Crews on Idaho’s Pioneer fire brace for increased fire behavior

Helicopter Pioneer Fire

Crews on the 18,933-acre Pioneer fire north of Idaho City are facing a weekend of windy weather, which will likely fan the flames of a fire that has been burning since July 18.

Here’s the outlook for Sunday’s weather:

A passing cold front this evening may produce thunderstorms with gusty, erratic winds and increased fire behavior.Smoke will likely again be visible from great distances.

Crews are also grappling with poor access, steep terrain, dry forests and old mining sites, according to posts on InciWeb.

On Friday, heavy smoke from the fire drifted east and triggered warnings for unhealthy levels of smoke pollution. Smoke from the Pioneer fire was also drifting into Northern Colorado.

Saturday’s outlook in Idaho, however, predicted normal air quality, according to the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality.

Smoke expected to drift over Northern Rockies this weekend

Wildfire Smoke Map July 29, 2016
Smoke from U.S. wildfires, July 29, 2016.

Smoke from western wildfires in Idaho and Colorado is expected to worsen over the weekend as it drifts east.

The Pioneer fire burning outside of Boise emitted a pillowing plume of smoke on Friday that could be seen from miles away. As of Friday night, the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality had issued an unhealthy air quality warning for areas around Ketchum, due east of the Pioneer fire.

Colorado residents are also likely to see more smoke in the area this weekend as smoke from the Pioneer fire drifts east and mixes with plumes from Colorado’s Beaver Creek fire.

On Friday, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment warned Northern Colorado residents that wildfire smoke will likely be visible for much of the weekend.

Colorado’s Beaver Creek fire expected to burn into October

Firefighters are anticipating that it will take them until late October to contain the Beaver Creek fire, which is burning in one of the forests hardest hit by mountain pine beetle.

Tactics being used to contain the blaze have already emerged as a case study in how to suppress fire in an environment transfigured by thousands of dead trees.

Beetle-kill trees in the area thwarted firefighters’ attempts at a direct attack — downed trees made building a fireline difficult and gusts from helicopter rotors only caused more trees to fall, according to a lessons learned report published on July 27.

An indirect approach containing the fire became essential when initial attack crews felt radiant heat from flames a half a mile away:

Because of the extreme fire behavior exhibited early on in the Beaver Creek Fire, firefighters knew a direct attack would be both dangerous and ineffective…Firefighters removed fuels, wrapped buildings, laid hoses and sprinklers around the structures, and strategically burned out around buildings in advance of the fire.

The conditions in the Routt National Forest, along the Colorado-Wyoming border, also proved challenging to firefighter safety, according to a post from the incident management team on InciWeb.

The fire is burning in heavy beetle killed timber. The infested trees are subject to blowing over contributing large amounts of down timber and providing fuel for extreme fire behavior when strong winds and terrain features are in alignment, making the timbered areas unsafe for firefighters.

The fire, which started on June 19 in north-central Colorado, spread by several hundred acres during a hot, windy and humid day this week and forced firefighters to pull back to safety zones, The Denver Post reported.

As of July 29, the fire had burned 30,137 acres and is 12 percent contained.

Thanks to some northwesterly winds, Colorado residents can expect to see smoke from the Beaver Creek fire and other western wildfires this weekend, according to an update from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

Thanks and a tip of the hat go out to Allen.

Soberanes fire spreads, destroys more homes

The Soberanes fire in Monterey County has shifted California’s focus from Los Angeles to Big Sur, where the fire has shut down several state parks, destroyed dozens of homes and continues to burn with little containment.

Here are some of the latest stats on the Soberanes fire (or read more background on the Soberanes fire):

  • 29,877 acres – 15 percent contained
  • 2,000 structures threatened
  • 41 homes and 10 outbuildings destroyed
  • One fatality, a bulldozer-operator who died after a rollover.
  • Total personnel: 4,245
  • Resources:  394 engines, 94 crews, 14 helicopters, 6 air tankers, 67 dozers, 41 water tenders.


Red Flag Warnings and Fire Weather Watches, July 29, 2016

Red Flag Warnings/Fire weather watches, July 29, 2016

The National Weather Service has posted Red Flag Warnings and Fire Weather Watches for areas in California, Nevada, Utah, Idaho, Oregon and Washington.

The maps were current as of 5:37 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 and maps. For the most current data visit this NWS site.

Comet Fire burns hundreds of acres north of Salmon, Idaho

Above: Comet Fire, July 28, 2016. Photo by Bill Gabbert.

The heli-rappellers at the Salmon, Idaho airport saw the lightning strike on July 26 that caused the Comet fire 12 miles north of the town. So far it has burned 356 acres above the Salmon River near Highway 93.

map Comet Fire
Map showing the location of the Comet Fire 12 miles north of Salmon, Idaho, July 28 , 2016.

The fire is being fought by four helicopters, seven engines, one Type 2 initial attack 22 person crew, one Hotshot crew, four heli-rappellers, and four smokejumpers.

Comet Fire
The Comet Fire north of Salmon, Idaho. Photo by Bill Gabbert. Click to enlarge.
Comet Fire K-Max
A K-MAX helicopter drops water on the Comet Fire north of Salmon, Idaho July 28, 2016. Photo by Bill Gabbert. Click to enlarge.