Abundant lightning in California, Utah, and Nevada

Lightning has been hammering parts of California, Utah, Idaho, Arizona, Wyoming, and Nevada during the last two days, especially on Tuesday and Tuesday night. The maps below show the strikes that were detected as well as the approximate amount of precipitation that came along with the storms. The black areas indicate no rain, while red means there was less than 0.08 inch.

The first map is for the 24 hour period that ended at 6 a.m. MT on June 30. The second is for the 24 hour period that ended at 6 a.m. MT on July 1.

lightning map

Lightning, 24 hrs ending at 6 a.m. June 30, 2015.

lightning map

Lightning 24 hrs. ending at 6 a.m. MT July 1, 2015.

The data is from Predictive Services at the National Interagency Fire Center.


Oregon: Corner Creek Fire

(UPDATE at 8:40 a.m. PT, July 5, 2015)

map Corner Creek Fire

3-D map of the perimeter of the Corner Creek Fire at 1 a.m. PT July 5 (in red) compared to the perimeter about 48 hours earlier (in white). Looking north. (click to enlarge)

Over the last two days the Corner Creek Fire in central Oregon has continued to spread on the south and west sides and has blackened approximately 27,000 acres.

Here is an excerpt from the incident management team’s description of the activity on Saturday:

On Saturday, winds on the Corner Creek Fire pushed the blaze against firelines being built along its south and west flanks, prompting swift action from helicopters and air tankers. Cooling water and retardant dropped from the aircraft helped firefighters to keep fire growth to a minimum.


Air ops works hard to contain the #cornercreekfire. Thanks Matt Hoehna for sharing. #orfire #fireseason2015 @wildland_firefighters

A video posted by Oregon Department of Forestry (@oregondeptforestry) on

**** (UPDATE at 9 a.m. PT, July 4, 2015)

Corner Creek Fire July 3, 2015

The Corner Creek Fire continues to burn under an inversion, July 3, 2015. Photo: Oregon Department of Forestry.

The Corner Creek Fire 9 air miles miles south of Dayville, Oregon continued to grow Friday to the south and northwest. Extremely hot and dry weather conditions are causing the fire to run, spot, and torch into timber and rangeland. Firefighters continue to work to protect structures near the fire and prevent it from crossing onto the east side of the South Fork John Day River. The area is under a Red Flag Warning on Saturday for gusty winds and low relative humidities. A weather forecast for the fire area on Saturday calls for a high temperature in the high 90s, relative humidity around 10 percent, and 5 to 10 mph winds out of the northwest. The weather on Sunday should be about the same. **** (UPDATE at 9:45 a.m. PT, July 3, 2015)

Corner Creek Fire

Corner Creek Fire. Oregon Dept of Forestry photo.

The Corner Creek Fire in Central Oregon grew by more than 6,000 acres on Thursday to 19,232 acres. It was most active on the south

mapCorner Creek Fire

Map showing the perimeter of the Corner Creek Fire at 10 p.m. PT, July 2, 2015 (in red). The perimeter from 24 hours before is in white.

and west sides and progressed an additional three miles to the southwest. On the west side it is near the Turnpike and Upper Bronco Reservoirs. The fire still has not crossed the South Fork John Day River on the east side. Firefighters are protecting structures and looking for opportunities to control the fire spread, including clearing fuels near forest roads to the south and west which may be used as fire lines for burnout operations. The area will be under a Red Flag Warning from noon Saturday until 8 p.m. Saturday. The Corner Creek Fire is 9 air miles miles south of Dayville, 29 miles southwest of John Day, and 85 miles northeast of Bend. **** (UPDATED at 11:05 a.m. PT, July 2, 2015)

map Corner Creek Fire

Map of the Corner Creek Fire, showing (in red) the perimeter at 11 p.m. PT, July 1, 2015. The perimeter from 24 hours before is in yellow. (click to enlarge)

The Corner Creek Fire in central Oregon more than doubled in size in 24 hours. Late Wednesday night it was mapped at about 12,700 acres. The fire moved east to the South Fork of the John Day River but did not cross it, yet, and it spread about five miles to the southwest. Very little information about the fire has been made public by Buckman’s Oregon Department of Forestry Team 1. But, the term “extreme fire behavior” was used in a very brief description released by the Northwest Coordination Center.


(Originally published at 7:23 a.m. PT, July 1, 2015)

Corner Creek Fire

Corner Creek Fire, June 30, 2015. Durgan Ranch photo.

Firefighters have been busy in central Oregon for the last week after the area got hammered by lightning.

The spread of the Sugarloaf Fire, 7 miles north of Dayville, is slowing and some of the resources are being sent to the Corner Creek Fire 16 miles to the south. A satellite still detected some heat on the northeast side of the fire late Tuesday night on the 5,016-acre blaze. The Oregon Department of Forestry’s Incident Management Team 1 is managing this fire plus the 300-acre Blue Basin Fire just to the west along Highway 19.

Corner Creek Fire map 10 pm PT June 30, 2015
Another fire, the 6,300-acre Corner Creek Fire, was added to the Team’s workload Wednesday morning. Located on the west side of the South Fork John Day River, it was reported on June 29, a lightning-caused fire that held over from last week’s storms. High temperatures and low relative humidity yesterday contributed to the growth of the fire. Numerous aviation resources were used Tuesday for structure protection of cabins and outbuildings along Wind Creek, including three large tankers, one very large air tanker (DC-10), four single engine air tankers, and three helicopters.

The Corner Creek Fire is 9 air miles miles south of Dayville, 29 miles southwest of John Day, and 85 miles northeast of Bend.

Sugar Loaf, Blue Basin, and Corner Creek Fires map

Sugar Loaf, Blue Basin, and Corner Creek Fires, 10 p.m. PT, June 30, 2015.


