Governor of Maine wants to eliminate most wildfire funding

In order to help deal with the state’s $438 million budget shortfall, Jon Baldacci, the Governor of Maine, is proposing that nearly all  funding for wildfire suppression be eliminated. There is also a proposal to sell one of the newer helicopters owned by the Department of Conservation. Most of the helicopters the department operates are from the Vietnam war era.

As you probably know, there is a lot of this going around, with city, county, and state governments cutting or threatening to cut the budgets for their fire departments.

UPDATE Jan. 9:

The information above was obtained from the Maine Public Broadcasting Network.

DC-10 receives approval to fight fires in Australia

DC-10 air tanker arrives in Australia
In Melbourne on December 14, Pilots Captain Jack Maxey, left, and Captain Kevin Hopf in front of the DC-10 water bomber (as they call it down under), Victoria's latest weapon in bushfire fighting. Photo: Paul Rovere

The DC-10 air tanker has received all of the necessary certifications from the government in Australia so that it can be used on fires. The Victoria state government and the Country Fire Authority will be conducting a trial of the aircraft during their summer fire season. It arrived in Melbourne on December 14 and can carry about 11,000 gallons (42,000 l.) of retardant or about 12,000 gallons (45,000 l.)  of water.

Interestingly, some of the media in Australia have nicknamed the DC-10 the “super soaker”. Officially in the USA, it is in the class of “very large air tanker”, but I guess “super soaker” rolls off the tongue a little easier down under.

UPDATE Jan. 9, 2010

Wildfire Today has discovered that the first recorded use of the term “super soaker” (according to Google anyway) when referring to the DC-10 air tanker was in an article that appeared on January 28, 2006 in the Press-Enterprise.

AAR released for an extreme fire behavior event on the Station fire

The Station fire approaches the safety zone of OCFA's engine strike team in Bib Tujunga Canyon
The Station fire approaches the safety zone of OCFA's engine strike team in Big Tujunga Canyon. Photo: Orange County Fire Authority

On August 29, 2009 two strike teams of engines were forced to retreat to a safety zone in Big Tujunga Canyon on the Station fire near Los Angeles as a massive convection column collapsed and sent strong winds and a flaming front through the canyon, leading to the loss of about 35 structures and burn injuries to three civilians who had refused to evacuate.

On January 7 the Wildland Fire Lessons Learned Center posted an After Action Review of this event written from the viewpoint of an engine strike team, number 1400C, from the Orange County Fire Authority. The AAR documents the preparation before the fire approached, the safety zone experience, fighting fire and saving structures after they could leave the safety zone, and the treatment and extraction of the burn victims.

The entire document is very worth reading, but below are the lessons learned:

Continue reading “AAR released for an extreme fire behavior event on the Station fire”

Man ordered to pay an additional $11.9 million for starting Catalina Island fire

A contract worker who is accused of accidentally starting a fire on Catalina Island off the coast of Los Angeles has been ordered by a court to pay an additonal $11.9 million in restitution. At an earlier hearing he had been ordered to pay $4 million.

Gary Dennis Hunt was a subcontractor doing some work on a radio tower on the island on May10, 2007 when his cutting torch started a few small fires that he put out. The next day, in spite of extreme fire danger warnings and a prohibition against the use of open flames, he continued to use the torch and started a fire which burned 4,000 acres and caused $20 million in damages to several structures.

Mr. Hunt’s employer is expected to pay the bulk of the restitution through their insurance company.

Here is a video that summarizes the latest developments.

Video of prescribed fire in Australia’s Northern Territory

This video of what is probably a prescribed fire in Australia is oddly relaxing. You can almost smell the smoke as you gaze at vegetation and animals from down under.

Here is the description from YouTube:


The pictures seen here were obtained within Kakadu National Park in Australia’s Northern Territory. These shots were captured northeast of the town Jabiru. The wildfire in the movie is likely to have been initiated by the land’s Aboriginal residents. Such an undertaking is known as a controlled burn.

Over many thousands of years fire has played a significant role in Australia’s ecology, since many parts of the continent experience a long dry season. In Kakadu controlled burning is commonly practiced as a hunting tool and a method to rejuvenate the land.

Kakadu National Park is managed by both its original Aboriginal inhabitants and the Australian Director of National Parks. You can visit to learn more.

The music featured in this video is entitled Deep Healing (synths) by Steven Halpern from his album Music for Sound Healing.


Contribute weather reports to the NWS

The National Weather Service is experimenting with a system that will enable anyone with a Twitter account to submit weather reports from their cell phone or computer. The primary purpose is to collect “storm reports” or “significant weather reports”.

As long as the reports are formatted as prescribed by the NWS, the data, or the individual messages or “Tweets”, will be searchable and available to anyone who visits or uses a 3rd party Twitter application on their computer (such as TweetDeck) or on their cell phone (such as TwitDroid, for Android-based smart phones).

To send a Twitter message or “Tweet” with a storm report or a significant weather report, it must be in this format:

#wxreport WW <your location> WW <your signifcant weather report>

The key is to use the searchable “hash tag” of “#wxreport”, then put “WW” both before and after your location, separated by a blank space. And after that goes your weather information.

The location can be an address, lat/long, airport identifier, city/state, or zip code.

If your cell phone has a GPS receiver and your 3rd party Twitter application has the ability to Geotag messages with your lat/long, then it’s even easier, but both your cell phone AND your Twitter account settings have to have geolocation enabled. Here is the format if your message is geotagged:

#wxreport <your signifcant weather report>

Anyone can go to and search for #wxreport, even if you don’t have a twitter account.

According to the NWS:

Once an office decides that a posted report is reliable and applicable, it will be added to a Local Storm Report. LSR reports are available both via RSS feed and web pages directly from NWS web sites.

I found a web page for NWS Storm Reports, but even though there is a major winter storm affecting the central part of the United States today, the page contained no reports. Maybe I was looking in the wrong place.

More information about the system can be found HERE.