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+

Arizona: Oak Tree Fire

Oak Tree Fire

In the 24 hours since it started on May 20, the Oak Tree Fire has burned about 2,000 acres on the Coronado National Forest and BLM land near State Highway 83 about 10 miles north of Sonoita, Arizona.

Oak Tree Fire

Fire managers have provided a copious amount information on InciWeb, and quickly. Here is an excerpt, updated this morning, May 21:


“Air attack flew the fire this morning and reported minimal fire activity, however fire activity is expected to increase throughout the day as temperatures warm and winds increase. SW winds may increase to 15-20 mph with gusts to 35 mph this afternoon. Fire managers plan to fly a reconnaissance mission this morning and will be mapping the fire by GPS to provide a better size estimate. Ten additional fire engines from across Southeast Arizona arrived this morning. Two additional handcrews have been ordered and are expected to arrive mid-day today. Firefighters plan to take advantage of increased relative humidity and lighter winds this morning to build on yesterday’s progress. They plan to finish constructing fireline around the fire, focusing on a remaining section to be completed on the northeast flank of the fire. They will continue to monitor, hold, and strengthen fireline throughout the day. Air tankers and helicopters are available to drop water and retardant as needed to cool hotspots and slow the fire’s spread.

Current resources include two handcrews (two additional crews have been ordered and are expected to arrive mid-day), eighteen fire engines, four water tenders, one air attack platform, five air tankers, two helicopters and miscellaneous overhead, for a total of more than 100 people assigned.”

Oak Tree Fire Oak Tree Fire

The first three photos were provided by the Sonoita-Elgin Fire District. The bottom aerial shot is from InciWeb.


Improve land management decisions with remote sensing data

(From the U.S. Forest Service)

Remote Sensing Analyst Dr. Shengli Huang

Senior Remote Sensing Analyst Dr. Shengli Huang and RSL staff look at the Lidar and imaging spectrometer instruments equipped on a King Air A90 plane. Photo by Carlos Ramirez.

Imagine if one could prevent the next Rim Fire. The Remote Sensing Laboratory-Information Management Staff located in McClellan, California is using a variety of technologies and with their latest collaboration with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (NASA-JPL); they hope to do just that.

Using state of the art aerial technology

Technology being used includes satellite and airborne remotely sensed data such as:Landsat, WorldView2 (DigitalGlobe), Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) and imaging spectroscopy (or hyperspectral). Remote sensing is the science of obtaining information about objects or areas from a distance, typically from aircraft or satellites. To support the use of these technologies, ground-based measurements of forest characteristics, locational information using GPS and spectroscopic measurements using a portable field spectrometer are also acquired. Much of the technology is free or already available to the federal government.

The U.S. Forest Service is in partnership with NASA-JPL for acquiring the LiDAR and imaging spectroscopy data for the King fire.

Add ground technology and validate the aerial data

The on-the-ground data is collected and used in the interpretation of the remotely sensed data. This includes the calibration and validation of statistical models relating the ground measurement to the imagery. Uses of the data can span multiple resource areas and can have numerous different applications. For example, what conditions contribute to high-severity wildfires or prioritizing where mulching or reforestation would be most effective, thereby saving potentially millions of dollars are just a few potential uses of the data. Other uses include understanding fire behavior for potentially assisting firefighters with areas of specific danger or determining where habitat is suitable on the forest for species such as the California spotted owl and black backed woodpecker.

GIS/Remote Sensing Analyst Rodney Hart gets a reading on ash with a sensor as a part of the field spectrometer at the King Fire on the Eldorado National Forest. Photo by John C. Heil III.

GIS/Remote Sensing Analyst Rodney Hart gets a reading on ash with a sensor as a part of the field spectrometer at the King Fire on the Eldorado National Forest. Photo by John C. Heil III.

Using aerial resources provides access to data that would otherwise not be available using ground based data collection tools. Access to remote areas is one of the benefits of this system. However, the combination of the aerial and ground data is critical. “Data from these various tools used together will provide better information which will lead to better land management decision making,” said Carlos Ramirez, program lead for the Region 5 Remote Sensing Lab.

More information on the research and tools being used


Red Flag Warnings, May 2,1 2015

wildfire Red Flag Warnings, May 21, 2015

While many areas in the lower 48 states have received rain in recent weeks, Red Flag Warnings or Fire Weather Watches have been issued for areas in Alaska and New Mexico.

The map was current as of 7:45 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 or this NWS site.


The first USFS HC-130H air tanker to arrive at McClellan in mid-June

C-130H paint design

HC-130H paint design, by Scheme Designers

The first of the seven HC-130Hs that are being transferred from the Coast Guard to the U.S. Forest Service will arrive at Forest Service Air Station McClellan (FSAS MCC) in mid-June, not mid-May as originally planned. And yes, that is what the Forest Service is calling their facility at McClellan Airport in Sacramento, California.

The aircraft will still be a work in progress when it lands at MCC. It will not have the paint job as seen above, but will be gray and white with U.S. Forest Service Modular Airborne Fire Fighting System MAFFS markings, according to Jennifer Jones, a USFS spokesperson for the USFS. The gravity-based retardant tank will not have been installed, so it will be temporarily operating with a MAFFS pressurized 3,000-gallon tank. It will also need to depart at some point for scheduled Programmed Depot Maintenance, painting, and retardant tank installation…

(The rest of the story is at Fire Aviation.)


Coal seam fires burning in Alaska

French Gulch Fire

The 108-acre French Gulch Fire, a coal seam fire burning about 5 miles east of the Parks Highway near Healy, Alaska.

The Alaska Division of Forestry is monitoring two, and possibly three, coal seam fires that popped up near Healy as a result of the recent hot, dry, windy weather.

The larger of the three fires, the 108-acre French Gulch Fire, was reported just after 7 p.m. on Sunday when somebody spotted smoke up the Healy Creek Valley. It is burning about 5 ½ miles east of the Parks Highway behind the Usibelli Coal Mine.

As of Monday afternoon, the fire was creeping and smoldering in tundra with minimal activity in the hardwoods, reported Incident Commander Shelby Majors with the Alaska Division of Forestry. The fire is in an area that has burned several times from previous coal seam fires and no structures are threatened, he said.

“It’s burning within a fire scar within a fire scar within a fire scar,” is how Mr. Majors put it.

There were three state forestry firefighters on scene and a state-contracted helicopter was used Sunday to drop water on the fire. The state borrowed a helicopter from the National Park Service on Monday to drop more water on the western edge of the fire. The plan is to prevent the fire from spreading west toward the highway and let it burn itself out using natural barriers, Mr. Majors said.

“We’re going to pretty much let it do its own thing,” he said. “The primary activity is along the southeast corner and it’s working itself into a snow field and rocks so it will be running out of fuel in the next day or two.”

Another, much smaller coal seam fire was detected on Sunday about 12 miles north of the French Gulch Fire, Mr. Majors said. That fire was only about 5-feet-by-5 feet and no suppression action was being taken because it was in an old burn area with minimal spread potential, he said.

A third fire was reported Monday morning about 5 miles north of the French Gulch Fire. That fire, which was estimated at 25 acres as of Monday afternoon, is also suspected to be a coal seam fire but that has not been confirmed, according to Mr. Majors. It too is burning tundra in an old fire scar and the potential for spread is minimal so there are no suppression efforts being taken as of Monday afternoon.

Coal seam fires are a common occurrence in the area and occasionally come to life when the conditions are right.


From Alaska Division of Forestry

Coal and coal seam fires reported on Wildfire Today.