Report: PBS to air program tonight on the 1910 fires

There are reports that the PBS television network will air a program tonight, September 9, about the fires of 1910 that changed wildland firefighting forever. The program is part of the American Experience series, and is named “The Fire That Changed Everything — The Big Burn”. It is based on Timothy Egan’s best-selling book, “The Big Burn”.

The video trailer about it in the video above states that it is “Coming to PBS September 9, 2014″. The person that runs the U.S. Forest Service Twitter account for the California Region and Tweeted about it said they were told it would be on PBS in the Bay Area September 9. And, we found an article about the program that said it would be on tonight from 9 until 10 p.m. ET.

But, we searched online the PBS schedules for several cities across the country and could not find it listed on any schedule. However, we found a PBS page for “American Experience” that said “The Big Burn” would air on January 1, 2015, and also “AIR DATE TBD”.

From the trailer, it appears that the program will be interesting. If anyone can confirm the air date for the program, please let us know in a comment the date, time, city, and TV station,


Video of hikers evacuated by helicopter from Yosemite’s Half Dome

When Shelby Seabaugh began her hike to the top of Half Dome in Yosemite National Park in California on September 7, she had no idea she would be flown off the mountain in a helicopter. This video documents her adventure that day.

When she reached the top, the Meadow Fire burning east of their location caused Park officials to decide that all 85 of the hikers on Half Dome would have to be evacuated by helicopters.

Four agencies supplied the ships that hauled the hikers off the mountain: the California Highway Patrol, U.S. Forest Service, Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks, and CAL FIRE.

If you are not inclined to watch the entire 17-minute video, which includes the hike from the bottom to the top, and the helicopter ride back down again, you can start at about 10:30 which is when the group was near the top and includes some interesting views down onto the Meadow fire. At 11:30 it appears that helitack personnel are briefing the hikers about their upcoming helicopter ride.

More information about the Meadow Fire.

Below are some screen grabs from the video (which can be viewed on YouTube).

helicopter evacuation from Half Dome

helicopter evacuation from Half Dome

helicopter evacuation from Half Dome

The Tweet below appears to be from another group of hikers that were flown off Half Dome that day.


Fire Weather Outlook September 8 through 13

An upper level trough is crossing the western US Monday. This is enhancing the pressure gradient across central WA/OR this afternoon, generating gusty winds in excess of 35mph. Combined with very dry vegetation and relative humidity between 15-20%, red flag warnings have been posted. Weak cold front will cross the region overnight, weakening winds for Tues with slightly cooler conditions and higher RH. A few pockets of lingering gusty winds will persist for northern CA/southern ID/southern OR and the northern Great Basin on Tues. Southern ID will see the strongest winds with an enhanced fire risk. Farther west, very dry vegetation and RHs < 15%, especially for northern NV/north CA will promote fire growth as well, but winds are expected to be weaker. These conditions will still promote continued suppression difficulties of large wildfires in the region.
A disturbance will round the trough as it moves east, passing over the northwest US on Wed. In response, a strong high pressure is expected to develop on the backside of this disturbance across the northern Rockies. This will once again create strong easterly surface flow for much of the west. As winds flow downslope of the Rockies, warm/dry air will situate itself over the western states with above normal temperatures and dry conditions. Some localized breezy conditions are possible Thurs across WA/OR/ID, however they will dwindle Fri as the high moves east with a weakening pressure gradient. Upper level ridging builds back in across the western US this weekend and above average temperatures with very dry conditions are anticipated to continue into next week.
Heavy monsoonal rains (and moisture from ex-hurricane Norbert) will remain possible through Tues in the desert southwest and eventually diminish mid-week. Some very widely scattered dry thunderstorms possible in south/south-central CA. Drying trend will continue into the weekend before another round of monsoonal moisture pushes into NM/NV/UT/CA by early week. This may also be enhanced by another tropical system by mid-week.
Weather Highlights:
CA: Few isolated storms south Mon/Tues, otherwise continued above normal temperatures and very dry conditions. Isolated breezy winds Tues/Thurs for northern CA.
OR/WA: Red Flag Warning Mon. Breezy winds with critically low RH Mon with improving conditions into Tues. Another period of localized breezy conditions Thurs with a warming trend into the weekend. Expect continued very dry conditions, especially for southern OR.
Great Basin/southern ID: Heavy rain possible for the southern Great Basin through Tues. Enhanced fire weather Tues with gusty winds and low RH for northern Great Basin/ID. Dry and warm through the period.



