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+

1.7 million acres burning in Alaska wildfires

Jumper arriving at Kobe Fire

Smokejumper arriving at the Kobe Fire, six miles NE of Mile Post 275 on the Parks Highway in Alaska. Photo by Zoey Taylor.

There are 285 active fires burning in Alaska that have charred 1.7 million acres, according to the Alaska Interagency Coordination Center. Of those 285 fires, 41 are staffed and the other 244 are being monitored.

The National Interagency Coordination Center reports that the firefighting resources assigned to fires in Alaska include: 106 hand crews, 33 engines, and 29 helicopters.

Alaska top 10 fires

These are the top 10 fires, by size, currently reported by InciWeb in Alaska.

A fun fact — a Bureau of Land Management Type 3 helicopter (H-173BH) recently completed a four-day trip to an assignment in Alaska. It took off from Rifle, Colorado on June 23 and arrived in Fairbanks June 26. The BLM sent other Type 3 helicopters, one each, from Montana, Wyoming and Utah. Two Forest Service Type 2 helicopters were also recently dispatched from the lower 48 states.

Map of Alaska Fires June 29, 2015

Map of Alaska Fires, at 3:56 p.m. MT, June 29, 2015.

Whitefish Fire

Whitefish Fire, 8 miles south of Kalskag, June 17, 2015.


Homes burn in Wenatchee, Washington wildfire

(UPDATED at 9:38 p.m. PT, June 29, 2015)

Fire officials are reported at 3:35 p.m. on Monday that the Sleepy Hollow Fire that spread into Wenatchee, Washington burned 24 to 28 residences, and that a more accurate count will be available when fire crews are able to access the entire burned area. They are estimating the size at 4,000 acres.

Wenatchee is in central Oregon, 95 miles east of Seattle.

Approximately four businesses also burned, some of which were about a mile from the main fire. The suspicion is that burning embers landed in some bales of cardboard that were being recycled and that fire spread into the industrial structures.


(UPDATED at 4:03 PT, June 29, 2015)

The Wenatchee World has a gallery of photos showing the neighborhoods that burned.

Rain on Monday, heavy in some areas, will make the job of firefighters much easier. The precipitation even caused a mud slide that closed Highway 2 near the mouth of Pine Canyon shortly after 3 p.m.


(UPDATED at 11:42 a.m. PT, June 29, 2015)

As you will hear in the video above, the number of structures burned in the Sleepy Hollow Fire in Wenatchee, Washington has been revised upward, from 24 to 28.


(UPDATED at 9:30 a.m. PT, June 29, 2015; originally published at 8:53 a.m. PT, June 29, 2015)

Approximately 24 structures have burned in a rapidly spreading wildfire in Wenatchee, Washington, reports Jake Whittenberg of King 5 News. The Sleepy Hollow Fire started Sunday afternoon, June 29 and by Monday morning had burned 3,000 acres. The number of structures destroyed could change as firefighters are able to get a better look at the damage caused by the fire in central Washington 95 miles east of Seattle. More than 1,000 people have been forced to evacuate, including a Walmart store in the north part of town.

Strong winds on Monday afternoon and triple-digit temperatures helped spread the fire quickly from where it started three miles west of town through sage and grass into a “pretty dense urban interface area”, said deputy state fire marshal Bill Slosson.

Some of the structures that burned were warehouses and fruit packing plants. Monday morning smoke was still coming from the facilities of Michelsen Packaging Company, Northwest Wholesale, and Blue Bird Inc.

“The city is asking residents to severely curtail water use”,  Carl Buick, who lives nearby, told Wildfire Today. “This is significant because we have a robust water system and supply. The reservoirs have been severely drawn down.”

The fire was still very active through Sunday night, but firefighters hoped rain falling Monday morning would help them corral the devastating fire.

A weather station 14 miles north of the fire recorded 0.01″ of rain at 7:24 a.m. Monday morning, but there was a report of heavier rain at the fire. That same station reported a high temperature of 111 degrees on Sunday. Most of Washington, including the Wenatchee area, is under a Red Flag Warning on Monday for gusty winds and the possibility of dry lightning, which could ignite more fires.

The video below is from a Sunday night newscast.

A Type 2 incident management team has been ordered.


Red Flag Warnings, June 29, 2015

Red Flag Warnings june 29, 2015

Areas of Washington, Oregon, and Idaho are under Red Flag Warnings today for thunderstorms, gusty winds, and the possibility of dry lightning.

The map was current as of 8:50 a.m. MDT on Monday. 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.


Red Flag Warnings and past 24-hour lightning, June 28, 2015

24-hour lightning by PSA

24-hour lightning by Predictive Service Area (PSA). Map obtained at 7 a.m. MT, June 28, 2015. (click to enlarge)

This map product, on the National Interagency Fire Center’s web site, is new to me. It is interactive, in that you can toggle on or off many different layers for weather and fuel conditions that affect wildland fire, including lightning, fuel moisture, fire danger, observed precipitation, forecast precipitation, Red Flag Warnings, and current weather conditions. Some of the layers don’t seem to be active, but maybe it is a work in progress.

The map above shows lightning over the last 24 hours by PSA. And yes, I had to research what “PSA” is. Apparently it stands for Predictive Service Area: “geographic areas of similar climate based on statistical correlation of RAWS data”. Unfortunately the lightning map does not include the date and time the data was current. And there is no explanation for the numbers that correspond to the colors, but I assume it is the number of lightning strikes.

The user interface for the site is a little cumbersome and at times non-intuitive, but after you figure it out it can be quite interesting.

Another product from the site is below — Red Flag Warnings for June 28, 2015.

wildfireRed Flag Warnings, June 28, 2015

Red Flag Warnings, June 28, 2015.


“Flames of anxiety” in Boise

NIFC fire

Representatives of the land management agencies in Boise meet in front of a map showing the wildfire situation in Alaska. BLM photo by Randy Eardley.

The Los Angeles Times has an interesting article about some of the decisions that land managers at the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise are making as fires break out in Alaska and other areas this summer. Below is an excerpt:


Flames of anxiety at the U.S. fire command center in Idaho

by John Glionna

The map on the large video screen at the far end of the room provides a real-time snapshot of the forest fires raging across the western U.S.

On this morning, the picture isn’t pretty. It’s ominous in a hold-on-to-your-seat way that casts a pall over two dozen fire analysts, meteorologists and forest experts. They see a growing scourge of fierce yellow and red dots, each representing a new fire, and they furrow their brows.

Alaska is burning.

The incident report for this day, Monday, June 22, at the National Interagency Coordination Center — the nerve center for the white-knuckle job of fire-control nationwide — shows the state at Planning Level 5, the highest possible.

Sixty-four new infernos have been sparked since the day before. In all, 12 large fires burn out of control, with 2,000 firefighters already on the ground.

Remote Alaska town threatened by lightning-sparked blaze; wildfires rage in West
Remote Alaska town threatened by lightning-sparked blaze; wildfires rage in West
In drought-baked California, 49 new blazes erupted in the previous 24 hours. The Lake Fire in San Bernardino has roared for days, and on this Monday is still only 21% contained. Two conflagrations further north — the Corrine fire near Merced and the Sky fire near Yosemite — have closed roads and threatened structures.

The fire watchers here at this wooded high-security complex hail from a phalanx of federal agencies — Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, National Weather Service, National Park Service, Fish and Wildlife Service and Bureau of Indian Affairs.

Previously, they met once a month to pool resources, manpower and ideas. Now they huddle daily. Soon they will meet twice a day…”