California governor to appoint blue ribbon commission to look into Station fire

While touring areas below the Station fire in the Los Angeles area that were affected by mud and debris flows, California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger said he would appoint a blue ribbon commission to look into the accusations by at least two politicians that mismanagement of the fire by the U.S. Forest Service caused the fire to become very large, which later resulted in mud slides.

In December, the Los Angeles Times reported that there were significant delays in getting aircraft assigned to the fire on the morning of the second day. There was criticism that more aggressive tactics that day may have kept the fire from turning into a megafire, eventually burning 160,000 acres, the largest fire in the recorded history of Los Angeles County.

On Sunday, La Canada Flintridge Mayor Laura Olhasso joined Los Angeles County Supervisor Mike Antonovich in blasting the U. S. Forest Service. Here is an excerpt from an article at myfoxla.com.

The mayor of La Canada Flintridge said the National Forest Service caused this weekend’s disastrous mud flows in her city, by mismanaging last summer’s big brushfire, and should pay to remove thousands of truckloads of muck.

Mayor Laura Olhasso joined Los Angeles County supervisor Mike Antonovich in blaming the 250-square-mile Station fire on U.S. Forest Service decisions not to call in helicopter tankers early in the fire’s spread last August. The mudslides that crushed nine homes Saturday are a direct consequence, they said, of catastrophically-bad firefighting strategies.

“I call on the federal government to take the responsibility to help our residents pay for cleaning up the mud,” Olhasso said at a news conference in a mud-filled Paradise Valley street, as Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger stood next to her. “The federal government must take responsibility for their mud, that is coming out of their hills.”

Olhasso has said U.S. Forest Service officials have compounded the threat to constituents living below the fire-denuded Angeles National Forest by refusing to let city crews onto federal property this winter to clear debris.

Arriving at the scene today, Schwarzenegger promised to “appoint a blue ribbon commission to look into” the local claims.

“It’s important for us to come out, right now, and say `what can we do to help?”‘ Schwarzenegger said. The governor pledged to cut red tape to find disposal sites for thousands of truckloads of debris that must be removed from houses, yards, streets and catch basins.

Los Angeles County Supervisor Mike Antonovich blamed the U.S. Forest Service for failing to commit more resources to the Station Fire in its infancy.

L.A. County Supervisor blames mud slides on USFS

The Ramblings of a Chief Officer web site has an article about a member of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors who is blaming the U. S. Forest Service for the recent storm damage and mud slides in the Station Fire area. This is the same Supervisor, Mike Antonovich, that last month had the lame-ass idea to spend millions on a fire detection system so that fire departments could…

….identify new fires as they start and have a programmed airborne response within minutes to suppress the fire before it spreads.

He is just another politician that spreads the myth that aircraft put out wildfires. Check out the Ramblings article HERE.

Report released for escaped prescribed fire on Kaibab NF

The U. S. Forest Service has released an “Escaped Fire Review” for the Twin prescribed fire which escaped control on the Kaibab National Forest in Arizona on October 2, 2009. Wildfire Today reported on the incident. One of our articles received 15 comments.

Here is an excerpt from the review:

The Review Team found four causal factors contributing to the escape and conversion to wildfire. These four are:

  • Wind Direction Shift – An unforecasted wind direction change resulted in a decision to change ignition operations to prevent established fire from reaching the east control line without a black buffer to protect it. Spot fires that ultimately led to the escape occurred on the east side of the burn unit and presented greater difficulty for holding due to complex terrain and changing fuel types outside the unit.
  • Exceeding Relative Humidity Parameter in Prescription in Combination with Changing Wind Direction – Prescribed burning continued when actual relative humidity levels dropped below prescribed ranges, contributing to spot fire propagation and growth. It is not known if this situation alone would have caused escape of the prescribed fire – it did not in the other burn unit.
  • Fuel Type Differences Outside the Burn Unit – Fuel loading northeast of the burn unit changes significantly to a heavier fuel type increasing resistance to control.
  • Contingency Resource Identification in the Burn Plan – Contingency resources for this burn plan were calculated for fuel models and terrain inside the burn unit which differed significantly from terrain and fuels outside the burn unit. The resource capabilities were not adequate for the differing fuels and terrain.
  • Ensure compliance with policy and direction regarding prescribed burn planning and implementation.

