California: Way Fire near Kernville

(UPDATED at 6:05 p.m. PDT August 19, 2014)

The map of the Way Fire near Kernville shows data collected at 2:26 p.m. PDT, August 19, 2014.

Map of Way fire at 226 pm August 19, 2014

Map of the Way Fire, showing heat detected by a satellite (the red squares) at 2:26 p.m. August 19, 2014. The squares are accurate to within a mile. Click to see a slightly larger version.

The weather in the fire area on Tuesday has been less conducive to rapid fire spread than it was late on Monday when the fire started. Comparing the conditions at 5 p.m. each day, on Tuesday the temperature was 8 degrees lower, the relative humidity was 10 percent higher, the wind was about the same, and the prediction for the humidity at midnight Tuesday night (the humidity recovery) is 17 percent higher than it was 24 hours before.

The Type 1 Incident Management Team is arriving at the fire today. It is likely that information about the fire will be distributed more slowly during the transition and after they assume command.

Way Fire at 4:03 p.m. August 18, 2014

Way Fire at 4:03 p.m. August 18, 2014. From SWFRS, Tobias Peak.


(Originally published at 10:34 a.m. PDT August 19, 2014)

Way fire Kernville

A BAe-146 drops retardant on the Way Fire near Kernville, California, August 18, 2014. InciWeb photo.

The Way Fire was reported at 3 p.m. on August 18 north of Highway 155 west of Isabella Lake in southern California and by midnight had spread to within about a mile of Kernville, as you can see in the map below. Wednesday morning the Incident Management Team (IMT) reported it had grown to 3,195 acres.

Map of Way fire at 1147 pm August 18, 2014

Map of the Way Fire, showing heat detected by a satellite (the red squares) at 11:47 p.m. August 18, 2014. The squares are accurate to within a mile. Click to see a slightly larger version.

According to the IMT, “Recommended evacuations in Kernville are Burlando Road, Frontier Lane, and Plater Road.”

Some structures are reported to have burned, but the exact number is not known; other structures are threatened, including in the Wofford Heights area.

The fire has been spreading rapidly and has large growth potential.

In June the Shirley Fire burned more than 2,600 acres on the other side of Highway 155.


72-hour report on Beaver Fire shelter deployment

Beaver Fire deployment

The Division Supervisor’s truck is seen in the foreground just before the fire shelters were deployed. The photo is from the report.

A 72-Hour Report has been released for the incident on the Beaver Fire in which three people took refuge from a wildfire inside their fire shelters. The near miss occurred August 11 at 5:30 p.m. on the Klamath National Forest in northern California, approximately 15 miles northwest of Yreka. We first wrote about it on August 12. Below is the Incident Summary from the report:


“At approximately 1730 on August, 11, a Division Supervisor, contract dozer and a Heavy Equipment Boss deployed their fire shelters on the Beaver Fire on the Klamath National Forest in northern California (U.S. Forest Service Incident CA-KNF-005497). The individuals involved were improving line on the far western edge of the fire, approximately 2 miles from the fire front. Fuels in the area consisted of a pine overstory and manzanita surface fuels. Extreme to exceptional drought, at the highest levels on the Drought Monitor system, existed over nearly all of northern California.

As indirect dozer line construction progressed downslope, outflow from a thunderstorm which had already tracked through the area, caused a dramatic and large scale pulse in fire behavior. As fire activity increased, the Division Supervisor drove down to the Heavy Equipment Boss and Dozer Operator to check their status. The dozer operator was in the process of constructing a predetermined safety zone. The fire quickly traveled a significant distance through heavy timber, impacting the indirect dozer line, requiring the three firefighters to deploy fire shelters to survive the heat blast and ember shower. The contract dozer operator received non-life threatening burn injuries, but was referred to a burn center for further evaluation.

PROPERTY DAMAGE: The DIVS pickup truck parked at the deployment site received heat damage and the bed and back seat caught fire. The Division Supervisor and Heavy Equipment Boss were able to put the fire out with two fire extinguishers. The Dozer received minor damage from a small fire which started behind the seat in the open cab.

Based on the nature of this incident, the Pacific Southwest Region will be utilizing the Facilitated Learning Analysis (FLA) process to maximize learning opportunities and better manage future incidents.”


Gazette articles about firefighting technology in Colorado

Ryan Maye Handy, who has written for Wildfire Today, has crafted three articles for the Colorado Springs Gazette about advances in wildfire management technology that the state of Colorado is adopting. One is about the PC-12 fixed wing aircraft (which we have covered at Fire Aviation) that the state is purchasing. Another focuses on the inability to find, for many hours, the reported smoke that later developed into the disastrous Waldo Canyon fire that killed two people and destroyed 347 homes in Colorado Springs. The PC-12s, or any aircraft for that matter, probably could have detected the smoke and facilitated a much quicker initial attack on the fire.

