NIFC mobilizes air tankers to assist Canada

A BAe-146 air tanker dropping on a recent wildfire in Canada.
A BAe-146 air tanker dropping on the Kenora #18 Fire in Canada. Photo by Chris Sherwin.

This article was first published on Fire Aviation.

The National Interagency Fire Center has mobilized two BAe-146 air tankers and one King Air lead plane to assist the Canadian provinces of Ontario and Manitoba. Tankers 10 and 41 will be working out of the air tanker base at Bemidji, Minnesota 86 miles south of the US/Canadian border.

The aircraft were ordered primarily for the Kenora #18 Fire that straddles the border between Manitoba and Ontario (the brown dots in the map below). But they could be used for fires in either province.

According to the U.S. National Interagency Fire Center, Canada has not requested U.S. assistance specifically for wildfires in Alberta. The aid, they said, was requested through a bilateral firefighting assistance agreement with the Canadian Interagency Fire Center (CIFC). At this time, Canada has not requested additional resources or assistance from the U.S., though NIFC and the CIFC are frequently communicating.

Map Ontario Manitoba US

Strong wind causes Coyote Fire to awaken

(UPDATED at 8:26 a.m. MDT May 25, 2016)

Coyote Fire map 3-D
Map, in 3-D, showing the perimeter of the Coyote Fire at 10 p.m. May 24 in red, and in yellow, the perimeter from May 16.

Pushed by strong winds over the last couple of days the Coyote Fire in Guadalupe Mountains National Park has grown by approximately 1,770 acres to about 13,590 acres. The fire started May 7 in the west Texas park and spread across the border into New Mexico.

After being downgraded from a Type 2 fire to a Type 3, it was escalated back to a Type 2 after the fire began spreading again on May 22. Richard Nieto’s Type 2 incident management team arrived May 24.

The area is under a Red Flag Warning on Wednesday.

The National Park Service has not provided any information on InciWeb about the fire since 5 p.m. on May 23.

Coyote Fire map
Map showing the perimeter of the Coyote Fire at 10 p.m. May 24 in red, and in yellow, the perimeter from May 16.

KRWG has an article about a fire crew comprised of veterans being assigned to the fire. Below is an excerpt:

New Mexico State Forestry is sending two crews from the Returning Heroes Wildland Firefighters program to aid wildfire suppression efforts at the Guadalupe Mountains National Park in Texas.  One crew arrived at the park today and a second is pre-positioned in Ruidoso in Lincoln County.

[…]

The Returning Heroes Wildland Firefighter Program was created to provide veterans of the U.S. Armed Forces with training and work opportunities to fight wildland fires. Previously a pilot program, Returning Heroes was made permanent and signed into legislation by Governor Susana Martinez in 2014.

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(UPDATED at 12:52 p.m. MDT May 24, 2016)

While we are waiting for an update from the National Park Service about the Coyote Fire in New Mexico and Texas, we’ll post this graphic showing the wind gusts out of the southwest and west at weather stations in and near in Guadalupe Mountains National Park.

Coyote Fire wind gusts
Coyote Fire wind gusts at 12:48 p.m. May 24, 2016.

The updated forecast for the fire area for Tuesday is for southwest winds of 22 gusting to 32, 87 degrees, and a relative humidity of 7 percent. Wednesday will be about the same, except the sustained wind speed will be 32 mph with gusts as high as 47 mph. Strong winds are in the forecast through Saturday.

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(UPDATED at 5:25 p.m. MDT, May 23, 2016)

map coyote fire
The yellow, red, and brown dots represent heat detected by a satellite on the Coyote FIre in the 24 hours ending at 2:41 p.m CET May 23, 2016, 2016. Click to see larger version.

Pushed by very strong winds, the Coyote Fire in Guadalupe Mountains National Park in west Texas flared up again, prompting the park to re-escalate the management structure back to a higher qualified Type 2 incident management team. Originally there was an initial attack organization running the fire, then a Type 3 team, then Type 2, then Type 3, and now it is going back to a Type 2 team. Transition periods from one team to another can be dangerous.

Strong winds on Sunday “pushed fire further past Bush Mountain ridge toward Guadalupe Peak” according to a news release by the park. We believe this area is on the southwest side of the fire and on the map is above the word “Park” in “Guadalupe Mtns. National Park”.

The weather forecast predicts very strong afternoon winds to continue through Thursday. Sustained winds during the daylight hours will be in the 25 to 35 mph range with gusts from 35 to 50 mph. The minimum relative humidity will be from 6 to 10 percent, and no rain is expected the rest of this week.

Only 10 percent of the fire is being fully suppressed. The other 90 percent is a combination of Confine, Monitor, and Point Protection strategies. The fire has been burning for 17 days. The longer a fire is allowed to spread without suppression, the greater the chance of encountering a wind event that could change the complexion of the incident.

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(UPDATED at 5:30 p.m. MDT May 16, 2016)

Coyote Fire map May 16, 2016
The National Park Service released this fire progression map on May 16.

