Wildfire briefing, January 30, 2015

Fire near Lake Disston, Florida

Fire near Lake Disston FL

Kenny Arnaldi took this photo Wednesday of a wildfire a mile south of Lake Disston, Florida.

Bushfire burns into Waroona in Western Australia

 bushfire threatening Waroona

A bushfire threatening Waroona, about 100 kilometers south of Perth.

A large bushfire has burned into the city of Waroona in Western Australia about 100 kilometers south of Perth. (Map)

Below is an excerpt from an article at abc.net.au updated at about 4 p.m. MST, January 30, 2015:

An out-of-control bushfire is threatening lives and homes at Waroona in Western Australia, with up to three properties believed to be damaged so far. The blaze has entered the town, which is about 100 kilometres south of Perth, and the Department of Fire and Emergency Services (DFES) has warned it is moving fast in a north-westerly direction. Embers are likely to be blown around homes, starting spot fires.

DFES duty assistant commissioner Chris Arnol said residents should take their location into consideration when planning how to respond.

“It depends on where they are. We’ve asked some residents to shelter in place which is the best option for them and others to evacuate to [an evacuation centre in the nearby town of Harvey],” he said. “People should have their fire plans ready and know what to do. We’ve got about 150 firefighters. We had 21 appliances on the fire and we’ve sent a further 24 from the metropolitan area.”

Oklahoma grass fires

Firefighters responding to a fire southwest of Tulsa observed a person setting one of eight grass fires that were burning in the area. More information is in the video below.

Update on the Kīlauea volcano lava flow
Kīlauea volcano
The image above released by US Geological Survey Hawaiian Volcano Observatory on January 29 shows the lava flow front from the Kīlauea volcano a mere 550 yards away from Highway 130 at its closest point. The distal tips are stalled, however “breakouts persist upslope,” writes USGS, “and these areas of activity can be spotted in this photograph by small smoke plumes where the lava is burning vegetation on the flow margins.”

Mississippi wildfire threatens natural gas facilities
A wildfire in Simpson County Mississippi (map) burned over an underground natural gas pipeline and came close to an above ground gas substation.

Below are excerpts from an article at WSMV:

“If it blows up down here, won’t nobody be left in Simpson County,” said resident Gurston McDonald.

McDonald lives just down the road from where a fire ripped through several acres of grass and forest, stopping just a few feet shy of a natural gas substation.

“All these gas lines coming through is a great concern,” added McDonald.

Simpson County EOC Director Glen Jennings said at least three fires broke out Thursday afternoon. However, the one off the highway posed the biggest danger to neighboring residents. Containing it also remained a challenge, because forestry officials can’t dig a fire line when there’s a gas line underneath.

“We don’t push on these gas lines. We just let it go, try to control it by water or some other means,” said Ben Vanderford with the Mississippi Forestry Commission. “We never know how deep those lines are, when we’re out there plowing these fire lines. These lines may be five or six feet under the ground, they might be five or six inches under the ground.”

And as night fell, flames spread again toward the substation, this time from a patch of trees about 200 feet away, with no fire line to stop it.



Angeles National Forest Supervisor transfers months before retirement

Tom Contreras Angeles National Forest

Tom Contreras, former Forest Supervisor of the Angeles National Forest. USFS photo.

The Forest Supervisor of the Angeles National Forest transferred into a different job in mid-January months before he is scheduled to retire this spring. Tom Contreras is now serving as an assistant to the Regional Forester in Vallejo, California across the bay from San Francisco.

After Mr. Contreras left, an acting Forest Supervisor was appointed to temporarily fill the position — Daniel Lovato, currently the Deputy Forest Supervisor of the Angeles National Forest.

Mr. Contreras became the Forest Supervisor of the Angeles NF north of Los Angeles after Jody Noiron, who had been in the position since 2000, was transferred to a similar position on the nearby San Bernardino National Forest in October 2010 just days before a Congressional panel held a hearing amid accusations of mismanagement of the 2009 Station fire that burned 160,000 acres and killed two firefighters.

The Angeles National Forest was criticized for a very timid, less than aggressive response to the Station Fire, especially the morning of the second day when at just a few acres, Air Attack thought it could be stopped with the three air tankers that he requested to be over the fire at 7 a.m., but that request was not filled. Neither were the three requests he put in for a Very Large Air Tanker. Night flying helicopters were not used during the first night. Soon after 9 a.m. the fire took off and burned 160,000 acres.

The fire started weeks after the U.S. Forest Service distributed a memo requiring fire managers to consider using USFS resources rather than state and local fire equipment and personnel in order to save money.

The U.S. Forest Service’s report on the Station Fire found nothing to criticize about how the fire was managed in the first 46 hours, and said policies and procedures were followed. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report on the fire that looked at number of issues and put forward some suggestions.

