Bighorn fire; Mt. Baldy, So. Calif.

UPDATE, 5/13/2008 @ 5:38 MT
The winds have died down to about 5-15 mph and the size is reported to be 300 acres. The weather forecast for the valley south of the fire calls for decreasing winds this evening and tonight at 2-8 mph, with the RH going up into the 50’s tonight. Tomorrow afternoon they expect west winds of 14 with gusts up to 22.

Here is an updated map, showing heat (in red) detected by satellites.

The Bighorn fire near Mount Baldy in southern California started early this morning. It is being pushed by 15-20 mph winds gusting up to 60 mph which at times made it impossible for aircraft to be used. The last report on the size was 200 acres. It is being managed by LA County and the US Forest Service and is burning in the Bear Creek drainage which has not burned since 1975. Mt. Baldy Village is not threatened at this time.

Smoke from the fire can be seen from the UCLA Dept. of Physics & Astronomy live web cam. The cam does not refresh automatically.

Heat from the fire is showing up on satellite imagery as you can see by the red areas on the map below.

Florida fires

Winds from a stalled cold front yesterday pushed some fires in Florida into populated areas.

The Osage fire in Brevard County, near Valkaria, Florida has burned 3,000 acres and at least 5 homes. A witness saw someone drop something out of a car, and the fire started shortly afterward. The map below shows heat detected by satellites last night. Click on the maps to see larger versions.

The LPGA fire west of Daytona Beach is 797 acres and caused the evacuation of 500 homes yesterday and the closure of a stretch of LPGA Boulevard. The satellite map below shows a relatively small amount of heat detected last night.

Photo courtesy of the AP.

Firefighters take train to a fire

In the Portland/Hillsboro area of Oregon on Saturday a train conductor who also happened to be a volunteer firefighter spotted a fire near the train tracks at Cornelius Pass. Knowing that access into the remote area would be difficult, the train backed up 1.5 miles, picked up 3 firefighters and gave them a ride to the fire.

Later a railroad company vehicle equipped to drive on the tracks carried an additional 11 firefighters to the fire, which was successfully extinguished.

"Wildland Firefighter" demobilizes

Wildland Firefighter magazine just announced in it’s May issue that it is ceasing publication. It will no longer exist as a stand-alone publication dedicated to wildland fire. In a publisher’s note, Jeff Berend, the Vice President and Publisher said:

Beginning in June, we will be merging Wildland Firefighter into a new Wildland/Urban Interface (WUI) section in FireRescue magazine…..
But from a business perspective, we simply have not been able to grow the readership or advertising beyond that loyal core. At the same time, publishing costs have risen at unprecedented levels.

Wildland Firefighter and FireRescue are both published by Elsevier Public Safety.

This leaves Wildfire magazine, an “official publication of the International Association of Wildland Fire” as the only remaining magazine-type publication dedicated solely to wildland fire. The IAWF also publishes, through CSIRO Publishing, the International Journal of Wildland Fire, a professional journal containing peer-reviewed papers on the subject of wildland fire.

In the interest of full-disclosure, for the last 3 years I have been the Executive Director of the IAWF. Since January I have been helping the Board of Directors find a replacement so I can concentrate on other pursuits.

Private firefighting companies in southern California

There are at least two private companies in southern California that offer protection from wildland fires. From a story in the North County Times:

FALLBROOK —- The emerging business of private firefighting just got another competitor in North County.

Based in Fallbrook, Fire-Pro USA opened for business in April, said founder Don Green. That’s just a few months after the debut of another private firefighter, Pacific Fire Guard.

Fire-Pro differs from traditional firefighting by putting more stress on prevention and preparation, Green said. Public fire agencies use what he calls “the Ben Franklin model,” of waiting until a fire occurs and then dousing it with water.

Green, a veteran of firefighting, founded the company with partner David Wilterding last fall. Its services start at $519 per property per year. Fire-Pro will examine a customer’s fire risk, treat the property with a fire retardant and, in the event of an approaching fire, apply a heat-absorbing gel, Green said.

“That buys us time,” Green said of the fire retardant, which is clear and can be applied to surrounding brush as well as to the home. “We can spray this long-term fire retardant, and it literally makes their brush and wildland area a fire barrier.”

The fire retardant is not toxic to animals who eat the treated vegetation, Green said.

Pacific Fire Guard’s services cost $1,800 per year, according to a Feb. 9 story in the North County Times. The company also uses a heat-absorbing gel substance on property, and its firefighters will stay on the property until the fire threat has passed.

Nick Schuler, a Cal Fire spokesman, said homeowners who use such private firefighting companies still need to create a “defensible space” by clearing brush around their property for 100 feet.

“Cal Fire supports any homeowner who’s doing things to help reduce their fire risk,” Schuler said. “This does not replace defensive space, it does not replace good clearance and it doesn’t replace the need for having a protection plan for you and your family.”

Green said skepticism is understandable because Fire-Pro is so new. The company will have to prove its mettle by actually saving homes, he said.

The company may soon get that chance.

On Friday, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger issued an executive order ordering the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, or Cal Fire, to “immediately mobilize” its resources.

“This year’s fire season has already begun,” Schwarzenegger said in a Friday press release announcing the executive order.

Dry weather throughout the state in the last two months has heightened the risk of fire, Schwarzenegger said in the press release. In Southern California, dead and dying trees infested with bark beetles add to the fire risk, he said.

Trees stressed or injured by a lack of water are known to be susceptible to bark beetle infestation.

HERE is a link to a video of one of the companies applying a long term fire retardant to some property.