Wildfire news, August 5, 2008

“What is Red is Dead”

On August 3 we posted a video and some information about the bark beetle outbreak in Colorado. CBS News did a story and shot some video footage months ago that never made it to the air, but it is posted here. The article mentions that you can see the “red” pine beetle damage on Google Earth. I checked it out and it’s true. Look on Google Earth 30 miles west of Boulder, Colorado, long/lat: 40 00′ 54″, 106 21′ 37″. This is the area that I saw a week ago, where there were some tracts of hundreds of acres with 100% mortality. There are other similar areas across the western U.S. and also in Canada.

The Gunbarrel fire between Yellowstone National Park and Cody, Wyoming is burning in an area with 50-80% bug mortality. Sunday evening the fire made a 4.5-mile run in three hours. Is this a taste of things to come?

More dry lightning?

Thunderstorms, some initially with dry lightning, are expected over portions of northern California and southern Oregon this afternoon and evening.

Turkish fire under control

The fire that burned 12,300 acres near some main tourist hubs is now under control. It broke out between the towns of Serik and Manavgat on Thursday and pushed by 43 mph winds and 104 degree heat killed two men and destroyed 60 houses.

Firefighter injured by grizzly doing OK

The firefighter that was roughed up by the grizzly bear while working on the LeHardy fire in Yellowstone National Park is back at work.

Tony Allabastro, a member of the Lewis and Clark Forest Service hotshot crew based in Great Falls, reportedly saw the bear over his shoulder, coming from where his crew had been doing controlled burns, Sandy Hare, public information officer for the LeHardy fire, said Monday. 

Before he had a chance to get his bear spray, the grizzly pounced on him and “roughed him up,” Hare said. The bear was “acting instinctually.”

“(The bear) just wanted out,” Hare said. “There was something in its way, and it happened to be a human.”

Allabastro got away with minimal injuries. He was treated at the Yellowstone Clinic in Lake, Wyo., for scratches and bruises Sunday and released.
[…]
Allabastro, who has fought wildfire for three seasons and served on a hotshot crew for one, was tackled by the grizzly while working on a burnout near Fishing Bridge.

The burnout is intended to put a buffer between the LeHardy fire and Fishing Bridge, an enclave of campgrounds, gas stations and other amenities in the park. As crews resumed that work Monday, people traveling on the park’s Grand Loop Road were again treated to views of giant plumes of smoke from their cars.

Between 500 and 600 grizzly bears are estimated to call Yellowstone home, according to the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. Bear sightings by fire crews is a common occurrence, Hare said.

But “firefighter-grizzly conflicts are pretty rare,” she said. “That’s why they carry bear spray.”

To boot, wildlife experts consider the Fishing Bridge area “the core of bear country” in the park, Hare said.

On Monday the LeHardy fire grew from 4,700 to 7,335 acres and is 5% contained. More details are here.

Structure lost in Gunbarrel fire

A structure burned Sunday night on the Gunbarrel fire 40 miles west of Cody, Wyoming.

The Sweetwater Lodge on the Shoshone National Forest was burned in the Gunbarrel Fire last night. The lodge, which was owned by the Forest Service and uninhabited, had not been in operation for many years.

Fire management officer Mark Giacoletto said extreme fire behavior Sunday evening pushed the fire 4.5 miles in 3 hours. “There was no way we were going to put people in that drainage yesterday,” said Giacoletto.

Firefighting resources had been prioritized to work on private operating and functioning structures in the western part of the North Fork corridor. There was no motorized access to the lodge. The previous day, helicopters dropped water on and around the lodge. Plans to place sprinklers near the lodge were not feasible to implement due to hazardous fire conditions.

The Gunbarrel Fire was started by lightning on July 26 and has burned 31,000 acres along the North Fork of the Shoshone River.

Wildfire news, August 4, 2008

CalFire’s air tankers

The Press-Enterprise has an interesting article about the current fleet of CalFire air tankers. Here are some excerpts:

In deciding which planes to assign to a particular fire, the variables include each plane’s payload and the round-trip time between the fire and its reloading base. 

The results can be surprising: The slow but very large 7,200-gallon World War II (Martin Mars) seaplane operating from Lake Shasta, for example, surpassed the entire fleet of faster but smaller 3,000-gallon military C-130s shuttling between fires and more distant airfields on one very busy shift.