The third article is about mapping fires with thermal sensors, and quotes Phil Riggan, a U.S. Forest Service research ecologist and thermal imaging pioneer based in Riverside, California. Below is an excerpt:

…Since 2001, Riggan has been part of the push to modernize firefighting by mixing on-the-ground firefighting with thermal images of wildfires. While the Forest Service uses a NIROPS flight, short for National Infrared Operations, to make passes over large fires once a day, Riggan advocates for real-time maps.

“If you are on one side of the fire, you don’t really know what’s going on on the other,” he said. “There’s just a lot of confusion that goes on. It’s really important that we try to move into a more modern stance here on fire information.”

Riggan, who has worked for years on a thermal imaging product called FireImager for the Forest Service, is not alone in his thinking. Last week, the Colorado Division of Fire Prevention and Control signed contracts for two aircraft designed to capture thermal images of fires and upload them immediately into a statewide computer system that can feed to firefighters’ smartphones or tablets.


Coors donates to Wildland Firefighter Foundation

Coors - Protect Our West

Coors Protect Our West campaign. TNS advertising photo.

The MillerCoors company has started a campaign to donate money to an organization that supports wildland firefighters. Images like the one above are appearing on trucks and billboards in some western states.

Through the Coors Banquet “Protect Our West” program, the company will contribute 25 cents to the Wildland Firefighter Foundation (WFF) for every case of the beer sold in select states in the Western region throughout July and August, up to $250,000. The non-profit WFF assists firefighters and the families of firefighters injured or killed while battling vegetation fires.

The 25-cents-per-case donation applies to cases of Coors Banquet sold in Alaska, Arizona, California, Idaho, Nevada, Oregon and Washington.

From comments on the WFF Facebook page, it appears that the firefighter featured in the photo is Josh Ross who has worked on the Roosevelt Hotshots. In keeping with the tradition of firefighters buying beer for their comrades if their photo is seen in public media, a “jury” decided that Mr. Ross must buy two kegs of beer by the end of the season. “The jury went easy on me”, he wrote.

In other efforts to donate funds to the WFF, during July and August Coors Banquet will donate $100 for every double play turned by the Seattle Mariners to the Foundation. The company anticipates donating over $5,000 during the course of the campaign. And, the Arizona Wilderness Brewing Company will give $1 to the WFF for every pint of a special beer they recently introduced that is named after the Slide Fire which burned near Oak Creek Canyon north of Sedona, Arizona in May.

If you have not already, please join, or re-join, the 52 Club to help the WFF support firefighters and the families of firefighters injured or killed while on the job.

Coors Wildland Firefighter Foundation

TSN Advertising photo.

The name of the firefighter has been corrected.

Thanks and a hat tip go out to Jim.


Fire weather outlook, August 18 through 22

Lack of widespread critical fire weather has kept fire starts down across much of the western US. Expect fire weather to become more critical today in OR/CA and spread eastward into ID/WY through late-week.

A cut-off upper level low off the coast of north CA will provide enough moisture and instability for scattered dry thunderstorms over high elevations. Very dry surface conditions combined with hot temperatures will make fuels very receptive to dry lightning. Tues, the low will drift southward along the coast, but lose ample moisture to provide widespread storms, however a few isolated storms are possible in central/north CA through Tues evening.

A more potent upper level trough will enter dig into the Pacific Northwest Tues, and begin to eject over the Northern Rockies on Wed. In advance of this trough, surface pressure falls are expected across central OR/WY creating breezy westerly winds Tues and Wed. Combined with warm temperatures and dry conditions, fire suppression will become difficult. Higher moisture across extreme northern WA/ID/MT will develop scattered rain and wet thunderstorms over higher elevations bringing some relief mid-week, with a higher heavy rain threat for eastern MT late week.

Surface low pressure will begin to develop across the central Plains in response to the eastward movement of these upper level features. With high pressure over the Rockies and the western US, a strong pressure gradient will set up over WY and southern ID, and northern CO late week. This gradient will develop breezy conditions across these areas leading to critical fire weather. In addition, increased upper level moisture will provide ample conditions for scattered dry thunderstorms across the same areas, especially over higher terrain. Cooler conditions will develop across the northern Rockies late weekend. Meanwhile, warm and dry conditions will continue for CA and western/central OR/WA with isolated locations of gusty winds through the weekend.

Weather Highlights:

CA: Critical fire weather Monday due to dry lightning, warm temperatures and dry conditions. Threat will lessen and drift southward on Tues/Wed. Continued hot and dry through the period.

OR/WA: Scattered dry thunderstorms across higher elevations of southern OR Monday. Increasing winds Tues/Wed with critical fire weather conditions expected Wed. A few wet thunderstorms over higher terrain of extreme nrthern WA.

Southern ID/WY/northern CO: Very breezy conditions developing with warm temperatures and dry conditions continuing into the weekend. Scattered dry thunderstorms possible through the period over higher terrain. Critical fire weather expected Wed through Fri.
MT: Isolated dry thunderstorms possible Wed through Fri for southern MT, with wet thunderstorm chances across northern MT. Otherwise warm and dry through Thurs with heavy rain possible Fri across eastern MT.