NASA releases video about Suomi NPP fire-detecting satellite

NASA released a video this week that explains some of the features of the Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership (Suomi NPP) satellite that was launched October 28, 2011. The Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) on the satellite is a 22-band radiometer designed to collect infrared and visible light data to observe wildfires, movement of ice, and changes in landforms. It has a resolution of 375 meters, much better than the MODIS satellite data with 1,000-meter resolution. The MODIS was launched in 1999.

The combination of the VIIRS data (that is updated twice a day), weather forecasts, and fire behavior modeling software developed by Janice Coen and Wilfrid Schroeder, can result in more useful fire spread forecasts for fire managers.

Wildfire potential through March, 2016

On December 1 the Predictive Services section at the National Interagency Fire Center issued their Wildland Fire Potential Outlook for December, 2015 through March, 2016. The data represents the cumulative forecasts of the ten Geographic Area Predictive Services Units and the National Predictive Services Unit.

If their forecasts are accurate, it looks like a continuation of pretty benign conditions across the United States this winter.

Here are the highlights from their outlook.

December wildfire 2015 Outlook

  • Significant fire potential is normal across the majority of the U.S.
  • Below normal significant wildland fire potential will persist across most of the Southeastern U.S. and Puerto Rico.

January 2016 wildfire Outlook

  • Significant fire potential is normal across the majority of the U.S.
  • Below normal significant wildland fire potential will persist across most of the southeastern U.S. and Puerto Rico.

February-March 2016 wildfire Outlook

  • An area of above normal significant fire potential will develop across the central interior portion of the eastern U.S. Above normal potential will also affect the Hawaiian Islands.
  • Below normal significant wildland fire potential will persist across most of the Southeastern U.S. and Puerto Rico.
  • Significant fire potential is normal across the majority of the U.S.

And as a bonus — the Drought Monitor:

Drought Monitor December 1, 2015

Drought Monitor Change

Bonus #2, Percent of Normal Precipitation:

Precip percent of normal California

1942 typewritten account of the 1910 Big Burn Fires uncovered

Britt Rosso of the Wildland Fire Lessons Learned Center discovered a 23-page typewritten account of some of the stories from the 1910 Big Burn fires that blackened huge areas of Idaho and Montana — the fires that changed the course of fire management in the United States.

Mr. Rosso describes his find:

As I was digging through some boxes at work, I came across a hard copy of this report on the 1910 fires. It was written in 1942 by Elers Koch, who was the Forest Supervisor on the Lolo NF in 1910. He created this 1910 fire summary so history would not be forgotten. It’s now posted on our LLC web site.

There are some amazing stories in here, and there are also reports from seven different fire crews on how they dealt with the “Great Fire”. There is a crew story in here about “burning off a large area…thinking that they would have absolute protection”. Maybe Wag Dodge wasn’t the first FF to ever use an escape fire.

Take your time and read it slowly.

Since documents at the Lessons Learned Center are known to be moved around and become difficult to find, we stashed a copy here for our readers.

One of the stories features the 30-person Moose Creek Crew led by Deputy Supervisor Ed Thenon, who wrote the account. (It is not clear what Forest Mr. Thenon was from.) They were working on a fire in Idaho in the upper Selway River area near Moose Creek. The sleeping crew, which was in an unburned area not near the fire edge, was aroused at 10 p.m. by debris falling in their area. Soon what one of the men thought was a “falling star” landed nearby and started a spot fire. When they could see the fire approaching they moved their camp and their food, or “grub”, to a small six-foot wide sand bar, or strip, in a creek that had water six to eight inches deep. Mr. Thenon told the men to lie in the creek and put wet blankets over their heads. Wet blankets were also put on their horses.

Below is a brief excerpt from his account. Click on it to see a larger version:

1910 Fires excerpt

Even though two men ran off and took refuge in another area, all 30 of them survived. However “the ‘lullaby boy’ was taken to an asylum”.

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

Wildland firefighter job vacancies, 2016

Many state and federal agencies as well as private contractors are beginning their hiring processes for wildland firefighters for the 2016 season. We can’t write an article about each one, but we encourage private and government organizations to include in a comment below this post a SHORT description of the wildland firefighter jobs they will have open, and a link to more information.

U.S. Forest Service recruits “park rangers”

USFS park rangersWe were unaware that the U.S. Forest Service called any of their positions “park rangers”. The social media person for the USFS Pacific Northwest Region who wrote this tweet probably assumes the term will garner more interest than “forestry technician”, which is the title for most USFS firefighters.

The region, that includes Oregon and Washington, will be accepting applications for over 1,000 temporary spring and summer jobs from November 30 until December 7. Positions are available in multiple fields, including fire, recreation, natural resources, timber, engineering, visitor services, and archaeology.

Fort Collins brewery partners to thin and prescribed burn forest

Anheuser-Busch and the 15 craft breweries in For Collins, Colorado depend on clean water to produce their beer.

In 2012 the High Park Fire west of the city burned 87,000 acres and 259 homes. One resident was killed, $38 million was spent on suppression, and the insured losses totaled $113 million. But much of the damage occurred just after the fire was contained when summer thunderstorms washed ash and debris into the Cache la Poudre River, turning it black. Fort Collins and Greeley obtain much of their drinking water from the river and temporarily turned off their water intakes. Flooding in 2013 following 15 inches of rain in Rist Canyon created more problems.

Anheuser-Busch is contributing $110,000 to help The Nature Conservancy protect the watershed in the Cache la Poudre River watershed. The funds will enable the organization to improve forest conditions on a demonstration area, allowing for treatment testing and informing future, larger-scale restoration projects to reduce catastrophic fires and improve water security for the people of these communities. The plans include thinning and prescribed fire.

Below is an excerpt from an article at Mother Nature Network:

…The Nature Conservancy’s prescription instructs those who wield the chainsaws on which trees to leave untouched and which trees to cut down. For example, old trees, trees with flat tops, and those that have visual nesting cavities or favorable conditions for nesting are left alone. Old species are left untouched, too. Trees are left in small clusters to give safe haven to squirrels who might become prey if they came down on the ground to get to their next tree.

The trees that are the most undesirable are Douglas firs. The prescription calls for removing 90 percent of them that are less than 10 inches in diameter. Why do Douglas firs get the chainsaw? The same thing that makes the species great-looking Christmas trees also makes them “ladder fuels” in the forest. They carry fire from the grass into the treetops via their low branches. Once the fire gets up into a tree, it then gets into other trees, even those that are adapted to fire with a lack of low branches and thicker bark. Before humans started suppressing forest fires, Douglas firs would be taken out in natural low-intensity fires and the more fire-intolerant trees would often remain. But now, it’s not unusual for all trees to burn in a forest that has become overly dense…