Grizzly kills man near Yellowstone, authorities kill grizzly

Wildlife officials on Saturday morning tracked down and killed a grizzly bear that they suspected killed a 70-year old man on Thursday near the east entrance to Yellowstone National Park. CNN reported that the victim, Erwin Frank Evert, was the husband of a woman who was part of a team that just previously had trapped and released a bear, but the Billings Gazette story does not mention that relationship.

Here is an excerpt from the CNN article:

Agents tracked the bear via a radio collar and killed it near the site of the attack, said the spokesman, Eric Kezsler.

The Park County Sheriff’s Office had closed part of the Shoshone National Forest while they searched for the large adult male bear, which apparently attacked Erwin Frank Evert after being captured and tranquilized there by researchers Thursday.

Evert was unarmed and fatally wounded, the sheriff’s office said. He was in the forest with his wife, a member of a federal team of researchers studying grizzly bears, authorities said.

Members of the team had packed up their equipment and left the area after tranquilizing the bear and putting the radio collar on it, the sheriff’s office said. But officials said Evert was attacked when he wandered back into the capture area, located in the Kitty Creek Drainage.

Video of Medano fire, Great Sand Dunes National Park

Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve in Colorado has produced a one minute and 15 second video of the Medano fire. The footage was shot on June 17, the day the fire increased in size from about 300 acres to 3,000 acres. It shows some very, very active fire behavior.

More information about the Medano fire.

UPDATE @ 11:46 a.m. MT, June 19

The fire has been accurately mapped using infrared imagery from last night. The map shows that 4,312 acres have burned and the fire has slightly crossed over into the National Forest land just north of Mt. Zwischen.

The Weather Service has issued a red flag warning for the fire area (fire weather area 224), in effect until 9 p.m. tonight:

GUSTY WEST TO SOUTHWEST WINDS OF 20 TO 30 MPH WITH GUSTS TO 40 MPH…ALONG WITH RELATIVE HUMIDITY VALUES BELOW 10 PERCENT AND HIGH HAINES INDICES…WILL ALLOW FOR EXTREME FIRE BEHAVIOR TO ONCE AGAIN DEVELOP TODAY.

Los Angeles County wants to use satellites to detect fires

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors is lobbying the U.S. military to use their missile warning satellites to detect wildfires in their county. Some of the members of their Board have the opinion that the most populous county in the United States with 9.8 million people, most with cell phones, has a problem with the early detection of wildfires. The Board has previously considered automated detection systems on mountain peaks that would detect heat or smoke, but now they seem to be focused on satellites.

Here is an excerpt from an article at spacenews.com:

“The infrared sensors constantly look for the telltale signature of a flame from a missile launch, with automatic analysis of the data,” according to the letter signed by all five county supervisors. “Since a missile flame has characteristics similar to a wildland fire, the satellites should be able to detect forest and brush fires just as effectively.”

U.S. Air Force Defense Support Program (DSP) satellites, which scan the globe every 10 seconds, have proved their ability to spot wildfires. In 1994 and 1995, the U.S. Air Force participated in the Hazard Support Program, according to Anthony Roake, spokesman for the Air Force Space Command in Colorado Springs, Colo. That program, led by the U.S. National Reconnaissance Office, combined information derived from U.S. military and civil satellites to detect wildfires in the United States and volcanic activity around the globe and reported the results to local agencies. Additional testing of the Hazard Support Program continued in the late 1990s, said Richard Davies, executive director of the Western Disaster Center, a nonprofit research organization based in Mountain View, Calif.

In spite of successful demonstrations, the Hazard Support System was halted in 2001 when the military was ready to hand off the program but no civil federal agency offered the funding needed to operate and maintain it, government officials said. Nearly a decade later, the necessary ground equipment still exists to enable the DSP constellation to assist in wildfire detection; however, a period of operational testing would be required to prove its utility, according to Dee Pack, remote sensing department director for the Aerospace Corp. of El Segundo, Calif. “Since 2000, the technology has been used for other applications. It could be used for fire detection again if the government wanted to do that.”

There are definitely some remote areas in North America that could benefit from a satellite-based fire detection system. Spread across the continent, the cost per acre would most likely be small, especially since the satellites are already in operation. Multi-tasking these missile detection satellites could be in our best interests. The “civilian agencies” that refused to step up in 2001 to help make this happen need to reconsider.

Connecticut and New Hampshire firefighters dispatched to Canada

Connecticut firefighters
Connecticut firefighters load their gear onto a bus as they began their trip to help suppress fires in Quebec, Canada, on June 15. Photo: Andy Zaremba

The Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) sent 13 firefighters to Quebec, Canada on June 15 to assist the province with their wildfires.

