Arizona: Type 1 Team ordered for Brown Fire

Brown Fire, April 13, 2014. US Forest Service Photo.

Brown Fire, April 13, 2014. US Forest Service Photo.

(UPDATED at 2:18 p.m. Ariz. time, April 17, 2014)

The incident management team on the Brown Fire in southern Arizona is listing the fire at 240 acres; 232 of the acres are on U.S. Army Fort Huachuca, and 8 acres are on the Coronado National Forest. That is a 34 percent reduction in size as a result of a more accurate map produced after a fixed wing infrared mapping flight Wednesday night.

Fire crews have been working on the fire since Monday constructing fire line, but Clay Templin’s incident management team continues to say there is zero percent containment after four days of work.

Below is a description of Wednesday’s activity on the fire:

Low humidities and gusty erratic winds occurred on the fire area. Low fire behavior with some areas of creeping and smoldering fire were observed. Firefighters made progress building direct fireline on the east and west flanks of the fire however containment will not occur until firefighters are confident the lines will hold. The forward spread of the fire has been stopped. Use of retardant and water from the helicopter was effective in assisting ground forces. Contingency line preparation continued in Sawmill Canyon to the west of the fire and Ramsey Canyon to the east of the fire. Firefighters conducted structural assessments in the Ramsey Canyon area.

This will be our last report on the Brown Fire unless it increases substantially in size.

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(UPDATED at 12:05 p.m. Ariz. time, April 16, 2014)

The size of the Brown fire in southern Arizona is still reported to be 366 acres, the same as on Monday. Clay Templin’s incident management team continues to say there is zero percent containment, implying that no fireline has been constructed and held. Below is an update from the team at 8 a.m. Wednesday, describing the activities on Tuesday:

Three hotshot crews anchored the fire and began constructing fireline on the southeast and southwest flanks of the fire. Firefighters also scouted contingency lines. Airtankers and helicopters continued to drop retardant and water on the fire to try to minimize the fire’s spread. Aircraft began utilizing the tanker base at Libby Field with the exception of the DC-10 VLAT which is based out of Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport. Clay Templin’s Type 1 Southwest Incident Management Team assumed command of the fire Tuesday at 6pm.

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(UPDATED at 2:52 p.m. Ariz. time, April 15, 2014)

A satellite pass over the Brown Fire in southern Arizona at 11:40 a.m. Ariz. time today did not detect any large hot areas on the fire, nor have any been found by the satellite during other passes since the flyover at 10:48 a.m. Ariz. time, April 14. Current images from a weather satellite do not show a large smoke plume. This tends to indicate that the fire has not been very active today. However, that could change.

An update issued by the Incident Management Team at 11:50 a.m. today still listed the fire size at 366 acres with no containment, the same as on Monday. The growth potential was described as “moderate” and the fire behavior as “Active fire. Short runs. Isolated torching with short range spotting”. No structures are threatened, and the terrain is described as the proverbial “steep, rugged, and inaccessible”.

Another Fire Weather Watch is in the forecast again for Wednesday due to low humidity, strong winds, and continued drought conditions.

A public meeting will be held Tuesday at 7 p.m. at the Sierra Vista Ranger District office, 4070 S. Avenida Saracino, Hereford, AZ

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(Originally published at 10:54 a.m. Ariz. time, April 15, 2014)

A Type 1 Incident Management Team has been ordered for the Brown Fire burning in Garden Canyon on the north side of the Huachuca Mountains in southern Arizona. As you can see on the map of the fire below, it is burning seven miles north of the Mexican border and eight miles southwest of Sierra Vista, Arizona.

Brown Fire 10:48 a.m. AZ time, April 14, 2014

Map showing the location of the Brown Fire. Heat was detected by the MODIS satellite at 10:48 a.m. AZ time, April 14, 2014. The fire has grown since then. (click to enlarge)

At 9 p.m. on April 14 the Brown Fire was reported to be 366 acres with no containment, a little small for a typical Type 1 Incident Management Team (IMT) assignment, but apparently the managers of the Coronado National Forest believe the fire has the potential to become large and complex. It started on Fort Huachuca, a U.S. Army base, on April 13 and burned onto the Forest Monday morning. The fire is human-caused.

