John Stimson was kind enough to allow us to show you some of the photos he took on Thursday at the Colby Fire near Glendora, California. You can see more of his photos HERE.
Red Flag Warnings and Fire Weather Watches for elevated wildfire danger have been issued by the National Weather Service for areas in California, New Mexico, Mississippi, and Alabama.
The Red Flag Warning map was current as of 1:30 p.m. MDT on Friday. 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.
(Originally published at 8:20 a.m. PST, January 16, 2014)
(UPDATED at 12:42 p.m. January 20, 2014)
The incident management team reports that the Colby fire is 46 acres larger than it was yesterday, at 1,952 acres now, and they are calling it 84 percent contained.
The team reported today that resources assigned to the fire include 1,112 personnel, 45 hand crews, 100 engines, 3 helicopters, 5 dozers, 8 fixed wing aircraft, and 3 heli-tankers.
(UPDATED at 11:18, January 19, 2014)
Firefighters are gaining a stronger hold on the Colby Fire east of Los Angeles. The incident management team is now calling the 1,906-acre fire 78 percent contained.
Evacuations were lifted for the Community of Mountain Cove at 6:00 PM. January 18, 2014. No evacuation are currently in place. Highway 39 remains closed and is only open to residents.
The Colby Fire is being fought by 1,112 personnel, 26 hand crews, 100 engines, 3 helicopters, 5 dozers, 8 fixed wing aircraft, and 3 heli-tankers.
Six residences have been destroyed and five have been damaged.
Some excellent photos of the water-scooping air tankers dropping on the Colby Fire are HERE.
(UPDATE at 10 a.m. PST, January 18, 2014)
The Incident Management Team has revised the mapped size of the Colby Fire to 1,863 acres, and they are calling it 30 percent contained. Today’s high temperature is expected to reach 87 degrees with relative humidity in the single digits. They anticipate a “medium” potential for additional fire spread. The area continues to be under a Red Flag Warning until 6 p.m. for elevated wildfire danger. Today’s fire operations will be primarily focused on reinforcing containment lines along the fire’s northern perimeter and cooling hot spots.
Firefighting resources assigned include 1,112 personnel, 33 hand crews, 140 engines, 9 helicopters, 1 dozer, 4 and fixed-wing aircraft.
(UPDATE at 1:15 p.m. PST, January 17, 2014)
The photo above is a still image from an amazing video of the Super Scooper CL-415 air tankers scooping water at Santa Fe Dam yesterday. One of the videos is below, others are at Fire Aviation.
(UPDATE at 12:25 p.m. PST, January 17, 2014)
Below we have a map showing the official perimeter of the Colby Fire. The perimeter data was produced by the Incident Management Team as was current as of 5:04 PST January 16. Reportedly, the fire has not spread much since then. Click on the map to see a larger version.
A National Park Service study suggests air pollution in the Santa Monica Mountains is harming native plants, increasing the fire risk.
THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. – Initial results from experiments conducted in the Santa Monica Mountains indicate that high levels of nitrogen may adversely impact native plants and, by extension, increase the risk of wildfire.
“No one will be surprised to learn that our data shows increased air pollution on the eastern end of the mountains, closer to Los Angeles,” said Dr. Irina Irvine, restoration ecologist for Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area. “What’s more intriguing about this study is learning how high nitrogen levels affect native vegetation and what that might mean for fire risk in such a fire-prone region.”
Researchers measured atmospheric nitrogen deposition levels at 10 sites throughout the Santa Monica Mountains and found significantly higher pollution levels in the eastern end (see map). At the two sites with the best air quality, they added various levels of nitrogen into experimental plots of coastal sage scrub to simulate pollution levels found throughout the mountains.
Higher levels of nitrogen led to a decline in native shrub seedlings and an increase in nonnative grasses. Other studies in Australia and California have demonstrated a link between nonnative grasses, also known as “flashy fuels,” and larger and more frequent wildfires.
Funded by the National Park Service’s Air Resources Division, the $100,000 study will help scientists better determine the ”critical load” when vegetation shifts, causing alterations to the structure and functionality of ecosystems. Coastal sage scrub once covered much of coastal California and is now an endangered habitat type, primarily due to development.
Generally attributed to vehicle emissions in the Santa Monica Mountains, nitrogen deposition is the air pollution from industry, agriculture and transportation that settles out of the atmosphere and onto the earth’s surface.
We have written several times about how the inability of fire supervisors to always be situationally aware of the location of firefighters has contributed to at least 24 deaths in recent years — 19 on the Yarnell Hill Fire and 5 on the Esperanza fire. Last month we told you about a system the Florida Forest Service is installing in their radio systems that tracks the location of firefighters. The Orlando Sentinel has an article about this system which provides a few more details. Below is an excerpt:
…To cut through the fog and friction, the Florida Forest Service has been rolling out its Asset Tracker System, equipping all of the nearly 400 bulldozers and fire engines statewide with GPS receivers and radio transmitters. System software will be installed in the laptops of nearly 60 supervisors.
Ralph Crawford, assistant chief of forest protection, said the largely home-built system will cost nearly $2 million but won’t have major, ongoing costs because it doesn’t rely on cellphone or Internet service.
Among the first crews equipped with tracking units were those responding to the Blue Ribbon Fire. But the system was still new, and only one of the ill-fated bulldozers had a location transmitter.
Since then, the system has been refined, and its capabilities are becoming more apparent, said John Kern, a deputy chief of field operations.
Every 30 seconds, the units blurt out an electronic warble, confirming that a packet of data containing unit identification, location, speed and direction had been transmitted by a 40-watt radio able to reach supervisor laptops within 2 miles.
The system doesn’t provide a complete picture of a wildfire; the blaze, for example, isn’t outlined on maps depicted on laptop screens.
But Kern said supervisors are learning to correlate the GPS tracking data with their knowledge of tactics used when fighting fires with bulldozers. Supervisors also will know where to direct a helicopter to drop water should trouble occur.
“If one of our guys calls in, ‘I’m stuck and about to be burned over,’ we’ll know where to go,” Kerns said.
Thanks and a hat tip go out to Kraig