Stick figure fireworks safety

I’m thinking the BLM did not waste a lot of money producing this 36-second public service announcement, but I like it, and it could be effective. Nicely done, BLM!


(UPDATE at 11:18 a.m. PT, July 1, 2015)

After we posted the video, Kevin Conran of the BLM left this comment:

Thank you for the compliments on our PSAs. As you surmised this was very low cost to produce. It was actually produced by a local high school student. We hosted a contest among the high school speech/communications classes and challenged them to produce PSAs aimed at reaching their age group.


$50 million in claims over escaped prescribed fire reportedly denied

Pautre Fire origin

USFS photo from the report on the escaped prescribed fire, the Pautre Fire, in North Dakota and South Dakota.

The Associated Press is reporting that the Department of Agriculture, in a letter signed by Department Secretary Tom Vilsack, is denying $50 million in claims filed by sixteen ranchers and landowners over a prescribed fire that escaped and burned 10,679 acres in North Dakota and South Dakota.

The “Pasture 3B” prescribed fire was planned to be 210 acres on the Dakota Prairie National Grasslands, but strong winds on April 3, 2013 caused by the predicted passage of a cold front pushed the fire across a mowed fire line into tall grass and ultimately burned 10,679 acres, (3,519 acres federal and 7,160 acres private). The wildfire, named Pautre Fire, was stopped at 11 p.m. that night.

In explaining the denial, Secretary Vilsack said the Forest Service relied on forecasts from the National Weather Service in Rapid City, South Dakota, that ultimately proved inaccurate.

In February, 2014 the US Forest Service released a report about the fire, called a “Facilitated Learning Analysis. The issues listed by the document included:

  • Improved weather forecasts are needed.
  • Consider additional research on methods to predict effects of drought on fire behavior in grass fuel models.
  • The nearest remote automated weather station (RAWS) is more than 90 miles away.
  • The project was conducted at the critical edge of the prescription.
  • Consider gaming out worst case scenario “what ifs” during the planning process, and discuss with participants during the on-site briefing.
  • There were problems with radio communications [note from Bill: I don’t remember EVER seeing a report like this that did not cite radio communications as being an issue].

Yarnell Hill Fire families settle lawsuit

memory yarnell hill fireSome of the families of the deceased Granite Mountain Hotshots settled their lawsuit the day before the second anniversary of that tragic day. On June 29 the families of 12 of the crewmembers settled a wrongful-death suit for $50,000 each along with some reforms they hope will help to prevent similar catastrophes. Two years ago today 19 members of the crew were killed on the Yarnell Hill Fire south of Prescott, Arizona when they were entrapped and overrun by a wildfire that later burned into the community of Yarnell, destroying 127 structures.

The resolution was announced Monday at a news conference. In addition to the $50,000 for each of 12 families, the state of Arizona will give $10,000 to each of the seven families that did not participate in the lawsuit.

Granite Mountain

Granite Mountain Hotshots hiking to their assignment, June 30, 2013. Photo by Joy Collura.

The settlement also stipulates that the state will make a “good faith effort” to implement reforms suggested by the families of the hotshots, but their implementation is not binding and will be up to the sole discretion of the agency director.

  • The state Forestry Division will ask the National Wildfire Coordinating Group to do a question-and-answer session and a staff ride so that firefighters can better understand what happened that day two years ago.
  • The state will recommend additional training for initial attack of new fires.
  • State Forestry will volunteer to participate as a testing site for new wildfire technology, including radios and GPS tracking devices. One of the issues on the Yarnell Hill Fire was that it is possible that few if any other firefighters on the fire were aware of the location of the crew and the danger that they were in.

The $220 million lawsuit was settled for a total of $670,000, plus the “good faith” concessions.

The agreement occurred without any testimony from Brendan McDonough, the only survivor from the 20-person crew. Attorneys for State Forestry repeatedly sought his information about the fire under oath, but a deposition never occurred. Mr. McDonough has said he suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder since the fire.

Brendan McDonough

Brendan McDonough. Photo by Bill Gabbert.

At the time of the fatalities he was in a different location serving as a lookout, providing intelligence to the crew about the location of the fire. The largest remaining question about the Yarnell Hill Fire is why the 19 firefighters left the safety of a previously burned area and hiked through unburned brush where they were overrun by the fire. Nothing in the two official reports shed any light on this important question.

An article in the April 3 edition of the Arizona Republic includes information that was previously unknown to the public. The newspaper reported that Mr. McDonough overheard a radio conversation between the Division Supervisor, Eric Marsh, and Jesse Steed who was temporarily serving as the Hotshots’ crew boss. Supposedly Mr. Marsh who normally was the Crew Boss or Superintendent of the crew, told Mr. Steed to have the crew leave the safety zone and to join him at a ranch.

The question of why the crew was in that location may never be answered, unless Mr. McDonough elaborates on the issue in the book he is working on. In April it was announced that he signed a deal with New York Times bestselling author Stephan Talty to write “the untold story from the lone survivor of the Yarnell Hill Fire”.

Below is an excerpt from a June 29, 2015 article in the Arizona Republic:

Attorney Pat McGroder said the goal of the 12 families was to prevent future tragedies and improve wildland-firefighting safety. He emphasized they were not out to make money and said the minimal compensation and promised firefighting improvements underscore that point.

McGroder had strong words for the federal government, which banned the Blue Ridge Hotshots from talking publicly about what they may have heard over the radios that day.

“At sometime, Mr. McDonough may or may not choose to publicly describe what he saw, what he heard that day,” McGroder said. “The idea that the federal government is withholding information … speaks to the lack of understanding and empathy that they should have for these families. So, we would publicly call for … the national Forest Service to let their people talk.”