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.

Lava Mountain Fire northwest of Dubois, Wyoming

Lava Mountain Fire
Lava Mountain Fire July 18, 2016 InciWeb

In the first 13 days since starting from a lightning strike, the Lava Mountain Fire 12 miles northwest of Dubois, Wyoming had been steadily growing, but generally not at a rapid pace. That began to change on Sunday when the rate of spread picked up significantly and it added an additional 1,200 acres for a total of 5,488 acres. On Monday it added at least that much again and according to our very rough, unofficial estimate had burned approximately 7,000 acres by 3 p.m. on Monday.

Most of the recent growth is on the south and southeast sides.

map Lava Mountain Fire
The red dots represent heat detected on the Lava Mountain Fire by a satellite at 3:01 p.m. MDT July 25, 2016. The red line was the fire perimeter mapped by an infrared aircraft at 11 p.m. MDT July 24, 2016. Click to enlarge.

Currently, the south flank of the fire is pushing east and hooking around near the Sand Butte area. According to information released by the incident management team on July 25, “If the direction of spread continues, the fire will be lined up to be pushed by the wind towards the Union Pass road. For these reasons the following areas are in stage “GO” and should evacuate immediately: Union Pass, Warm Springs, Porcupine, and Hat Butte.”

The weather forecast for the fire area calls for strong winds Monday night, but slowing on Tuesday and Wednesday to come out of the west and southwest at 6 to 13 mph. The temperatures will be in the high 70’s and relative humidity in the teens through Wednesday.

New Hampshire firefighter dies while fighting wildfire

Charles Waterbury
Charles Waterbury. Orford Fire Department photo.

A firefighter with the Orford New Hampshire Fire Department died in the line of duty on Sunday July 25 while fighting a wildfire.

Charles Waterbury, a 10-year veteran of the Department, suffered a medical emergency at a lightning-caused fire. He was taken to a hospital where he was pronounced dead.

Governor Maggie Hassan has ordered all flags to fly at half-staff until Wednesday.

“Charles Waterbury courageously rushed to fight a brush fire in Lyme to protect his fellow citizens, and in doing so, was tragically taken from us far too soon,” Governor Hassan said. “Through his service in the Orford Fire Department and the New Hampshire National Guard, Charles dedicated his life to keeping others safe, and his heroic commitment to public service has strengthened our state and our nation. Tom and I join all Granite Staters in mourning his tragic loss, and it is our responsibility as Granite Staters to come together in support of Charles’ family, loved ones, fellow firefighters and the entire Orford community.”

Our sincere condolences go out to Mr. Waterbury’s friends, family, and fellow firefighters.

Red Flag Warnings July 22, 2016

Red Flag Warnings July 22, 2016The National Weather Service has posted Red Flag Warnings or Fire Weather Watches for areas in California,  Washington, Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho.

The maps were current as of 7:20 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.

Report released on burnover of CAL FIRE engine

The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection has released what they call a “Green Sheet”, a summary of the burnover of an engine that occurred as it was making a mobile attack on the Pacheco Fire, which eventually burned 341 acres in Calaveras County south of Valley Springs.

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“SUMMARY

On July 12, 2016, a CAL FIRE Type 3 Model 34 engine (E1) attempted to start a mobile attack toward the head of a vegetation fire. Firefighters deployed two lines, but before they could anchor and start the mobile attack, the main fire and several spot fires converged on the fire engine. One firefighter took refuge in the engine, and one firefighter ran into the green. The engine sustained damage from the fire. Neither firefighter was injured.

CONDITIONS

  • Weather: 89°, 21% relative humidity, winds 9 mph from the west and shifting, taken from the Campo Seco RAWS at 1400 hours.
  • Fuel Type: Approximately two feet tall grass.
  • Topography: Southeast aspect, rolling topography with multiple draws
  • Fire Behavior: Sheeting, fire whirls, spotting

SEQUENCE OF EVENTS

On July 12, 2016, at approximately 1314 hours, CAL FIRE and local government resources were dispatched to a vegetation fire in the vicinity of Langford Pacheco Road and Milton Road in Calaveras County. The initial report on conditions given by the Air Attack at 1329 hours was 15 acres of grass woodland and spotting out in front of the main fire. At 1356 hours, the fire was reported to be 100 acres in size and spotting under the column.

A CAL FIRE engine (E1) arrived at scene at 1345 hours and was assigned Division R, the right flank of the fire. The crew met with a Battalion Chief (BC1) and came up with a plan to create an anchor point and start a mobile attack toward the head of the fire. A second CAL FIRE Engine (E2) and Dozer (D1) were just behind E1.

As E1 crossed through a gate to make access to the fire. E1 stopped in the green and deployed a one inch THY-600 Angus line manufactured by Rawhide Fire, with a 3/8 inch tip for the mobile attack and a reel line to pick up any spot fires. The Captain (FC1) on E1 saw the engine was between the main fire and multiple spot fires. Winds were shifting and the fire behavior was erratic so FC1 from E1 gave the order to pick up the lines so they could move to a better location. As the two firefighters (FF1 and FF2) began to roll up the hose, the main fire and spot fires converged and burned up to the engine. FF1 jumped into the engine while FF2 ran away from the engine into the green, losing his helmet. FC1 lost sight of FF2, and seeing only flames, announced on the tactical frequency that a fire fighter had been burned over. Engine E2 radioed to E1 that they were heading toward them. A large fire whirl was between E2 and E1.

Uninjured, FF2 looked back toward E1 from the green and saw the under carriage of the engine was on fire. FF2 contacted E1 on the radio and told them the engine was on fire. FF1 exited the cab and used the reel line to extinguish the fire under the engine.

Flame impingement caused the airlines above the frame rails to burst. When the air pressure dropped below 60 psi, FC1 was unable to release the spring brake. FF2 ran back to E1. A helicopter dropped water around E1 while D1 constructed line around a portion of E1 to protect the crew. FC1 notified the Incident Commander that all personnel were accounted for and in a good location.

There were no injuries. E1 sustained heat damage to the tires, fenders, lens covers, air brake lines and pump panel.

CAL FIRE engine damage

SAFETY ISSUES FOR REVIEW AND LESSONS LEARNED

STANDARD FIRE ORDERS

  • Base all actions on current and expected fire behavior.

WATCH OUT SITUATIONS

  • Wind increases and/or changes direction.
  • Getting frequent spot fires across line.

LESSONS LEARNED

  • Consider topographical features and fuels, no matter how minor, in relation to you and/or your vehicle’s location to anticipate fire behavior.
  • Base actions on current fire situation and activity potential.
  • Properly wear your PPE”

Utah develops plan to reduce the impacts of catastrophic wildfires

Utah fire strategyThe state of Utah has developed a plan to mitigate and prevent the adverse impacts of what they call “catastrophic wildfires”.  A 25-person steering committee wrote the document which identifies 14 statewide pilot projects
designed to offer the greatest positive impact on community
safety, water supply, utility and transportation
infrastructure, and damage to waterways and reservoir
storage. The projects include public education, improved address and road signage, the acquisition of more fire apparatus, and various types of fuel treatments. The estimated cost of the 14 projects is $129 million.

The plan is titled Catastrophic Wildfire Reduction Strategy. I’m sure that “catastrophic” describes wildfire, rather than the strategy.

Considering what has been going on in Utah during the last couple of years I was surprised to not see anything in the plan about taking over federal land to turn it over to the state or private companies.

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