Largest Smokey Bear statue

Smokey Bear statue

Photo by Gregg Boydston.

The largest statue of Smokey Bear is in Smokey Bear Park in International Falls, Minnesota. The 26-foot replica was erected in 1953 as a project of Koochiching County’s Keep Minnesota Green Committee.

Seasonally, you can see him decked out with gigantic accessories constructed by Loni Bright of Top That by Loni.


Body found in Pennsylvania vegetation fire

From WNEP in Pennsylvania:

EAST UNION TOWNSHIP — Fire crews in Schuylkill County are cleaning up after a brush fire where a body was found. Fire officials said the fire near Sheppton started around 1 p.m. on Tuesday.

Crews found the body of Dorothy Fellin, 74, in the burnt brush.

The Bureau of Forestry is investigating the fire, but officials believe the 74-year-old woman was burning leaves near her home on Centre Street.

The bureau said with the area’s rough terrain, wind gusts and dry leaves, fires spread quickly…

The fire burned seven acres.

Our sincere condolences go out to the family.


A video tribute to wildland firefighters

This video was created “as a teaser for a forthcoming article on titled ‘On Hell’s Doorstep’ a tribute to the US Hotshot Crews — a written testimonial to the men and women who dedicate their lives to defending person on property each fire season on the front lines of hell.”

It includes many excellent photos, including quite a few pictures of entire hotshot crews.


Wildfire potential, November through February

The Predictive Services section at the National Interagency Fire Center has issued their Wildland Fire Potential Outlook for October through January. The data represents the cumulative forecasts of the eleven Geographic Area Predictive Services Units and the National Predictive Services Unit.

If their predictions are accurate, southern California will have above normal wildfire activity through December, along with Minnesota in November, while the rest of the United States will have normal or below normal activity.

Here are the highlights from their outlook.


November fire weather

  • Above normal fire potential continues across portions of central and southern California. Long  term drought and a potential for offshore winds will keep potential elevated through November.
  • Most of Minnesota along with portions of Iowa and Wisconsin will have elevated fire potential for November. This is not expected to persist into December.
  • Below normal fire potential will continue across the Gulf Coast states.


December fire weather

  • Fire potential will continue to diminish in California, leaving coastal areas of southern California with above normal significant fire potential.
  • Below normal fire potential will expand across most of the South and Mid-Atlantic regions.


January February wildfire weather

  • No areas of above normal fire potential are expected for this period.
  • Below normal fire potential will continue across central and southern Texas, Florida, and southern Georgia.

Sequoia National Forest plans to rebuild Needles Lookout destroyed by fire

Needles Lookout Tower

Needles Lookout Tower, July 28, 2011.

The U.S. Forest Service intends to rebuild the iconic Needles Lookout Tower in the Giant Sequoia National Monument located in the Sequoia National Forest. It was destroyed by fire July 28, 2011 when an ember from the wood stove’s chimney in the structure ignited the shake shingle roof. Burning debris raining down as the structure burned caused additional fires below the rocky precipice.

The lookout tower in central California was constructed in 1937-38 by the Civilian Conservation Corps atop the rock formation at 8,245 feet.  Access was along a series of stairways and walkways suspended from the granite or across granite outcrops.

In attempting to get an update on the status of the reconstruction, we contacted the USFS’ Western Divide and Hume Lake Ranger Districts. They referred us to Del Pengilly, President of the Giant Sequoia National Monument Association who is coordinating many of the efforts to rebuild the structure. Mr. Pingilly told us that the GSNMA has raised $30,000 of the $50,000 they will need, and if they meet their goal they hope to begin construction in 2015. Apparently the non-profit 501(c)(3) organization is taking on much of the work themselves, including soliciting the volunteered time of civil engineer Bill Roberts of Porterville, California who is drawing up the plans for the project. The new design will include the use of fire resistant materials.

Other than raising the funds needed, one of the hurdles is getting the plans approved by the U.S. Forest Service so that the volunteers from GSNMA can begin work.

Mr. Pengilly said they will be happy to accept donations from anyone who wants to help raise the last $20,000 they need.

Needles Lookout burningUPDATE November 5, 2014:

Below is a photo of the Visitor Center at Devils Tower National Monument in Wyoming, taken May 14, 2007 — a structure that at that time also had a shake shingle roof. I believe it still has a shake shingle roof.

Shake shingle roof Devils Tower National Memorial

Shake shingle roof on the visitor’s center at Devils Tower National Monument. Photo by Bill Gabbert. (click to enlarge)



A Loop Fire survivor describes the disaster

It has been 49 years and three days since 12 wildland firefighters perished on the Loop Fire, November 1, 1966. The El Cariso Hotshots were constructing fireline on the Angeles National Forest in southern California when the fire blew up below them. Rich Leak, a Captain on the crew at the time, has written a description of the disaster in which he points out factors that led to the incident as well as some lessons learned. Below is a link to his account.