New subscription address for Wildfire Today

Due to the new configuration of our web site, the web address for subscribing to Wildfire Today has changed. Here is the new address to copy and paste into your news reader:

Or, a simpler way is to do it through Feedburner, which allows you to choose which news reader you want to use.

If you are not familiar with subscriptions, here is some basic information that we wrote several months ago.

Did you know that you can subscribe to Wildfire Today and many other sites? If you subscribe, you can then read the new posts from multiple sites all in one place.

One of the easiest ways to do it is to set up a Google Reader account, or you can use Microsoft Outlook.  You can click on the orange RSS (Really Simple Syndication) subscription icons you will see on many sites to subscribe, and then all of the new posts from the sites to which you subscribe will be assembled for you in one place, in Google Reader or Microsoft Outlook.

Just copy and paste this address into a news reader to subscribe to Wildfire Today:

(The address was updated November 8, 2009)

There may be some compromises, though. Photos and videos may not always show up on the subscription page. And you may not see every post in its entirety. But at least you will know if there is new content on your favorite sites, and there are links you can click to go to the sites and read the original posts.

If you have an iGoogle account your subscriptions can also be displayed there along with your other personalized content.

Reviews of “The Big Burn”

At least four reviews of Timothy Egan’s book about the Big Blowup fires of 1910, The Big Burn: Teddy Roosevelt and the Fire that Saved America appeared today or yesterday on various web sites. It seems like a strange coincidence for a book that came out a couple of weeks ago. Or maybe its because many book reviews appear in the Sunday editions of newspapers.

The International Association of Wildland Fire has scheduled a conference in Spokane, Washington October 25-29, 2010 that will in part commemorate the fires of the Big Blowup of 1910.

The author is going to appear in Seattle on Monday, October 19 at the Elliott Bay Book Company to discuss the book.

The Seattle Times has a review of the book HERE, Oregon Live has one HERE, and The Maui News review is HERE. The excerpt below is from a review by Time-News


On the evening of Saturday, Aug. 20, 1910, the Idaho Panhandle exploded.


A cold wind out of the Palouse ignited a number of small fires burning in Idaho’s bone-dry Coeur d’Alene National Forest. Drawing energy from the flames themselves, the winds picked up speed until they reached 80 mph by the time they hit the town of Wallace.

In two days, 3 million acres of Idaho and Montana burned. That’s an area twice the size of the Great Salt Lake.

Eighty-seven people died, mostly the hard way: Pinned to the ground by fallen trees, they were still conscious while their hair burned and their skin curled up and blackened.

But it was an event that changed the course of American history – and Idaho’s, according to New York Times columnist Timothy Egan, whose book about the Great Fire of 1910, “Big Burn,” was published this month by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt ($27). [$16.20 at]

Simply put, it saved the Forest Service, which nearly shriveled and died after President Theodore Roosevelt left office in 1909, and institutionalized professional management by government of public lands, Egan argues.

Idaho – 61 percent federally owned – looks as it does today because of the consequences of the Big Blowup.

“When the Rockefellers and the Weyerhaesers had pushed through these woods, it appeared that a new order was at hand,” Egan writes. “But it had not lasted.”


Egan is a 54-year-old Seattle writer who has long covered the West for the Times. He’s best known for his 2005 book about the Dust Bowl, “The Worst Hard Time.”

But the tone of “Big Burn” is different. This is a story of heroes.

Two of them, especially. Gifford Pinchot, the son of a timber baron who devoted his life to saving trees, was a close friend of Roosevelt’s and the first chief of the Forest Service. Mostly through dogged persistence, he willed America into protecting vast tracks of its outback and kept government-managed conservation alive when the odds were against it.

Ed Pulaski was a former miner who hired on with the Forest Service as an assistant ranger in Wallace. During the Big Blowup he saved dozens of lives – at one point by pointing his revolver at panicked firefighters to keep them from running into the flames – while being maimed himself. After the fire, he spent he own meager resources caring for the injured.

Most of the handful of rangers working the Coeur d’Alene and Lolo national forests in 1910 were proteges of Pinchot and graduates of the Yale University School of Forestry, but not Pulaski. He mastered the forest by working in it and learning from it.

When the fire blew up, the Forest Service recruited every able-bodied man it could find, eventually 10,000 of them, even though it didn’t have the money to pay them. They – and the all-black 25th Infantry Regiment – saved lives, homes and, in some cases, entire communities.


UPDATE March 29, 2010:

A map of the 1910 fires can be found HERE.

Bushfire arsonists

At the royal commission hearing that is reviewing information about the February 7 Black Saturday fires in Australia, a forensic behavioral scientist told the panel that some wildfire arsonists are indifferent towards causing death and may see starting a fire as a chance to empower themselves.

Here is an excerpt from an article in The Australian:

Professor Ogloff, who is head of Victoria’s state forensic psychiatric service and director of Monash University’s centre for forensic behavioural science, said bushfire arsonists could also become excited by total fire ban days and see them as opportunities to light fires with little chance of being caught.

He said he had dealt with arsonists or “fire setters” for whom days of high fire danger “enacts some of the thinking around setting fires”.

