Wildfire briefing, November 21, 2014

FDNY Incident Management Team deploys to Buffalo, NY

The New York City Fire Department’s Incident Management Team has deployed to Buffalo, New York to assist in the organization and management of snow removal efforts following this week’s record snowfall. Friday morning at 5:45 the team departed from the Randalls Island Fire Academy after being requested by the New York State Division of Homeland Security and in coordination with the New York City Office of Emergency Management.

The FDNY saw the benefits of an IMT when they received help from Type 1 interagency IMTs after the attack on the World Trade Center in 2001. Soon thereafter they began training personnel to fill the positions for a team. Since then, the FDNY IMT has responded to multiple national emergencies including forest fires; to New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina; in Broome County, NY following Hurricane Irene and in New York after Hurricane Sandy.

Leaf burning leads to felony charge

A 74-year old man was charged with a felony after his leaf burning caused a wildfire north of Allentown, Pennsylvania on November 4. A police officer used a fire extinguisher to keep the fire, which had spread to within eight feet of a neighbor’s garage, from burning the structure.

“[Dale] Schaeffer failed to call the police or fire department, and continued to let the fire burn out of control in a reckless and dangerous manner,” the officer wrote in his affidavit of probable cause.

Mr. Schaeffer was arraigned Thursday before District Judge Robert Hawke on a felony charge of reckless burning and summary dangerous burning.

Grass fires occurring in Oklahoma

Cured grasses in Oklahoma are providing fuel for an increased number of wildfires in the state.

Brush fire at nudist resort

Firefighters suppressed a wildfire at the Sunny Rest Lodge on Thursday, in Carbon County, Pennsylvania.

Country Fire Service to cease aerial firefighting if a drone is spotted

State aviation operations manager David Pearce said South Australia’s Country Fire Service will cease all aerial operations at bushfires if an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) is spotted in the area.

“Helicopters are particularly susceptible,” Mr Pearce said.

“If the drone is sucked into the intake of the jet engines, or goes into the tail rotor, then it’s probably curtains for the helicopter.”

Gyrocopter crash kills pilot, starts fire

The crash of a gyrocopter near Gatton in Queensland, Australia killed the pilot and started a bushfire on Friday.

Queensland helicopters to go high tech

QGAir Rescue

QGAir Rescue. Photo: Queensland Fire and Emergency Services.

From itnews:

The Queensland (Australia) Government has invested $1 million to install screen sharing technology in its Kedron emergency services hub as well as five helicopter bases across the state.

The new kit – based on Cruiser Interactive technology – will allow Queensland Government Air (QGAir) teams across the six sites to share the same view of incoming data and emergency monitoring, and to switch between different screen views with a flick of the wrist.

Interactive screens have been set up in the co-ordination sites, onto which information from phones, tablets and PCs can be displayed.

Aero-Flite moving to Spokane

The company that operates Avro RJ-85 air tankers is moving from Kingman, Arizona to the airport at Spokane, Washington. Aero-Flite announced Thursday that it is moving its corporate headquarters and air tanker fleet to Spokane International Airport.

More information about Aero-Flite’s move is at Fire Aviation.


Rescue Me balloon is now on Kickstarter

rescue me balloonThe emergency signaling balloon that we told you about on November 17 is now on Kickstarter.

In an emergency the Rescue Me Balloon can be inflated with helium and then flown on a 150-foot monofilament string tether. Below the Coast Guard orange balloon is an LED light that flashes the SOS signal.

The company expects the selling price to be about $75, but a $40 pledge (plus shipping) on Kickstarter should get you one if the device begins shipping in April, 2015 as planned. But, nothing is guaranteed on Kickstarter.

In our earlier article we mused about how it might be useful for wildland firefighters in some situations, for example if they need immediate extraction due to an injury or aerial support if a fire is threatening their position. Usually they have radios, and they may have a GPS receiver that would tell them their latitude and longitude. If both are functional at their exact position, they could tell others their coordinates. A balloon like this 150 feet above the ground could help those firefighters if they are having problems getting through on the radio, or if they can’t get a GPS signal.

The description of the device on Kickstarter has more information about how it is designed:

In detail, Rescue Me Balloon is a cylindrical canister, similar to a lightsaber. It is Coast Guard Orange in color, about 6 inches in length and 2 inches in diameter and weighs about a quarter of a pound. The canister is easy to hold, and has a hoop for a clip for attaching to a belt, backpack, or life jacket, with glow-in-the-dark reflective tape to make it easy to find at night.

