Laboratory camera captures photos of Little Den Fire in Nevada

Above: The Little Den Fire at about 7:55 p.m. MDT July 20, 2016. Screen shot from Nevada Seismological Laboratory camera.

Earlier this month a mountain top camera operated by the Nevada Seismological Laboratory captured excellent images of the Hot Pot Fire near Midas, Nevada as it burned approximately 120,000 acres within its first 30 hours. The still images were converted to time-lapse videos condensing an hour of fire activity into one minute.

Now it has taken photos of a new fire, the Little Den Fire 39 miles west of Austin, Nevada between U.S. Highway 50 and Highway 2. By Wednesday evening it had burned an estimated 1,800 acres and was being suppressed by 3 hand crews, 7 engines, 3 air tankers, and 2 helicopters. Hecht’s Type 3 incident management team is assigned to the fire.

map Little Den Fire
Map showing heat detected by a satellite over the Little Den Fire at 2:15 a.m. MDT July 21, 2016. Click to enlarge.

In one video you can see the initial stages of the fire as it started at 10:15 a.m. on Wednesday July 20.

The one-minute video below shows the rapid spread of the Little Den Fire from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Wednesday.

The next video covers 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. and has some very interesting images just before sunset showing wind shear effects on the smoke.

Other videos of the Little Den fire posted by the laboratory.

Red Flag Warnings, July 21, 2016

wildfire Red Flag Warnings

The National Weather Service has posted Red Flag Warnings or Fire Weather Watches for areas in California, Nevada, Washington, Oregon and Idaho.

The passage of a cold front will bring gusty winds and abundant lightning to the Columbia Basin in parts of Washington and Oregon Thursday night through Friday morning. The Snake River Plain in Idaho will experience wind gusts of 30 to 40 mph with humidities of 5 to 15 percent Friday afternoon through Friday evening.

The maps were current as of 7:55 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.

Firefighter collapses and dies on the job in Quebec

He was fighting a fire in the Chibougamau region Sunday afternoon

Regis Tremblay
Regis Tremblay

From the Montreal Gazette:

Régis Tremblay, 61, was at the scene of a blaze when he said he wasn’t feeling well and collapsed, said Gérard Lacasse, prevention and information co-ordinator for the provincial firefighting agency, the Société de protection des forêts contre le feu (SOPFEU). Resuscitation attempts took place before he was rushed to a hospital in Roberval, where he was pronounced dead.

It was Tremblay’s 30th season with SOPFEU.

Lacasse said it was too early to tell what caused the death, but said the fire was not “intense” and was already under control. Tremblay was working on the fire for about an hour and a half before the incident.

Our sincere condolences go out to the friends, family, and co-workers of Mr. Tremblay.

USFS DC-3 listed on auction site

Red Flag Warnings, July 20, 2016

Above: In addition to Red Flag Warnings the map shows the location of current wildfires in Idaho and Wyoming, July 20, 2016.

The National Weather service has posted Red Flag Warnings or Fire Weather Watches for areas in Idaho, Montana, California, Nevada, Oregon, and Wyoming.

The maps were current as of 8:15 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.

Red Flag Warnings July 20, 2016

USFS having difficulty hiring firefighters to suppress wildfires in area contaminated with asbestos

The U.S. Forest Service is trying to fill positions on a very specialized 10-person wildland firefighting crew. The mission of the crew would be to suppress wildfires that occur near a mining site at Libby, Montana where vermiculite contaminated with asbestos was extracted by the Zonolite Corporation and later by W.R. Grace from 1919 until the mine closed in 1990. The asbestos became airborne and deposited in the adjacent forest and other areas. Wastes from the mine were used throughout Libby in many public places such as school tracks, public parks, baseball fields, as insulation in public buildings and schools.

former vermiculite at Libby, MT
Map showing the location of the former vermiculite at Libby, MT. Click to enlarge.

The area is now designated by the Environmental Protection Agency as a Superfund Site. The first public health emergency ever declared by the EPA was the Libby asbestos site in 2009. Hundreds of asbestos-related disease cases have been documented in the small community, which covers the towns of Libby and Troy.

Below are excerpts from an article at The Western News:

…As part of a previous agreement, the Forest Service is responsible for fire containment and cleanup in the mine area. Libby District Ranger Nate Gassmann said having a team located in the area is critical to containing the threat of airborne asbestos if that case were to happen.

“Both agencies understand that importance if the community of Libby and the surrounding area is affected by fire in someway,” Gassmann said. “We do not take this as a light consideration for the Forest Service.

Christina Progess, remedial project manager for Operable Unit 3, known also as the former W.R. Grace mine site, said that the EPA worked hand-in-hand with the Forest Service to develop the action plan, while state agencies like the Department of Environmental Quality and Department of Natural Resources and Conservation took support roles, providing input while the plan was under development. Progess said the plan released on Tuesday has been in the works since spring of 2016.

