Soda Fire in Idaho nears containment

(UPDATED at 4:25 p.m. MT, August 18, 2015)

Fire managers are calling the Soda fire southwest of Boise, Idaho, 90 percent contained.

The demobilization process will begin today, August 18, and most firefighting resources will be reassigned to other fires in the west. The remaining crews and engines will continue to patrol, look for any smokes, and assist in the rehabilitation of containment lines.

As the Soda Fire nears 100% containment, a federal Burned Area Emergency Response (BAER) Team is being convened to begin field work as early as Wednesday. The BAER Team of natural resource specialists will assess damage and design emergency stabilization and rehabilitation treatments for BLM lands. This assessment focuses on mitigating threats to life, property, and resources within the burned area over the next 3 years.

The Rocky Mountain Incident Management Team will be transitioning the Soda Fire to a local BLM Type 3 Team at 6am Wednesday, August 19, 2015.

This will be out last update on the Soda Fire unless there is a significant upward change in fire activity.


(UPDATED at 9:18 a.m. MT, August 15, 2015)

Map Soda Fire

Map of the Soda Fire (red line) at 9 p.m. MT, August 14, 2015. The brown and red dots represent heat detected by a satellite as late as 10:05 p.m. MT, August 14, 2015. The fire was actively spreading near the location of the red dots at that time — the red dots were the most current. (click to enlarge)

Friday evening the Soda Fire only had one area that with a large amount of fire activity, and that was on the southeast side where the fire was spreading to the southeast in the direction of Murphy, Idaho. This fire is very hard for heat-sensing mapping systems to track because in many areas the vegetation is grass or light brush that ignites, burns up quickly, and may cool off before an infrared aircraft or heat-sensing satellite passes over.

The fire has burned about 265,000 acres.

From InciWeb, August 14, 2015:

The Owyhee County Dispatch issued notification for residents to prepare for evacuations in the Bailey Road, Reynolds Road near feedlot, China Ditch, and Wilson Creek due to extreme fire behavior caused by high winds and terrain that is aligned with the wind. Highway 78 open at this time.

There is limited air support at this time due to the very high winds (30-40 mph). A very large air tanker was used throughout the day in conjunction with crews and dozers to construct containment lines along the Willow and Reynolds Creek areas.

Friday afternoon the wind was gusting at 30 to 43 mph out of the southwest and later the northwest, while the relative humidity got as low as 8 percent at 7 p.m. The forecast on Saturday for the southeast portion of the fire is for 81 degrees, 18 percent RH, mostly sunny skies, and 10 mph winds from the northwest shifting to the north in the afternoon. With the lower wind speeds on Saturday the fire should not spread as quickly as it did Friday afternoon.


(UPDATED at 12:36 p.m. MT, August 14, 2015)

soda fire

A tweet by KBOI at about 10:30 a.m. MT, August 14, 2015.

At 2 a.m. on August 14, the Owyhee County Sheriffs office recommended (but did not require) an evacuation near the Soda Fire for the Wilson Creek area south of Hwy 78 at milepost 16 through 18 due to increased fire activity. This area includes the Gibbons Hot Springs and the Hard Trigger Road. The Sheriff is asking people to please be prepared to evacuate. There are no mandatory evacuation orders in place on the Soda Fire.

The blaze is burning grass and sagebrush in Oregon and Idaho 14 miles southwest of Caldwell and 11 miles southwest of Nampa, Idaho (see the map below). The incident management team reports it has now blackened 265,000 acres.

Friday could be a big day on the fire, and dangerous for firefighters.  The area is under a Red Flag Warning from noon on Friday until midnight for southwesterly winds reaching 18 to 25 mph with gusts to 35 mph in the afternoon. Friday night the wind will shift to come out of the west and then the northwest. The relative humidity will dip to 10 to 15 percent Friday afternoon.

You can monitor the weather conditions updated once an hour at the Owyhee weather station, 5 miles west of the northern end of the fire. At 11:52 a.m. on Friday it recorded 85 degrees, 14 percent humidity, and southwest winds of 8 mph gusting to 17 mph.

soda fire

The red line represents the perimeter of the Soda Fire as mapped by an aircraft at 2 a.m. MT Aug 14, 2015. The white line was the perimeter the day before, and was an estimate Wildfire Today developed based on heat detected by a satellite.

Strong winds Thursday night caused increased fire activity in the Reynolds Creek and Wilson Creek drainages on the southeast flank of the fire. Over 300 additional firefighting resources were put in place to reinforce the line through the night.

