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 potential, September through December

The Predictive Services section at the National Interagency Fire Center has issued their Wildland Fire Potential Outlook for September through December, 2014.

The data represents the cumulative forecasts of the eleven Geographic Area Predictive Services Units and the National Predictive Services Unit.

If their predictions are accurate, firefighters could be busy in Washington, Oregon through October, and busy in southern California into December. The fall fire season in the southeast looks like it will be normal or slower than normal.

September

September  wildfire outlook

  • Above normal fire potential will remain across southwestern Oregon through September for lingering dryness and potential dry, east winds.
  • Fire potential will remain elevated across portions of California. Continued dry fuels will couple with potential offshore winds.
  • Below normal fire potential is expected to continue for some portions of the eastern U.S. and the Hawaiian Islands.

October

October  wildfire outlook

  • Above normal fire potential will persist across California as fuels will remain dry and off shore flow season arrives in earnest. Northern and central California will return to normal potential by the end of the month.
  • Below normal fire potential is expected to continue for some portions of the southern Plains, Florida, and Hawaii.

November and December

(Note: there was a technical problem in getting a good copy of the image below.)

November December wildfire outlook

  • Above normal fire potential will persist across southern California as offshore flow potential continues. Expect a return to normal potential from north to south beginning in late November through December.
  • Below normal fire potential is expected to continue for the Gulf and Southeast Coasts, and Hawaii.
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Boeing applies for patent on parachute-delivered fire suppression system

Boeing Patent App

An illustration from Boeing’s patent application #13/776,733

The Boeing Company has applied for a patent on a parachute-based system for applying a suppressant to fires. The devices would be ejected from an aircraft and descend to the fire at 30 to 200 mph. A guidance system would use a glide control structure to fly along a calculated path from the ejection point to the designated location of the fire. The release altitude would be determined by a GPS or a radar altimeter assisted by a fire detection sensor that would increase the accuracy of the flight.

An optional component would be a lighter than air balloon that would inflate and carry the device away from the fire after the suppressant is released. The location of the equipment would be tracked remotely and when over a suitable site the balloon would be deflated so that the unit could be recovered.

The patent lists 15 different possibilities for the suppression agent that would be dispersed over the fire:

suppression agents

This reminds us of the “precision container aerial delivery system” (PCAD) that attempts to re-invent air tankers by dropping 200-gallon plywood/plastic containers of retardant or water, each weighing about 2,000 pounds, from a normally-configured C-130 or C-27. We categorized that as a “lame-ass idea”, primarily because of the danger to anyone on the ground if a chute did not open, the difficulty in providing consistent coverage, and the 100 pounds of plywood, plastic, fabric, and strapping that would be scattered around the landscape. 

Boeing’s idea also has the disadvantage of danger to ground personnel if a chute did not open, but they partially solved the litter problem by guiding the device to a more convenient location where it could be recovered. Consistent coverage would also be an issue. However, we can see a use for Boeing’s system for retarding the spread of small lightning fires at night, when firefighting helicopters and air tankers are grounded. The cargo planes carrying the devices , such as the recently acquired U.S. Forest Service C-130s, could safely fly at night high above the terrain and the fire.

Of course the biggest disadvantage of the Boeing concept is the cost. The high-tech devices will not be inexpensive.

While this may be not practical because of costs and other issues, it is fascinating to hear about outside the box thinking regarding an industry that still uses sharpened pieces of metal attached to the ends of sticks for suppressing fires.

You can read the details about the patent application (1.3 MB file): BoeingPatentApp

Thanks and a hat tip go out to Isaac.

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Wildfire briefing, August 31, 2014

Happy Camp Complex InciWeb photo

Happy Camp Complex Fire. InciWeb photo (undated & uncredited).

Happy Camp Complex

The Happy Camp Complex of fires in a remote area of northwestern California continued to chew up additional acres on Saturday, though at a somewhat slower rate than the previous two days. Now mapped at 62,626 acres, a 24-hour increase of 4,904 acres, it has reached Highway 96 near the small community of Seiad Valley. Several areas are under a mandatory evacuation order affecting 250 homes, and approximately 695 homes are threatened. The fire is being fought by 2,116 personnel, 52 crews, 137 engines, 19 helicopters and 18 dozers. The incident management team is calling it 15 percent contained.

The fire is burning in an area infamous for inversions that trap wildfire smoke, at times making it difficult for firefighting aircraft to fly, and firefighters and residents to breathe.

More information about the Happy Camp Complex of fires.

Uncredited photos on InciWeb

It is unfortunate that we don’t know who took the excellent photo posted above. Public Information personnel posting photos on InciWeb REALLY need to provide at least four pieces of information about each photo: 1) photographer’s name, 2) date taken, 3) location, and 4) a description.

