Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Wildfire news, August 20

Rancher to sue over escaped fire use fire

It was just three days ago that we wrote about fire use fires, which are managed or herded around, rather than completely suppressed. And the following day we wrote about the Bridge Creek fire on the Ochoco National Forest in central Oregon which escaped from the Maximum Manageable Area and burned onto private land. Now one of the land owners whose property burned says he will file a claim against the USFS.
About a fifth of the 5,500-acre Central Oregon cattle ranch owned by the Pape family was burned in the Bridge Creek fire, said Ryan Pape, general manager of Pape Kenworth, part of The Pape Group, the Eugene-based heavy machinery supplier.

"This happens all the time, of course. You burn up somebody's fence post or range during a fire and they file a claim," Tom Knappenberger, regional spokesman for the Forest Service, said.

Last week the Bridge Creek fire south of Mitchell in Wheeler county was among a handful that were being managed for their benefits to forests. It was a first for the Ochoco National Forest.

But Saturday, high temperatures, low humidity and an unusual wind shift pushed the fire out of control. Firefighters then changed strategies and worked to suppress the fire.

"I totally understand and appreciate what they were trying to do, but here was not planning for the worst case scenario, or that planning was limited," Pape told The Oregonian newspaper.

Pape said fire managers apologized to him and other affected landowners.

"I was impressed by that, but now we also need to focus on how we are going to fix it," he said.

As of Tuesday the Bridge Creek fire stood at just under 5,000 acres, and it was 35 percent contained.
From KGW.com

Update on Reno helicopter

On May 1 Wildfire Today covered the rotor strike of the helicopter owned by the Washoe County sheriff's office, near Reno, which was initially reported by the pilot as a bird strike. The main rotor actually struck the ground putting the helicopter, which had just been configured for fire, out of service for months.

Parts have been difficult to obtain, but they expect to have it ready to fight fire again by September 5. The photo shows the helicopter before the accident.
"I wish I would have had it yesterday," Marty Scheuerman, Reno Fire division chief, said regarding fighting a wildfire that burned six homes in Reno on Monday.

Fire protection standards

The county supervisors in Butte County, Oroville, California, have adopted fire protection standards that establish the length of time it should take fire engines to reach emergencies, based on population density.
For example, in areas with a population greater than 1,000 people per-square-mile, 90 percent of the time the first engine should arrive within seven minutes after a 9-1-1 call is received. For areas with a population between 500 and 1,000 per square mile, the first engine would arrive within 13 minutes 90 percent of the time. In areas with less than 500 people per square mile, the response time would be 17 minutes or less 90 percent of the time.

Stewart Gary — a consultant with Citygate Associates of Folsom, the firm hired to formulate the proposal — said the standards would give supervisors a "trip wire or a trigger point" to determine when new construction requires a new fire station. Gary said existing county fire stations are well positioned in and near urban areas to meet the seven-minute standard.

When a subdivision is proposed "out at the end of the 17-minute" limit, then it will be time for the supervisors to consider adding a fire station, he said.

Oroville Supervisor Bill Connelly said the standards could also help rural residents understand the realities of where they choose to live. Connelly said people have to realize that "three, four, five miles down a dirt road from the nearest pavement, 17 minutes from the nearest (fire) station," may not be the best place to live with a spouse with a heart condition.
Determining live fuel moisture

The Record has an article about the process of collecting live fuel samples and computing fuel moisture. Here is a brief excerpt.
Manzanita leaves and twigs baked in an oven at the Mi-Wok Ranger District headquarters here are helping to predict how big, fast and furious the region's next major wildfire might be.

Anna Payne, fuels officer for the Mi-Wok Ranger District of the Stanislaus National Forest, is one of those who sometimes picks those twigs from a grove at nearby Mount Provo, then weighs them, bakes them and weighs them again to determine their water content. She says the manzanita's leaves and twigs are less than half water right now. And that's terrifying news for the folks who fight wildfires.

"Now when we get a spot (fire) in a brush field, we know it ... will take off," Payne said.

Payne and fuels technician Nick Jeros, who usually collects the leaves, are part of an army of hundreds of people nationwide who feed plant moisture data into the National Fire Danger Rating System. That data is collected by one federal computer hub in Kansas City, Mo., and then crunched together with weather and topography numbers at another computer center in Missoula, Mont., to produce forecasts and fire danger maps.
Here are links to live fuel moisture and fire danger ratings.

More attention focused on Fire Use

Still another media outlet weighs in on the issue of full suppression vs. fire use. This time it is an article by Rocky Barker in the Idaho Statesman, on this, the 20th anniversary of Black Saturday in Yellowstone National Park.

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