A view of the potential in the Oakland Hills through the eyes of an Australian


1991 Tunnel Fire

1991 Tunnel Fire. Screen shot from the Oakland Wildfire Prevention Assessment District video below.

The Oakland Hills, which was devastated by the Tunnel Fire in 1991, has some things in common with Australia. The most obvious is the eucalyptus trees, a species imported from down under. The volatile highly combustible oil in the leaves causes fires to burn rapidly under them and through the tree crowns. The eucalyptus contributed to the spread of the Tunnel fire, which killed 25 people, injured 106 residents, and burned 3,354 homes.

Christine Erikson has written about fires in Australia and authored a book titled Gender and Wildfire: Landscapes of Uncertainty. During a visit to the United States in which she made presentations at conferences, she toured the Oakland Hills. Below is an excerpt from an article she wrote about the experience:

…I felt right at home amongst the swaying eucalyptus trees, which despite much controversy still stand tall in the Oakland Hills. Yet, unlike the ‘Prepare, Stay and Defend or Leave Early’ mantra that is associated with living in eucalyptus dominated (i.e. fire-prone) landscapes in Australia, it was the continuing absence of an official policy on how to better prepare residents for future wildfires in the Oakland Hill that loomed large for me during the fieldtrip. What should residents do if evacuation is not a feasible option in the future? How can residents prepare so a similar disaster is prevented? These questions linger like ghosts at every twist and turn of the narrow, winding mountain roads where smoke, embers and flames resulted in accidents and panic that fatally trapped residents in 1991.

This ghostly presence clearly has not escaped the attention of the local Oakland Fire Department. In addition to official projects, the Department is now “unofficially” advising residents on what they can do to increase their chances of survival. Preparing properties in the Oakland Hills, however, is easier said than done. The recommended ten-metre clearance around residential homes is unrealistic in most of these neighbourhoods dominated by quarter acre blocks. A representative from the Oakland Hills Wildfire Prevention program pointed out that when these two-dimensional blocks are considered three-dimensionally, thus taking into consideration the considerable hill slope, these blocks become one-acre properties in need of defence. He furthermore spoke to the frustration of local building-, planning- and fire-codes not supporting each other. The statutory law of developing a given property, for example, sits within a planning code that does not necessarily follow local fire safety recommendations. 

The video below, produced by the Oakland Wildfire Prevention Assessment District, discusses the 1991 Tunnel fire and what the city is doing now to mitigate the vulnerability the area has to the next wildfire.


Red Flag Warnings, April 23, 2014

wildfire Red Flag Warnings, April 23, 2014

Warnings for elevated wildfire danger have been issued by the National Weather Service for areas in New Mexico, Texas, Colorado, Oklahoma, Kansas, South Dakota, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, New Jersey, Delaware, New York, Connecticut, and the District of Columbia.

The Red Flag Warning map was current as of 9:20 a.m. MDT on Wednesday. Red Flag Warnings can change throughout the day as the National Weather Service offices around the country update and revise their forecasts. For the most current data, visit this NWS site.


Wildfire briefing, April 22, 2014

Iowa resident dies while burning brush

Authorities in Iowa have identified a resident who was found by firefighters who responded to a brush fire on April 20 in Delaware County, about 40 miles northeast of Cedar Rapids.

From The Gazette:

…A Tuesday news release said Generose (Genny) Bennett, 78, of Oneida was apparently burning brush Sunday afternoon when the fire got out of control.

The update comes after the Greeley Fire Department responded to a cornfield fire in Oneida on Sunday at 2:11 p.m., where they discovered a body in the field.

Wildfire contained in Shenandoah National Park

WHSV described the size of the fire:

A wildfire in Shenandoah National Park is now down to 22 acres, after already burning 50 acres inside the park.

Burned bridge in Alberta back in service after burning on Sunday


FirstNet, an introduction

FirstNet logoBelow is a briefing paper for firefighters about the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) communications system.

It will be interesting to see if the system will be available in the remote areas where most large wildland fires occur.


