Thursday, October 2, 2008

Wildfire news, October 2

2nd-graders get up-close view of the fire zone
Beartooth Nature Center leading tours through Cascade fire burn area

Of The Billings Gazette Staff
The day the Cascade fire started, Red Lodge second-grader Anna Dye remembers looking at the column of smoke developing over the West Fork of Rock Creek and asking her parents, "Is that a cloud or is that a fire?"

In the hectic adult world of firefighting, children's concerns can be overlooked as grown-ups tune into news accounts, respond to evacuations and talk to neighbors about what might be lost to flames.

Now, through the Beartooth Nature Center Connections program, children are getting their own look into the burn area and finding out what happened during the fire.

Wednesday, 23 second-graders from Mountain View Elementary toured the Cascade fire burn area under the guidance of Marc Swanson, who designed the program to teach fire ecology.
Most of the Red Lodge students vividly remember the blaze, which started July 26 and burned more than 10,000 acres in the West Fork of Rock Creek drainage. However, for many of the children, the field trip was their first opportunity to see where the fire burned.

Swanson was a teacher in Alaska villages for 26 years before moving to Red Lodge. He launched the BTN Connections program a year ago, and until the Cascade fire presented him with an open-air classroom, most of his educational outreach was in schools. His program topics include winter ecology, mammal skeletons and stream data collection for habitat analysis.

Like all BTN Connections activities, the Cascade fire field trips are paid for through grants and are available to schools throughout the area, but so far the only students who have visited have been from Carbon County schools. Swanson has led 11 tours and has four more scheduled in the next week.

Swanson tailors his presentation to the age of the students and works with teachers to meet their educational objectives.

Unlike other areas burned by wildfire, the Cascade fire zone presented an ideal place to teach fire ecology, Swanson said. The burn is accessible by bus, and there are many developed campgrounds and recreation areas where children can tackle hands-on activities.

"Every stop opens a new window on the fire," Swanson said.

More of the article is at the Gazette site.

Man admits starting fire that burned 53 homes

From KNBC.com
One of five men accused of starting a wildfire in Malibu (the Zaca fire) that destroyed 53 homes admitted Wednesday that he and his friends accidentally touched off the blaze, and then agreed not to tell authorities.

Brian David Franks, 27, of Los Angeles, pleaded no contest to a felony charge of recklessly causing a fire. He is expected to be placed on five years probation and be ordered to perform 300 hours of community service when he is sentenced Nov. 3 by Van Nuys Superior Leslie A. Dunn.

In a statement read by his attorney, Franks said he and two carloads of friends rekindled an abandoned campfire in a "party cave" in Malibu's Corral Canyon on Nov. 24, 2007.

According to Franks' statement, he and his friends drank beer and vodka at the campsite, then fellow defendant Brian Alan Anderson, 22, of Los Angeles, threw a burning pillow at Franks.

Partygoers also kicked logs that were on the campfire, scattering embers that Franks attempted to stomp out, he said.

Franks said he believed that he and his friends had extinguished all of the embers from the pillow and the campfire, but the night was exceptionally windy. He estimated that gusts were up to 60 mph.

The next day, while watching the news on TV, the partygoers saw that a wildfire had been started and believed that they had caused it, Franks said. They then agreed to keep silent about what had happened, he said.

The wildfire consumed 53 homes and severely damaged another 23.

Along with Franks and Anderson, three other people were charged in the case: William Thomas Coppock, 23, of Los Angeles; Dean Allen Lavorante, 19, of Culver City; and Eric Matthew Ullman, 18, also of Culver City.

As part of his plea deal, Franks will be required to be available to testify against the other defendants.

Bhutan: Forest fires and the Incident Command System

On January 28 we wrote about some representatives from the United States providing some advice to the Kingdom of Bhutan about the ICS. That group included Professor Ronald Wakimoto from the University of Montana, Deanne Shulman, the first female smokejumper in the U.S., and Alissa Roeder, the Superintendent of the Pike Shot Shots.

Now, according to a press release from Bap Tandy, the Fire Focal Person of the Forest Fire Management Section, Department of Forest in Bhutan, they are using volunteers and the ICS in suppressing their fires. (HERE is a link to a map of Bhutan.)
Forest fire is a major threat that has implication on human lives and property, forest resources and the environment. In five years (2003-2008), forest fires affected 96,155 acres of forest land and damage valuable timber and wildlife resources. There have also been instances where human lives and property were also lost to forest fires. (Director, DoF)

The Department of Forests has been trying its best to manage forest fires with its limited and thinly spread out human resources across the country. In this endeavor, the Department had received continuous support and cooperation from the Armed Forces, Dzongkhag Administration and local communities in forest fire suppression.

Since the Department of Forests alone is not in a position to prevent, suppress and control forest fires, and it is not always possible to get the support of the Armed Forces and public everywhere, the Department realized the need to start a Forest Fire Volunteer (FFV) program to solicit support from the general public including business communities, private agencies and the civil service.

Since the Forest Fire Volunteer Program started in April 2008: initiated by Forest Fire Management Section have conducted several workshops, meetings and basic training on fire fighting techniques and safety measures to all the registered forest fire volunteers and to the representative from Armed forces. Further the Department will be conducting the same training to newly registered fire volunteers and armed forces (Gopal Mahat, JD, FPUD)

The Department of Forests felt very important to construct and developed a well coordinated forest fire coordination mechanism which is also known as Incident Command System (ICS); since numbers of stake holders will be engaged during the forest fire incidences. This mechanism shall have single standardize incident management system which shall be used by all the emergency response disciplines. This program will also provide accurate information,accountability and cost effective operations and logistical support for any incident.

Accordingly, the Forest Fire Management Section under the Forest Protection and Utilization Division in collaboration with the Thimphu Forest Division have developed an Incident Command System (ICS)/coordination mechanism and presented on 22nd September 2008 (presented by Bap Tandy, karma Jigme and Ugyen Tenzin) to the Department, representative from Armed Forces, Dzongkhag Administration, Dzongkhag Forestry and the group leaders from the forest fire volunteers. The draft coordination mechanism was agreed to be implemented during the up-coming forest fire season. The same program may be replicated in all the fire prone Dzongkhags after evaluating the effectiveness of the program in Thimphu.

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