Colorado to use new system to predict wildland fire behavior

Janice Coen Gov. John Hickenlooper sign bill

Gov. John Hickenlooper traveled to an Arvada fire station to sign the bill that will implement a wildfire prediction system. Dr. Janice Coen, one of the developers of the system, is on the left. Photo provided by COHOUSEDEMS.

The Governor of Colorado signed a bill Wednesday that authorizes the state to spend $1.2 million over the next two years on a “revolutionary” wildfire prediction system that uses weather data, groundbreaking computer modeling, and high resolution satellite imagery to predict the spread of fires up to 18 hours in advance.

Below is an excerpt from an article at the (Colorado Springs) Gazette:

…”This bill will predict the intensity and the direction of fires 12 to 18 hours ahead of time. That is really important so we know where to direct our planes, the aircraft we had a bill for last year, and our firefighters,” said Rep. Tracy Kraft-Tharp, D-Arvada, who introduced the bill. “This is really revolutionary.”

Under the new law, the Division of Fire Prevention and Control will contract with a nonprofit Colorado-based research organization with expertise in atmospheric science to predict wildfire behavior. The National Center for Atmospheric Research, a federally funded program headquartered in Boulder, is the only state agency that meets that criteria. NCAR has used modeling to accurately recreate the behavior of historic fires, including the Yarnell Hill fire that killed 19 Arizona firefighters in 2013.

She said the new technology could be in place by next spring and will work with the state’s new aerial fire fleet, a multimillion-dollar investment into wildfire detecting and fighting aircraft lawmakers made in 2013…

Janice Coen at the National Center for Atmospheric Research is one of the scientists working on this program. We have written about her work previously:

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


Arkansas leads U.S. in total value of federal excess property acquired for rural fire departments

From the Arkansas Forestry Commission:


“The Arkansas Forestry Commission (AFC) Rural Fire Protection (RFP) Program provides specialized equipment, training, and loans to qualifying rural fire departments across Arkansas. Reports from a recent review by the U.S. Forest Service reveal Arkansas as the leader, surpassing all other states in the U.S., for the total value of federal excess property acquired by the program as of 2014.

“The Rural Fire Protection Program was designed to support, train, and equip our strongest partners in wildland fire suppression and community safety – firefighters. We are proud to see equipment going to rural areas that adds water supply, as well as general tools and supplies, decreases response time, and enhances the overall safety of Arkansas communities. We are especially proud to know that Arkansas was a leader in 2014 for acquiring equipment that makes Arkansans safer,” said John Blackburn, RFP Coordinator.

Firefighting equipment acquired by the AFC RFP program includes an array of items such as tanker trucks, pumper trucks, brush trucks, fire boats, generators, and smaller gear and tools like personal protective equipment, helmets, gloves, lights, general shop tools, tires, nozzles, and more. Most of this equipment would be unattainable by rural fire departments because of cost constraints, if this program did not exist.

In March and April of this year, the RFP Program provided firefighting vehicles and/or generators to 29 fire departments, across 22 counties; five interest-free loans, totaling $80,551; and, general firefighting equipment valued at over $67,000 from the RFP Program Warehouse at Greenbrier.

Last year (2014), 107 firefighting vehicles were distributed across the state, all valued at $9,900,661.63; 16 interest-free loans were financed for fire crews to transform Department of Defense equipment into firefighting equipment, totaling $200,219.66; and Wildland Fire Suppression Kits were provided to 34 communities, totaling $102,000 in added wildland fire equipment to statewide crews.

Where does it all come from? Resources made available through the RFP Program is Department of Defense excess property vehicles and equipment that is provided to the U.S. Forest Service through a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the two federal agencies. The U.S. Forest Service then authorizes the AFC to oversee the distribution of this equipment through the RFP Program.  RFP personnel screen for and coordinate the pick-up of federal excess property from across the country, within those agency parameters. Fire departments may apply for equipment at anytime through RFP Headquarters in Greenbrier; provided that they are in compliance with Federal Regulations. Equipment is then distributed as evenly and quickly as possible, to meet fire department requests on file.

Beyond equipment and loan opportunities, the RFP Program administers the 8-hour Wildland Firefighter Class, and helps to plan, organize, and host the upcoming annual Arkansas Fire Boat School (May 29-30at DeGray Lake) – training for statewide fire boat crews, and hosts an annual fall fire show and cookout for Arkansas firefighters.”

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


Portions of western Canada could be in for a hot, dry summer

western Canada summer weather

From CBCnews:


“Predicting the weather may not always be an easy task, but meteorologists are beginning to agree B.C. is in for a long, hot summer. Pennsylvania-based AccuWeather released its forecast Thursday, agreeing with last week’s prediction from Environment Canada that, for large parts of B.C., the heat is on.