Meadow Fire — Yosemite National Park

(UPDATE at 8:55 a.m. PDT, September 10, 2014)

The spread of the Meadow Fire in Yosemite National Park in California has slowed, but still grew by about 100 acres on Tuesday to a total of 4,500 acres. As predicted, sunny weather and much lower relative humidity enabled some spot fires to become more active. There was also some isolated crowning and torching. On Wednesday the weather will be similar, but with stronger winds gusting up to 15 mph out of the west in the afternoon.

Firefighters are staying overnight in spike camps at several locations to reduce helicopter flights into the wilderness, but helicopters are being used to support crews with water drops. The highest priority is to secure the west flank to allow the trail to Half Dome to open.

The National Park Service has settled the issue of the origin of this fire, writing on InciWeb that it was an expansion of the fire that had been monitored since July 19, exacerbated by a wind event, rather than it being a new fire that started on Sunday.

Professional photographer Michael Frye posted some excellent photos of the fire on his web site.


(UPDATE at 8:35 a.m. PDT, September 9, 2014)

3-D Map of the Meadow Fire

3-D Map of the Meadow Fire at 11 p.m. September 8, 2014. Looking east. Half Dome can be seen in the center of the image, between Yosemite Valley and the fire. (Click to enlarge.)

The Meadow Fire in Yosemite National Park has grown to about 4,400 acres and was still very active when it was mapped Monday night. Rain showers passed through the area Monday morning but the precipitation may have evaporated before much of it hit the ground, since a weather station in Yosemite Valley did not detect any rain. Another weather station about 12 miles northwest of the fire measured 0.07 inches.

The Meadow Fire was first reported on July 19 but was not suppressed. It had spread to cover 19 acres while it was being monitored, until Sunday, September 7 when it began to grow rapidly pushed by a very strong wind.

On Sunday 85 hikers and climbers were evacuated from the summit of Half Dome by helicopters from the California Highway Patrol, U.S. Forest Service, Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks, and CAL FIRE.

High humidities assisted firefighters on Monday, slowing the spread of the fire, but the RH will lower into the 20s on Tuesday and no rain, in fact no clouds, are in the forecast for several days.

Cooper’s Type 2 Incident Management Team assumed command of the fire Monday. No information about the fire has been posted on InciWeb, however we found some updates on Facebook and the park’s website.

Map of the Meadow Fire at 11 p.m. September 8, 2014

Map of the Meadow Fire at 11 p.m. September 8, 2014. North is up. (Click to enlarge.)

 Meadow Fire

Half Dome reaches above the smoke created by the Meadow Fire, as seen from Sentinel Dome at 8:51 a.m. PDT, 9-9-2014.


(UPDATE at 5:11 p.m. PDT September 8, 2014)

The NPS announced Monday morning that the fire in Yosemite has been mapped at 2,582 acres, up from the 700 acres reported late Sunday.

This time-lapse video of the fire is fascinating. It gets better at 0:21 after the camera is moved out of the bottom of the valley.

Continue reading


Yarnell Hill Fire survivor pushes for creation of a “healing center”

Biden, Brendan McDonough, Janice Brewer

Brendan McDonough, Yarnell Hill Fire survivor, speaks in Prescott, Arizona at the July 9, 2013 memorial service for the 19 firefighters that died on the fire. Vice President Joe Biden and Arizona Governor Janice Brewer are on the left and right, respectively. Photo by Bill Gabbert.

Brendan McDonough watched from a distance as the other 19 members of the Granite Mountain Hotshots became entrapped and died June 30, 2013 on the Yarnell Hill Fire south of Prescott, Arizona. Now, according to an article in the USA Today, he still struggles with stress-related problems. No longer a firefighter but working for the Wildland Firefighter Foundation, he wants to “create a non-profit organization to fulfill a dream of building a “healing center” in Prescott where first-responders, including troubled wildfire crews and their families, can seek treatment.”

