Wildfire briefing, October 15, 2014

Half of the Holy Grail of Firefighter Safety demonstrated at the Happy Camp Fire

The Holy Grail of Firefighter Safety is to have key members of the Operations and Planning Sections knowing two things about a fire in real time:

  1. The location of the fire, and
  2. The location of firefighters.

Half of that was provided on the Happy Camp Fire, when true video and infrared video were streamed in real time down to the Incident Command Post from an Air Attack aircraft over the incident. At times the Planning Section Chief controlled the camera, looking at sections of the fire that were key to his situation awareness, mapping responsibilities, decision making and planning.

Below is an excerpt from an article at Fire Aviation.

A suite of video sensors normally used on an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) was installed on an Air Attack aircraft working on the 134,056-acre Happy Camp Fire in northern California. The instruments provide normal and infrared video, making it possible for the Air Tactical Group Supervisor and personnel at the Incident Command Post to see in real time through smoke to determine where the priorities should be and where aircraft should be assigned to drop water or retardant.

Read the rest here.

Cleanup after the Boles fire has started

The government has started a massive cleanup in the northern California town of Weed, following the Boles Fire that destroyed 157 residences and 8 commercial structures last month.

Victoria, Australia rolls out new fire trucks

The rollout of Victoria’s new ground-based $82.1 million forest firefighting fleet has begun for the upcoming fire season.

Minister for Environment and Climate Change Ryan Smith said the 306 new firefighting vehicles to be rolled out over a six-year period were specifically designed to provide greater protection to fire crews and would deliver increased water carrying capacity of 630 litres (166 gallons), up from 400 litres (105 gallons) previously.

The new vehicles, based on the Mercedes Benz G Wagon, are fitted with equipment designed for Department of Environment and Primary Industries’ (DEPI) firefighting and planned burning needs, including cabin fire curtains for improved crew safety; and, the highest level of falling object protection for a vehicle of this size.

Attorney argue over evidence in Rim Fire arson case

The attorney representing the person charged with starting the 257,000-acre Rim Fire in the Stanislaus National Forest and Yosemite National Park is arguing that prosecutors aren’t providing all of the evidence they have collected against her client. The fire became the third largest in California recorded history, destroyed 11 homes, and cost $125 million to suppress. In August a Federal Grand Jury indicted 32-year-old Keith Matthew Emerald for starting the fire, charging him with two felonies, “Timber set afire” and “False statement to a government agency”, plus two misdemeanors, “Fire left unattended and unextinguished” and “Violating a fire restriction order”.

Read the story of how Mr. Emerald became a suspect.

Busy wildfire season in Canada’s national parks

From GuelphMercury.com:

The number of wildfires in Canada’s national parks was close to average last summer, but the size of some of those fires made it an unusually hot season.

“We’ve had a more active than normal wildfire season,” said Jeff Weir, Parks Canada’s national fire manager. “A small number of those fires have been quite challenging.”

The agency reported 85 wildfires in the spring and summer of this year. That’s slightly higher than the average of 82.

The amount of forest burned was almost 3,000 square kilometres — an area about half the size of Prince Edward Island.

“That’s higher than normal,” Weir said.

There were several large fires in Wood Buffalo National Park, which straddles the boundary between northern Alberta and the Northwest Territories. Together with a large fire in Banff National Park, the fires accounted for 1,300 square kilometres of forest burned.


Data breach may have exposed personal information of 15,000 applicants for firefighter jobs

The British Columbia Ministry of Forests has announced that a hacker accessed their computer system and may have obtained personal data about 15,000 individuals who applied for wildland firefighting jobs. The agency is in the process of notifying those who may be affected.

The databases were accessed by an unauthorized user on Sept. 24, 2014. As soon as the breach was discovered, public website access to the databases was shut down. The Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations is conducting a thorough review of the incident in co-operation with the Office of the Chief Information Officer.

