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+

Sierra Club argues against FEMA’s plan for the eucalyptus trees in Oakland’s East Bay Hills

The Sierra Club and the Sustainability, Parks, Recycling and Wildlife Legal Defense Fund (SPRAWLDEF) filed suit on May 26 over plans by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to fund a vegetation-management program in the East Bay hills that would increase fire hazards, threaten endangered species and native wildlife, and increase the financial burden on taxpayers.

“The best way forward is to promote native vegetation that is less flammable and encourages healthy ecosystems and greater biodiversity,” said Sierra Club San Francisco Bay Chapter director Michelle Myers. “That’s a win-win for the environment and for homeowners who want to feel secure that they won’t lose their homes in another Great Fire like the one we lived through in 1991. Unfortunately, FEMA’s approach isn’t in line with the priorities of fire safety and habitat restoration.”

FEMA has over $5.5 million in grant money to disburse for vegetation management in the East Bay Hills from Richmond to San Leandro. These areas contain thousands of acres of highly flammable eucalyptus and non-native pines, which choke out more fire-resistant natives like oaks, bays, and laurel. Flying in the face of the best science and land-management practice, the Sierra Club said, FEMA has signaled its intention to fund a plan to thin flammable non-natives, rather than remove them entirely. The Sierra Club / SPRAWLDEF suit contents that this is the wrong approach.

The Sierra Club and other environmental groups including the Claremont Conservancy, the Golden Gate Audubon Society, and the California Native Plant Society have all advocated for removing all of the flammable eucalyptus and pine trees over time so that less-flammable native habitat can reclaim those areas. In contrast to clearcutting, this approach calls for removing eucalyptus in phases, so that native trees — which cannot grow to full size underneath the eucalyptus canopy — are able to thrive. Mere thinning of eucalyptus and pine plantations in fact denudes hillsides to an even greater extent, as it requires the clearing of native plants in the understory.

Related articles on Wildfire Today:

Eucalyptus and fire
Wildfire briefing, March 11, 2015
A view of the potential in the Oakland Hills through the eyes of an Australian
20 years later, potential for another Oakland Hills fire?
Have some plants evolved to promote fire?
Wildfire news, February 1, 2009

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


Firefighter injured in Nevada is in critical but stable condition

A Forest Service firefighter who was injured Monday while working on a small fire west of Las Vegas in the Mt. Charleston Wilderness is in critical but stable condition at University Medical Center in Las Vegas.

Josh Evans, a seasonal firefighter, sustained second- and third-degree burns to his upper body when a flash fire occurred during a chainsaw-refueling operation.

When the incident occurred, the firefighter was hoisted off the mountain in a Las Vegas Metro Search and Rescue helicopter, transferred to a Mercy Air medevac helicopter, and taken to the University Medical Center trauma center. He is now in the hospital’s burn unit.

At the time of the injury, the firefighter was part of a crew involved in initial attack on the lightning-caused fire on the Spring Mountains National Recreation Area. After the injury, another fire crew replaced Evans’ crew, and the fire was subsequently contained.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with Josh and his family in this unfortunate situation. We appreciate our selfless firefighters who willingly face ongoing challenges in the interest of protecting life and property,” said Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest Supervisor Bill Dunkelberger.


Fire prevention and recruitment videos

This first 30-second video uses firefighters from multiple organizations to say “One less spark, one less wildfire”.

The next 30-second video encourages the viewer to prevent fires in order to reduce the number of firefighters that are killed, and appears to use family members of the deceased, saying, “One less spark is one less firefighter fatality”.

The last video is an effort to recruit urban residents and minorities to work for the U.S. Forest Service.


Two movies in development about fatal wildfires

Development is moving forward on two movies about wildfires on which multiple firefighters were killed.

In February, 2013 John N. Maclean announced that he had signed a deal to have his book about the 2006 Esperanza fire made into a movie. A screenplay is being written by Sean O’Keefe, and Jim Mickle, a well-regarded Indie director, has been signed to direct the project. Not too much is happening on it right now since Mr. Mickle is tied up making another movie.

But that could change since another wildfire film has been announced. Legendary Pictures, which bought the rights to Mr. Maclean’s book, may decide to move things along more quickly so that they can release it before a planned movie about the Yarnell Hill Fire hits theaters.

Below is an excerpt from a May 27, 2015 article in the Daily Courier:

A movie about Prescott’s fallen hotshot firefighters is still in the works, although some of the players have changed.

Producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura of “Transformers” fame is in the development stage for the movie, planning the elements of the film, his publicist Arnold Robinson of Rogers and Cowan said.

Ken Nolan, screenwriter of “Black Hawk Down,” currently is writing the script, Robinson added.

“There are no actors attached to the project at this time, but discussions with talent are taking place,” Robinson said. Director Scott Cooper (“Crazy Heart” and “Out of the Furnace”) is no longer planning to work on the hotshot film, his spokesperson Jennifer Hillman of Creative Artists Agency said.

Hopefully production on the hotshots movie will begin late this year or early next year, Robinson said. There is no timeframe for when the film will be in theaters…

Five wildland firefighters were killed on the 2006 Esperanza Fire, and 19 died on the 2013 Yarnell Hill Fire.

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


Kyle Dickman: “Stop expecting firefighters to save your homes”

Kyle Dickman, a former wildland firefighter and author of a just released book about the Yarnell Hill Fire on which 19 firefighters were killed, has written an opinion piece for CNN titled Stop expecting firefighters to save your homes.

Below is an excerpt from the article on CNN:

…But asking firefighters to risk their lives to save unprepared homes from the most volatile blazes is like asking the National Guard to control a hurricane. It’s negligent. Even still, firefighters want to help people and put their training to use, and it can be hard for these brave men and women to recognize the limits of their abilities…
In the aftermath [of the Yarnell Hill Fire], some of the 127 homeowners who lost their houses during that blaze sued the State of Arizona for failing to protect the town. The judge threw out the lawsuit, and in doing so, gave active support to the rarely spoken truth that firefighters simply cannot stop the highest intensity fires. We’re witnessing that reality now more than ever…

Mr. Dickman’s book is titled On The Burning Edge: A Fateful Fire and the Men Who Fought It.


Wildfires in Alberta shut down oil producing facilities

Wildfire Cold Lake Alberta

The wildfire north of Cold Lake, Alberta, at 9 p.m. May 26, in the Cold Lake Air Weapons Range. It was 17,000 hectares (42,000 acres) on May 26.

From the Guardian:

Several energy companies have suspended oil operations and evacuated non-essential staff from northeastern Alberta as nearly 20 wildfires rage out of control in the remote rural region. At least 233,000 barrels per day of oil sands production, 9% of Alberta’s total oil sands output, has been suspended in Alberta’s northeast because of the fire risk.

Several small towns threatened by fires have been evacuated in other parts of the province.

MEG Energy Inc said on Tuesday it was suspending operations at its 80,000-barrel-per-day Christina Lake oil sands project and evacuated non-essential staff.

Bank of America Merrill Lynch warned in a research report that the decreased production from the fires could affect economic growth.

“If wildfire disruptions persist through the rest of May, and activity gradually picks up in June, we estimate a 0.1% to 0.3% hit to [second-quarter] annualized GDP growth,” Emanuella Enenajor, the bank’s Canada and US economist wrote. But she warned that the estimate was uncertain and the impact would depend on how long it took to return production to normal levels.

The province of Alberta reported today that recent fires have burned 29,000 hectares (71,000 acres). Resources committed to the fires include 79 crews, 660 personnel, 3 air tankers, 56 helicopters, and 36 dozers.