Wildfire briefing, August 23, 2013

Firefighter dies in Portugal

A female firefighter was killed and nine were injured Thursday on a wildfire in Portugal near the small city of Tondela. Commander Antonio Ribeiro of the Serra de Caramulo firefighters said the crew ran from the fire but the firefighter who died fled in the wrong direction. Euronews reports that three firefighters have died this month. High temperatures and strong winds have contributed to the spread of 13 large fires in Portugal.

The national wildfire situation

Today there are 49 uncontained large fires listed on the national Situation Report in the United States, and that number does not include individual fires within complexes. There are currently 854,480 acres within the perimeters of those active fires. The national Preparedness Level has reached the highest category, PL 5, for the first time since 2008. And while it may seem like much of the west is on fire, the number of acres burned to date, 3.4 million, is much less than average, which is 5.6 million.

Competition for firefighting resources is occurring. There is only one California-based Type 1 or Type 2 incident management team available that is not assigned to a fire; 33 IMTeams are assigned nationwide. But surprisingly, there are no Area Command Teams committed.

We have 11 large and very large air tankers working right now on exclusive use contracts, and there are another 9 that the USFS has borrowed from the military, the state of Alaska, and the Canadian government. In 2002 there were 44 large air tankers on contract.

Forest Service runs out of money for firefighting

For the sixth time in the last ten years the U.S. Forest Service has run out of funds for suppressing wildfires. Even though the number of acres burned to date this year is below average, the USFS is having to divert funds from other non-fire accounts in order to cover the shortfall. This is due in part to reductions in the amount of money Congress allocates for the FLAME fund, which is supposed to fund firefighting while protecting other accounts. The Washington Post has more details.

Scott Olsen writes about a firefighter’s first day on the job

You may have seen the articles written last year by W. Scott Olsen, a professor of English at Concordia College in Moorhead, Minnesota about “the war on wildfires out west, meeting shot-callers and looking at the operation from the inside”. He has just published a new article at the Huffington Post about a wildland firefighter’s first day on the job.

Granite Mountain 19

The issues surrounding the deaths of the 19 members of the Granite Mountain Hotshots June 30 on the Yarnell Hill Fire continue to make the news. Firefighters with the New York City Fire Department have raised $30,000 so far for the families of the 19, and they are hoping to add to that total. The Prescott Daily Courier asked the candidates for Mayor and the City Council to express their positions on the discrepancy between the benefits for the seasonal and full time members of the crew. And there is a debate about whether the city’s hotshot crew should be rebuilt.

Investigative reporter John Dougherty has two recent articles about the Yarnell Hill Fire: “Yarnell Hill Fire: The Granite Mountain Hotshots Never Should’ve Been Deployed, Mounting Evidence Shows” and “A Granite Mountain Hotshot’s Father Says the Blaze That Incinerated His Son Could’ve Been Controlled“.

Montana residents contribute for free coffee for firefighters

Residents near Lolo, Montana are contributing to a fund to provide free, good quality coffee for firefighters working on the Lolo Creek Complex. According to an article at KZBK, Samantha Harris, a barista at Florence Coffee Company in Lolo, said customers have been donating money to give firefighters coffee.

“We have a huge tab here so all the firefighters’ coffee is paid for,” Harris said. “Which has been really fun to tell them their coffee is free.” The tab is at nearly $300, she said.

Florence Coffee Company is at 11880 HWY 93 in South Lolo, Montana.

Photos of pyrocumulus

The Alaska Dispatch has some very impressive photos of pyrocumulus smoke columns caused by wildfires.

Goat manure fire stinks up town

A burning pile of goat manure is affecting the quality of life for residents of Windsor, Vermont. The pile ignited from spontaneous combustion Wednesday at George Redick’s 800-goat dairy. Windsor Town Manager Tom Marsh said he could smell the fire at his home which is five miles from the dairy.

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About Bill Gabbert

Wildland fire has been a major part of Bill Gabbert’s life for several decades. After growing up in the south, he migrated to southern California where he lived for 20 years, working as a wildland firefighter. Later he took his affinity for firefighting to Indiana and eventually the Black Hills of South Dakota where he was the Fire Management Officer for a group of seven national parks. Today he is the creator and owner of WildfireToday.com and Sagacity Wildfire Services and serves as an expert witness in wildland fire. If you are interested in wildland fire, welcome… grab a cup of coffee and put your feet up. Google+

5 thoughts on “Wildfire briefing, August 23, 2013

  1. Bill – regarding your note about the USFS running out of fire suppression $$, take a look at the daily “Sit Report” and you’ll get a sensing why: the “Rim” fire in CA has already booked $5.4 million in costs; “Beaver Creek” in the Sun Valley Idaho area has spent $18.7 million to date; the “Elk Complex” used another $10 million so far, and “Lodgepole” is in at $19.5 million. The list goes on, and it’s only late August with no widespread season-ending event in sight. And it ain’t just Feds either: the State of Oregon has spent about $75 million on just 2 of their large fires.

  2. Speaking of burning manure there was a cave full of bat sh*t that caught fire in the 1970s at Grand Canyon N.P. I was not there for it, but heard it was one of the “legend” fires there, not in size but just dealing with it. Perhaps a senior reader who was there can provide details.

  3. I like the note about the locals donating money to provide free coffee to the firefighters on the Lolo fires. In 2001, when we were on the Quartz Fire in Southern Oregon for a couple weeks, the locals pitched in and provided, of all things, an “ice cream man” to sit in the fire camp and give free “whatever-you-wanted” to us firefighters. It was there for at least a week, every evening after our day shift.

    In 2002, we were on the “Heavenly Fire” in Lake Tahoe, and were doing some mop-up. At the end of our shift, we hiked out to the road, where we’d parked, and found that some local had left us two coolers full of ice cream sandwiches, and ice cold Gatorade, pop, and water, with a note thanking us, and asking that we just leave the coolers there when we left.

    As a wildland firefighter, there really was nothing better than the public showing their appreciation, whether though signed along the road into the fire, friendly waves, a cooler full of goodies, or an offer for a round of drinks (which our crew boss politely turned down).

    When you do most of your time in the middle of nowhere fighting fires, you really forget that the majority of the public really supports you and appreciates the hard work that you do.

  4. In 2007 I was an IR interpreter in McCall on the Krassel Complex. One of the local banks loaded a charge card and left it at the local coffee vendor on morning. Any firefighter coming in that day got free coffee. It was really appreciated coming off a night shift.

  5. If the authors allegations regarding the Granite Mtn crew are true and accurate, someone needs to be held accountable…

    The email direct from the IC to Sup. Marsh, requesting them, seems to be outside of any protocol I could imagine..

    The plot thickens….

    Sad as hell, that it happened. Now, let’s find out why and figure out how not to do it ever again.

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