Helicopters and air tankers, including a DC-10, have been dropping water and retardant on the fire.

The area is under a Fire Weather Watch today for low relative humidity, drought conditions, and strong winds.

The IMT ordered was Clay Templin’s Type 1 Southwest team. They are scheduled to assume command at 6 p.m. on Tuesday.

Today firefighters expect to scout for handline construction contingencies, use helicopters for crew shuttles, and continue to use helicopters and air tankers to drop water and retardant.

As of 9 p.m. Monday, firefighting resources assigned or en route include 160 personnel:

  • 2 hotshot crews on scene – Ironwood IHC & Silver City IHC (3 additional hotshot crews enroute)
  • Coronado NF crew 5 short crew
  • 2 Single Engine Air Tankers (SEATs)
  • 2 P2V air tankers
  • 1 Very Large Air Tanker (VLAT)
  • 1 Type 3 helicopter
  • 1 Type 2 helicopter
  • (1 one Type 1 helicopter enroute)
  • Miscellaneous fire engines (crews supporting suppression efforts)
  • Miscellaneous overhead
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Wildfire briefing, April 9, 2014

MAFFS training in California

The California Channel Islands Air National Guard Station at Port Hueneme is conducting annual refresher and certification training this week for their crews that staff the C-130 aircraft used as air tankers when outfitted with the transportable Modular Airborne FireFighting System (MAFFS).

The Wyoming and North Carolina National Guard MAFFS units will train in Cheyenne, Wyoming beginning April 28, while the Colorado Springs Air Force Reserve unit will hold their training the week of May 16.

The four military units that host MAFFS crews have a total of eight C-130 aircraft that can be activated when what remains of the federal air tanker fleet is committed to going fires or initial attack.

Michigan man dies of injuries suffered while burning brush

A 70-year old man died after he was badly burned in a brush fire near Hart, Michigan on Monday, April 8. From mlive.com:

Roger D. Kludy, 70, died at the hospital, according to Oceana County Sheriff’s Lt. Craig Mast. There was little information known about the incident early Tuesday morning, Mast said. But authorities believe Kludy was burning brush on Adams Road Monday afternoon when something went awry and Kludy suffered severe burns. Michigan State Police is handling the investigation, Mast said.

South Carolina brush fire burns or damages 13 structures

A brush fire near Greer, South Carolina that started from a lit cigarette, caused damage estimated at $1.8 million on Wednesday, April 2. The fire destroyed three units in a condominium and a single family dwelling. Nine other structures were damaged.

Training residents to spot wildfires

“Woods Watch” training is being offered Friday to residents in Flagstaff, Arizona. According to the AP, in the one-hour course participants will learn how to properly report incidents that could start wildfires, such as people sneaking into closed areas and disregarding fire restrictions.

Incident Management Teams meet in Cheyenne

Incident Management Teams from the Rocky Mountain Region are holding their annual meeting in Cheyenne, Wyoming this week to review standard operating procedures, discuss new policies, and get to know each other before the wildland fire season begins. About 250 team members will attend from Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska, South Dakota, and Wyoming.

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Wildfire briefing, April 3, 2014

Three firefighters injured in South Carolina

Three firefighters were injured while fighting a 12-acre wildfire that spread to a structure in Florence County, South Carolina late Wednesday afternoon. One firefighter suffered second and third degree burns to his face and neck while suppressing fire in a mobile home.

wistv.com – Columbia, South Carolina |

Arizona Forestry Division outlines changes for 2014

According to an article at KNAU, Arizona State Forester Scott Hunt told reporters on Wednesday:

“Our first priority is firefighter and public safety. And it’s always going to be our first priority,” he said.

But, Hunt did say that he expects when there is an initial report of a fire that there will “heavier responses” than in the past.

On June 30, 2013, 19 firefighters were killed on the Yarnell Hill Fire which was being managed by the Arizona Forestry Division.

