Fatal plane crash sparks Arizona wildfire

A plane crash north of Sedona that killed four people also ignited a small wildfire on Sunday, The Arizona Republic reported.

The 25-acre Fay Fire is burning about four miles north of Sedona in the Coconino National Forest, the paper reported. One hotshot crew, one helicopter and an air attack have been assigned to fire

The victims of the crash have yet to be identified, officials say. The cause of the crash was unknown as of Monday afternoon.


One-liners, June 18, 2014

Assayii Fire June 15

Assayii Fire June 15, 2014. InciWeb photo.

*The Assayii Fire in northwest New Mexico, reported on Friday the 13th, has burned 12,107 acres on the Navajo Nation in the Bowl Canyon area.

*Missoula smokejumpers got checked out on a new Eurocopter (now Airbus Helicopters) EC135 helicopter on Tuesday.

*On Tuesday five fires were intentionally set in vegetation in Oakland, California about two miles from where the Tunnel Fire began, which in 1991 killed 25 people (23 civilians, 1 police officer, and 1 firefighter), injured 150, and destroyed 2,449 single-family dwellings and 437 apartment and condominium units.

*An off duty firefighter employed by the city of Arcadia, California is missing in the Los Padres National Forest in southern California.

*California will give $10 million of the $48 million of the “fire fees” they have collected to counties and organizations who intend to use the funds for fire prevention and mitigation projects.

*Evaluations of how agencies in San Diego County handled the rash of wildfires in mid-May determined that communications was major issue; that and the need for a third helicopter, but the $5 million request for the helicopter was not approved.

*Three cities in the Austin, Texas area plan to install a network of wildfire detection cameras to add to the one purchased last year by West Lake Hills.

*Squirrels may be to blame for some patchy reproduction of lodgepole pines following the 1988 wildfires in Yellowstone National Park.

*An unfortunate raven started a wildfire 25 kilometers northeast of Yellowknife in the Northwest Territories of Canada when it contacted electrical wires; we will add this to our Animal Arson series, although it may have been a case of suicide arson.

*Dan Glickman and Harris Sherman, two former very high-ranking appointees in the Department of Agriculture, wrote an opinion piece for the New York Times supporting the bill that would allow the Forest Service to draw money from federal disaster funds when firefighting costs reach 70 percent of the 10-year average.
Thanks and a hat tip go out to Doug


Wildfire briefing, June 13, 2014

(Originally published at 9:19 a.m. CT, June 13, 2014)

House teetering on cliff to be prescribed burned

House above lake

NBCDFW photo.

A house at the top of a cliff over Lake Whitney in Texas will be burned intentionally Friday morning. The cliff below part of the house has fallen away, leaving the house precariously teetering. The house will be burned, which is considered a better option than allowing it to fall into the lake where the debris would have to be removed.

A crew is prepping the house by breaking out windows and adding bales of hay soaked in diesel fuel to the interior.

The prescribed fire is being covered live by a television station in Texas.

(UPDATE at 10:15 a.m. CT, June 13, 2014)

Ignition has begun. Firefighters are on scene applying water between the burning home and a nearby house, perhaps to minimize damage to a couple of trees.

House above lake burning

(UPDATE at 11:36 a.m. CT, June 13, 2014)

It’s pretty much over:

House above lake burning House above lake burning

The photos are from NBCDFW.

Funeral services for Nevada firefighter

The funeral services for Donovan Artie Garcia Jr. will be held today, Friday, June 13. Mr. Garcia, the Assistant Chief of the Hungry Valley, Nevada fire department, died of a heart attack while participating in wildland fire training June 5. Services will be in Reno at 11 a.m. at the Hungry Valley Gymnasium, 9070 Eagle Canyon Drive.

MD-87 air tanker makes first drops

Erickson Aero Tanker’s two MD-87 air tankers, T-101 and T-105, made numerous drops on the Two Bulls Fire near Bend, Oregon shortly after they became certified and reported for duty. Wallowa.com has an article in which they quote pilot Brent Conner:

“I mean, I always wanted to be flying propeller planes, so this is new for me, and for most of us in this business,” he said.

“We can hold it in check, as we did with this fire, for about two days with retardant,” he said. “That gave them enough time to get the other flank taken care of.”

While it’s a job he’s done countless times before, it was Conner’s first weekend in real wildfire action with the Aero Tanker.

