Wildfire Today mug photographed in the wild

Wildfire Today mug

Bill Moss sent us a photo of the Wildfire Today mug that he won for sending us photos of the test of Tanker 40, the BAe-146 jet-powered airliner that Neptune Aviation is converting into an air tanker. Thanks Bill!

Tanker 40 is currently parked in Neptune’s hangar at Missoula, MT and still has not passed the retardant drop grid tests. HERE is a list of articles we have written that mention Tanker 40. Articles mentioning the BAe-146 air tanker projects are HERE.

Prescribed fire in South Dakota state park escapes

Firefighters at the Custer State Park prescribed fire on Monday. KELO

UPDATE @ 1:45 p.m. MT, November 10

The Antelope fire was 100 percent contained yesterday afternoon. There was no update from the State on the number of bonus acres burned outside the control lines.


UPDATE @ 12:15 p.m. MT, November 9

Information from the South Dakota Wildland Fire Suppression Division is very difficult to obtain, but the Rapid City Journal is reporting that Incident Commander Joe Lowe said, “Hand crews and engines worked extremely hard throughout the night to stop the forward progress of the fire. They did an exemplarily job.”

The fire has burned 75 acres and is now 90 percent contained.

The weather forecast for the fire area predicts winds of 15 mph with gusts up to 23 on Tuesday afternoon. There is an 8% to 32% chance of 0.03″ of rain, or 0.2″ of snow through Tuesday night.


(From November 8, 2010)

A prescribed fire in Custer State Park southwest of Rapid City, South Dakota burned at least 60 acres outside the project boundaries on Monday.

Crews ignited the prescribed fire at 11 a.m. but pushed by winds stronger than expected, it crossed the containment lines before noon. By 3 p.m. it had burned 60 acres outside the lines and acquired the name Antelope Fire. At that time it was 25% contained.

At 11:35 a.m. to noon on Monday, weather stations at Elk Mountain and Custer State Park Airstrip recorded average wind speeds of 11 and 9 mph, respectively, with gusts to 20 and 26. The relative humidity was 20% and 18%.

Beth Hermanson, a spokesperson for the state’s Wildland Fire Suppression Division, said firefighters are hoping that a cold front moving into the area Monday night will help the 100 people working to control the fire.

The weather forecast for Monday night for the fire area is for temperatures to fall to 41 degrees, a relative humidity maximum of  73%, and south winds of 6 increasing to 15. For Tuesday, there is a 20% chance of receiving 0.01″ of rain in the morning, with a 53% chance of 0.02″ of rain in the afternoon. The minimum RH will be 54%. Winds should be 14-16 out of the south, with gusts to 23. Tuesday night there is a 34% chance of 0.4″ of snow.

Here is a link to some video shot by KELO, apparently before the fire escaped. Ironically, the title of the KELO article is A Fire That Gives Back, referring to the natural resource benefits of prescribed fire, of which there are many. But some gifts you WANT to give back, at least if it includes acres burned outside the project boundary.

Here is another link to a video report about the escaped fire, from Blackhills Fox.

Train derailment, collision, and then explosion

If you have railroad tracks going through your jurisdiction, keep in mind what can happen after firefighters respond to a train derailment. This happened in Poland and is described in an article on SkyNews:

Firefighter Jan Gradkowski said: “When we arrived at the site we found a lot of burning tanks.

“The last tank derailed and collided with a locomotive moving in the opposite direction.

“There is no danger of other tanks exploding, but this is a fire and there might be some unexpected developments.”

Two train drivers were hurt in the blast, however Bialystock mayor Tadeusz Truskolaski has said neither suffered life-threatening injuries.

The explosion can be seen in this video:

Kansas brush truck burns in fire

Photo by Chief Steve Moody

Strong winds in Stafford County, Kansas pushed a grass and corn stubble fire across the county line into Pratt County on November 3. In addition to the 700 acres that burned, the fire also entrapped and burned a Stafford County brush truck.

The Pratt Tribune reports that “smoke suffocated the carburetor” causing the engine to stall. The firefighters on the truck escaped unharmed into the black, or previously burned area, but the truck was not as fortunate.

This is not the first time that a fire truck has stopped running due to insufficient oxygen while being operated in dense smoke. We are glad that the firefighters are OK.

Schultz fire, one day too early

In June the Schultz fire, started by an abandoned campfire, burned 15,000 acres north of Flagstaff, Arizona. As far as I know, the culprits have not yet been found but there was a reward offered by a local brewery of free beer for life for anyone with information leading to the campers who left the fire burning.

At a public meeting this week the Forest Supervisor of the Coconino National Forest discussed the fire restrictions which were not in place when the fire started. Here is an excerpt from the Arizona Daily Sun:

One question prompted the most audience applause Wednesday night at Coconino High: Why weren’t any fire restrictions in place before the fire began?

The Schultz Fire began this past summer after other major wildfires had already prompted evacuations, including the Hardy Fire and a fire in Spring Valley.

Coconino National Forest Supervisor Earl Stewart responded:

“Trying to come up with criterion as to when it’s best to close the forest is really, really difficult,” he said.

The agency has not opted to use certain dates of the year to set or remove fire restrictions, because sometimes those dates don’t match what’s been happening with the weather, he said.

Also, Stewart doesn’t want to close the forest to public access when it isn’t necessary, he said.

The Coconino tries to match its fire-restriction decisions to three other forests so that the public isn’t confused about what the rules are in various places, he said.

The decisions about whether to implement fire restrictions across these forests are made in Monday-morning phone calls during the spring and summer.

The Schultz fire started on a Sunday after a Saturday wildfire forced the evacuation of parts of southeast Flagstaff.

So it occurred before the Monday meeting used to discuss fire restrictions or closures.

“The reality was, in this case, the Schultz fire was 24 hours too early,” Stewart said. “We had not gotten into those discussions.”

Orange County, California wildland firefighters

orange_county_fire_authorityThe Orange County Register, a southern California publication, has an article about wildland firefighters that work for Orange County Fire Authority (OCFA). It’s full of cliches, with the first one being in the title: “…slay The Beast”. But at least it does not use the term “burning issue”.  Here is an excerpt:

…Where we see grass, trees and chaparral, firefighters see fuel, as in “green fuel,” “live fuel,” “dead fuel.”

Early in the day I meet up with OCFA Wildland Defense Planner George Ewan in Black Star Canyon. Perhaps it’s fate we meet in this legendary canyon known by teenagers as a place of mystery and evil. A Santa Ana wind brushes our faces, instantly parching our mouths.

Our forbearers called Santa Anas “devil winds.”

As Ewan gathers live plant cuttings barely the width of a No. 2 pencil lead, he explains how Orange County is particularly vulnerable to Santa Anas. Born in the desert, the winds gather force as they head west. When they hit cooler coastal temperatures, they increase exponentially.

Ewan gently places the tiny trimmings in a gray metal can. Later, he will test each one for water content. The percent of hydrogen and oxygen molecules will help tell the OCFA what kind of resources they will need to prevent a small fire from turning into something devastating.

It’s before 10 a.m. and already Ewan’s instruments show the temperature at 88 degrees and the humidity a dry 16 percent. The wind is clocked at five miles an hour. But high above us, canyons act as wind funnels. Gusts there are measured at 35 miles an hour.

Even before he returns to his lab, Ewan declares, “This is fire weather.”