Los Alamos National Laboratory under pressure to move radioacitve waste before wildfire season

From TheState.com:

Los Alamos is under a tight deadline to get nuclear waste off its northern New Mexico campus before wildfire season peaks, and the New Mexico dump [temporarily closed due to a fire] is the federal government’s only permanent repository for waste from decades of nuclear-bomb building.

Aerial firefighting training for California National Guard

California National Guard aerial firefighting training

File photo of California National Guard aerial firefighting training, April, 2010. Photo by Bob Martinez.

Helicopter units of the California National Guard are scheduled to conduct their annual aerial firefighting training Friday through Sunday at the CAL FIRE academny in Ione.

Colorado Senate passes funding bill for aerial firefighting

The Colorado state Senate on Thursday passed a bill that would provide $21 million for a portion of the aerial firefighting program recommended by the Colorado Firefighting Air Corp (CFAC) in a report the agency released on March 28. The funds would enable contracting for four helicopters, four Single Engine Air Tankers, and the purchase of two fixed wing aircraft for fire detection and remote sensing, but not for the two large air tankers called for in the report.

Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper, who has been quoted as saying farmers and ranchers should be the state’s first defense against wildfires, is opposed to spending the additional $11.9 million for contracting for two large air tankers.

Wildfire season begins early in Russia

From ITAR-TASS:

Forest fires have broken out early in a season dubbed “tense this year”, Minister of Natural Resources Sergei Donskoi told a conference chaired by Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev and addressing preparations for difficult days ahead.

“The situation is tense in Russia this year. Because of low precipitation, the season has begun almost 1.5 months ahead of the norm,” the minister said. Seventeen fires have already been registered across a territory of 2,000 hectares, the minister said.

Citing reasons for danger, the minister noted an early spring and a shallow layer of frozen soil. This was only 40-50% of normal levels and was leaving dry surface soil.

The Ministry of Natural Resources has adopted an inter-regional fire prevention plan employing an additional 3,000-strong contingent of firefighters, 800 units of firefighting equipment and 4,000 fire extinguishers, the minister said.

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Wildfire briefing, March 30, 2014

Prescribed fire smoke in Manhattan, Kansas

Prescribed fire smoke in Manhattan, Kansas, March 29, 2014. Photo by Eric Ward.

Prescribed fire smoke in the Flint Hills

In light of the discussion on Wildfire Today about prescribed fire as a tourist attraction in the Flint Hills of Kansas, Eric Ward sent us the above photo that he took Saturday afternoon in smoky Manhattan, Kansas. He explained that many of the ranchers in the area conduct extensive burning projects this time of the year in order to enhance weight gains of cattle if they plan to stock pastures in May. On days when the relative humidity and wind speed are within an acceptable range, the evidence of the burning is very visible in the atmosphere, especially if weather for the previous week or so has been bouncing between snow and red flag weather conditions, as it has this year.

Colorado report recommends contracting for air tankers and helicopters

Colorado Firefighting Air CorpsA long-awaited report about aerial firefighting by state agencies in Colorado was released Friday by the Colorado Firefighting Air Corps (CFAC). Some of the more significant recommendations include:

  • Increase the number of Single Engine Air Tankers (SEAT) on exclusive use contracts from two to four.
  • Contract for the exclusive use of four Type 3 or larger rotor-wing aircraft. (Type 3 helicopters can carry 100 to 300 gallons.)
  • Contract for the exclusive use of two Type 2 or larger air tankers. (Type 2 air tankers can carry 1,800 to 3,000 gallons). The contingency, if the State is unable to contract for two air tankers, is to contract for two helitankers, or a combination of one fixed-wing air tanker and one helitanker.

More details are at Fire Aviation.

Arizona seeks to immunize the state from liability from wildfires

A bill that was approved unanimously Tuesday by the Arizona Senate Appropriations Committee, House Bill 2343, would exempt the state and state employees from prosecution for harm resulting from the action, or inaction by state employees on state lands. Hundreds of millions of dollars in claims have been filed by the families of the 19 firefighters killed on the Yarnell Hill Fire and by property owners whose homes burned. The fire was managed by the state of Arizona in June, 2013.

