Fire Continuum Conference begins at Missoula

Above: Vicki Christiansen, interim Chief of the U.S. Forest Service, addresses the participants at the Fire Continuum conference in Missoula, May 21, 2018.

A fire conference with an unusual name began Monday in Missoula. The “Fire Continuum Conference” is organized by the International Association of Wildland Fire and the Association for Fire Ecology with a theme of preparing for the future of wildland fire. It has drawn 655 participants from approximately 20 countries faced this week with the difficult task of choosing from 400 workshops, presentations, and field continuum conference missoula

It kicked off Monday with a keynote address by Vicki Christiansen, the interim Chief of the U.S. Forest Service who talked about four “gnarly challenges”– drought, fuel buildup, growth in the wildland-urban interface, and fire exclusion compounded by climate change. It is not often that we hear someone from the present administration talk about climate change.

Ms. Christiansen said that since 1910 there have been more than 1,000 deaths on wildland fires and the fatality rate is rising, with almost a quarter of those, 255, having occurred in the last 15 years. According to the U.S Fire Administration, wildland firefighters, she said, “are killed at a rate six times higher than structural firefighters”.

She also refuted the “narrative that has formed for some that the Forest Service firefighting is not aggressive enough”. She said “We will commit firefighters only under conditions where they can actually have a chance of succeeding in protecting important values at risk”.

The conference wraps up Thursday. We will have a number of articles on Wildfire Today and Fire Aviation about the happenings in Missoula.

The video below is just to give you a quick look to see which organizations were exhibiting at the no host social event, the first night at the Fire Continuum Conference, May 21, 2018.

Below are photos of other speakers at the conference .

Alen Slijepcevic, President, International Association of Wildland Fire
Alen Slijepcevic, President, International Association of Wildland Fire
Chris Dicus, President, Association for Fire Ecology
Chris Dicus, President, Association for Fire Ecology
Mark Finney
Mark Finney, Research Forester, USDA Forest Service, Missoula Fire Sciences Laboratory
Tom Zimmerm
Tom Zimmerman, immediate past President of the International Association of Wildland Fire
Dave Calkin
Dave Calkin, Research Forester, Human Dimensions Program, USDA Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station.

fire continuum conference missoula

Lava causes brush fire in Hawaii

The eruption and lava flow from the volcano on Hawaii’s big island has ignited vegetation, causing a fire and forcing additional evacuations.

Below is an update from Hawaii County Civil Defense issued Saturday evening:

This is a Civil Defense Message for Saturday, May 19 at 9:00 in the evening.

Hawaiian Volcano Observatory continues to monitor active flows.  The flow originating from fissure 20 has again split into two lobes, both are currently heading in the general direction of the 13 mile marker on Highway 137.  Flow front #1 is approximately 630 meters from Highway 137 and moving about a 100 meters per hour.  Flow front #2 is approximately 750 meters from Highway 137 and moving about the same speed.  At the current rate, the lava flow may cross the highway within the next five to seven hours.

Highway 137 is closed between Kamaili Road and Pohoiki Road.  Kamaili Road is closed between Highway 130 and Highway 137 due to a brush fire. Residents in the area have been evacuated.

lava volcano brush fire
Photo from Twitter user Kimberly @kimberlyaliceMT:
Just for a little bit of scale and a reality check… The two circled white specks are @USGSVolcanoes workers going down to collect lava samples earlier today.


San Luis Fire burns thousands of acres on the Mexican border

A fire that straddles the Mexican border in the boot heel of New Mexico has burned thousands of acres. During a satellite overflight at 2:23 a.m. MDT Friday most of the fire was in Mexico but it was well established in the United States.

Our very unofficial estimate based on satellite data put it at approximately 5,000 acres early Friday morning. It was still very active at 2:23 a.m. local time.

The San Luis Fire is 41 miles south of Animas, NM and about 2 miles south of the OK Bar Fire that burned a couple of weeks ago. It is possible that this new fire could burn into the southern edge of the OK Bar Fire.

There is a Red Flag Warning in effect east of the fire.

Red Flag Warnings, May 18, 2018

The National Weather Service has issued Red Flag Warnings or Fire Weather Watches for areas in Texas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Colorado.

The map was current at 6:38 a.m. MDT on Friday. Red Flag Warnings can change throughout the day as the National Weather Service offices around the country update and revise their forecasts.

Electric vehicle fires can take 3,000 gallons and 24 hours to extinguish

Tesla has produced a guide for first responders

Electric vehicles with lithium-ion batteries present a complex and hazardous situation for firefighters responding to a vehicle accident. If a conventional vehicle with gasoline or diesel catches fire after an accident it usually happens quickly and is very evident. When batteries in an electric car are damaged by debris on the road or a collision, a short circuit can occur in one or more of the thousands of cells, creating heat which may ignite the chemicals inside the battery. This can spread to the adjoining cells and lead to the condition known as “thermal runaway” in which the fire escalates.

Independent research and information for first responders produced by Tesla warn that a battery fire in an electric vehicle can take 3,000 gallons of water and up to 24 hours to fully suppress. Firefighters should immediately arrange for water tenders and use a master stream if possible. Consider allowing the battery to burn while protecting exposures. Breathing apparatus is absolutely required. In some cases firefighters have run out of air and had to get a second bottle.

Tesla's guide for first responders
From Tesla’s guide for first responders for their Model 3 electric vehicle.

If the fire appears to be out, a thermal imaging camera can help to identify any areas still burning or overheated. In one test a battery reignited the vehicle 22 hours later. Tesla recommends that after a fire their vehicles should be stored at least 50 feet away from any combustible material.

Their new Model 3 has two “cut loops” that firefighters can sever to shut down the high voltage system outside of the high voltage battery and disable the supplemental restraint system and airbag components.

Tesla cut loop battery fire
From Tesla’s guide for first responders.

Thanks and a tip of the hat go out to Bean.
Typos or errors, report them HERE.