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+

Wildfire smoke map and Red Flag Warnings, September 3, 2015

Wildfire Smoke

Wildfire smoke, morning of September 3, 2015. WeatherUnderground.

The National Weather Service has issued Red Flag Warnings or Fire Weather Watches for areas in Nevada. With the passage of a cold front, areas in Wyoming may have some hazardous weather over the next two days, including possible rain, snow, and strong winds.

Red Flag Warnings, 9-3-2015

Red Flag Warnings and Fire Weather Watches, September 3, 2015. NOAA.

The Red Flag map was current as of 7:45 a.m. MDT on Thursday. 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 or this NWS site.


Coroner’s report for Twisp River Fire fatlities

From the Seattle Times:

The three firefighters killed in a wildfire near Twisp, Okanogan County, last week died from smoke inhalation and “thermal injuries,” or burns, Okanogan County Coroner Dave Rodriguez said Friday.

The firefighters were driving up a steep gravel road and crashed down a 40-foot embankment, where the fire consumed them. The manner of death was classified as accidental.

Those killed Aug. 19 were Richard Wheeler, 31, Andrew Zajac, 26, and Tom Zbyszewski, 20.

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


NPS Morning Report: RIP

NPS Morning Report

A portion of the last edition of the NPS’ Morning Report, published August 31, 2015.

The National Park Service is discontinuing what became an institution over the last several decades. Their “Morning Report”, produced every week day, published its last edition on August 31, 2015. Many NPS employees, retirees, and people from outside the agency read it religiously.

For almost 30 years it was a summary of all kinds of incidents in the parks, and especially concentrated on storm impacts, major law enforcement actions, injured or killed park visitors, and fires on NPS lands.

It will be replaced by a list of news releases. The NPS explains that is an improvement because it is searchable.

The Morning Report was created, edited, and nurtured tirelessly by Bill Halainen, who early every morning combed through numerous incident reports and edited them into a very readable format. At one point, in the summer Mr. Halainen was providing a recurring chart that showed trends of firefighting resources that were committed nationally to fires — something the NIFC National Situation Report does not do.

Wildfire Summary, 5-day trend, August 16, 2012 by NPS

An excerpt from the August 16, 2012 NPS Morning Report.

There are at least three reasons why the NPS is killing the Morning Report. Mr. Halainen is retiring — a second time. He first retired from the NPS in 2007, but continued writing the Morning Report on a contract basis until two days ago. But in September he retired for real. Another reason is, we have been told that the number of incident reports available to the Morning Report have decreased by 50 percent compared to how many were submitted in the 1990s. And thirdly, the NPS is not interested in funding an editor for the report.

Below is an excerpt from the April 24, 2015 Morning Report, breaking the news about the Halainens’ retirements:


“Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area (PA)
Cathy And Bill Halainen To Retire

Cathy Halainen, budget technician for the resource management division at Delaware Water Gap NRA, and Bill Halainen, a retired NPS employee who edits InsideNPS and the Morning Report, will both be retiring in September.

Cathy will bring to a close 20 years with the park’s Division of Resource Management and Science, where she has been responsible for almost all administrative functions for divisional staff. Before working for the National Park Service, she worked in a similar capacity for several colleges (the University of Massachusetts, Brandeis, and William and Mary) and government contractors, principally McDonnell-Douglas.

Bill worked as an interpretive and protection ranger, program manager and management assistant in various parks and offices from 1974 to 2007, during which time he created and edited the NPS Morning Report. He also became editor of InsideNPS in 2002, and continued editing both publications via contract after his retirement from the Service in 2007. He’s edited and published about 6,900 editions of the Morning Report since 1986 and about 3,000 editions of InsideNPS.

They will continue to reside in northeast Pennsylvania for now, but are considering a move to western Massachusetts.

(Editor’s note: In light of Bill Halainen’s “second” retirement, a transition plan will be developed in regards to the InsideNPS homepage and the Morning Report. Additional information will be forthcoming early this summer.)”