Firefighters assisting with Oso landslide

Personnel that usually can be found at wildfires are helping to manage the response to the tragic landslide at Oso, Washington. We have reports that some of the resources assisting include Washington Incident Management Team #4 (a Type 2 team), miscellaneous overhead, and some Washington Department of Natural Resources chain saw teams. The IMTeam was dispatched on March 27.

New topic from “Safety Matters”

The “Safety Matters” group has released their “Topic #5″, and they are seeking input from wildland firefighters. Below is an excerpt:

…2014 marks the 20th Anniversary of South Canyon and the 38th Anniversary of Battlement Creek. Both fires fit the model of firefighters dying in a brush fuel type, on a slope, during hot and dry conditions.

The loss of the Granite Mountain Hotshots indicates that a significant accident occurs every 18 to 20 years. Is there a reoccurring cycle, and if so why? Could it be related to a cyclic turnover of firefighter culture, training and attitude? What are the thoughts of Safety Matters readers?

Bushfire season ends in New South Wales

The bushfire season has reached its official end in New South Wales.

Tribute to author Norman Maclean

The Daily Beast has reprinted an excellent essay that Pete Dexter wrote for Esquire in 1981 about Norman Maclean. It explores a side of of the author that is not revealed in his book about firefighters, Young Men and Fire. Mr. Dexter spent quite a bit of time with Mr. Maclean, who at that time was writing the final chapter. Mr. Maclean also wrote A River Runs Through It, which was made into a movie starring Robert Redford and Brad Pitt. The Esperanza Fire, a book written by his son John N. Maclean, is working its way towards becoming a movie.

U.S. National Guard assists with fire in Puerto Rico

From the AP:

Puerto Rico has enlisted the U.S. National Guard to help extinguish a fire that has ravaged a forest in the island’s central region. Firefighting Chief Angel Crespo says that about 40 percent of the Modelo Forest in the town of Adjuntas has been destroyed. Authorities say they believe the fire was intentionally set and that it has consumed up to 290 acres (117 hectares). A U.S. National Guard helicopter helped dump water over the area on Friday.

Fantastic photo

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Northwest Fire District hoped the Ironwood Hotshots would be a moneymaker

On Tuesday the Northwest Fire District which serves the northwest metropolitan area of Tucson, Arizona announced they were disbanding their Ironwood Hotshot crew at the end of the 2014 wildland fire season. Various reasons for the decision were reported in the media, with representatives of the District quoted as saying it was mostly for financial considerations. John Hoellerich a firefighter on the Ironwood Hotshots who started a petition to retain the crew, said it was related to lawsuits filed against the Prescott Fire Department over the fatal Yarnell Hill Fire that killed 19 members of the Department’s Granite Mountain Hotshot crew.

Ironwood Hotshots

Ironwood Hotshots. Photo by Ironwood Hotshots.

When the concept of having a hotshot crew was sold to the Tucson community, one of the justifications was that the 20-person firefighting crew would make money for the district, or at least break even.

David Gephart, the District’s Finance Director, told Wildfire Today the crew is being disbanded for “financial and operational” reasons. He said one of the operational considerations is that the District has some vacant structural firefighting positions it needs to fill, and the seven permanent members of the crew will be offered those positions. Four of those seven have already been through the structural fire academy, while three have not but will be scheduled to receive the training.

When a firefighting resource, such as a hotshot crew or fire engine, from one agency helps to suppress a fire in another jurisdiction for an extended period of time, formal agreements usually stipulate that the lending agency is financially reimbursed for their expenses. The reimbursement amount is based on the crewperson hours worked. That rate is almost three times the actual hourly rate the District pays the firefighters, in order to cover other expenses related to the fire assignment. For example, the Prescott Fire Department was reimbursed for 95.5 percent of the total expenses of operating the Granite Mountain Hotshots in the 2012 fiscal year, according to an article in The Daily Courier.

Mr. Gephart provided figures for the fiscal years 2011 through 2013 showing that the operational expenses for the Ironwood Hotshots for that three year period were $7.3 million. They were reimbursed for $7.2 million, or, 98.6 percent of their costs.

