Large fires in southeast NM

The Las Cruces Sun-News has the story about some large fires in southeast NM.

Grass fire burns homes, forces evacuations in southeastern NM
The Associated Press
Article Launched: 03/15/2008 12:36:04 AM MDT

HOBBS, N.M.—Firefighters are bracing for another day of fierce wind as they battle a grass fire that has raced across thousands of acres in southeastern New Mexico, taking with it four homes and forcing residents to evacuate.

The blaze began Friday as two separate fires. The first fire was reported around 3 p.m., a second fire was spotted about an hour later and the flames soon merged. By nightfall, it was 2 miles wide and 20 miles long and had burned across the state line into Texas, said Dan Ware, a spokesman with the State Forestry Division.

“The grass and the brush is still extremely thick and so it keeps adding fuel to this fire,” Ware said.

Firefighters were concerned about the rural community of Knowles, just west of the New Mexico-Texas line. They told residents scattered throughout the area to leave and they issued a voluntary evacuation for residents living north of Hobbs between N.M. 18 and N.M. 132. Ware could not say how many homes were in the area.

An evacuation center was set up at Hobbs High School.

More than 100 firefighters were battling the 25,600-acre fire, but gusting winds made the effort difficult, Ware said.

Winds ranging from 30 to 45 mph fed the flames Friday afternoon. The National Weather Service had issued a wind warning for the area but that expired late Friday and the wind speed dropped to under 30 mph overnight.

Fires in South Australia

Aussie Bush FireOur brothers down under have their hands full with several large bush fires. The record heat is not giving the firefighters much of a break.

Here are some links:

CFS monitors bushfires near Adelaide

South Australia Imposes Fire Ban as Record Heatwave Hits State

Australia Bushfire Monitor

Photo, courtesy of ABC.net.au: A house burns during a bushfire near Willunga Hill, south of Adelaide, on March 13, 2008. (ABC TV)

CalFire sued for letting fire escape

The Sierra Sun has a rambling article about the California Dept. of Forestry, now called CalFire, being sued, according to the suit, for partially demobing a fire before it was 100% contained. Apparently the strategy and tactics that were used on the fire are being questioned in a court of law 4 years after the fact.

If this sets a precedent, holy shit, what’s next? Firefighters have enough liability to worry about just fighting fire every day, or heaven forbid, when someone gets injured or killed on a fire.

Is your professional liability insurance paid up?

Here is an excerpt:

“What if the fire department runs out of water while fighting a structure fire or has a flat tire and doesn’t make it to your house? Or what if the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection), now called Calfire, has a brush fire 90 percent contained at 1,200 acres, and begins demobilizing, then the fire burns out of control consuming 64,000 acres? That’s what happened in the Piru Fire in Ventura County.

Piru Fire
On Oct. 23, 2003, a spark from construction equipment operated by the United Water Conservation District started a brush fire near Lake Piru. Within two days, after 1,200 acres had burned, Calfire had the blaze 90 percent contained. They began to demobilize. Ten days later the fire burned itself out after consuming some 64,000 acres of forest land.

Fire liability
Public entities are entitled to be reimbursed for the cost of fighting fires that are negligently set or allowed to escape onto public or private property. Under the Health and Safety Code, fire agencies may recover their reasonable expenses incurred in fighting a fire.

Two years after the Piru fire, Calfire sued United Water Conservation District seeking reimbursement of its fire fighting costs in the amount of $3,871,695.

Calfire at Fault?
Did United Water Conservation District write a check for $3,871,695? Of course not or we wouldn’t be reading this new case. The water district defended the lawsuit claiming Calfire was “comparatively at fault” and “failed to mitigate damages” (legal mumbo jumbo but you get the idea) by failing to properly extinguish the original, smaller fire, thus allowing the larger blaze.

In other words, Calfire’s firefighting costs should be reduced to what it had incurred when the fire was 90 percent contained at 1,200 acres when it “failed to douse the flames completely and instead began to demobilize its fire fighting resources,” as alleged by United Water.

Court ruling
The Court of Appeal agreed with United Water Conservation District that it could question particular Calfire expenses as to whether they were excessive or unrelated to the Piru fire, but it could not question whether Calfire improperly pulled off the fire as decisions regarding sufficient personnel, equipment and fire fighting methods and tactics are all subject to the fire agency immunity statutes. No liability.”

New term for prescribed fire?

F-16 flare
F-16 flares

The Philadelphia Inquirer is using terms that are new to me, calling a planned New Jersey prescribed fire a “preventive burn”, and later a “partial burn”. This burn project is in the area where an Air Force F-16 dropped some flares last May and started what became a 17,000 acre fire.

N.J. plans a preventive burn today in Pinelands.

The New Jersey Forest Fire Service is scheduled to conduct a partial burn today in the Stafford Forge area near Warren Grove in southern Ocean County.

The burn is to begin about 10 a.m. east of Route 539 near the Warren Grove Gunnery Range, and wind and other conditions will determine its duration, said Jim Petrini, a spokesman for the service.

The service plans to burn as much as 2,200 acres of the Pinelands in the next few weeks in an effort to eliminate dry underbrush and tree debris that accumulate and act as tinder and fuel when a fire ignites.

The prescribed burn is a response to a May 15 wildfire that scorched 17,000 acres near the gunnery range, forced hundreds of residents to evacuate, and destroyed or damaged dozens of homes.

Fire Captain dies from bacteria possibly inhaled on wildland fire

Matt Moore
Matt Moore. Photo courtesy of the Murrieta Firefighters Association

This is scary as hell. From The Californian:

“MURRIETA — Murrieta Fire Capt. Matt Moore died Monday night at UCSD Medical Center in San Diego, succumbing to complications from meningitis, fire department officials said.

Moore, 43, a 17-year veteran of the department, had been hospitalized in a coma for the last two weeks.

He had been in various hospitals since November battling an aggressive form of meningitis. It is believed Moore inhaled a parasite while fighting the region’s wildfires late last year. The parasite reportedly caused swelling in his brain.

He is survived by wife, Sherry; daughter, Alyssa, 16; sons Trent and Brandon, both 13; brother, Mark Moore, who also is a captain in the city’s fire department; sister, Jill; and parents Carol and Phil Moore.

The fire department will hold a procession today to bring Moore’s body to England Family Mortuary in Temecula from the medical center in San Diego’s Hillcrest community.”

Here are more details about the case, published on Feb. 29, before his death.
The Murrieta Firefighters Association has more information about Captain Moore.