“Eight (C-130s) dropped 75,000 gallons in one day. I think that was their record,” Hulbert said. “And the Martin Mars (seaplane) … dropped 110,000 gallons. It tells you that, if it’s in close proximity to a lake, it’s a very effective tool.”

and

This year, the Forest Service has agreed for the first time to reimburse Cal Fire for DC-10 costs incurred when the supertanker is dispatched to battle fires on federal land. 

and

California no longer can count on the availability of the U.S. Forest Service’s large tankers, whose numbers have dwindled from 33 in early 2004 to 19 this year, because of safety concerns, said Cal Fire Aviation Chief Mike Padilla. 

This year, Cal Fire has exclusive access to the big jet and a four-engine DC-7. The agency has a call-when-needed contract with a huge Canadian-based Martin Mars seaplane.

Cal Fire also can request any or all of nine other large Canadian tankers, four of which helped fight the lightning-sparked fires that burned across Northern California during June and July, Padilla said.

As always, Cal Fire has its own permanent fleet of 23 medium-size S-2T Trackers, speedy ex-Navy submarine hunters that have been modified to pounce on small fires.

The U.S. Forest Service still has not approved the proposed contract that Evergreen submitted several weeks ago for their 747 “Super Tanker”.

Preventing power lines from causing fires

The North County Times has an article about the power line that started the 198,000-acre Witch Creek fire east of San Diego last year, and how to prevent similar fires.

Billings air tanker base

The Jackson Hole Star Tribune has an article about the air tanker base at Billings, Montana.

Update on fires, August 4, 2008


The map above shows heat detected on the LeHardy, Gunbarrel, and Cascade fires by satellites last night. The yellow lines are the last perimeters uploaded by the incident management teams.

Gunbarrel fire, 40 miles west of Cody, WY

UPDATE @ 1:00 p.m. MT Aug 4
The team reports the size as 21,995 acres, and:

Despite unfavorable weather conditions, high temperatures, low humidities, and high erratic winds, fire personnel have held the fire to the north side of the highway while protecting structures within the fire perimeter. More “Red Flag” weather conditions and an incoming wind event will further challenge containment efforts….. Protection of structures in the fire area and keeping the North Fork Highway open to traffic will be the strategic objectives for the next couple of days. 

9:49 a.m. MT Aug. 4

The map indicates that the fire grew substantially yesterday, making big runs to the northeast. One newspaper reported the acreage at 22,000, an increase of about 5,000 over yesterday, which seems very possible when looking at the map. It appears that it has been a couple of days since the Team updated the perimeter in the Geomac system which generates the map.

When more information is available from the team we will update this post.

LeHardy fire, Yellowstone National Park

UPDATE 11:10 p.m. MT

The firefighter injured by the bear was Tony Allabastro of the Lewis and Clark Hotshots from Great Falls, Montana. He was treated and released from the Yellowstone clinic. A spokesperson from Yellowstone said: “It kind of roughed him up a little bit, so he has some scratching and stuff to his back. He got pounced on.”

The last acreage reported by the park staff was 4,260 on August 3, but the fire has grown substantially since then. The fire is still being run in-house by the park, with the Fire Management Officer Joe Krish serving as incident commander.

9:49 a.m. MT
Not much additional information is available since yesterday. We will try to get more information about the firefighter who was “roughed up” by the grizzly bear.

Cascade fire, Red Lodge, MT

Yesterday’s Activities: Containment on the fire increased to 44%. There was minimal fire spread east, south and west with a total acreage of 10,165. On the east side of the fire, helicopters dropped 88,000 gallons of water, and 26,000 gallons of retardant. Crews worked the north, south and east sides of the fire, mopping up on the north, working the east side with helicopters and continuing line building on the south.

Today’s Planned Activities: Crews will continue to mop and secure the line from Senia Creek Trail east and along the north side of the fire.

Telegraph fire

This fire west of Yosemite National Park in California is expected to be contained today. It has burned 34,091 acres and as of yesterday was 95% contained.

Firefighter "roughed up" by grizzly bear

One of the firefighters working on the LeHardy fire in Yellowstone National Park on Sunday received some injuries from an encounter with a grizzly bear. According to the park:

A firefighter working on the fire received minor injuries when he was briefly roughed up by a frightened grizzly bear. The bear, acting instinctually, appeared to be trying to leave the fire area and the firefighter was unknowingly in its path. He was treated and released at the Yellowstone Clinic.

In other news about the fire on Sunday:

Firefighters on the LeHardy Fire made good progress in their efforts to create a wider fire line between the southern flank of the fire and Fishing Bridge.

Visitors could see large smoke plumes as crews conducted burn out operations to clear unburned fuels and optimize fire breaks. Cooler temperatures and slightly higher humidity aided in the progress.

Structure fire specialists arrived today to set up protection equipment in Fishing Bridge. The equipment will be kept on hand as a precautionary measure at both the sewage treatment area and in the retail areas.