Canyon Fire burns thousands of acres near Corona, California

(Originally published at 8:22 a.m PDT September 2, 2017)

map Canyon Fire
Map showing the approximate location of the Canyon Fire at 1:18 a.m. PDT September 26, based on heat detected by a satellite. Click to enlarge.

The Canyon Fire that started Monday afternoon south of Highway 91 in Orange County, California remained active overnight on the slopes above Corona after spreading into Riverside County. Evacuations are still in effect for areas on the southwest side of the city.

Three night-flying helicopters worked the fire Monday night, dropping water to assist firefighters on the ground. At least eight air tankers will be available on the fire Tuesday, including a DC-10 Very Large Air Tanker.

The fire is burning on the northern end of the Cleveland National Forest near the North Main Divide and has reached Sierra Peak, the home of many communication towers and facilities. Firefighters in that area are reporting long-range spotting, even before 8 a.m.

The last size reported by fire personnel was 2,000 acres.

canyon Fire
Canyon Fire. Screengrab from Fox LA television at 7:32 a.m. PDT September 26, 2017.

The wind slowed Monday night and the relative humidity increased in the valleys below the fire, but at 7:30 a.m. the fire was putting up a large column of smoke southwest of Corona. During the night the humidity remained in the teens at several weather stations in the hills above the valleys at the same elevation as the main portion of the fire. This could account for the very active fire behavior early Tuesday morning even with very little wind.

The weather forecast is not in favor of the firefighters. The wind on Tuesday is expected to increase to 10-16 mph with gusts above 20 mph, while the temperature will be in the high 80s with the relative humidity in the high teens. The wind will be generally from the east until noon, when it should switch to come out of the west and southwest. Wind shifts like this are dangerous for firefighters.

For the latest articles on Wildfire Today about the Canyon Fire go to

Canyon Fire causes evacuations near Corona, California

Above: The red squares on the map represent heat detected on the Canyon Fire by a satellite at 1:52 p.m. not long after it started September 25, 2017. The arrows directly east of the red squares show the approximate spread of the fire over the next seven hours.

(Updated at 11:58 p.m. PDT September 26, 2017)

The Canyon Fire was reported around 1 p.m. PDT on Monday in southern California near Coal Canyon Road south of Highway 91. It was initially pushed to the southwest by a northeast wind. With single-digit relative humidities it spread rapidly, but by 4 p.m. the wind direction changed and began coming from the opposite direction, the southwest, at 12 to 15 mph which caused the fire to spread east more than two miles over the next five hours, approaching the outskirts of Corona.

Click HERE for the latest articles about the Canyon Fire on Wildfire Today.

By 6:15 p.m. PDT Monday evacuations had been ordered for all homes in Corona south of Green River Road from the 91 Freeway to Trudy Way, including the Orchard Glen Tract.

At about 9 p.m. the Corona Fire Department estimated the fire had burned approximately 2,000 acres.

Canyon Fire helicopter drop
A Type 1 helicopter drops on the Canyon Fire, September 25, 2017. Photo by Anaheim Fire & Rescue.

One of the first heavily populated areas hit by the Canyon Fire were the structures on the west side of Corona on San Ramon Drive and San Alvarado Circle where fire engines from Anaheim and other fire departments battled ember showers for hours, protecting the residences. At times night-flying helicopters supported them with water drops. EPN564 broadcast live several times on Periscope; some of his “scopes” may still be available to view.

Canyon Fire Los Angeles County FD Firehawk helicopter drops water
Los Angeles County FD Firehawk helicopter drops water to assist firefighters on the Canyon Fire, September 25, 2017. Photo by @luissinco via @LACoFireAirOps.

The Canyon Fire appeared to start in Orange County then moved into Riverside County and later the city of Corona. There was a report that the communications sites on Sierra Peak in the Cleveland National Forest were seriously threatened. (see map)

The Orange County Fire Authority reported at 11:30 p.m. Monday that one home had been damaged. In addition, the cargo in a trailer pulled by a semi truck caught fire while traveling on Highway 91. The driver pulled over and disconnected the burning trailer from the tractor.

The Corona Fire Department reported that the helicopter water drops would continue Monday night into early Tuesday morning.
Continue reading “Canyon Fire causes evacuations near Corona, California”

Update on Eagle Creek Fire in Columbia River Gorge

Eagle Creek Fire Columbia River Gorge Oregon

According to the Incident Management Team, the Eagle Creek Fire in the Columbia River Gorge on the Oregon/Washington border is nowhere near contained — they are calling it 46 percent.

The fire started on the south side of the river September 2, allegedly by a teenager playing with fireworks, and grew rapidly on September 5, spotting across the river into Washington near Archer Mountain.

