Red Flag Warnings, May 2,1 2015

wildfire Red Flag Warnings, May 21, 2015

While many areas in the lower 48 states have received rain in recent weeks, Red Flag Warnings or Fire Weather Watches have been issued for areas in Alaska and New Mexico.

The map was current as of 7:45 a.m. MDT on Thursday. Red Flag Warnings can change throughout the day as the National Weather Service offices around the country update and revise their forecasts and maps. For the most current data visit this NWS site or this NWS site.


The first USFS HC-130H air tanker to arrive at McClellan in mid-June

C-130H paint design

HC-130H paint design, by Scheme Designers

The first of the seven HC-130Hs that are being transferred from the Coast Guard to the U.S. Forest Service will arrive at Forest Service Air Station McClellan (FSAS MCC) in mid-June, not mid-May as originally planned. And yes, that is what the Forest Service is calling their facility at McClellan Airport in Sacramento, California.

The aircraft will still be a work in progress when it lands at MCC. It will not have the paint job as seen above, but will be gray and white with U.S. Forest Service Modular Airborne Fire Fighting System MAFFS markings, according to Jennifer Jones, a USFS spokesperson for the USFS. The gravity-based retardant tank will not have been installed, so it will be temporarily operating with a MAFFS pressurized 3,000-gallon tank. It will also need to depart at some point for scheduled Programmed Depot Maintenance, painting, and retardant tank installation…

(The rest of the story is at Fire Aviation.)


Coal seam fires burning in Alaska

French Gulch Fire

The 108-acre French Gulch Fire, a coal seam fire burning about 5 miles east of the Parks Highway near Healy, Alaska.

The Alaska Division of Forestry is monitoring two, and possibly three, coal seam fires that popped up near Healy as a result of the recent hot, dry, windy weather.

The larger of the three fires, the 108-acre French Gulch Fire, was reported just after 7 p.m. on Sunday when somebody spotted smoke up the Healy Creek Valley. It is burning about 5 ½ miles east of the Parks Highway behind the Usibelli Coal Mine.

As of Monday afternoon, the fire was creeping and smoldering in tundra with minimal activity in the hardwoods, reported Incident Commander Shelby Majors with the Alaska Division of Forestry. The fire is in an area that has burned several times from previous coal seam fires and no structures are threatened, he said.

“It’s burning within a fire scar within a fire scar within a fire scar,” is how Mr. Majors put it.

There were three state forestry firefighters on scene and a state-contracted helicopter was used Sunday to drop water on the fire. The state borrowed a helicopter from the National Park Service on Monday to drop more water on the western edge of the fire. The plan is to prevent the fire from spreading west toward the highway and let it burn itself out using natural barriers, Mr. Majors said.

“We’re going to pretty much let it do its own thing,” he said. “The primary activity is along the southeast corner and it’s working itself into a snow field and rocks so it will be running out of fuel in the next day or two.”

Another, much smaller coal seam fire was detected on Sunday about 12 miles north of the French Gulch Fire, Mr. Majors said. That fire was only about 5-feet-by-5 feet and no suppression action was being taken because it was in an old burn area with minimal spread potential, he said.

A third fire was reported Monday morning about 5 miles north of the French Gulch Fire. That fire, which was estimated at 25 acres as of Monday afternoon, is also suspected to be a coal seam fire but that has not been confirmed, according to Mr. Majors. It too is burning tundra in an old fire scar and the potential for spread is minimal so there are no suppression efforts being taken as of Monday afternoon.

Coal seam fires are a common occurrence in the area and occasionally come to life when the conditions are right.


From Alaska Division of Forestry

Coal and coal seam fires reported on Wildfire Today.



A brief look at the Little Bobtail Lake Fire

Little Bobtail Fire

The Little Bobtail Lake Fire. Photo provided by the British Columbia Wildfire Management Branch, May 15, 2015. (click to enlarge)

We don’t usually put too much confidence in the containment percentages government personnel assign to wildfires, since sometimes it is extremely subjective and not always based on reality, but as the Little Bobtail Fire southwest of Prince George, British Columbia continues to grow, the containment percentage decreased today from 20 percent to 15 percent. The blaze has now blackened 25,000 hectares, or 62,000 acres.

Our main site for the Little Bobtail Lake Fire is HERE, with much more detail.


Firefighter checking out dead bear was injured by power line

A firefighter working on a fire on the George Washington & Jefferson National Forests in Bath County, Virginia on May 15 walked over to look at a dead bear and was injured by by a low-hanging power line.

From the “24-hour Report”:

Job Corps Hand Crew was performing mop-up operations within one chain of the fire perimeter. Crew was aware of a dead bear three chains away along the power line and walked over to observe the bear. One of the crew members walked between the bear’s location and the low hanging power line and received electrical burns. The crew member was triaged on site by an EMT firefighter. The crew member was transferred by ambulance to a local hospital and then air lifted to a regional burn unit. Notifications were made to Forest Supervisor, SACC/F&AM, Regional Forester and the Washington Office.

And, an update from the “72-hour Report”

Since the incident, the low hanging power line has been repaired by the power company. The injured firefighter is being treated at a Regional Burn Center located in Richmond, Virginia. The firefighter has been improving since the incident occurred. The injured firefighter will be in the hospital from one to three weeks, depending on recovery.


USFWS employee receives award for suggestion to track firefighters with transmitter collars

Barton Rye award

FWS Branch Chief John Segar presents National Safety Award to Barton Rye Credit: Josh O’Connor, USFWS

Tallahasee, Florida – On May 7, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) presented its second annual National Fire Safety Award to Barton (Bart) Rye, Prescribed Fire/Fuels Technician from St Marks National Wildlife Refuge for a simple suggestion that helped direct a lost firefighter to safety during a prescribed fire.

The Award, presented by John Segar, FWS Chief, Branch of Fire Management from the National Interagency Fire Center, recognizes Rye for his innovative use of Global Positioning System (GPS) technology to more easily map, track and monitor the location of multiple firefighters, vehicles, and aircraft during large burns on the 70,000-acre refuge.

Rye suggested that his fire crew on foot and all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) carry GPS transmitter collars, like those worn by his hunting dogs, so that up to ten resources could be tracked in real-time by a Burn Boss on a single hand-held receiver. ATVs and dozers on southeastern forests commonly become high-centered on hard-to-spot stumps in heavy vegetation where they cannot be readily seen by others, risking the loss of life and/or equipment during fires.

transmitter collar

The refuge first tested the use of the collars last spring. When a firefighter unfamiliar with southeastern terrain walked into a sawgrass pond while igniting a burn and becoming disoriented in knee-deep water with grass over his head, the GPS device allowed the Burn Boss to verbally direct the firefighter out of harm’s way. In February, a helicopter working a 3800-acre burn carried a collar to allow immediate location of the aircraft in case of an accident.

transmitter collar

“Bart’s initiative added a level of safety that wasn’t there before and may very well lead to national implementation,” said Segar. “This system is off-the-shelf and simple to operate.”

The Refuge purchased two hand-held receivers — one each for a Burn Boss and Firing Boss — and a transmitting collar for each prescribed fire crew member. A single transmitter and hand-held receiver together cost about $500.

St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge along Florida’s Gulf Coast conducts 40-50 prescribed burns annually, averaging 300-400 acres each, to reduce the risk of wildfire and maintain fire-resilient landscapes.

firefighter tracking

Map showing the tracks of three firefighters on a prescribed fire, in green, red, and blue.

(All photos were provided by the FWS.)
(Note from Bill: The Garmin website has information about one of their tracking systems.)