“It was a little nerve-wracking, actually,” he said. “We hadn’t been on a fire yet, the fire’s only 15 miles away. We barely had time to get the airplane cleaned up and we were already putting the flaps down, slowing down and getting ready to go.”

More information about the MD-87s is at Fire Aviation.

Reward for information about Two Bulls Fire

And speaking of the Two Bulls Fire at Bend, Oregon, the reward for information leading to a conviction of the person or persons responsible for setting the 6,908-acre fire has increased to $31,500. Anyone with information that could help identify suspects in the fire is asked to contact the Crime Stoppers Tip Line at 1-877-876-8477 (TIPS).

Hot pink may be the new color of fire retardant

The Missoula Technology Development Center is testing new colors for the fire retardant that is dropped by air tankers and helicopters. Below are excerpts from KPAX:

Over the last three years, some pilots have been complaining that the bright orange retardant is hard to see. “Particularly in late season when we’ve got grasses and trees that start turning color,” said Zylstra. With that concern, researchers at the US Forest Service’s Technology and Development Center in Missoula began looking into a solution, potentially a hot pink colored slurry. “So we run a product through a variety of different tests in our lab before it’s used out in the field,” said Zylstra.


The first batch of the hot pink slurry will be tested at four air tanker bases in California in regions predicted to have busy firefighting season.

Helitack crews train in Idaho

MagicValley.com has an article about U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management helitack crews training for the upcoming wildfire season.

Austin, Texas to get wildfire detection system

The Austin City Council voted to purchase a system of sensors mounted on towers that can detect smoke. The approval will allow the installation of two towers which will be tested for a year. At the end of the year they may decide to expand the system. In 2013, West Lake Hills, a community near Austin, also approved the acquisition of a similar system. It can detect smoke within 6 miles by rotating their sensors, completing a 360-degree rotation every 8 to 12 minutes, during which it takes images, analyzes, and then transmits those images for secondary analysis. If possible fire events are detected, the system alerts fire authorities.

Hotshots assist with prescribed fire on military base

The Laguna Hot Shots, based at Descanso, California, helped conduct a prescribed fire at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar on Thursday north of San Diego. Below is an excerpt from an article at 10News:

As a formation of Marine FA/18′s passed overhead to land at MCAS Miramar, members of the Laguna Hotshot crew were setting fire to the east side of the base.

The prescribed burn, as it’s called, is part of an annual brush management system put in place after the 2003 wildfire.

“After it burned more than 17,000 acres, the Cedar Fire really opened our eyes to a strong brush management program at the air station,” said Miramar Fire Operations Chief Paul Thompkins.

Construction begins on firefighter memorial in Prescott

Construction has started on a memorial in a cemetery in Prescott, Arizona for the members of the Granite Mountain Hotshots that were killed while fighting the Yarnell Hill Fire on June 30, 2013.

Below is an excerpt from KJZZ.org:

Construction is starting on a cemetery memorial for 19 firefighters killed in the Yarnell Hill wildfire, nearly a year after the fire started near Prescott. Each firefighter will have a plot and a bronze grave marker at the state-owned Pioneers’ Home Cemetery in Prescott. The plots are surrounded by a two-foot wall where mourners can sit.

Officials say 10 of the Granite Mountain Hotshot firefighters are already buried there. They say there’s room for family members to be buried alongside them.

The state designated a new section of the cemetery for the hotshots and charged $100 per grave site, instead of the usual $900.



Simulation of winds affecting the Yarnell Hill Fire

This is an animation developed by Janice Coen, Ph.D., a Project Scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado. It simulates through a coupled weather-wildland fire environment model the spread of the Yarnell Hill Fire and the wind direction and speed. The arrows indicate the wind direction; the length of the arrows vary with the wind speed. On June 30, 2013 19 members of the Granite Mountain Hotshots were overrun by the fire when the winds from a thunderstorm cell north of the fire changed the direction of spread of the fire by about 90 degrees, surprising the firefighters on the south side of the fire, resulting in their entrapment.

See if you can tell when conditions worsened for the Hotshots.