“FirstNet and the Fire Service

The Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012 created the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) as an independent authority within the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) to provide emergency responders with the first high‐speed wireless broadband network dedicated to public safety. The FirstNet network will be a single, nationwide long term evolution (LTE) network that makes it easier for public safety users to communicate during emergencies and on the job every day. Think of the FirstNet network as a bigger, more reliable, secure and resilient wireless data network. This new network will provide faster access to information and wireless coverage where fire personnel need it most.

The FirstNet network will enable faster, better coordinated response to natural and manmade disasters. Just as smartphones have changed personal lives, FirstNet devices and applications will ultimately change the way career firefighters and volunteers operate. Imagine a day when one interoperable communications network can be used to dispatch an extrication team, a medical helicopter, police and EMS personnel from different jurisdictions all at the same time. Fire personnel using the FirstNet network will be able to share images, applications, and access to databases to have a common operational picture as incidents unfold.

FirstNet’s goal is to provide public safety‐grade reliability and extensive coverage so fire personnel can count on the network when they are on the job. FirstNet is also aiming to provide coverage solutions that let fire personnel “take the network along” to their destination in certain geographies. Incident commanders and local officials will have local control over the network so, for example, they can assign users and talk groups and determine who can access applications.

When the FirstNet network launches, it will provide mission‐critical, high‐speed data services to supplement the voice capabilities of today’s land mobile radio (LMR) networks. Initially, the FirstNet network will be used for sending data, video, images and text. The FirstNet network will also carry location information and eventually support streaming video. In time, FirstNet plans to offer voice over LTE (VoLTE).

After 9/11, the public safety community fought hard to fulfill the 9/11 Commission’s last standing recommendation and lobbied Congress to pass legislation establishing a dedicated, reliable network for advanced data communications nationwide. During emergencies, fire personnel need priority access and preemption, which are not available on commercial networks.

Using the FirstNet network will greatly improve situational awareness and keep fire personnel safer with an improved communications capability. It will make it possible to gain quick access to new tools and applications that provide location data and other vital information for firefighting. The FirstNet network will enable the exchange of real‐time data and audio/video feeds on the fireground to assist incident commanders with operational decision‐making and maximize search and rescue and suppression effectiveness.

FirstNet intends to offer services at a compelling and competitive cost to attract millions of public safety users and make FirstNet self‐sustaining. The use of FirstNet’s services and applications will be voluntary. The costs for FirstNet’s services and devices have not yet been set.

FirstNet is responsible for working through the designated state single points of contact (SPOC) to consult with states, local communities, tribal governments, and first responders to gather requirements for developing its network deployment plans. Fire personnel can provide input to FirstNet via the outreach efforts being coordinated by the SPOC in each state. To identify the SPOC for a state and let them know you are interested, go to http://firstnet.gov/consultation . Fire personnel may also want to contact members of the FirstNet Public Safety Advisory Committee (PSAC) and participate in outreach discussions at professional association meetings and conferences. More information regarding the PSAC and its membership is available at http://firstnet.gov/about/public-safety-advisory-committee. To stay up-to-date on FirstNet activities, fire personnel can track progress at www.firstnet.gov.”


More information.


Red Flag Warnings, April 22, 2014

wildfire Red Flag Warnings, April 22, 2014

Warnings for elevated wildfire danger have been issued by the National Weather Service for areas in New Mexico, Oklahoma, Kansas, Texas, California, Nevada, Arizona, and Colorado.

The Red Flag Warning map was current as of 11:30 a.m. MDT on Tuesday. Red Flag Warnings can change throughout the day as the National Weather Service offices around the country update and revise their forecasts. For the most current data, visit this NWS site.


Showtime’s program about wildland fires and climate change

Years of Living Dangerously   Season 1   Episode 2   End of the Woods   Showtime

Showtime photo from “Years of Living Dangerously”, Season 1, Episode 2. Host Arnold Schwarzenegger is in the center wearing the clean shirt.

In case you missed Sunday night’s premier of the second episode in their Years of Living Dangerously docu-series, an episode that features wildland fires and climate change, it will be shown quite a few more times on Showtime.

Years of Living Dangerously, schedule

In this second episode, former Governor Schwarzenegger spends some time in the field with BLM’s Snake River Hotshots from Idaho and talks with Randy Anderson and others from the crew. We first told you about the series on April 9.

Below is a short clip from the program.