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+

Fire shelter deployment on the King Fire

(UPDATED at 3:21 p.m. PDT, September 15, 2014)

CAL FIRE PIO Daniel Berlant sent this tweet at 2:53 p.m. PDT:

This afternoon a CAL FIRE captain & inmate crew deployed their shelters on #KingFire (El Dorado Co.) All are accounted, no reported injuries

Here is another tweet sent by Mr. Berlant:


(UPDATED at 2:59 p.m. PDT, September 15, 2014)

All of the firefighters are in helicopters, en route to an airport.


(UPDATED at 2:52 p.m. PDT, September 15, 2014)

The 12 firefighters who deployed fire shelters and then ran and walked a long distance to escape from the King Fire 11 miles east of Placerville, California, have reached the landing zone where a helicopter will extract them.


(UPDATED at 2:42 p.m. PDT, September 15, 2014)

The drinking water was delivered to the 12 escaping firefighters at the top of the hill at  2:33 p.m. (see the 3-D map below).  From there they still have to hike downhill and then on flat ground 1,000 to 2,000 yards to the landing zone. The Helicopter Coordinator (HLCO) overhead is in constant contact with the firefighters, giving them directions as they hike.

Extraction route

The pointer is at the location where the water for the escaping firefighters will be dropped off. (The map looks to the east.) The firefighters from that point will hike downhill to the extraction point. (click to enlarge)


(UPDATED at 2:23 p.m. PDT, September 15, 2014)

The firefighters are still hiking to a point where a helicopter can land so that they can be extracted. They have to hike uphill and then down the other side. The Helicopter Coordinator (HLCO) coordinating the rescue effort estimates they will reach the landing zone at approximately 2:35 p.m. PDT. The firefighters have run out of drinking water (or previously dumped all of their gear so they could run faster) and are having some heat-related problems, including cramping. A helicopter has been instructed to deliver, presumably by sling load, several cases of drinking water to the firefighters before they reach the extraction point.

At least one helicopter is being rigged with a hoist in case that is needed to extract them from a point where a ship can’t land.

Three ambulances have been ordered to be at the airport where the helicopters will drop off the firefighters.


(UPDATED at 1:50 p.m. PDT, September 15, 2014)

The helicopter pilot escorting the 12 firefighters on their escape route told them they were safe at 1:48 p.m. “You guys are looking real good right now”, one of the pilots said. There was talk about getting a large helicopter to drop some water for dust abatement so that another ship could land and pick them up.


(Originally posted at 1:27 p.m. PDT, September 15, 2014; updated at 1:32 p.m. PDT, September 15, 2015)

At about 1 p.m. PDT on Monday there was a fire shelter deployment on the King Fire, which is burning 11 miles east of Placerville, California north of the community of Pollock Pines. In listening to the radio traffic, a Division Supervisor talking to Air Attack said a Task Force was overrun by fire, they were in a safety zone, but they were safe. He requested air support, but there was too much smoke for fixed wing air tankers to get in to the area.

Air Attack, as of 1:15 p.m. PDT was checking to see if helicopters could work the area, but when the incident unfolded they were all on the ground getting fuel. Later at about 1:25 p.m. PDT at least one helicopter with water was over the incident watching firefighters running, carrying fire shelters. The pilot was holding on to his water in case there was a major need for it later. He was giving the firefighters directions, saying “keep moving”.

One alternative considered was to extract the firefighters using a water bucket carried by a helicopter.

Someone else on the fire said they had five vehicles that were available to rescue the trapped firefighters, but the road to the area had just been overrun by a very intense fire and they were advised by a pilot to not try it.

There was also a report on the radio of a dozer that burned up, but there was “accountability for the operator”.

Our regular coverage of the King Fire.


California: Courtney Fire

Map Courtney Fire

Map showing the approximate location of the Courtney Fire

The Courtney Fire three miles southeast of Oakhurst, California is not one of the largest wildfires going in California or Oregon having burned 320 acres, but it has been one of the most destructive. CAL FIRE reports that 21 structures have been damaged or destroyed.

Firefighters are experiencing extreme fire behavior conditions due to drought and low fuel moisture.


Another wedding enhanced by wildfire activity

Earlier this summer we wrote about two wedding ceremonies that were planned months in advance, like most weddings, but the lucky couples did not anticipate the wildfires that would be occurring nearby. They both kept going in spite of the large smoke columns near Lake Isabella, California, and Bend, Oregon. The one in Oregon required the relocation of the reception.

On Saturday, September 13 a third wedding kept going in Corona, California and met the couple’s objectives, in spite of the noise created by large helicopters hovering and drafting water out of a nearby lake. The aircraft were working on the the Silverado Fire seven miles southwest of Corona. Check out the video below. The couple did not seem to be too bothered by the, uh, enhancement, of the ceremony. At least they have a story to tell.


Oregon: Onion Mountain Fire, west of Grants Pass

(UPDATE at 11:45 a.m. PDT, September 16, 2014)

Onion Mountain Fire, September 15, 2014. Photo by Joseph.

Onion Mountain Fire, September 15, 2014. Photo by Joseph.

The Onion Mountain Fire 15 miles west of Grants Pass, Oregon has grown to 3,000 acres. Part of that increase is the result of a burnout operation. Most of the spread of the fire was on the northwest and northeast sides.

Map, Onion Mountain Fire 10 pm 9-15-2014

Map of the Onion Mountain Fire. The red line was the fire perimeter at 10 pm September 15, 2014. The yellow line was the perimeter about 24 hours previously. (click to enlarge)


(UPDATE at 9:06 a.m. PDT, September 15, 2014)

The Onion Mountain Fire 15 miles west of Grants Pass, Oregon continued to spread Sunday afternoon.

Map of the Onion Fire

Map of the Onion Fire at 2 a.m. PDT, September 15, 2014. (click to enlarge)

The Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest lists the size at 1,500 acres with no containment. Resources assigned include 181 personnel, seven hand crews, and eight helicopters. About ten residences are threatened.
Continue reading


California: King Fire near Pollock Pines

(UPDATE at 5:44 p.m. PDT, September 17, 2014)

The King Fire east of Placerville, California has been very active this afternoon, as evidenced by this huge pyrocumulus cloud over the convection column of smoke today.


(UPDATE at 8:10 a.m. PDT, September 17, 2014)

Map of King Fire

Map of King Fire 9-17-2014 (click to enlarge)

Above is a screen grab of the latest map of the King Fire east of Placerville, California. To see the full 742 KB .pdf map, download this file: King Fire map 2014_09_17   If you download the file, you may notice that the map is dated tomorrow, September 18. We’re fairly certain it should read September 17. Evacuations are ongoing. The El Dorado County Sheriff’s Office has the details. Here is the latest information about the King Fire from the Incident Management Team Wednesday morning: Size: 18,544 acres based on an infrared mapping flight last night Containment: 5% Personnel: 2,519 Evacuations: 2,150 people Number of structures threatened: 1,632 Last night (Tuesday) the fire was active. Humidity recovery was exceptionally poor [the humidity remained low], but the fire did mostly stay on the ridge tops. The fire is expected to be active again today [Wednesday] due to expected gusty and erratic winds, mostly from the southwest. Fire growth is expected mostly to the N/NE.


(UPDATE at 2:20 p.m. PDT, September 16, 2014)

The Incident Management Team made this map available on the National Forest InciWeb page this afternoon: King Fire map, September 16, 2014

DC-10 dropping on the King Fire

DC-10 dropping on the King Fire, September 16, 2014. Photo by San Jose State University Fire Weather Research Lab.

Continue reading