“Sea temperatures have been averaging two or three degrees above normal across the Eastern Pacific,” Brett Anderson, senior meteorologist with AccuWeather told CBC News.

“That’s going to have a warming influence on places such as Vancouver, Victoria and even placed further inland.”

Anderson says that the higher sea temperatures combined with the effects of El Niño will mean the south coast will be one to one-and-a-half degrees warmer, but things are likely to be more dramatic in the interior.

“It does look fairly dry though the summer and the wildfire threat will be fairly high, ” Anderson said.

Nevertheless, while the B.C. Wildfire Management Branch say they do monitor long-term forecasts, their operations are planned on a short-term basis.

“As of right now, we’re looking to the immediate future.” fire information officer Melissa Klassen told CBC News. “We can always call in other resources if activities pick up.”  “


Arizona: Oak Tree Fire

Oak Tree Fire

In the 24 hours since it started on May 20, the Oak Tree Fire has burned about 2,000 acres on the Coronado National Forest and BLM land near State Highway 83 about 10 miles north of Sonoita, Arizona.

Oak Tree Fire

Fire managers have provided a copious amount information on InciWeb, and quickly. Here is an excerpt, updated this morning, May 21:


“Air attack flew the fire this morning and reported minimal fire activity, however fire activity is expected to increase throughout the day as temperatures warm and winds increase. SW winds may increase to 15-20 mph with gusts to 35 mph this afternoon. Fire managers plan to fly a reconnaissance mission this morning and will be mapping the fire by GPS to provide a better size estimate. Ten additional fire engines from across Southeast Arizona arrived this morning. Two additional handcrews have been ordered and are expected to arrive mid-day today. Firefighters plan to take advantage of increased relative humidity and lighter winds this morning to build on yesterday’s progress. They plan to finish constructing fireline around the fire, focusing on a remaining section to be completed on the northeast flank of the fire. They will continue to monitor, hold, and strengthen fireline throughout the day. Air tankers and helicopters are available to drop water and retardant as needed to cool hotspots and slow the fire’s spread.

Current resources include two handcrews (two additional crews have been ordered and are expected to arrive mid-day), eighteen fire engines, four water tenders, one air attack platform, five air tankers, two helicopters and miscellaneous overhead, for a total of more than 100 people assigned.”

Oak Tree Fire Oak Tree Fire

The first three photos were provided by the Sonoita-Elgin Fire District. The bottom aerial shot is from InciWeb.


Improve land management decisions with remote sensing data

(From the U.S. Forest Service)

Remote Sensing Analyst Dr. Shengli Huang

Senior Remote Sensing Analyst Dr. Shengli Huang and RSL staff look at the Lidar and imaging spectrometer instruments equipped on a King Air A90 plane. Photo by Carlos Ramirez.

Imagine if one could prevent the next Rim Fire. The Remote Sensing Laboratory-Information Management Staff located in McClellan, California is using a variety of technologies and with their latest collaboration with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (NASA-JPL); they hope to do just that.

Using state of the art aerial technology

Technology being used includes satellite and airborne remotely sensed data such as:Landsat, WorldView2 (DigitalGlobe), Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) and imaging spectroscopy (or hyperspectral). Remote sensing is the science of obtaining information about objects or areas from a distance, typically from aircraft or satellites. To support the use of these technologies, ground-based measurements of forest characteristics, locational information using GPS and spectroscopic measurements using a portable field spectrometer are also acquired. Much of the technology is free or already available to the federal government.

The U.S. Forest Service is in partnership with NASA-JPL for acquiring the LiDAR and imaging spectroscopy data for the King fire.

Add ground technology and validate the aerial data

The on-the-ground data is collected and used in the interpretation of the remotely sensed data. This includes the calibration and validation of statistical models relating the ground measurement to the imagery. Uses of the data can span multiple resource areas and can have numerous different applications. For example, what conditions contribute to high-severity wildfires or prioritizing where mulching or reforestation would be most effective, thereby saving potentially millions of dollars are just a few potential uses of the data. Other uses include understanding fire behavior for potentially assisting firefighters with areas of specific danger or determining where habitat is suitable on the forest for species such as the California spotted owl and black backed woodpecker.

GIS/Remote Sensing Analyst Rodney Hart gets a reading on ash with a sensor as a part of the field spectrometer at the King Fire on the Eldorado National Forest. Photo by John C. Heil III.

GIS/Remote Sensing Analyst Rodney Hart gets a reading on ash with a sensor as a part of the field spectrometer at the King Fire on the Eldorado National Forest. Photo by John C. Heil III.

Using aerial resources provides access to data that would otherwise not be available using ground based data collection tools. Access to remote areas is one of the benefits of this system. However, the combination of the aerial and ground data is critical. “Data from these various tools used together will provide better information which will lead to better land management decision making,” said Carlos Ramirez, program lead for the Region 5 Remote Sensing Lab.

More information on the research and tools being used