Articles on Wildfire Today tagged “Station Fire”.

Thanks and a tip of the hat go out to Dave.


Behind the scenes at “The Big Burn”

The Big Burn

Actors simulate taking refuge in Pulaski’s cave, during the filming of “The Fire that Changed Everything – The Big Burn”. Screen shot from the video below.

After the confusion about when “The Fire that Changed Everything – The Big Burn” would be aired, it now appears certain that it will be on PBS February 3. As you probably know, the fires of 1910 affected wildland fire management for the next 100 years.

Below is a “behind the scenes” video showing some of the filming as it occurred, and candid shots of the actors between shots.

It took 3 days to build Pulaski’s “cave” on the set. An excerpt from Timothy Egan’s best-selling book, “The Big Burn”, about which the film is based, describes what happened that day in 1910:

Pulaski led his men through the inferno, until, at last, he came to one of the old mining shafts along the creek. “In here,” he ordered, his hand on his sidearm, “everyone inside the tunnel.” After an agonizing moment of indecision, forty-four men rushed into the opening and threw themselves on the ground.

The Big Burn

An actor breaks for lunch at the filming of “The Fire that Changed Everything – The Big Burn”. Screen shot from the video above.

On January 25 we posted a 30-second video “tease” about the film. Back in September we first wrote about the film when it was scheduled to air on September 9. The videos still say “coming this fall on PBS”.

filming the big burn

Generating smoke for the filming of “The Fire that Changed Everything – The Big Burn”. Photo by Insignia Films.

Rob Chaney wrote an interesting article about the film for yesterday’s edition of the Missoulian. Below is an excerpt:

…The filmmakers scoured old archives of early fires and firefighters, and combined them with black-and-white versions of modern wildfire behavior. They also used animation techniques to make still photos of places like Wallace appear threatened by moving flames and smoke.

Explanations come from Egan, along with Montana writer John Maclean, fire ecologist Steve Pyne and environmental historian Char Miller. Buffalo Soldiers National Museum chief docent Charles Williams adds some fascinating details about the seven companies of black soldiers who played crucial roles in defending the mountain communities.

The story of a fire that burned more than 3 million acres in 36 hours would be compelling in itself.

But Egan’s research revealed how it happened just when the U.S. government was defining its role as a public lands manager. President Theodore Roosevelt and his champion of forest policy, Gifford Pinchot, were reining in the free-for-all logging and mining that threatened to shred the forests of the Pacific Northwest and Rocky Mountains. And a large part of their strategy was the claim that forests could be cultivated and protected like farms.


Five fires started from escaped burn piles near Eldorado National Forest

Eldorado National Forest fireOn Saturday, January 24, five fires were ignited by burn piles that escaped on private timber lands near the Eldorado National Forest in northeast California. Two of the fires burned 33 acres each. The piles were originally ignited in December. Judging from the photos and reports from firefighters, the fire behavior was impressive for January.

In 2014 the El Dorado NF only had one fire that required a Type 3 Incident Commander. That was the King Fire fire east of Placerville, California where 12 firefighters deployed their fire shelters in front of advancing flames and were directed to safety by a helicopter pilot.

These excellent photos were taken by Michael Loeffler, an Engine Captain on the Eldorado NF.

Eldorado National Forest fire Eldorado National Forest fire

Eldorado National Forest map


Norbeck prescribed fire — three months later

With the temperature approaching 70 degrees Tuesday afternoon I could not resist the urge to blow some cobwebs off my motorcycle. I cruised into Wind Cave National Park and took some photos with portions of the Norbeck Prescribed Fire in the background. The first and third photos were taken last fall on October 20 and 21, while the second and fourth were shot today, January 27, 2015.

The first and second, and the third and fourth photos show approximately the same areas.

Norbeck prescribed fire

Norbeck Prescribed Fire, October 21, 2014, across the highway from the lookout tower in Wind Cave National Park. This location is similar to the one in the photo below.

Norbeck prescribed fire

Site of the Norbeck Prescribed Fire, January 27, 2015, across the highway from the lookout tower in Wind Cave National Park. This location is similar to the one in the photo above.

Norbeck prescribed fire

Norbeck Prescribed Fire, October 20, 2014, near the boundary between Wind Cave National Park and Custer State Park. This location is similar to the one in the photo below.

Bike and burned hill near St Pk bdy

Site of the Norbeck Prescribed Fire, January 27, 2015 near the boundary between Wind Cave National Park and Custer State Park. This location is similar to the one in the photo above.

Other articles on Wildfire Today tagged Norbeck Prescribed Fire.

All photos were taken by Bill Gabbert.