On May 16 the National Park Service said they are “actively monitoring” the Coyote fire, which has burned 11,820 acres in western Texas and southeast New Mexico.

Yesterday: There was limited new growth on the fire yesterday. However, fire managers continued to actively monitor the fire as some heat remained in interior pockets of unburned forest debris and brush.

Today: Red flag weather conditions, including strong winds and low humidities, are predicted to develop over the fire area today. Crews will continue to monitor the fire for any wind driven flare-ups. Some interior smoldering is likely to continue, producing light, visible smoke.

“Although there was limited growth yesterday, we will remain vigilant,” said Eric Brunnemann, Superintendent of the Guadalupe Mountains National Park. “This is still an active fire area and may remain so for some time.”

Continue reading “Strong wind causes Coyote Fire to awaken”

Canadian wildfire smoke affects New England, May 10, 2016

wildfire smoke map
Wildfire smoke Map 4 p.m. MDT May 10, 2016. WeatherUnderground.

Smoke from the wildfires in Canada is now affecting the northern edge of the Great Lakes States and has moved into New England.

wildfire Smoke Map
Wildfire Smoke map, 3:11 p.m. MDT May 10, 2016. NOAA.

To see the most current smoke reports on Wildfire Today, visit the articles tagged “smoke” at http://wildfiretoday.com/tag/smoke/

Another serious injury during PT at beginning of fire season

The firefighter spent four days in the hospital after suffering heat stroke.

Another firefighter has sustained a very serious injury during physical training at the beginning of their fire season. The first one that we are aware of this year occurred on May 2 in South Dakota when on the first day of training the firefighter was diagnosed with Rhabdomyolysis.

The Wildland Fire Lessons Learned Center just released a “72 hour report” from the Pacific Northwest Region about an April 19 heat stroke victim that happened on the second day.


firefighter heat stroke


Both of these conditions are extremely serious and in the worst case, can lead to death.

It must be very difficult to develop a perfect exercise regimen for all 20 people on a hand crew. Especially at the beginning of the season when some of the experienced firefighters may have had an ongoing physical fitness program during the off season, and others are brand new, never having held a shovel, and may have spent the winter on a couch.

London may ban sky lanterns

We have written before about the dangers of sky lanterns, the paper or plastic balloons that are sent aloft powered by the hot air generated from a small flaming device. They have started many fires, both wildland and structural, and are banned in at least 29 U.S. states.

The city of London in the UK is considering banning the devices. Below is an excerpt from an article in The Londoner. We concentrate on the fire hazard, but don’t often mention that each sky lantern becomes someone else’s garbage.

…It still begs the questions, “What could possibly go wrong with releasing paper globes into the night sky, that you have zero control over, filled with fire, paper, hot wax and bamboo?”

Health Canada investigated and didn’t find a reason to regulate the lanterns three years ago. But since then, they have grown in popularity. When items like this grow in popularity, the poorer-quality knock-offs slip into the mainstream. And what used to be the odd event here or there has become the norm, sending thousands of these flaming lanterns into the sky.

There are several serious fires on record all over the world, including a fire started from a lantern that destroyed 800 acres in Horry County, South Carolina. The most recent wildfire is noted in Colorado this past March. Many countries have begun banning sky lanterns.

Let’s step past the whole argument for the potential to set a national park ablaze, sending up a sky lantern in memory of your faithful hamster Stewie for a moment. Let’s look at the other collateral damage. Garbage.

These lanterns just don’t disappear once they are out of view. Once they fall back to earth, they become garbage. And not biodegradable garbage either. Unless wire has become biodegradable recently…

Bison eating habits influence the prairie ecosystem, including after a fire

For centuries, before they were almost wiped out in North America, bison had a large effect on the ecosystem, promoting diversity in praries.

The National Park Service published this information about what is now the National Mammal in the United States. Today President Obama signed the legislation making it official.

…By feeding mostly on grass species and selectively avoiding other plants, bison influence the local prairie biodiversity. In other words, bison create a spatial mosaic pattern of grazed and ungrazed areas. If you imagine a quilt with patches each representing different plant species and sections of grazed and ungrazed areas, this “quilt” can often exemplify an area after a bison herd forages. With high plant biodiversity, there can be an increase in gas exchange, biomass, and plant cover. Photosynthesis also increases when bison selectively graze, because with many different kinds of plants, there is increased light availability and reduced competition for water and nutrients.

Bison are also attracted to recently burned areas, therefore, influencing plant diversity. After a disturbance, such as a wildfire, grasses establish before other plant species. Bison prefer these regrowth areas because they have a plethora of grasses available to them without having to graze selectively around woody plant species—woody plants take longer to establish after a disturbance. By grazing in these new grass-dominated sites, bison help increase the local diversity. In other words, a variety of plants have the chance to grow in grazed and burned areas.

Rabbits eat more than bison! If compared pound for pound, rabbits eat more because they metabolize food quicker. For bison, it takes about 80 hours for grass to pass through their digestive systems, which means they have 80 hours for nutrients to be absorbed. Therefore, bison can live on food lower in nutritional quality, because they digest their food slower.

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