The Rocky Mountain Type 1 Incident Management Team led by Incident Commander Todd Pechota will shadow Great Basin Incident Management Team 5 Friday in preparation for assuming command of the southern section of the fire Saturday morning.


(UPDATED at 5:50 p.m. MT, August 13, 2015)

Soda Fire Aug 13, 2015

Satellite image of the Map showing the Soda Fire, August 13, 2015, showing smoke drifting toward the northwest. The red dots represent heat. NASA.

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Jerusalem Fire — near the Rocky Fire in California

(UPDATED at 8:30 a.m. PT, August 13, 2015)

3-D Map Jerusalem Fire

3-D map of the Jerusalem Fire, 1 a.m. PT, Aug 13, 2015. (click to enlarge)

According to updates from CAL FIRE for the Jerusalem Fire east of Hidden Lake, California, the fire grew by 7,000 acres from Wednesday morning to Thursday morning, and has now blackened 23,500 acres. (See the maps above and below.)

Map Jerusalem Fire

Map of the Jerusalem Fire 1 a.m. PT, Aug 13, 2015. (click to enlarge)

The fire crossed Morgan Valley/Knoxville Road and continued another 4 miles to the northeast. It has bumped into the south edge of the Rocky Fire, which has spread very little if any for several days, and the two fires now share a common border stretching for 13 miles.

Wind on Wednesday afternoon gusting out of the southwest at 11 to 25 mph was a major factor driving the fire. That will also be the case today after 5 p.m. with a prediction for 13 mph winds out of the southwest gusting to 20 mph.

Resources assigned to the fire include 2,053 personnel, 140 fire engines, 52 hand crews, 28 dozes, and 15 helicopters.


(UPDATED at 7:45 a.m. PT, August 12, 2015)

Jerusalem Fire 8-11-2015

Michael Forster took this photo of the Jerusalem Fire on August 11. He told us, “This was taken [Monday] off of Morgan Valley road. Firefighters had to quickly move out of the area as the fire intensified.” Used with permission.

The Jerusalem Fire 70 air miles north of San Francisco was very active again on Tuesday, chewing up another 4,000 acres. CAL FIRE is saying that as of Tuesday night it had burned a total of 16,500 acres.

Mandatory evacuations are still in place for some areas of the Jerusalem Valley.

The fire is burning in drought-affected brush that has not burned in over 30 years. The lack of a network of roads is making access for firefighters difficult.

The fire is being battled by 1,660 personnel, 118 fire engines, 53 hand crews, 18 helicopters, 28 dozers, and a variable number of air tankers.


(UPDATED at 12:13 p.m. PT, August 11, 2015)

In the first day and a half of the life of the Jerusalem Fire south of the Rocky Fire and east of Hidden Lake, California, it raced across 12,000 acres. That was the size of the fire as mapped by an aircraft at 1 a.m. Tuesday morning. Rising humidity slowed the spread of the fire Monday night.

Mandatory evacuations are still in effect for some areas of the Jerusalem Valley.

The weather forecast for the area on Tuesday calls for 86 degrees, 25 percent relative humidity, and south winds of 9 mph.

map jerusalem fire rocky fire

Map showing the Rocky Fire, which has not been very active lately, and the Jerusalem Fire, mapped at 1 a.m. PT, August 11, 2015.

On August 9 CAL FIRE arrested Juan Ramos Silva, 49 of Lower Lake, for one count of arson and allegedly starting a backfire. Silva was booked into Lake County Jail on suspicion of violating Penal Code Section 452(c), unlawfully causing a fire to forest land, and Public Resource Code Section 4426, a person shall not set a backfire, or cause a backfire to be set, except under the direct supervision or permission of a state or federal forest officer.

Juan Ramos Silva

Juan Ramos Silva

The LA Times is reporting that Mr. Silva set the backfire in order to protect his marijuana-growing operation:

…Silva started the large backfire at 5:43 p.m. Sunday, a couple of miles away from the Jerusalem fire in a rural, sparse area northeast of Middletown, said Lt. Steve Brooks of the Lake County Sheriff’s Office.

Silva told deputies he started the blaze to prevent the Jerusalem fire from reaching his home. But officials concluded he set the fire behind the marijuana grow to “protect his plants, not his residence,” Brooks said.
Silva told deputies he was a firefighter in Mexico years ago and “had attempted to conduct a controlled burn on the back of his property to protect it…”

CAL FIRE investigators are not accusing Mr. Silva of igniting the Jerusalem Fire, just of starting a new fire and a backfire.