Recommendations from the Review Team include:

  • Ensure compliance with policy and direction regarding prescribed burn planning and implementation.
  • Improve specificity and clarity of burn plans.
  • Complete detailed reconnaissance of burn units and surrounding area.
  • Verify weather forecasts and compare with prescription parameters.
  • Ensure position qualifications, task book requirements, and documentations are complete and meet requirements.
  • Increase integration and communication between resource areas to prevent conflicting management objectives.
Thanks Dick

Fire contractor sentenced to 10 months in prison

David Monington, a wildland fire contractor, has been sentenced to 10 months in federal prison for forging the names of fire training instructors on course completion certificates and task books. In addition, his sentence which came down on February 1, ordered that he receive psychiatric care, requires that he pay $5,000 in restitution to one of his victims, and that he pay for his own incarceration.

Here is what we wrote about the case on November 8, 2009:

In a case that Wildfire Today has been following since November 17, 2008, David Monington pleaded guilty last week in a Rapid City, SD federal court to mail fraud for sending wildfire training certificates through the mail with forged signatures of fire training instructors.

The original indictment for Mr. Monington alleged he forged about 20 signatures of South Dakota firefighting officials in an attempt to gain certification from the National Wildfire Suppression Association. The documents included training certificates, position task books, and a performance rating. The documents fraudulently attest to his training and experience as a firefighter.

Mr. Monington was trying to become qualified as Air Tactical Group Supervisor, Strike Team Leader, and Helibase Manager.

“A number of the printed names and signatures of certifying officials were misspelled, while others were followed by incorrect listings of the certifying officials’ titles,” the indictment stated.

The charge to which he pleaded guilty carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison, but the plea deal specifies that the prosecutors will recommend five years of probation and $5,000 restitution when Mr. Monington is sentenced on February 1, 2010.

It is interesting that the plea deal did not include any prison time, but the judge sentenced him to 10 months. GREAT! It is frightening that someone came close to being certified as Air Tactical Group Supervisor, Strike Team Leader, and Helibase Manager without the appropriate training and experience.

UPDATE, Feb. 9:

We have posted an update, with the details about Monington’s crime, HERE.

Thanks Dick

Firefighters host “mud run” as fund raiser

Mud_Run_1

I had never heard of a “mud run” until I found out that the New Harmony Fire District in St. George, Utah will be holding one on May 22. They are hoping to draw 300 to 1,000 participants for the cross country event in which racers will encounter military style barrier walls, culvert pipes, tires and mud pits. The course lengths will be 1K, 5K, and 10K. This will be the first ever mud run conducted in southern Utah and one of the highest elevation mud runs in the nation, topping out at 5,000 feet.

Here are a couple of before and after photos of a team from CrossFit in Cedar City, UT that tested part of the course.

Mud_Run_2

Mud_Run_3

All photos are from the fire district’s Facebook page. More information about the mud run is HERE.

Apparently mud runs are a big deal in some parts of the country. Camp Pendleton Marine Base in southern California holds several of them each year that always sell out quickly and attract thousands of participants.

John Muir Project: “The myth of ‘catastrophic’ wildfire”

The Director of the John Muir Project, Chad Hanson, has written a paper about wildfire and its relationship to biodiversity and climate change, titled The Myth of ‘Catastrophic’ Wildfire. Here are some of his findings, as reported by New West:

• There is far less fire now in western U.S. forests than there was historically.

• Current fires are burning mostly at low intensities, and fires are not getting more intense, contrary to many assumptions about the effects of climate change. Forested areas in which fire has been excluded for decades by fire suppression are also not burning more intensely.

• Contrary to popular assumptions, high-intensity fire (commonly mislabeled as “catastrophic wildfire”) is a natural and necessary part of western U.S. forest ecosystems, and there is less high-intensity fire now than there was historically, due to fire suppression.

• Patches of high-intensity fire (where most or all trees are killed) support among the highest levels of wildlife diversity of any forest type in the western U.S., and many wildlife species depend upon such habitat. Post-fire logging and ongoing fire suppression policies are threatening these species.

• Conifer forests naturally regenerate vigorously after high-intensity fire.

• Our forests are functioning as carbon sinks (net sequestration) where logging has been reduced or halted, and wildland fire helps maintain high productivity and carbon storage.

• Even large, intense fires consume less than 3% of the biomass in live trees, and carbon emissions from forest fires is only tiny fraction of the amount resulting from fossil fuel consumption (even these emissions are balanced by carbon uptake from forest growth and regeneration).

• “Thinning” operations for lumber or biofuels do not increase carbon storage but, rather, reduce it, and thinning designed to curb fires further threatens imperiled wildlife species that depend upon post-fire habitat.

In addition to being the Director of the John Muir Project, Mr. Hanson is also a researcher at the University of California at Davis and was elected as one of the directors of the Sierra Club in 2000.