The article’s main focus is a topic that rarely gets discussed in the world of wildland fire — the day to day psychological strains that firefighters face which are similar to those experienced by warfighters. The military has a highly developed program for treating post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), but the land management agencies, with a primary focus of growing trees, cleaning campgrounds, and managing visitors and non-native plants, have done little, effectively, to deal with a shocking suicide rate, for example.

The excellent article gives several examples of how stress is negatively affecting some of our firefighters. Below is an excerpt:

…Wildland Firefighter Foundation Executive Director Vicki Minor — Burk Minor’s mother — estimates that as many as one in four such firefighters struggle with emotional trauma.

She says her organization counted six firefighter suicides during 2013. If accurate, it suggests a rough suicide rate of 17 per 100,000, far higher than the national average and similar to the pace of these deaths in the military.

“Our government, our fire officials, the Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, they’re really good at taking care of the land and they know how to fight fire,” Vicki Minor says. “They don’t know how to take care of their people.”

Federal workers get free visits to a contracted private counselor, but many firefighters complain these providers are not schooled in PTSD treatment, Vicki Minor says. “I’ve had several of these men say that they had to pay for a therapist out of their own pocket,” she says.

The Forest Service recently published pocket-sized pamphlets with tips on traumatic stress and resilience. But the guides offer nothing about where to seek help if necessary, except to cite websites from the Department of Veterans Affairs and private suicide support groups.

Forest Service Fire Management Director Harbour says the deaths of the 19 Prescott firefighters were a wake-up call on the emotional stress firefighters may incur. “How do we deal with what we carry after we go through a traumatic incident?” he asks.

He and his staff have turned to the Marine Corps for ideas about building emotional resilience in firefighters. He urged in a briefing paper to senior officials that “we have developed wonderful new tools to help physically protect firefighters. Now is the time to ‘build a better brain!'”

He and his staff have turned to the Marine Corps for ideas about building emotional resilience in firefighters. He urged in a briefing paper to senior officials that “we have developed wonderful new tools to help physically protect firefighters. Now is the time to ‘build a better brain!'”

The land management agencies should consider developing an experimental program with the Department of Veterans Affairs that would take advantage of their existing PTSD treatment facilities, such as the one at the VA Hospital in Hot Springs, South Dakota, the “Post Traumatic Stress Disorder Residential Rehabilitation Program”. Send a few firefighters with PTSD symptoms to a facility such as this and then evaluate the possible benefits.

Yarnell Hill Fire Honor Escort

On July 7, 2013, 19 hearses carried the remains of the Granite Mountain Hotshots back to Prescott, Arizona. Photo by Bill Gabbert.

Thanks and a hat tip go out to Kelly.


California: Bridge fire initial attacked by three Very Large Air Tankers

The Bridge Fire was reported at 2:20 p.m. PDT on Friday, 10 miles east of Mariposa, California and quickly grew to 300 acres. An extremely aggressive aerial initial attack that included three DC-10 Very Large Air Tankers assisted firefighters on the ground. The DC-10s that usually carry 11,600 gallons of fire retardant were working out of Castle Airport 44 miles west of the fire.

Approximately 700 homes and five businesses in the Ponderosa basin were ordered evacuated, according to a county sheriff’s spokesperson. Early Saturday morning evacuations were still in place for homes on Harris Cutoff Road, Chowchilla Mountain Road, and all of the Ponderosa Basin area.

As of 6:30 a.m. PDT on Saturday CAL FIRE reported that the fire was still 300 acres and they were calling it 25 percent contained. Resources assigned to the fire include 746 personnel, 94 engines, 27 hand crews, and 11 dozers.

Three DC-10s at Castle

File photo of the three DC-10 air tankers at Castle Airport, August 30, 2014. Photo by 10 Tanker Air Carrier. (click to see a larger version.)

As far as we know, this is the first time that the three Very Large Air Tankers have been assigned to the same fire at the same time. The third DC-10 was introduced into the fleet on August 30, 2014.


Thanks and a hat tip go out to Johnny.