The team would be composed of Forest Service firefighters, according to the plan, but filling that roster has already proven difficult. According to the memo, Forest Service Fire Managers have discussed firefighting within OU3 with Forest Service firefighters and “most have indicated that they would refuse to work in OU3 due to the presence of (Libby Amphibole asbestos) in forest duff and tree bark.”

Gassmann said while efforts to build the team has been met with hurdles, some support positions have already been filled and the Forest Service may begin looking to outside sources to compose the 10-person squad.

Gassman also said the Forest Service has provided forest fire containment in the mining area before, including two incidences in 2015, although those fires totaled a .75-acre area.

“On average, we receive four fires a year” in the former mine area, Gassman said. “Sometimes you get more, sometimes you don’t.”

Progess said the EPA and Forest Service conducted a test burn earlier this year to determine the exposure levels found in the smoke and ash of a fire in the former mine area. The test burn was a small fire, she said, but the exposure levels were great.

“We had the test burn and had firefighters do some mop up in the area. We found that their exposures were well above the risk target set by the EPA,” she said.

“Exposures were significant and of concern.”

Progess said that if a large forest fire were to tear through the former mine site, the EPA is currently unable to quantify how far or how concentrated the mobilized asbestos would travel through smoke and ash.

“There’s so many variables that would factor into it, from wind to topography to the relative humidity,” she said. “We don’t have any way of understanding what the concentrations would be to residents in Libby but the best way to minimize exposure is to prepare to stop a fire.”

Gassmann said while the primary objective is to keep area residents safe from such asbestos exposure levels, there’s plenty of concern for the safety of the firefighting team, once that crew is assembled.

“We have a requirement to provide health and safety for our fire fighters. That’s above and beyond what you would consider a normal fire fighting activity,” he said.

Cliff Creek Fire continues to spread north of Bondurant, Wyoming

(UPDATED at 11 a.m. MDT July 22, 2016)

The DeMasters Type 2 Incident Management Team released a little more information about the Cliff Creek Fire that has forced the closure of Highway 189/191, one of the highways leading to Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks. The size is now 11,534 acres. One structure has burned.

Teton County Emergency Management issued a mandatory evacuation order for the Granite Creek area including Granite Campground, Granite Hot Springs, Jack Pine Summer Homes, and the Safari Club.

For official evacuation information check the Teton County Emergency Management web site.

The U.S. Forest Service and the Incident Management Team state in the update, as they have before, that “The fire is being actively suppressed”, but that is not entirely true. The Bridger-Teton National Forest has directed the Team to use a “confine/contain” strategy. This means they will attempt to herd it around and put out portions of the fire edge as it becomes necessary. But the objective is not to fully suppress the fire. They are no doubt “actively suppressing” some sections of the fire where it endangers private property and structures, but “confine/contain” usually refers to allowing some areas of a fire to spread unconstrained.  They may decide to allow the fire to advance unfettered to the east and northeast into the higher elevations above 9,000 feet where it will begin to run out of fuel.

It was no accident that the “actively suppressing” language was chosen for the press release. The U.S. Forest Service should not issue intentionally misleading information to the public.

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(UPDATED at 7:53 a.m. MDT July 22, 2016)

map Cliff Creek Fire
The red dots represent heat detected by a satellite on the Cliff Creek Fire at 2:55 a.m. MDT July 22. The red line was the perimeter about 52 hours before. Click to enlarge.

As the Cliff Creek Fire burns into its sixth day the U.S. Forest Service and DeMasters’ Type 2 Incident Management Team are not releasing much information about the fire which has closed for several days Highway 191, a major highway leading to Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks. The fire 12 air miles southeast of Hoback, Wyoming is not being totally suppressed, but is a “confine/contain” fire, which means they will attempt to herd it around and put out portions of the fire edge as it becomes necessary.

One structure and 10,118 acres have burned. Evacuations for the community of Bondurant have been lifted.

The fire was discovered on the Bridger-Teton National Forest at 2:30pm on Sunday, July 17, approximately 5 miles north of the town of Bondurant Wyoming.

It is being managed by 620 personnel, 16 hand crews, 33 engines, and 7 helicopters at a cost to date of $2,200,000.

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(UPDATED at 11:54 a.m. MDT July 20, 2016)

Cliff Creek Fire
Cliff Creek Fire July 20, 2016. USFS photo.

The Cliff Creek Fire 3 miles north of Bondurant, Wyoming continued to spread over the last 24 hours to the north and east. It has consumed approximately 7,671 acres and one structure.

Continue reading “Cliff Creek Fire continues to spread north of Bondurant, Wyoming”