Red Flag Warnings, February 21, 2017

The National Weather Service has posted Red Flag Warnings and Fire Weather Watches for areas in Nebraska, Colorado, New Mexico, Texas, and Oklahoma. Most of the Red Flag areas (in red) expire Tuesday evening, while the Watches (in yellow) are in effect through Thursday.

While the areas identified in Nebraska should experience record high temperatures on Tuesday, all areas have dry fuels, strong winds, and low humidities in the forecast.

The map was current as of 8:08 a.m. MT on Tuesday. Red Flag Warnings can change throughout the day as the National Weather Service offices around the country update and revise their forecasts.

Firefighter killed in national park in India

Two other firefighters suffered serious burn injuries while suppressing the 400-acre fire.

A firefighter was killed February 18 while fighting a fire in Bandipur National Park in India. It was reportedly the first time a wildland firefighter in the southern state of Karnataka has died in the line of duty.

The victim, identified as Murugappa Gouda Thammannanavar, was part of a team suppressing a fire in the Bandipura Tiger Reserve. Two others who suffered serious burns initially treated at a local hospital were later transferred to KR hospital in Mysuru.

“There was wind blowing from all directions and Murugappa could not escape from the spreading flames,” said Additional Principal Chief Conservator of Forests Ranga Rao.

Below is an excerpt from an article in The Hindu:

While the immediate cause of the fire is not known, it has been established that most of the fires are caused by humans. In many cases, the dry vegetation is set ablaze by miscreants from the local community to wreak revenge when they are booked by the authorities for being in conflict with the law.

Bandipur is going through one of the worst dry spells in recent memory and though forest fires are an annual affair in view of its dry deciduous vegetation, the intensity of drought this year is high. The national park has suffered from two consecutive years of dry spell, and the failure of the southwest monsoon this year has aggravated the situation.

There are 373 waterholes in the national park, which is spread over 874 sq. km, but nearly 350 of them have gone dry.

Bandipur National Park is known for its tigers, Indian elephants, spotted deer, gaurs (bison), antelopes, and numerous other native species.

Our sincere condolences go out to Mr. Thammannanavar’s friends, family, and co-workers, and we hope the two injured firefighters have a speedy recovery

Wildfire expert from Spain analyzes fires in Chile

The fires have burned more than nine times the average number of acres.

The wildfires that have occurred in Chile over the last two months have attracted the attention of meteorologists, climate scientists, and wildland fire managers worldwide. During the current statistical period which runs from July through June the blazes have burned 601,367Ha (1.5 million acres) which is 924 percent of average for the 12-month period.

The organization that deals most closely with fires in Chile is not the national or regional government, but is CONAF.

From Wikipedia:

The National Forest Corporation or CONAF (Corporación Nacional Forestal) is a Chilean private, non-profit organization, through which the Chilean state contributes to the development and sustainable management of the country’s forest resources. CONAF is overseen and funded by the Ministry of Agriculture of Chile.

It administers the forest policies of Chile and promotes the development of the sector with sustainable forest management.

CONAF has been criticised in recent weeks for their response to the fires and their procedures for awarding contracts to international companies that provide firefighting helicopters and single engine air tankers.

Recently a group of wildland fire specialists from Europe visited Chile to evaluate the rash of fires in the country. One of them was Marc Castellnou, the Strategic Fire Analyst for the Government of Catalonia’s national fire services. Catalonia is a region in northeast Spain. In 2015 Mr. Castellnou received the Wildland Fire Safety Award from the International Association of Wildland Fire.

Safety Award wildland fire
Prof. Domingos Viegas (left), 2016 Wildland Fire Safety Award Recipient with Marc Castellnou, 2015 Safety Award Recipient at 14th International Wildland Fire Safety Summit, Barcelona, Spain. Photo by International Association of Wildland Fire.

CONAF held a press conference and published some of the fire specialists’ findings. Below is an excerpt from their summary. It has been automatically translated by Google and is a little rough.

…Marc Castellnou, one of the 14 specialists from the European Union Civil Protection System and an expert in the analysis of forest fire behavior, said that this tragedy was caused by three factors: temperature records, water stress of vegetation and Anticyclonic lock. The accumulation of fuel caused by eight years of drought is another contributing factor in the generation of the phenomenon.

The high simultaneity of fires with numerous hectares of fire, Castellnou explained, through meteorological studies through which he concluded that here was a real “storm of fire.” He gives as an example the fire of the Machines, in the Region of the Maule, where in 14 hours burned 115 thousand hectares [284,000 acres]. There, says the expert, the fire advanced with a speed of 6 kilometers for hours with an intensity of 60 thousand kilowatts, something that had not been seen so far worldwide.

This fire, he said, modified the atmosphere, as demonstrated by satellite imagery in which it can be seen how the column of smoke caused by the fires covers much of the Pacific Ocean and feeds on cold currents to continue advancing. An example of what is expressed is the analysis of temperatures recorded on Robinson Crusoe Island [map], where on the night of January 25th to 26th the temperature rose above its normal ranges and the humidity dropped remarkably as an effect of these megaincendios [megafire] at a distance of about 800 kilometers [497 miles].

Wildfire in Polk County, Florida destroys 12 homes

The fire has burned approximately 5,000 acres.