Right now there is a positive balance in the Hotshots’ account of $1.2 million when considering payments the District expects to receive for fire assignments last year, Mr. Gephart said.

Ironwood Hotshots costs

We asked if the 200 other firefighters that the District employs were expected to generate their own funding, and Mr. Gephart said they were not.

He pointed out that there are other costs for maintaining the Hotshot crew that are are not included above which are more difficult to put on a spread sheet, including overhead, indirect, capital needs, and IT expenses.

Since the crew came within one percent of being self-supporting, we asked why the Hotshots were created in the first place. Mr. Gephart said they expected the crew to make money for the District, or in a worst case, break even. He went on to say future costs will have a negative effect on the crew’s financial situation, such as a new requirement that the 13 seasonal firefighters have health insurance, and increases in the cost of pensions.

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Ironwood Hotshots to be disbanded

Ironwood Hotshots

Ironwood Hotshots

UPDATE at 5:13 p.m. MST, March 5, 2014: today we reported more details in a new article about why the Fire District decided to disband the Ironwood Hotshots.

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(Originally published at 4:53 p.m. MST, March 4, 2014)

The Northwest Fire District announced today that they will disband their Hotshot Crew, the Ironwood Hotshots, at the end of the 2014 wildfire season. The District serves the northwest metropolitan area of Tucson, Arizona, and is one of the very few organizations employing a hotshot crew that is not a federal or state land management agency. Another was the city of Prescott, Arizona, whose Granite Mountain Hotshot crew was virtually wiped out when 19 members of the crew were entrapped and killed on the Yarnell Hill Fire June 30, 2013.

The Fire District said the reason for eliminating the Ironwood Hotshots, according to Tucson News Now, was financial.

Financial and operational reasons were given for the decision to disband. Financially, the fire district said the hotshots cost money, including indirect costs that are not reimbursed by the federal government. Operationally, the crews are sent all over the country and by disbanding the crew, Northwest Fire can improve service locally and lower the tax rate.

A petition at Change.org that encourages the retention of the crew, cites fear of lawsuits, such as those filed against the City of Prescott following their disaster last year.

…In the wake of this terrible tragedy a series of lawsuits were filed against Prescott Fire Department, and State and Federal agencies. It was in direct result of these pending suits that the leadership of Northwest Fire District has hastily decided to abolish the Ironwood Hotshots, who provide a core function in the protection of the cities of Tucson, Marana and surrounding communities against the threat of Wildland fires…

When a firefighting resource, such as a hotshot crew or fire engine, from one agency travels and helps to suppress a fire in another jurisdiction for an extended period of time, formal agreements usually stipulate that the lending agency is financially reimbursed for their expenses. For example, the Prescott Fire Department paid the personnel on the Granite Mountain Hotshots around $12 an hour according to The Daily Courier, but the department was reimbursed by the federal government at the rate of $39.50 an hour.

In fiscal year 2012, the city estimated that the crew brought in $1,375,191, and had $1,437,444 in operating expenses – for a difference of $62,253.

In 2012, payments for fighting fire paid for 95.5 percent of the cost of the Granite Mountain Hotshots. While they were not assigned to a fire, they sometimes spent time on projects for the city, including hazard fuel mitigation — removing vegetation to reduce the chance that fires approaching residential areas would destroy the homes of city residents. And of course, much of the year they were available for fighting wildland fires in and near the city of Prescott.

We have a report that the Ironwood Hotshots have been doing even better financially and the crew is not a monetary burden on the Fire District. They are reimbursed at about $40 per crewperson hour, which covers not only salary but some other routine expenses while firefighting the fire. The starting pay for a new crewperson is about $13 an hour. Even though the crew recently purchased and paid for $500,000 worth of new crew carriers, they still have a positive balance in their hotshot crew account of several hundred thousand dollars.

Last September another hotshot crew, El Cariso, established 60 years before, was disbanded. The Ironwood Hotshots first attained Type 1 Interagency Hotshot Crew certification in 2009.

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