A rainy week

7-day precip 8-25-2014

The last seven days have been very wet in some parts of the United States, especially in north-central Montana where, according to the NOAA map above, some areas had five to eight inches of precipitation. (Click on the map to see a larger version.)


Wildland Fire Incident Management Field Guide eBook available for download

The reincarnation of the Fireline Handbook, now saddled with the name Wildland Fire Incident Management Field Guide, is now available as an eBook for your Apple and Android devices. The January, 2014 revision is described on the Google Play store as “scanned pages”, and is designed for tablets or the “web”.

I downloaded the Android version and viewing it in a web browser on a 20-inch monitor was not a satisfying experience. It looked like a low-resolution scanned document. However on a 7-inch Nexus tablet the text was small when viewing an entire page, but it was very sharp and quite readable. Flipping from page to page was easy as pie. It would probably be even better on a larger tablet but don’t even think about trying to read it on a smart phone.

The Fireline Handbook, last revised in 2004, was officially retired in 2013 and replaced with an electronic version, a .pdf, of the Wildland Fire Incident Management Field Guide (PMS 210). The National Wildfire Coordinating Group explained last year why they created the new publication:

The document was renamed because, over time, the original purpose of the Fireline Handbook had been replaced by the Incident Response Pocket Guide. As a result, this document now serves as a guide for wildland fire managers and subsequent staff.

The January, 2014 revision of the Incident Response Pocket Guide is available for download as a .pdf document.


Wildfire briefing, August 24, 2014

U.S. Forest Service on hauling firefighters in cargo trucks

We asked the USFS to comment on the California National Guard’s practice of hauling their firefighting troops in the back of cargo trucks, which we wrote about earlier.

National Guard troops In cargo truck

National Guard troops in cargo truck in Yreka, California, August 14, 2014.

A spokesperson for the agency, Mike Ferris, said:

This is not an activity that the Forest Service practices. The California National Guard was deployed on three different incidents in Northern California: Little Deer; Log; and Lodge fires. National Guard resources were ordered and managed by Cal Fire.

When we asked if the USFS was concerned about firefighters being injured if there was a truck rollover or another type of accident, Mr. Ferris said:

Firefighter and public safety are the top priorities in wildfire management. Safety Officers at large fire incidents identify and address known risks and implement mitigations consistent with incident objectives.

We offered the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE) an opportunity to weigh in on the issue, but they declined.

Florida motorists warned about wildfire smoke

Smoke from a wildfire has prompted the Florida Highway Patrol to issue a warning for motorists in St. Johns County. The agency issued a Travel Advisory for travel on Interstate 95 south of International Golf Parkway.

Smoke from a wildfire nearby might affect roadways. Visibility may deteriorate quickly due to smoke or fog-type conditions especially during the evening and early morning hours. Motorists should reduce their speed as necessary to avoid a collision, and use their low-beam headlights in order to adapt to the changing weather conditions, according to the highway patrol.

Efforts continue to pass wildfire funding bill

In spite of several failed attempts over the last several months to pass a bill that would fully fund wildfires in a manner similar to other natural disasters, some senators and representatives in Idaho and Oregon have not given up.

Below is an excerpt from an article in the Spokesman-Review:

…The House version of the bill has 131 co-sponsors, including Idaho 1st District GOP Rep. Raul Labrador. The Senate version has 18 co-sponsors including [Idaho Senator Jim] Risch.

In the House, “Some folks are concerned about changing the spending matrix, primarily Paul Ryan, head of the budget committee,” [Idaho Senator Mike Crapo's press secretary Lindsay] Nothern said. “We did go out and get a CBO report that showed it is budget-neutral, because we already spend disaster money on disasters such as this.”

He added, “There is support for it among leadership in both the Senate and the House, on both sides of the aisle.” But on its first attempt at passage, Nothern said, the proposal got lumped in with other issues including the president’s border proposal, and it didn’t pass. “We are hoping for a stand-alone bill, and then the only opposition we have is Ryan.”

The Onion’s parody kills off Smokey Bear

The Onion, a parody website, is “reporting” that the “U.S. Forest Service Kills Off Smokey Bear To Get People Serious About Fire Safety”. The images in the video of the iconic bear being killed may not be suitable for children.


Fire agencies respond to earthquake near Napa

(UPDATED at 5:32 p.m. PDT, August 24, 2014)

As we noted below, the U.S. Forest Service Regional Office in Vallejo, approximately 5 miles south of the epicenter, was affected by this morning’s 6.0 earthquake. Further assessments revealed a water line break on the fourth floor that caused extensive damage. Additional problems were also found, however the USFS is saying the building is structurally sound. An Incident Management Team is working on the cleanup and the office will be closed through Tuesday while a contract crew deals with the water and further assessments are completed. All employees are authorized administrative leave for August 25th and 26.


(UPDATED at 12:55 p.m. PDT, August 24, 2014)

At a news conference that just finished, Napa Fire Chief Mike Randolph said resources in the city include four strike teams of Type 1 (structure) engines, one strike team of water tenders, and two urban search and rescue task forces.

The fire department has received 100 calls reported natural gas odors. They have also been assessing damaged structures to determine if anyone needs to be rescued, but have found none.

Approximately 50 water main breaks have been reported.

California Office of Emergency Services is live-streaming video from the state Operations Center.


(Originally published at 9:39 a.m. PDT August 24, 2014; updated at 9:27 a.m. PDT, August 24, 2014)

Earthquake map

The 6.0 magnitude earthquake that struck the Napa area north of San Francisco at 3:20 a.m. PDT today not only caused damage to structures, roads, and water mains, but several mobile homes caught fire when they were shaken off their foundations, rupturing natural gas lines. The broken water main made it difficult for firefighters to suppress the fires, using only the booster tanks in the engines until water tenders arrived.

Battalion Chief Scott McLean, a spokesperson for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE), said the agency has not had any reports of vegetation fires related to the earthquake, but 10 CAL FIRE engines, plus 2 Napa County engines and 2 Napa County water tenders are assisting the city of Napa. There are a total of 4 strike teams on order — 3 Type 1 strike teams (structure engines) and 1 Type 3 (brush engine) strike team. Each strike team has 5 engines plus a strike team leader. Two Type 1 urban search and rescue teams have been ordered, Chief McLean said.

There are no CAL FIRE aviation assets are working the incident, but Chief McLean said Helicopter 104 is available if needed.

U.S. Forest Service spokesperson Stanton Florea said their Region 5 headquarters in Vallejo, approximately 5 miles south of the epicenter, sustained damage that is being evaluated.