Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Wildfire news, July 30

Safety stand down

The National MAC Group (Multiagency Coordinating Group) has issued a recommendation for a Safety Stand Down on August 1. Here is an excerpt from the memo:
Two fatalities occurred over the weekend in two separate Northern California fires. A recent spike in accident/injury trends has also created concerns for firefighter safety. To date we have exceeded the number of deaths in wildland fire operations for 2008 that we experienced during all of 2007. In an effort to draw attention to wildland firefighter safety, NMAC is requesting that all geographic areas take one hour during the operational period of August 1st to emphasize safety practices.

NMAC issues Long-Term Strategy

The National MAC group (sometimes called "Big Mac") also distributed a "2008 National Multi-Agency Coordinating Group Long-Term Implementation Strategy".
The National Multi-Agency Coordinating Group Long Term Implementation Strategy was created in July 2008 and tiers off the NMAC Preparedness Strategy for 2008. The strategy is situationally driven and will be updated as the season progresses to reflect the current situation, and as warranted by wildland fire activity and events tied to the National Response Framework.
Most of the document covers the current situation and the average conditions for July and August. One thing I found interesting is this table that shows what I would call the probability of season-ending events by geographic area, the date at which weather and precipitation events cause the fire season to end.

But pages 7-9 contain recommendations, some rather vague and general, others useful, about how to manage resources during a time when they are scarce and fires are many.

National Guard protects Big Tree

The California National Guard issued a news release describing how a 20-person National Guard crew protected a 240-foot, 700-year old Ponderosa pine that is on the American Forests' National Register of Big Trees from burning during one of the fires on the Shasta-Trinity National Forest in northern California.
"It was a lot of hard work and heart that went into keeping this incredible tree safe," said Spc. Diana Diaz. "This majestic tree has witnessed a lot of history and stands as a symbol for survival. There have been wildfires through these forests before ... and this tree still stands. We're working hard to make sure that she makes it through this fire too."

That task wasn't easy. With low-hanging branches, the tree was immediately threatened by sparks and embers from nearby fires that could easily ignite the tree if the wind shifted just right.

The team of Guardsmen spent hours trimming these low-hanging threats and also cleared a wide area around the tree that would eliminate any fuel source on the ground.

Two Guard members spent the entire day cutting down neighboring trees, and the rest of the team stacked piles of wood that would burn a safe distance from the tree. They also set up a water sprinkler system that would keep the cleared area moist.

Gunbarrel fire, Wyoming

UPDATE @ 5:17 p.m. MT July 30

The fire has doubled in size again, and is now 4,100 acres according to InciWeb. Near-real-time satellite photos show that it is putting up a great deal of smoke.
"Growth expected to the east/northeast. Strong west/southwest winds could push the fire over the ridgeline below Monument Peak into Moss or Clearwater drainages towards the east."


10:57 a.m. MT July 30

This "fire use" fire 40 miles west of Cody and 8 miles east of Yellowstone National Park doubled in size over the last 24 hours. The fire is 2,103 acres and is not being suppressed. It will be herded around within a designated "maximum management area". Fire crews are setting up structure protection for some buildings that are on the North Fork of the Shoshone River about two miles from the fire.

Gunbarrel fire, July 28 @ 3:32 p.m. MT; photo by U.S. Forest Service

Thanks to Chuck and FireNet for the tips about the Big Mac missives.

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