Jerusalem Fire at night

Jerusalem Fire at night. NASA.


Jerusalem fire

Jerusalem fire, August 9, 2015. Photo by CAL FIRE.

A new fire just south of the 69,000-acre Rocky Fire has burned approximately 5,000 acres in the 16 hours since it started at 3:42 p.m. PT on Sunday. The fire four miles east of Hidden Valley Lake, California, burned very aggressively Sunday evening. In a matter of hours it spread toward the northeast and came very close to merging with the Rocky Fire, which has not grown for several days. Firefighting resources are being transferred from the Rocky Fire to the Jerusalem Fire.

Mandatory evacuations are taking place in some areas of the Jerusalem Valley.

CAL FIRE, which often does not release maps of their fires, distributed this map Monday morning.

Jerusalem fire map 8-9-2015

Map showing the new Jerusalem Fire just south of the Rocky Fire. CAL FIRE map.


Memorial service held for fallen firefighter David Ruhl

program cover

The cover for the program.

A memorial service was held Sunday, August 9 in South Dakota at the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center for David Ruhl, an engine captain with the Black Hills National Forest in Rapid City who was killed while fighting a wildfire in northern California on July 30, 2015.

Before the ceremony a procession of dozens of emergency vehicles escorted his remains and his family and friends to the service, which lasted a little more than an hour and was attended by hundreds of people, many of them firefighters in uniform.

honor guard

An Honor Guard was on the stage before the service began.

David Ruhl memorial service David Ruhl memorial service

David Ruhl memorial service

A friend and former co-worker of Mr. Ruhl with the Pierre Rural Fire Department gave a moving remembrance of his time with David.

Bagpipes, a traditional part of firefighter funerals and memorial services, were an important part of the ceremony. Below is one example of their work, playing Amazing Grace.

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Procession to the David Ruhl memorial service

The memorial service for David Ruhl was held Sunday, August 9 in Rapid City, South Dakota. Mr. Ruhl’s remains and his family were escorted to the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center by numerous fire trucks, emergency vehicles, and friends of the family.

Mr. Ruhl was killed while fighting a wildfire in northern California on July 30, 2015.

fire engines dave ruhl procession

The engine that Captain Ruhl was assigned to was one of the first vehicles in the procession.

fire engines dave ruhl procession

fire engines dave ruhl procession

fire engines dave ruhl procession


Red Flag Warnings, August 9, 2015

wildfire Red Flag Warnings 8-9-15

The National Weather Service has issued Red Flag Warnings or Fire Weather Watches for areas in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, California, and Montana.

The map was current as of 10 a.m. MDT on Sunday. Red Flag Warnings can change throughout the day as the National Weather Service offices around the country update and revise their forecasts and maps. For the most current data visit this NWS site or this NWS site.


Firefighter killed by falling tree

(Originally posted at 7:30 a.m. PT, August 9, 2015; Updated at 9 p.m. PT, August 9, 2015 with the name of the firefighter.)

Another wildland firefighter with the U.S. Forest Service has died in the line of duty. Early Sunday morning the agency announced that at approximately 5:30 p.m. on August 8 two firefighters were struck by a falling tree during the initial attack on a new fire, the Sierra Fire, in the Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit (LTBMU) in California. One was killed and the other was treated and released from a hospital.

The firefighter has been identified as 21-year old Michael “Mike” Hallenbeck of Shingle Springs, California. Mr. Hallenbeck was a member of Organized Crew 36 on the LTBMU.

His family released a statement on Sunday:

Mikey was so excited to become a firefighter. When he first found out he had the position, he spent every day hiking with a pack to prepare. Mikey loved the outdoors and sports. He played football, basketball, soccer, ice hockey, tennis and golf. He also loved to snowboard and hike. He spent the last two ski seasons working for Sierra Ski Resort. Now he has had a greater calling. We are so very proud he stepped up to work hard and be brave to put others before himself. We cannot even begin to express the pain our family is going through and we ask for the respect of our privacy as we go through this devastating ordeal.

This is the second USFS firefighter to die on a wildfire in California in the last 10 days. On July 30 David Ruhl was entrapped by a fire and killed during the initial attack on the Frog Fire on the Modoc National Forest in northeast California.

Our sincere condolences go out to the friends and family of the firefighters that passed away in both of these fatalities.