At least 12 homes have been destroyed in a wildfire in central Florida between Tampa and Vero Beach. Since it started near Indian Lake Estates the morning of February 15 it has burned about 5,000 acres and required the evacuation of the community for approximately 12 hours on Wednesday.

For a while on Thursday firefighters had the spread almost stopped, but strong winds caused the fire activity to pick up again near the River Ranch Hunt Club which had to be evacuated. On Friday Polk County Fire Rescue reported that approximately 100 campsite structures were destroyed at the club, where the fire is still active as of Friday afternoon.

map Polk County Florida Fire
Map showing the perimeter of the CR 630 E Fire, February 17, 2017.

At times early Friday morning State Road 60 had to be closed between CR 630 and Yeehaw Junction due to visibility being compromised by smoke.

All of these photos and the map were provided by Polk County Fire Rescue.

Polk County Florida Fire

Polk County Florida Fire

Polk County Florida Fire

map Polk County Florida Fire
Map showing the perimeter of the CR 630 E Fire, February 17, 2017.


fire tower Polk County Florida burning
Kevin Watler, an official with Polk County, confirmed that this Florida Forest Service fire tower burned on Wednesday. The original source of the photo is unknown.

Two reports released on the same day about the escaped prescribed fire near Carson City, NV

Above: Map of the Little Valley Fire at 9:23 p.m. PDT October 14, 2016.

On February 15 two reports were released about the prescribed fire that escaped, burned 2,291 acres, and destroyed 23 homes northwest of Carson City, Nevada on October 14, 2016. The first report about what became the Little Valley Fire included the results of a months-long independent investigation by the Reno Gazette-Journal (RGJ). The other, released a few hours later, was the product of the official investigation requested by the Nevada Division of Forestry (NDF), the agency responsible for conducting the prescribed fire.

Hours before the fire escaped, all eleven firefighters that had been mopping up the prescribed fire left the project and returned to their stations between 1:30 p.m. and 4:45 p.m. on October 13, 2016. During that day there were a number of smokes that received the attention of the firefighters. During the last two hours before the seven-person helitack crew departed they noticed the wind increasing — trees were blowing down and branches were falling.

The RGJ reported on the reason the firefighters were ordered to leave the burn site.

Gene Phillips, NDF forest health specialist and burn boss for the Little Valley Burn, made the decision to pull crews from the burn site after discussing the high wind forecasts for the evening with a burn boss trainee, according to the review.

The decision not to staff the site on the evening of Oct. 13 was made, according to NDF, “based on the limited amount of heat near the control lines, success of the current mop-up effort, and the risk to firefighters working in timber during high winds.”

escaped fire map
From the NIMO report.

At 5:38 p.m. the Little Valley weather station recorded sustained winds out of the west at 15 mph with a maximum gust of 39 mph. By 12:38 a.m. on October 14, about the time the fire escaped, the wind was at 19 mph with gusts up to 87 mph. The relative humidity was 32 percent.

A Red Flag Warning for gusty winds and low humidity was in effect from the morning of October 11 through 5 p.m. on October 14. Strong winds persisted until mid-day on October 17.

The NIMO team concluded that the fire escaped when embers from a burning stump hole were blown 34 feet and crossed the fireline at a corner, or “dog leg” in the fire perimeter.

According to the RGJ there was confusion in initially responding to the fire after it escaped at around 12:38 a.m. on October 14:

Response to the fire was delayed, affecting how fast it could be contained: A call at 1:23 a.m. about smoke at the burn site was later dismissed as “unfounded,” causing a TMFPD [Truckee Meadows Fire Protection District] fire engine to return to the station three minutes after it left. After a second call about smoke at the burn site, it took TMFPD more than an hour to get to the site after crews were dispatched, according to 911 transcripts.

The NDF’s report was written by the U.S. Forest Service’s Phoenix National Incident Management Organization (NIMO), a team that usually manages fires and other incidents that are often of longer duration than a typical wildfire. The team was supplemented with a Fire Behavior Analyst, a GIS/Fire Behavior Analyst, a Public Information Officer, a Fire Investigator, and others for a total of 10 personnel that were listed in the report.

Interview with a lead plane pilot about the 747 Supertanker

This article first appeared on Fire Aviation.

On January 24, 2017 the 747 SuperTanker left its base in Colorado Springs, Colorado for an assignment in Chile. It returned on February 13 after dropping on many wildfires in the South American country, making as many as seven sorties in a day each with 19,200 gallons of water enhanced with an additive to help make the water more effective, since long term retardant was not available.

Jamie Tackman
Jamie Tackman

After 17 years as a ground based wildland firefighter, with much as it as a smokejumper, Jamie Tackman transitioned to the air, becoming a lead plane pilot. He has worked off and on with the 747 air tankers since Evergreen converted the first one. Now retired from the U.S. Forest Service, he traveled to Chile to provide lead plane services for the huge aircraft operated by Global SuperTankers. This time he had a different role, or at least a different platform, flying ahead of the air tanker as usual but in an aircraft flown by military pilots.

Bill Gabbert interviewed Jamie, who began by describing the situation. Chile has no infrastructure for supervising, using, or refilling large or very large air tankers and they were unfamiliar with the concept of lead planes. In spite of these challenges the personnel working with the 747 and the other aircraft developed procedures to fight the fires from the air, while the local firefighters improvised a system on the ground for refilling the 747 and the IL-76 with water.