Connecticut is a charter member of the Northeastern Forest Fire Protection Compact. This compact, formed in 1949 is a mutual aid organization between the New England States, New York and four eastern Canadian Provinces. Members of the Compact train together and their equipment standards and capabilities are interchangeable.

The DEP firefighters were bused early Tuesday morning from the DEP’s Eastern District Headquarters in Marlborough to Manchester, N.H. where they met other firefighters from New Hampshire and then boarded a charter jet being provided by the government of Quebec.

Thanks Dal

Medano fire update, June 18

Medano fire Great Sand Dunes National Park
Medano fire as seen from the park's Visitor Center, June 17, 2010. NPS photo by Patrick Myers.

The Medano fire, about 70 miles southwest of Pueblo, Colorado (map), that we told you about yesterday has crossed the boundary of Great Sand Dunes National Park and has moved into the San Isabel National Forest. A short version of Hahnenberg’s Rocky Mountain Area Type 2 Incident Management Team was ordered last night and will inbrief at 4 p.m. today.

Lightning started the fire on June 6 and until yesterday it had been managed, not fully suppressed, for resource benefits. But strong southwest winds on Thursday caused the fire to grow from 373 acres to about 3,000. Yesterday and today red flag warnings were issued for the area, fire weather zone 224. Today’s red flag warning is in effect until Saturday at 9 p.m. for gusty winds, low humidity, high Haines indices, and dry fuels.

The Spot weather forecast issued at 8:41 a.m. today looks conducive to additional fire growth through Saturday, with high temperatures around 80, humidity 2-10%, winds gusting at 31-38 mph, and a high Haines index (around 6).

smoke map
Map showing smoke from the Medano fire, June 17, 2010. NOAA

The Medano fire is still not listed in the national Situation Report or Inciweb, but it was mentioned in the briefing at NIFC this morning. I imagine the 20-30 people managing the fire had their hands full and paperwork or sitting at a computer was not the first thing on their to do list. This may or may not change after the short incident management team assumes command late today or tomorrow.

Much of the park is still open to visitors, but some trails are closed due to the fire. More information.

We will post additional information here as it becomes available today.

UPDATE at 1:40 p.m. MT, June 18:

A few minutes ago park spokesperson Carol E. Sperling said that so far today an inversion is mitigating fire activity. Later as the weather heats up, the predicted strong winds materialize, and the fire activity increases, the inversion may dissipate, allowing increased fire spread. However, there is a “big plume” right now which is most likely in the North Horse Canyon area.

They raised the estimate of the acres burned to about 5,000.  They think the fire has reached the boundary of the San Isabel National Forest, but they need to confirm that with an overflight later today.

The park produced a very rough map of the Medano fire perimeter. It is an estimate based on incomplete information.

UPDATE AT 8:00 p.m. MT, June 18

The park distributed another press release a few minutes ago. There was not much information other than what we covered here earlier today. It said the fire was active in the afternoon, (“afternoon winds pushed the fire further into the mountain drainages and brought the smoke up”) and the Type 2 IMTeam would assume command “this weekend”. There was no new acreage estimate.

National Park Service’s fire program

The National Park Service has recently taken three steps that put their fire program, both structural and wildland, more into the public eye.

One is their Wildland Fire Newsletter.

National Park Service wildland fire newsletter

The most recent edition of the newsletter is a 10-page pdf document. Initially it was only posted on the NPS’ internal web site, but Wildfire Today received permission to make it available to the public. It can be downloaded HERE, but be aware that it is a large 1.2 MB file. This edition is dedicated to wildland fire planning, which is perhaps not the favorite activity of wildland fire managers, but is becoming increasingly important as we move more fully into interagency collaboration for planning, budgeting, fuels management, and fire suppression.

Jun Kinoshita
Jun Kinoshita. NPS Photo

The second public face of the NPS fire program that caught my eye is a blog. Yes, apparently at some point everyone will have a blog… or two. This one is hosted not on an internal NPS computer system, but is on Google’s very public Blogspot. It is titled NPS Fire and Aviation Blog and so far all of the posts have been written by Jun Kinoshita, an archeologist for Yosemite National Park’s fire management program who is on a detail, going through rookie smokejumper training at Missoula.

And thirdly, the NPS is posting fire related photos to Google’s Picassa Web Albums where they have about 50 excellent photos of fire program activities from around the country. Here are some examples.

Yosemite fire
Yosemite National Park, California - Yosemite Valley prescribed fire, Meced River and moon. NPS photo by Isaiah Hirschfield.

Quite a few National Park Service sites are in very remote locations and not only have a widfire program, but they also have a structural fire department. Below is an example from Glen Canyon National Recreation Area (Lake Powell), but even Badlands National Park recently started a structural fire program.

Glen Canyon fire training
Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Arizona, Utah - structural fire training. NPS photo by Tom Haraden.