Historic wooden bridge burns in wildland fire near Moab, UT

From the Aspen Times Weekly:

Ace Stryker
The Associated Press
Aspen, CO Colorado
April 7, 2008


MOAB, Utah — A 92-year-old wooden suspension bridge across the Colorado River near Moab was destroyed by a fire that began with a boy playing with matches.

“It’s too bad. It was really kind of a historical marker for this area,” Grand County Sheriff Jim Nyland said. “People are pretty upset because the bridge was still in pretty good shape.”

Dewey Bridge, about 30 miles northeast of Moab, was in the path of a fire that crawled up the riverbank Sunday from a campground about a quarter-mile away, Nyland said.

A 7-year-old boy camping with his parents had gone down to the river and started a brush fire with matches, the sheriff said.

A strong breeze spread the flames over 10 acres, igniting the old bridge, searing the underside of a concrete bridge and blackening more than a half-mile of riverbed. Campers were evacuated but no one was injured.

“It threatened one home at one point, but (firefighters) were able to keep it from that,” said Lynn Jackson, associate field director at the U.S. Bureau of Land Management’s office in Moab.

Built in 1916, Dewey Bridge had not been used for cars for years. But it was a well-known foot bridge and part of the 140-mile Kokopelli Trail bike route from Moab to Loma, Colo.

It recently got a new paint job by the same community members who helped get the bridge on the National Register of Historic Places, Nyland said.

All that remained Monday were charred scraps of wood and steel cables dragging in the current. A boat traveling down the Colorado had to be turned away because the debris made the river impassable.

“It created quite a public-safety hazard,” Jackson said.

County and federal authorities were investigating the fire for possible charges. The family is from Grand Junction, Colo. No names were released.

Loss of the bridge caused a stir in the area, about 250 miles southeast of Salt Lake City.

“There aren’t many bridges out in this part of the country like that,” Jackson said.

Retention in the US Forest Service in California

The San Bernardino Sun has an article about retention of US Forest Service employees, especially firefighters, in California. The headline of the article is “Burning Questions”. Every time someone writes that as the title of an article or book, they think they are the first one to think of it.

Here is an excerpt from the article:

“Burning Questions

U.S. firefighter report raises concerns

Jason Pesick, Staff Writer

Federal lawmakers from California think Washington doesn’t know how to put out fires.

“With a fire, for God’s sake, you’ve got to be able to respond and respond effectively and have that response led by people who understand the forest,” said Rep. Jerry Lewis, R-Redlands.

Last week, the U.S. Forest Service, which manages the national forests and fights wildland fires, responded to federal legislation requesting a report on federal firefighter pay and personnel policies with proposals to increase recruitment and retention in the Southern California national forests.

The report, released two months late at a U.S. Senate subcommittee hearing, had little in common with a draft produced by agency officials in California.

“The upshot of the new report is that – `Problem? What problem?’ It seems to be disconnected from the situation on the ground,” said Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Pasadena, who served a stint as a seasonal firefighter with the Forest Service in the ’80s.

According to the final report, the idea that there is a recruitment and retention problem in Southern California is “hard to substantiate based on data.”

The eight-page report – trimmed down from a 22-page draft originally crafted by California-based Forest Service officials – also said recruitment is more than making up for attrition and was scant on specific recommendations.

In their draft, officials painted a very different picture, recommending that firefighter pay, facilities, leadership, training and communications be improved and that perks such as providing day care and more government houses be considered. They also recommended examining job titles for the firefighters, who are classified as forestry technicians.

“This is a critical issue. The lives and property of many Californians are at stake,” Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., who requested the report, said in a statement, “and we must have a competent, professional and adequate firefighting force.”

She said she’d send the draft to a senior-level Agriculture Department official to get further feedback.

According to the report, the Forest Service in Southern California lost 9.4 percent of its firefighters in 2007. The rate was 46.6 percent for a certain class of junior firefighters.

“When you’re losing half your people in the first year, I think you’re delusional not to realize you’ve got a problem,” Schiff said.

The attrition rates for the San Bernardino and Angeles national forests were the worst in Southern California, according to the report, with 61 percent of those departing last year going to state and local fire departments, which pay higher salaries.”

Wildland Fire Conferences

There are a couple of interesting conferences on the horizon for wildland firefighters:

Aerial Firefighting Conference, October 21-22, 2008, Athens, Greece
As far as I know this is the first major conference in many years that is specifically dedicated to aerial firefighting. Quite a few vendors and users of wildland fire aircraft from several continents are already committed to participating.

“The ’88 Fires: Yellowstone and Beyond”, September 22-27, 2008, will commemorate the fires 20 years ago in the greater Yellowstone and northern Rockies area. The deadline for submission of abstracts and special sessions is April 15.

Another B-1 bomber fire

On March 25 we reported on a B-1 bomber that caught fire while in flight near Ellsworth Air Force Base near Rapid City and apparently started several vegetation fires from falling debris before landing safely at Ellsworth. And about 2 weeks before that a B-1 made an emergency landing at Guam. After the crew exited the aircraft in Guam, it rolled into some emergency vehicles, causing major damage to the aircraft and the ground vehicles.

Now there is a report of a B-1 that caught fire today after landing at an Air Force base in Qatar. The reports say a fire erupted as the plane taxied after landing at al Udeid Air Base around 1:10 p.m. EDT (1710 GMT) after what the Air Force described as “a ground incident.”

Another “ground incident”? On March 25 we wrote:

You have to wonder if maintenance issues or the heavy use of our military assets on conflicts and wars has anything to do with these two incidents. Our B-1’s have been used fairly heavily since 1998 in Kosovo, Iraq, Afganistan, and again in Iraq. Much of our military equipment has been damaged, destroyed, or just worn out while serving as the World Police. If we ever need the military to actually defend our country, I hope it’s ready.

If this had happened in the fire service, there would be a safety stand-down to figure out what the hell is going on.

Maps….. Maps showing fire danger

I like maps. Studying a map can be almost like traveling, but without the canceled flights, lost luggage, or travelers diarrhea.

Maps that show wildland fire danger, fire potential, or fire weather are especially interesting. Here, for example, is one that shows the fire weather outlook for the Southwest Area (AZ, NM, and western TX). Click on it to see a larger version.

The map above is theoretically the map for today, but it has not been updated since November. I assume that very soon the Southwest Area Coordination Center will begin to update it daily.

(Update: April 13, 2008; the coordination center modified the above file. It should automatically display the most current version of the map. They say that in May they will have recurring updates.)

HERE is a link to a daily map that shows the fire danger for the whole country.

And HERE is a link to a page of links of various fire potential outlooks, with many of them being maps.

Below, is a map showing the wildland fire potential for the month of April. Click on it to see a larger version. This map, as well as other maps and forecasted data for the next 3 months, can be found in their report which is updated at the beginning of every month, HERE.