“What better time than when there are already fires all around and difficult to control then for them to go and set a fire which would have relatively little chance of them being caught,” Professor Ogloff said.

“At the time of these fires, and certainly in the days leading up to it, there is an increased interest, and in fact we have seen in some cases increased behaviour in the fire setting. So it is a problem.”

A number of Black Saturday bushfires under investigation by the royal commission are suspected of being deliberately lit, including the Murrindindi fire that killed 40 people and destroyed more than 500 homes.

Professor Ogloff said that at peak times, up to 80 per cent of fires in Australia were either deliberately lit or suspicious.

He said there was no single profile of bushfire arsonists, but they were more likely to be “social outcasts”, physically unattractive, lacking confidence and of low intelligence who may have a mental disorder and prior criminal convictions.

Bushfires were lit for a range of reasons, including arsonists attempting to increase their self-esteem or feel “in control of an otherwise dismal existence”. Lighting bushfires could be a “particularly empowering experience”, causing arsonists to become serial offenders to regain that feeling. Professor Ogloff said potential arsonists could be attracted to working as volunteer firefighters and go on to light fires, in some cases because they wanted to be seen as heroes. A study in NSW showed that 11 of 50 convicted arsonists were found to have been fire service volunteers.

He said criminal background checks and psychological screening would reduce the risk of arsonists becoming firefighters.

The hearing into the Black Saturday disaster, which killed 173 people and destroyed more than 2000 homes, resumes on Monday.



Lessons learned from an air tanker pilot during 40-year career

This excellent video is described like this:

Lessons Learned from Air Tanker Pilot Bill Waldman

For 40 eventful years, chief pilot Bill Waldman supported wildland fire suppression activities by making more than 13,000 retardant drops on fires in practically every state in this country, including Alaska, Canada, and Mexico. In this interview, Captain Waldman shares valuable insights gained from his extensive career—and provides priceless advice to pilots just beginning theirs’.

We appreciate Mr. Waldman sharing some of the things he has learned. Many of them can be translated to fire suppression on the ground as well as in the air.


via @FireInfoGirl

Station fire investigators identify a person of interest

Homicide detectives investigating the Station fire near Los Angeles in which two LA County firefighters were killed, want to talk to a person who was seen leaving the scene of an arson fire that burned a few square feet six days before the Station fire began. 

Babatunsin Olukunle, 25, was spotted by U. S. Forest Service workers as he walked away from the August 20 Lady Bug fire that started six miles away from the origin of the August 26 Station fire. It was unknown whether he was thought to be involved in the fire or simply a witness.

Olukunle dropped out of the University of California in 2004 and according to Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Lt. Liam Gallagher, is a transient, is articulate and has an accent. 

LA County and the state have offered a $150,000 reward for information leading to the conviction of the person responsible for the Station fire.

California: dispute with union prevents Orange County helicopters from being used at night

Sixteen months ago the Orange County Fire Authority made the decision to begin using helicopters at night to fight fire. They even purchased $25 million worth of helicopters specially outfitted for night flying, but a dispute with their pilots’ union has kept them grounded at night.

Here is an excerpt from an article in the Orange County Register:

The Orange County Fire Authority has spent nearly $100,000 on night-vision goggles and training, but months later, the agency’s helicopters remain grounded after the sun goes down as union officials and department management grapple over the technicalities of the program.

Sixteen months after the decision to order the night-vision technology, the equipment is ready. The helicopter crews are trained. But they remain tucked in at night in the midst of fire season.

Both sides are not divulging the reasons for the holdup, a benefit of confidential talks on how to implement the program and accommodate new working conditions. While the department wants to implement the night-vision technology as soon as possible, nothing can be done until the two sides can agree, said Battalion Chief Kris Concepcion. No one knows when that will be.

“We are meeting in earnest with the union and attempting to address their concerns as quickly as we can so we can start taking advantage of the additional capabilities of our helicopters,” Concepcion said.

“Flying at night has inherent risks above and beyond what occurs during the day,” said Ray Geagan, vice president of the agency’s union, the Orange County Professional Firefighters. “When our members are in harm’s way, we want to look at it as closely as possible.”

Days after the Freeway Complex fire ripped through Yorba Linda and Brea, destroying hundreds of homes last November, then-Fire Authority Chief Chip Prather raved about the night-vision goggles after testing them on a ride though local canyons. It turned night into day, he said.

Saving lives and property was why the agency fast-tracked spending $25million last April to buy two new twin-engine helicopters with night-flying capabilities. A month later, the agency’s board of directors gave the nod for spending $100,000 on night-vision goggles and training.

Eager to get a jump on training while waiting for the new helicopters to be built, mechanics retrofitted one of the agency’s 1966 Super Huey helicopters last October to give the authority’s three pilots a chance to practice night vision.

The first of the new Bell 412s with night-vision capability rolled off the assembly line as scheduled in December. The second followed two months later. The new Bell 412s, according to the agency’s 2008 annual report, give the department an “enhanced platform for reconnaissance, rescue, medical transport, and fire fighting. With advanced avionics, a digital mapping system and night vision goggle capability, the OCFA has entered a new era of ‘providing protection from above.'”