascade fire west of Red Lodge, MT, and the Gunbarrel fire west of Cody, WY. The red dots are symbols for heat that was detected by satellites within the last 12 hours. But we have learned that the dots, which are supposed to represent the approximate extent of the fire, are not as accurate in their location as the cross-hatched polygons. So interpret the maps with a grain of salt. The green areas are national forests, and the purple area is Yellowstone National Park.

The Cascade fire

The fire is 7-8 miles west of Red Lodge, Montana, and will be influenced by a Red Flag Warning today. Thunderstorms along with strong wind gusts up to 40 mph and lightning are predicted. The fire was last reported on Monday as being 5,800 acres and 0% contained. A Type 1 Incident Management Team with Incident Commander Bennett began arriving yesterday.

A ski area is about 2 miles from the fire. From the Billings Gazette:
Red Lodge Mountain Resort is putting its snowmaking equipment to use in hopes of protecting the ski hill from the Cascade fire, burning less than two miles away in the West Fork of Rock Creek.

Ten guns, capable of spraying 85 gallons of water a minute are soaking the ground around chair lift terminals, motor rooms and the resort’s two lodges. The guns draw water from ponds near the top of the mountain.

“It looks like we’re making snow, but we’re just blowing water,” said Rob Ringer, general manager of the Red Lodge Mountain Resort.
The map below shows the Cascade fire looking toward the west. The ski area is in the foreground, and the yellow and red dots indicate the approximate extent of the fire. The road that goes up the main canyon through the fire is West Fork Road (NF 71).

Telegraph fire

The fire is just north of Mariposa, California and 7 to 8 miles west of the El Portal entrance to Yosemite National Park. As of Monday night the fire had crossed the Merced River and had consumed 29,600 acres. Containment was at 10%. Structures destroyed include 25 residences and 27 outbuildings. Over 3,400 firefighters and 400 engines are assigned.

Currently threatened are the communities of Mariposa, Midpines, Greeley Hill, Coulterville, El Portal, Morman Bar, Boot Jack, Mt Bullion Conservation Camp, the Mariposa Utility District water supply, 70 kv transmission line supporting Yosemite Valley, as well as Yosemite National Park and numerous communication/repeater towers. More information, including evacuation instructions, can be found at the CalFire web site.

From the CalFire "Fact Sheet" issued at 7:00 a.m. PT today:
The fire is making major runs in all directions thru thick stands of Manzanita, Chamise, and Oak. Extreme fire behavior was observed with flames lengths of up to 100 feet reported. Similar burning conditions are expected in the next 24 hours. The fire is moving into the Sierra and Stanislaus Forest, affecting 70kv transmission line providing power to Yosemite Valley. A firing operation in the Dogtown area may generate visible smoke over the next 24 hours.

HERE is a link to a CalFire map, produced very early Tuesday morning.

Rescued bear improving

On July 17 we covered the story of the injured bear that was rescued in a fire in northern California by firefighter Adam Deem. Since then the bear, dubbed "Little Smokey", has been undergoing treatment for his burns at the nonprofit Lake Tahoe Wildlife Care facility. The Redding Searchlight has the details HERE.

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