This incident may have resulted in some personal information being unlawfully accessed, including the name, gender, general contact information, date of birth, driver’s license number and job evaluation information of past wildfire crew firefighter job applicants. In some cases, information that applicants entered about their status as an Aboriginal, minority or disabled person may also have been viewed.

The government is notifying the individuals who are affected by this incident and could be at risk of harm as a result. People who require notification will be contacted by mail or other means.

In addition, the government is making credit protection services available at no cost to all of the individuals concerned. Persons who may be affected and who are being notified should call 1 844 456-2284 (toll-free from anywhere in Canada) for information about how to sign up for credit protection services.

Some of the database records are up to 10 years old and contacting all of the individuals in a timely manner may be difficult, so the Wildfire Management Branch is also reaching out to past job applicants through the media and its own social media channels.


Fire shelter deployment on prescribed fire in northern California

From a Redwood National & State Parks press release:


“On Monday, October 13, 2014, National Park Service (NPS) and US Forest Service (USFS) firefighters conducted a prescribed burn in the Upper Lyons Ranch burn unit in the Bald Hills area of Redwood National and State Parks (RNSP) [in northwest California]. At approximately 2:20 pm, firefighters were burning off of a handline when the winds slightly switched direction across the line causing several spot fires outside of the unit. Due to the intense smoke, a USFS firefighter was separated from his squad and disoriented. As a result, he deployed his fire shelter on the handline. He was quickly located and escorted a short distance out of the smoke and assessed by an on-site paramedic. As a precautionary measure, the firefighter was airlifted to Shasta Regional Medical Center in Redding, California for follow-up evaluation and was released a short time later with minor injuries to one of his hands.

A Facilitated Learning Analysis Team comprised of NPS and USFS fire management officers will be in the park later this week to conduct a formal review of this incident.

The Upper Lyons burn unit consists of 208 acres of grassland and open oak woodland. The burn was initiated around noon on Monday and concluded successfully at 5:45 pm. RNSP regularly conducts prescribed burns in the prairies and oak woodlands of the Bald Hills. The park’s 2010 Fire Management Plan provides for the use of fire to restore natural and cultural processes, manage exotic plants and conifers encroaching into prairie and oak woodland plant communities, and to interpret and educate the public about the role of fire in the parks. The parks have successfully used prescribed fires to achieve these objectives since the early 1980’s.”


Thanks and a tip of the hat go out to Barbara.


Red Flag Warnings, October 15, 2014

wildfire red flag warning

Red Flag Warnings have been issued for areas in Montana, Colorado, South Dakota, Wyoming, and Nebraska.

The Red Flag Warning in Wyoming, South Dakota, and Nebraska, is for southwest winds at 15 to 30 mph gusting to 40, with relative humidities between 10 and 15 percent. The temperature will be in the mid 70s to mid 80s. After 11 p.m. on Wednesday the winds will shift to being out of the west and then the northwest with gusts at 30 to 35 mph until Thursday afternoon, but with higher humidities.

The warning in Montana is for southwest winds of 15 to 25 mph with gusts to 35 ahead of a cold front. After the front passes in the late afternoon, the winds should turn west to northwest with gusts over 50 mph. The humidity will be 12 to 18 percent.

The map was current as of 7:30 a.m. MDT on Wednesday. Red Flag Warnings can change throughout the day as the National Weather Service offices around the country update and revise their forecasts. For the most current data visit this NWS site.


Wildlife in the park at sunset

antelope in Wind Cave NP

A pronghorn antelope in Wind Cave NP just before sunset. Photo by Bill Gabbert.

During a quick two-hour trip into Wind Cave National Park that started just before sunset yesterday I ran across these critters.

elk Custer State Park

This elk was seen after sunset just outside Wind Cave NP, in Custer State Park. Photo by Bill Gabbert

bison Wind Cave National Park

You can call me the Bison Whisperer for getting this bison to pose by an interpretive sign in Wind Cave NP. I would have preferred for him to pose next to the Welcome to Wind Cave NP sign, but I settled for the interpretive sign. Photo by Bill Gabbert.