Black Hills firefighters on a fire in the Bitterroot National Forest

south dakota fire crew

Black Hills National Forest firefighter and crewboss trainee, Josh Walk took this photo of his crew of firefighters from Box Elder Job Corps and Rapid City Fire Department, working the Buckhorn Saddle Fire on the Bitterroot National Forest [in Montana]. A typical crew rotation lasts 14 days, but can be expanded to 21 days. Hourly shift assignments vary, but firefighters typically work 10 to 16 hour days. Keep up the great work folks!

(From the Facebook page for the Black Hills National Forest, which is in southwest South Dakota.)


Wildfire smoke and Red Flag Warnings, September 2, 2015

Wildfire smoke

Wildfire smoke, morning of September 2, 2015. The brown icons represent the locations of active wildfires. AirNow.

Red Flag Warnings September 2, 2015The National Weather Service has issued Red Flag Warnings or Fire Weather Watches for areas in California, Nevada, Wyoming, Idaho, and Montana.

Conveniently, the weather and fuel conditions in some areas are behaving themselves and honoring state boundaries.

The map was current as of 10:25 a.m. MDT on Wednesday. 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 or this NWS site.


Researchers attempt to quantify how climate change will affect wildfire seasons

Future Very Large Fires wildfires

The projected percentage increase in the number of “very large fire weeks”—weeks in which conditions are favorable to the occurrence of very large fires—by mid-century (2041-2070) compared to the recent past (1971-2000). (NOAA)

Researchers are predicting that beginning 26 years from now the number of weeks in which very large fires could occur will increase by 400 to 600 percent in portions of the northern great plains and the Northwest. Many other areas in the West will see a 50 to 400 percent increase.

If they are correct, the effects of climate change are not generations away. Firefighters starting out today will be dealing with this on a large scale during their careers.

Warming due to increasing greenhouse gas emissions will likely increase the potential for ‘very large fires’—the top 10 percent of fires, which account for a majority of burned areas in many regions of the United States. Climate change is expected to both intensify fire-friendly weather conditions, as well as lengthen the season during which very large fires tend to spread.

The potential for very large fire events is also expected to increase along the southern coastline and in the forests around the Great Lakes, although the number of events along the northern tier of the country should only increase moderately given the historically low potential for these events.

For this study, researchers considered the average results of 17 climate model simulations to examine how the potential for very large fires is expected to change. Future projections* were based on a higher-emissions scenario called RCP 8.5, which assumes continued increases in carbon dioxide emissions.

Along with the elevated potential for very large fires across the western US in future decades, other climate modeling studies have projected increases in fire danger and temperature, and decreased precipitation and relative humidity during the fire season. The increased potential for these extreme events is also consistent with an observed increase in the number of very large fires in recent decades.

In addition, scientists have detected trends toward overall warming, more frequent heat waves, and diminished soil moisture during the dry season. The combination of these climate conditions and historic fire suppression practices that have led to the build-up of flammable debris have likely led to more frequent large fire events.

At this very moment, more than 56 large wildfires are burning uncontained throughout the West, putting homes, lives, and livelihoods at risk. The smoke created by these fires exacerbates chronic heart and lung diseases while also degrading visibility and altering snowmelt, precipitation patterns, water quality, and soil properties. In addition to public health impacts, projected trends in extreme fire events have important implications for terrestrial carbon emissions and ecosystems.

The authors of the study also note that these findings could place a burden on national and regional resources for fighting fires. Fire suppression costs in the U.S. have more than doubled in recent decades, exceeding $1 billion per year since the year 2000, the National Interagency Fire Center reports. The vast majority of that money is spent on large incidents.

climate change predicted fire seasons

The research was conducted by government employees at taxpayer expense, funded by NOAA, the U.S. Forest Service, and two universities. The authors were: Barbero, R.; Abatzoglou, J.T.; Larkin, N.K.; Kolden, C.A.; and Stocks, B. The title: “Climate change presents increased potential for very large fires in the contiguous United States”. It was published in Australia in the International Journal of Wildland Fire (copies available for $25).

We checked with Frames.gov which posts copies of government-funded research, and were told by Michael Tjoelker, “Unfortunately, due to copyright issues we are not able to distribute full text versions of Journal articles.” However, Renaud Barbero, one of the authors, sent us a copy.

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