Cooler temperatures and higher humidity levels helped slow fire growth over last week or so, and as of September 23rd, it is 48,668 acres.

These excellent photos were taken by the Incident Management Team this weekend. They show vast areas of burned trees but also large swaths of green canopy.

Eagle Creek Fire Columbia River Gorge Oregon Eagle Creek Fire Columbia River Gorge Oregon Eagle Creek Fire Columbia River Gorge Oregon


Fascinating cloud images

A couple of similar fascinating photos of clouds are floating around on Twitter, supposedly showing a cumulonimbus cloud near Genoa, or “Genova”, Italy shot by Roberto Orlando.

One of them, #1 below, looks like there is a possibility it is smoke from a vegetation fire with a large plume that develops into a huge anvil-shaped pyrocumulus cloud. One feature that makes it look similar to a smoke column is that it appears to be close to the ground — however you can’t see the ground. It was shot with a 34mm lens (see below), so it was either an extremely large cloud, or it was not very far away — or both.

The other, #2, looks like a large cumulonimbus, but with a slight possibility of a smoke column on the right side. Both seem to have been shot minutes before sunset (this one was probably shot last), giving the clouds an orange/red tint.

Both of the tweets said the photos are from September 19. We checked, and the MODIS heat sensing satellite did not detect any large fires near Genoa, Italy on that date this year or on any Sept. 19 in the last five years.

At first I wondered if one or both were fake images, but a search found an account for Roberto Orlando on 500px that has photo #1, titled “Genoa, Just a cloud”. The metadata for the image says: Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX100, 34mm, 1/500s, ISO 200 .

Image #1:

Image #2:

Continue reading “Fascinating cloud images”

MD-87 drops on the Tenderfoot 2 Fire

(Originally published September 25, 2017 on

Jeff Wilson sent us the excellent photo above taken September 19 of an MD-87 dropping on the Tenderfoot 2 Fire east of Dillon, Colorado. Thanks Jeff!

The fire was reported above Dillon Reservoir at 5 p.m. MDT September 18 and burned 21 acres on a steep slope before firefighters contained it, aided by two large air tankers and two helicopters dropping water and retardant September 18 and 19.

Resources working on the fire included Lake Dillon Fire-Rescue crews, one U.S. Forest Service engine crew, a 20-person hand crew from Rifle, and a 22-person initial-attack hand crew from the Upper Colorado River Fire Management Unit.

The fire was caused by sparks from a blown insulator cap on a power line that subsequently ignited nearby grasses.

MD-87 air tanker drops Tenderfoot 2 Fire
An MD-87 air tanker drops on the Tenderfoot 2 Fire September 18, 2017. Inciweb photo.

Jeff Wilson runs a professional photography studio out of Dillon, Colorado.

Roadside memorial for Gary Helming

A roadside memorial is growing for U.S. Forest Service firefighter who was killed in a vehicle accident August 31 in California.

Above: Roadside memorial for Chief Gary Helming who was killed in a vehicle accident near this location August 31, 2017. Photo by John Szalay, September 17, 2017.

(Originally published at 10:38 a.m. MDT September 25, 2017)

Gary Helming, a Battalion Chief with the Los Padres National Forest in southern California, was returning from a wildfire on the Sierra National Forest when a Ford F-350 traveling in the opposite direction suffered a tire failure, crossed the middle of the road, and struck his vehicle head-on. Chief Helming was killed and the other driver, Antonio Avalos of Santa Maria, was airlifted to a hospital.

The accident occurred on Highway 41 just south of state Route 33 in Kings County, California.

Chief Helming had been released the previous evening from the Railroad Fire on the Sierra National Forest.

Roadside memorial Chief Gary Helming
Roadside memorial for Chief Gary Helming who was killed in a vehicle accident at this location August 31, 2017. Photo by John Szalay, September 17, 2017.

John Szalay took the above photos September 17, 2017 of the memorial that has developed near the accident site. He said it is on State Route 41 less than two miles south of State Route 33. There are large turnouts on both sides of the road in case others would like to stop and pay their respects, he said.

Chief Helming started out as a seasonal firefighter and spent 22 years with the U.S. Forest Service. During his career, he also worked with the Bureau of Land Management and the National Park Service but returned to the USFS in 2013. He was stationed in Santa Maria as Battalion Chief with the Los Padres National Forest. His wife, Andrea, has served as Air Tanker Base Manager for the agency at Santa Maria. They have three children.

On January 21, 2015 Chief Helming was honored by the Santa Maria Elks Lodge as Outstanding Firefighter of the Year for Los Padres National Forest’s Santa Lucia Ranger District.

Gary Helming
Chief Gary Helming, February 4, 2015. USFS photo.

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