Dust from wildfire causes traffic problems

Dust being blown off a recent wildfire close to Interstate 90 near Vantage, Washington resulted in a 20-mile stretch of the highway being closed on Thursday and Friday.

Fifteen cars and nine tractor-trailers collided in the area on Thursday, leaving nearly a dozen people injured and causing a pileup that snarled traffic on the main route across Washington state, authorities said. According to Trooper Darren Wright, it’s not yet known how the pileup started.

A third DC-10 joins the fleet

Tankers 910, 911, 912 at Merced

Tankers 910, 911, and 912 at Castle Airport, August 30, 2014. Photo by 10 Tanker.

A third DC-10 jumbo jet has been converted into an air tanker. 10 Tanker Air Carrier announced Saturday that Tanker 912 has been fully certified and has joined the other two DC-10s temporarily based at Castle Airport near Merced, California.

Report released on CL-415 accident

A report has been released on the CL-415 air tanker accident that occurred on Moosehead Lake in Newfoundland and Labrador July 3, 2013. Details are at Fire Aviation.

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Washington Post: Congress should do more to protect the country from wildfires

Eiler Fire, burned structure

A burned structure and another that survived the Eiler Fire 40 miles east of Redding, California. Photo taken August 6, 2014 by by Bill Gabbert.

Below are excerpts from an article in the August 28 edition of the Washington Post, written by Peter Goldmark, the Washington state commissioner of public lands.

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Congress should do more to protect the country from wildfires

…By failing to provide an emergency funding source for federal firefighting efforts, Congress has forced the U.S. Forest Service to pay for its firefighting efforts by cannibalizing programs that promote healthy forests and wildfire prevention. A recent report from the agency reveals that its firefighting workforce has more than doubled since 1998 while the number of its land managers has shrunk by 35 percent.

Despite the scale of disasters such as the Carlton Complex, Congress still pays for federal wildland firefighting as though it were lawn mowing or picnic-table painting or any other routine administrative task. Several bipartisan legislative proposals would instead allow the Forest Service to tap into the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s disaster fund to fight wildfires, as the federal government does when responding to other natural disasters. Faced with yet another opportunity to fix this situation before adjourning for a five-week recess, Congress failed to act.

According to Headwaters Economics, a nonprofit research group, twice as many acres burn and three times as many structures are destroyed during each wildlife season as in 1990, and the season now lasts two months longer.

Congress should provide emergency funding to fight wildfires while greatly increasing the budget for stewardship of America’s shamefully neglected national forests. We must fix this broken model before more people, communities and wildlife suffer needless harm.

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California: Happy Camp Complex of fires

(UPDATED at 11:08 a.m. MDT, August 30, 2014)

Pyrocumulus cloud over the Happy Camp Complex of fires, August 28, 2014

Pyrocumulus cloud over the Happy Camp Complex of fires, August 28, 2014. Photo by Kari Greer.

The growth of the Happy Camp Complex Fire on Friday was similar to the day before. Continued spread to the northeast added another 13,000 acres and brought the 57,722-acre fire to the banks of the Klamath River at the community of Seiad Valley. Exhibiting intense fire behavior it traveled north approximately three quarters of a mile up the Grider Creek drainage below a pyrocumulus cloud that formed above the large column of smoke.

The mandatory evacuations from Friday remain in effect. Communities that are threatened by the fire include Happy Camp, Elk Creek, Seiad Valley, Hamburg, Kelsey Creek and Scott Bar. Structure protection groups are placed in strategic locations to assist in protecting homes and property should the fire move into these areas.

Click on the maps of the Happy Camp Complex below to see slightly larger versions.

Map Happy Camp Cmplx

Map of the Happy Camp Complex of fires at 12:05 a.m. MDT, 8-30-2014.

3-D Map Happy Camp Cmplx

3-D Map of the Happy Camp Complex of fires at 12:05 a.m. MDT, 8-30-2014.

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(Originally published at 10:06 a.m. MDT, August 29, 2014)

An MD-87 drops on the Happy Camp Complex

An MD-87 drops on the Happy Camp Complex. InciWeb photo.

The Happy Camp Complex of fires grew by 12,000 acres on Thursday, requiring additional mandatory evacuations in the Seiad Valley area, including:

  • Scott Valley Road from Bridge Flat to the intersection of Hwy. 96.
  • All areas south of Hwy. 96 between Scott River Road and Grider Creek.
  • All areas south of Hwy. 96 from Seiad Valley down river to Kade Summit.

Other areas are under an evacuation advisory.

On Thursday the two largest and most active fires in the Complex, the Faulkstein and Frying Pan Fires, spread rapidly on the east side aided by long-range spotting. The fires grew together when an inversion broke, followed by a west wind that pushed the fire to the northeast. Burning embers were carried a mile and a half in front of the fire.

As you can see on the maps below, the fire is 38 miles southwest of Medford, Oregon and less than two miles from Seiad Valley, California on Highway 96.
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