Inside the canister at the bottom is a small helium tank attached to a deflated and folded inflatable balloon. Also attached to the balloon is 150 feet of monofilament string with a super-bright LED connected to a small circuit board. In the Emergency Version, the circuit board is programmed to flash an SOS signal; in the Recreational Version, it is programmed to be a solid light. All of this is sealed inside the canister by a cap at the top with an O-Ring installed, making a water-tight seal when closed.

It was posted on Kickstarter at 8 a.m. PST today, November 21, and 45 minutes later it had 15 backers who had pledged $1,015.


Focus on SERPPAS

serppasWhile researching a Prescribed Fire Smoke Management Pocket Guide, we found that it was created by the Coalition of Prescribed Fire Councils (CPFC) and SERPPAS.

The CPFC is a pretty straight forward organization with a governing board comprised of the typical mix of government, industry, and NGO representatives. Their mission is also predictable based on the name:

…promote the appropriate use of prescribed fire for enhancing public safety, managing resources, and sustaining environment quality.

But we had never heard of SERPPAS, which stands for Southeast Regional Partnership for Planning and Sustainability. Their name includes no clues about their purpose. We wondered if it could be natural resource planning, financial planning, career planning, or community planning? The organization’s About Us web page is very vague about what they do, but mentions natural resources. If you dig deeper and click on Read More in the Mission section, you will find that two of the organization’s four objectives are related to national defense and military base realignments and closures.

  • Promote improved regional, state, and local coordination;
  • Manage, sustain, and enhance natural, economic, and human resources as well as national defense;
  • Develop and complete regional sustainability projects supporting the sustainment of natural, economic, and national defense resources related to base realignment planning in the southeast region as well as other identified sustainability needs; and
  • Develop a GIS Sustainability Decision Support Tool that integrates federal, DoD, military services, and state data for use in regional planning by SERPPAS and individual states.

Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) is a process of planning the closure of military installations after the end of the Cold War. More than 350 installations have been closed in five BRAC rounds: 1989, 1991, 1993, 1995, and 2005.

Of the 24 principals and co-chairs listed at SERPPAS, one third of them work for the Department of Defense. Others are employees of the U.S. Forest Service and several state forestry organizations.


Wildfire in South Africa

If we find any other information about this fire we’ll post it here. But we were impressed by the above photo.


Investigation report released for Black Forest Fire

Origin of the Black Forest Fire

Origin of the Black Forest Fire

The El Paso County Sheriff’s Office has released a summary report on the investigation of the Black Forest Fire which started June 11, 2013 near Colorado Springs, Colorado. The fire killed two people and burned 489 houses and 14,280 acres, resulting in $420 million in insured losses.

The investigators eliminated natural causes, such as lightning. That left human-related ignitions.

Below are excerpts from the report:

…Given the known devastation of the fire at that point, an Investigation Team was formed consisting of recognized experts in the area of Wildland fire investigation from agencies including the USDA Forest Service, the Aurora Fire Department, the US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATFE), the 4th Judicial District Attorney’s Office and others. This team was assisted by surveyors from the El Paso County Public Services Department.

The only clearly established fact was that no natural causes existed and thus the fire was human caused. A potential cause associated with the metal particles can not be ruled out, or positively identified. A potential cause associated with an intentional ignition is not supported by the evidence or circumstances, but can not be completely ruled out. The origin of the fire is in an area that is not readily accessible from a roadway, allowing an easy escape, as is typical in intentionally set Wildland fires. There was no evidence of any other miscellaneous cause such as blasting, fireworks, welding, target shooting, etc.

Upon the completion of the investigation, the entire case was reviewed by the Sheriff’s Office Investigations Division and the District Attorney’s Office to determine if any additional leads remained. It was the determination of the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office and the District Attorney’s Office that there was not sufficient evidence to warrant criminal prosecution at this time. None of the investigation or forensic examination supported any one possibility to the extent needed to pursue criminal charges. Additionally, no additional recommended follow-up work could be identified at this time.

Three other reports have previously been released about the Black Forest Fire:

  1. Report on how the fire was managed on the first day, issued by the Black Forest Fire District Board on February 19, 2014. The complete report can no longer be found on the District’s web site.
  2. A 2,000 page, 345 megabyte report, released March 14, 2014, commissioned by the Black Forest Fire District which evaluated how the fire was managed, including the performance of Fire Chief Bob Harvey during the first hours of the fire. Sheriff Terry Maketa had been extremely critical of the Chief in numerous interviews with the media. The complete report can no longer be found on the District’s web site.
  3. After Action Report, by the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office, May 15, 2014. We preserved this report on the Wildfire Today web site.