CA: Oregon firefighter drowns

An off duty firefighter drowned yesterday in the Trinity River in northern California.

A wildland firefighter from Oregon who was fighting the local fires drowned yesterday after visiting the Trinity River on his day off, the Humboldt County Coroner’s Office said.

The firefighter, who was in his 30s, was visiting the river near Willow Creek, said Deputy Coroner Charles Van Buskirk.

”We’re working currently to notify his family,” Van Buskirk said late last night.

According to a press release, the Humboldt County Sheriff’s deputies responded to Kimtu Beach in Willow Creak at about 4:30 p.m. and found about a dozen people searching for the victim.

Deputies were assessing the situation when they learned the victim had been pulled from the water near Patterson Road. Resuscitation efforts were unsuccessful.

The firefighter was employed by a contract wildland firefighting company. Witnesses told deputies the victim attempted to swim across the river in a T-shirt and his Nomex pants. About halfway across, the man turned around and tried to return to shore.

The current began to carry him down the river and he seemed to panic, witnesses said. Another swimmer attempted to help the man, but had to swim to shore after approaching the swift current and rocks. Witnesses saw the victim go underwater and his body was recovered approximately 20 minutes later.

The decedent’s name is being withheld pending the notification of the next of kin.

Our sincere condolences for the family of this firefighter.

California fires: a record setting year?

Acres burned in California on CalFire jurisdiction lands by year:

1936– 756,696
2008– 630,886 (to date)
2007– 434,667
2003– 404,328
2006– 222,896

The numbers are provided by CNN. They did not say if these are the top 5 years, but did state that the previous high was the 1936 figure. I assume there were several other years when more than 222,896 acres burned that are not listed here, for example, 1970, when the Laguna fire east of San Diego was 165,000 acres. Many other large fires burned in 1970 as well, leading to the development of the Incident Command System.

Update @ 1400:
A little research shows that in 1985, 235,400 acres burned on the Los Padres NF alone, due mostly to the Wheeler and Gorda-Rat fires.

Update @ 1440:
More research shows that the numbers provided by CNN are only for fires on CalFire jurisdiction. Geeze. Too bad they didn’t mention this little detail. HERE is a link with CalFire numbers by year.

CA: BTU complex, more evacuations

The BTU complex of fires east of Chico made some big runs during the night and this morning, according to a local who called Wildfire Today using the “Call Me” button on the left side of this page. He said evacuations of the northeast side of Paradise and the southeast side of Magalia are in progress. The smoke, he said, that flows down the Feather River drainage and settles in the low lying areas at night has been very intense.

Information about the evacuation of part of Paradise can be found HERE.

According to the Geographic Area Coordination Center, an evacuation of Concow is ongoing, affecting 300 homes and 800-1,000 residents. The local media is reporting that at 8 a.m. this morning extreme fire behavior caused fire crews to be pulled off the fire line, due, in part, to 30 mph northeast winds.

Below is a map that was updated this afternoon. It shows heat, in red, orange, and black, detected by satellites, with the red areas being the most recently burned. The yellow lines are the latest perimeters uploaded by the incident management teams. Click on the map to see a larger version.

Deaths, injuries, and fires caused by fireworks, July 4

New Madrid, Missouri-
A New Madrid, Missouri volunteer firefighter, Bill Poley, 40, was killed when a fireworks mortar struck him while he was assisting with lighting the mortars at their local fireworks show on July 4.

Charles City, Iowa-

Thirty-seven people were injured Friday night in a malfunction during the Charles City fireworks display .


According to a spokesman at the Floyd County Medical Center, 34 people were treated at the hospital Friday night. Another three victims who suffered injuries as a result of the fireworks incident, came into the hospital today for treatment.

Assistant Fire Chief David Boehmer said today 12 of the injured were taken to Floyd County Medical Center. Condition reports were not immediately available but Boehmer said there were no fatalities.

Boehmer said the incident was apparently caused by a misfire involving 13 racks of firework tubes.

HERE is a link to a video of the malfunction.


Cincinnati, Ohio (Union Township)-
Seven people were injured when a spark fell into a bag of fireworks and exploded. Two people taken to hospitals had second-degree burns and five others – four of them children between the ages of 2 and 9 – were treated at the scene for minor burns.

Ticonderoga, New York-

Three people were injured Friday night about 10:40 p.m. during Ticonderoga’s fireworks display when a rocket prematurely exploded after its fuse was lit, sending fragments of the device in a 200 foot radius. Some fragments struck several employees of Pyro Engineering Inc. of Nassau County which was conducting the fireworks in addition to two people attending the display.


Pyro employee John M. Michalak, 42, who lit the fuse of the explosive device, was transported to Moses Ludington Hospital for lacerations and bruises on his right leg, the Essex County Sheriff’s Office said. He was later transported to Fletcher Allen Hospital in Burlington, Vt.

(From North Country Gazette)

Port Huron, Michigan-
A 51-year old man was critically injured when he was struck in the face by a fireworks mortar. He was listed in critical condition at a hospital in Ann Arbor.


Riverside, Ohio-
A man lost part of his leg when fireworks went off inside his SUV, blowing the windows out.

Bayville, NY-
A 6-year-old girl in Bayville, N.Y., suffered second-degree burns when fireworks landed in her lap. Investigators said it was not immediately clear who launched the fireworks but said the child was not at a public pyrotechnics display.

Toledo, Ohio-
Fireworks landing on the roofs set fire to and destroyed eight apartment buildings and damaged three others, home to 200 people.

The Solution-
I don’t know what the answer is to the injuries and fires caused by fireworks. The worst incident, injuring 37 people, was put on by a professional fireworks company, J&M Displays of Yarmouth, Iowa. Many of the other incidents were the results of individuals exercising their right of stupidity, which is difficult to legislate against. The Police Chief of Toledo where the eight apartment buildings were destroyed is calling for a fireworks ban.

CA: Piute fire July 8

The Piute fire south of Lake Isabella made some major runs late yesterday on the northwest and north sides, pushed by strong southeast winds. On the northwest side it ran for about two miles on the west side of King Solomon Ridge to King Solomon peak, and ate up significant acreage on the north side, while blowing across firelines on the west side in the Red Mountain area.

From Kern County FD:

Crews are actively engaged in structure protection around Havilah and an assessment is being made of structures lost. Along the north, contingency lines under construction will be evaluated in the morning to assess fire movement and potential alternative line locations. Crews completed indirect dozer and hand line in the Kelso Valley area to prevent the fire from moving onto private land.

The fire was reported to be, as of late yesterday, 26,285 acres and 22% contained.

Photo: Piute fire, by Michael Meadows

Update, July 8 @ 1700 MT:

From the Kern County FD site:

• Firefighters are constructing dozer line to protect the communities at risk. Dozer line will be constructed around the communities of Havilah, Bodfish, Squirrel Mountain Valley, South Lake, Bella Vista and tying back into the Kelso Valley.
• Fire made significant runs to the Northwest, pushed by strong SE winds. The fire moved 3-4 miles in the northeast corner and is now at the south rim of Bob Rabbit. On the western perimeter the fire moved 2-3 miles toward Walker Basin and is currently on Solomon Ridge. On the SW corner, the fire has not moved much and remains on the SW side of Erskine Creek. Fire increased 4462 acres.
• Fire officials are assessing damage to property in the Red Mountain area.
• Forty-five additional engines have arrived to provide structure protection and suppression support; an additional thirty engines are on order.
• A recommended evacuation notice was issued for the residents living on both sides of the Caliente/Bodfish Road.

The map was produced by Kern County FD at noon PT today.