Bill Kaage to be chief of fire for National Park Service

Bill KaageBill Kaage has been named chief of the National Park Service Division of Fire and Aviation Management. He succeeds Tom Nichols, who retired on January 31, 2014.

As the Chief, Kaage is responsible for the overall leadership, policy and program direction for the aviation, structural fire, and wildland fire management programs for the National Park Service. He will administer a budget that exceeds $90 million in fire and aviation funding for the Service. “I look forward to representing the National Park Service in my new role. We have a great team of passionate professionals who care deeply about the mission, what we do, and those we serve.”

Since April 2009, Kaage has served as the Branch Chief of Wildland Fire, one of the six branches within the division he now leads. As Branch Chief, Bill led development of the updated Wildland Fire Strategic Plan, revision of the National Park Service Wildland Fire Reference Manual 18, and was instrumental in workforce realignment due to reduced wildland fire funding levels. In the interagency arena, Bill represented the National Park Service on several national groups including the National Wildfire Coordinating Group, National Multi-agency Coordinating Group, and Wildland Fire Executive Council.

From 2005-2009, Bill served as the Deputy Regional Fire Management Officer for Operations in the Pacific West Region of the NPS. Prior to this position, he spent nine years as the fire management officer for Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks in California. During his tenure, Kaage focused on building an integrated fire and fuels management program based on resource objectives, park goals and teamwork.


Unique display of results from fire effects study

Lake Clark fire effects

Screen shot from the fire effects study portal about a fire in Lake Clark National Park and Preserve

The Alaska National Park Service Fire Ecology crew returned to the site of the Currant Creek Fire in Lake Clark National Park and Preserve in Alaska one year after it burned in order to collect data about the effects of the fire. They created an interactive map tour of their findings, which turned out to be a pretty interesting educational tool.

Thanks and a hat tip go out to Traci.


Dozer accident injures one on California’s Monticello Fire

A person has been hospitalized after a bulldozer overturned while digging line on the Monticello Fire, the latest growing blaze in Northern California that ignited on the Fourth of July.

The dozer overturned around 1:30 p.m. PDT on July 6, while cutting line on rugged terrain along the fire’s northern perimeter, local media reported. 

The person was taken “as a precaution” to Kaiser Permanente’s Vacaville Hospital Trauma Center nearby. CALFire had issued no further updates on injuries as of Monday afternoon.

The Monticello Fire started around 9:30 p.m. PDT on Friday, just outside the town of Winters, on the southeast shore of Lake Berryessa. It grew rapidly to nearly 7,000 acres by Monday morning, and had forced the shut down of portions of California State Highway 128. The fire also triggered evacuations of several neighborhoods and is currently threatening around 40 homes.


2014 Fire Season: Least amount of acreage burned in 10 years

Although thousands of fires have ignited across the country in 2014, to-date this year’s fires have burned fewer acres than other fire seasons since 2004.

As of July 3, fires have burned 909,848 acres across the United States, according to fire statistics released by the National Interagency Fire Center last week.

That’s about half of the total acres burned by July 3, 2013. It’s also the least amount of acreage burned by July 3 since 2004.

By July, fires typically consume more than one million acres, and in some cases two or three million.

  • The number of active fires as of July 3 is 26,684. That’s about average since 2004.
  • Since 2004 the “largest” fire season was 2011 when 4,859,621 acres had burned by July 3.
  • There are 12 active “large” fires on NIFC’s radar this month. Most are in California and Nevada.
  • As of July 3, six new large fires were reported.



Utah’s Taylor Mountain Road Fire damages homes

UPDATE 1:44 p.m. MDT: Local TV station KSL is reporting that three homes have been “severely damaged” by the Taylor Mountain Road fire. Read more here. 


The Taylor Mountain Road Fire in northeastern Utah continues to burn Monday morning, and has destroyed one family’s home, The Salt Lake Tribune reported.

The fire started on July 5 and grew rapidly, prompting evacuations north of the town of Vernal, near Steinaker State Park. As of Monday morning, the fire had burned 3,167 acres and was at 25 percent containment.


Steinaker State Park remains closed. Officials did not have numbers of homes that remain at risk from the fire.



Tears at Glenwood Springs

South Canyon 20 yearsIt was hot when I arrived at Two Rivers Park in Glenwood Springs for the ceremony to honor the memories of the 14 firefighters that died virtually within sight of the park 20 years ago on Storm King Mountain. Arriving 45 minutes before it was scheduled to begin, hoping to get the lay of the land and a good seat, the 90-degree heat had driven others to the sparse shade offered by a handful of trees around the perimeter of the space laid out in front of the stage.

Hundreds of white folding chairs were behind signs explaining that they were for the families and the elderly — all empty at that point. No one wanted to bake in the sun waiting for the commemoration to begin. Near the chairs was a small tent housing a sound board with dozens of dials and sliders like you would see at a concert.

By the time the program began, about a third of the white chairs were filled. Bob Zanella, who was the mayor of Glenwood Springs 20 years ago and was asked to be the master of ceremonies, said it looked like there would be room for everyone to sit in the chairs. Some people that were standing or sitting on the ground did take up the offer, but many remained where they were, comfortable in their shady spots. Several groups of uniformed firefighters, including the Craig Hotshots, stood in casual straight lines near the back, some in the shade and others in the bright, hot sun.

After taking some photos, I found a suitable shady spot on the ground. I could not see the stage because of the people that were standing behind the chairs, but could hear most of what the seven speakers said. Bagpipes, drums, Honor Guards and Color Guards set the mood.

Usually at a ceremony like this, there will be several politicians and heads of land management agencies either asked, or asking, to speak to the gathered crowd. But not yesterday at Two Rivers Park. One of the organizers told me that there was a conscious effort to avoid a parade of dignitaries across the stage. They wanted to keep it local and real. No one wants to hear a Senator or Assistant Secretary of Something blather on while no one is paying attention.

All of the speakers kept it meaningful, and personal. And they were all fairly brief except for one who began by saying he was allotted five minutes but could not do it in just five.

Near the end of the program a very, very light rain began to fall. The drops were few, tiny, invisible, and cold as they fell through the sunlight. No one left their seat or scrambled for shelter. It was not enough rain to get wet but I did shield my camera from the scattered rain drops. I looked at the sky and thought of tears.

When the Twin Otter smokejumper aircraft dropped the 14 purple streamers over Two Rivers Park, one landed about 15 feet from where I was sitting on the ground. A smiling small boy ran over and picked it up just after it landed.

After the program ended with a moment of silence many of the attendees walked about a hundred yards over to the memorial to see the statue of the three firefighters — a smokejumper, a firefighter with a chain saw over her shoulder, and a third holding an aviation helmet used by helitack crews. Surrounding the sculpture are 14 plaques with photos and descriptions of each of the firefighters that perished two decades ago. I was standing next to an elderly gentleman, and at first I thought he was wiping away a bug on his face, but he wasn’t. It was tears.