The ice storms that swept through parts of Missouri and Oklahoma this winter damaged trees to the point where now the fallen trees and broken branches have, in some places, increased the fuel load from 3 tons per acre to over 30 tons per acre.
From the Joplin Globe:
……. “That’s because repeated ice storms have put more fuel on the ground in timbered areas than at any time in recent memory, officials say. The ground is crisscrossed with limbs and downed trees that not only provide fuel, but limit access and mobility for firefighters.
Andy Nimmo, chief of the Redings Mill Fire Protection District, experienced what the future could hold on March 2, when a small fire broke out on Reinmiller Road, southeast of Joplin. It became a large wildfire in a matter of seconds.
“We got our first glimpse of the danger then,” Nimmo said. “Fifty mile per hour winds in a heavily timbered area with lots of fuel on the ground made it 10 times more difficult to fight. We had to drop back and punt. We had to go to the nearest road we had access to to stop it.”
Duane Parker, a fire-protection consultant with Southwest Missouri Resource Conservation and Development, said a wooded area normally has 3 tons of fuel from leaves and fallen limbs per acre.
The average now is 30 to 34 tons per acre because of ice storms in 2007, and that does not include “hangers,” those limbs that are broken but still hanging in trees, he said.
Parker predicted the threat of serious fires this spring will be high in Southwest Missouri.”
The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, which now prefers being called CAL FIRE, may have to close 20 fire stations due to a $50 million budget cut for the agency being ordered by the Governator. To help solve the state’s budget woes, Governor Schwarzenegger is also pushing a 1.25% surcharge on all residential and commercial insurance premiums.
More information from the Auburn Journal:
Proposed state budget cuts could close 20 Cal Fire stations statewide including Auburn’s Bowman station.
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has asked Cal Fire to cut more than $52 million from its budget, which amounts to about 10 percent of its general fund.
“To do that we are going to have to close a number of our facilities and reduce a number of our positions,” said Daniel Berlant, department information officer for Cal Fire.
He said the positions cut would not be in fire protection but in resource management and at the State Fire Marshal’s office.
He said Auburn’s Cal Fire station is on a list of stations targets for proposed closure.
“There are other stations (in the Auburn area) that can respond in a timely manner if there were to be a wildfire,” Berlant said.
He said if the Auburn station were to close employees would be redistributed to other locations.
“No current employees would lose their jobs,” Berlant said.
The governor has also proposed a wildland firefighting initiative within the budget that would recommend a surcharge to property owners statewide, which would pay for all facilities to remain open, Berlant said.
A 1.25 percent surcharge on residential and commercial insurance, like homeowners insurance, could bring in as much as $120 million to the state fire agency.
“It would increase our funding and we could increase our staffing to respond to wildland fires before they become infernos like the San Diego fires of last October,” Berlant said.
Damn, here’s another one. From a story at eitb in Spain:
“The firefighters, four soldiers and three forestry workers, were part of a 200-strong team been battling to contain the fire on a mountainside close to Tegucigalpa since Friday.
Seven firefighters died in Honduras on Sunday overwhelmed by a raging forest blaze on the outskirts of the capital, the military said.
They were working to put out the fire and suddenly there was a change of wind direction and they were engulfed by flames, Gen. Orlando Vasquez told local radio. Honduras is at the start of its summer and forest fires at common at this time.”
I wish there was some better wildland fire news to report, than all these firefighters dieing. We will all morn for our fallen brothers.
Oddly enough, on Saturday I will arrive in Honduras to spend a week on Roatan island. I’ll try to get my mind off of all this with some scuba diving, snorkeling on coral reefs, hanging out on the beach, and listening to Jimmy Buffet while sipping a beverage. I might even have a drink with an umbrella in it.
This initially was reported on March 3 by Reuters:
BEIJING, March 3 (Reuters) – Six villagers died in central China’s Hunan province as they tried to battle a forest fire in an area ravaged by severe winter storms, state media said on Monday.
The fire broke out on Saturday, trapping more than 200 people in the village of Xitai, Xinhua news agency reported. “The main cause can be attributed to illegal fires set in the forests,” Xinhua quoted Hu Changqing, vice head of the Hunan Forestry Department, as saying.
Forest fires had killed 22 people in the mountainous southern province this year and more than 1,500 forest fires had raged in 89 counties since Feb. 6, Xinhua said.
China’s most bitter winter in decades had left Hunan’s forests vulnerable to fires, Xinhua said, as heavy snowfalls collapsed power lines and tree branches. “The broken tree branches and the heating and lighting facilities left by the snow disaster relief teams in the forest have become very dangerous now and should be cleared as soon as possible,” the agency quoted Xu Minghua, Hunan’s vice governor, as saying.
Story in the Associated Press:
SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. (AP) — A firefighter fired for fainting is suing the city of Saratoga Springs. Nathaniel King lost his job with the city fire department in December when he failed to complete newly required paramedic training, according to a lawsuit filed against the city in state Supreme Court in Saratoga County. Now he’s suing to get his job back and for back pay.
The problem is, needles are his nemesis. During paramedic training, King fainted dead away every time he had to give an injection or start an intravenous line.
In the lawsuit, King says he successfully completed emergency medical technician training before being hired, but the department later increased job requirements to include paramedic training. That meant he had to use needles.
Assistant Fire Chief John Betor said he couldn’t discuss the specifics of King’s case, but he was aware of the lawsuit.
In his court filing, King says Betor tried to help him with his needle aversion. He says he even tried hypnotism on Betor’s advice, but it didn’t help.
Public Safety Commissioner Ronald Kim said he can’t discuss pending litigation.
Mark Rey, the ex-timber industry lobbyist who is now the Undersecretary of Agriculture overseeing the US Forest Service, has invited states to give input on where roads should be built in national forests. Now he is saying that if the states do not want roads, the states should have to pay the increased costs for fire suppression.
The state of California recently filed a lawsuit against the Forest Service for adopting a policy that would allow increased road building in the four southern California national forests and drilling for oil in areas of the Los Padres National Forest.
More information can be found at the Modesto Bee.