Dr. Coen’s description of the simulation:

It begins at 2 am on 6/30/13. The fire is initialized in the model using the ~3 am VIIRS active fire detection map. Each frame is 1 minute apart, the sequence extends until 8:15 pm on 6/30. The fatality occurred around 4:45 PM. The color bar on the right indicates the heat flux (watts per square meter) from the fire, with more intensely burning areas in bright yellow and white, and less intensely burning areas in darker reds.
In the simulation, solar heating stirs up the boundary layer circulations throughout the day. Convection occurs in outer domains (not shown) to the northeast, creating high-based convective clouds as air flows south/southeast over the Mogollon Rim. Rain falls into a very dry boundary layer, creating a broad gust front that reaches the south edge of the fire at frame 936, which is 51 minutes after the fatality, so the simulated rush through the fatality site is about an hour slow.

The map below shows the approximate location of the fire at 4:30 p.m. on June 30, 2014, about 15 minutes before the Hotshots were entrapped at the deployment site (X) on the south side.

Yarnell Hill Fire, estimated perimeter at 4:30 p.m. June 30, 2014

Yarnell Hill Fire, estimated perimeter at 4:30 p.m. June 30, 2014. Source: Arizona State Forestry Division.


Galahad Fire burns on North Rim of the Grand Canyon

(UPDATE at 10:30 a.m. Arizona time, June 4, 2014)

map of the Galahad Fire

3-D map of the Galahad Fire, looking south at 8:20 p.m. June 4, 2014. Incident Management Team, and Google Earth.

The Galahad Fire on the north rim of the Grand Canyon has grown to 2,702 acres, and the incident management team is calling it 5 percent contained. The containment figure is based on the portion of the fire in which firefighters are continuing to control.

Below is an update from the incident management team Tuesday night:

Today, no additional spots were detected east of the W-4 Road. Containment lines on the W-4 Road continued to be improved by firefighters north and south of Kanabownits Cabin. Firefighters also mopped up along the west side of the W-4 Road where burnout operations were conducted a few days ago. Helicopters were used to assist firefighters in detecting possible spot fires east of the W-4 Road and for water drops in areas below the canyon rim to reduce fire activity.

This video, shot from a helicopter, shows close-up views of the fire. It’s great that the Park is posting these videos, and maybe the next one will include a wide view, showing the context of the fire and its proximity to the canyon and the facilities on the north rim.


(Originally published at 9:07 a.m. Arizona time, June 2, 2014)

Grand Canyon Map of Galahad Fire

3D map of Galahad Fire, looking south. Perimeter as of 1 p.m., May 29, 2014, Incident Management Team and Google Earth.

Firefighters are not totally suppressing a fire on the north rim of the Grand Canyon in Arizona, but are managing it for both natural resource and protection objectives. The lightning-caused fire was discovered on May 23 and as of June 1 had burned 1,975 acres with an estimated management cost of $525,000 to date. It is being managed by 171 personnel, including 5 hand crews, 4 helicopters, and 8 engines.

Firefighters are attempting to hold the fire west of the W-4 Road, and suppressed three spot fires across the road on May 31. They do not want the fire to become established east of the road due to the lack of any effective fire breaks or safety zones for firefighters.

The Red Flag Warning in effect for the area today may test firefighters through Monday evening, with 20 to 30 mph southwest winds gusting to 30 to 40, along with a relative humidity below 10 percent. (Map of Red Flag Warning areas.)

Galahad Fire, May 27

Galahad Fire, May 27. NPS photo by Ron Brown.

Galahad Fire, May 27

Galahad Fire, May 27. NPS photo by Jay Lusher.

The video below was shot on May 29 and provides some aerial views of the fire. Perhaps next time they will include an establishing shot, showing the proximity of the fire to the Grand Canyon. And, having shot a lot of photographs from helicopters, I know that if you position the lens very close to the plexiglass, or better yet, remove the door, it reduces or eliminates reflections off the window. But, it is great having a video of the fire. It is surprising that this is not done and provided to the public more often — recon helicopters and air attack ships sometimes spend hours orbiting fires or flying the perimeter.

In researching this story, we discovered that the National Park Service has a new high-tech, expensive, “Virtual Studio for Kids” at the Grand Canyon, with green-screen technology and an integrated system that allows for high definition, live, multi-camera video production. The park does a great deal of video distance learning with schools. Having this ability on site provides a unique ability to use the studio production facilities to cover the Galahad Fire in a way that has not previously been done. Maybe they will grab this opportunity and figure out a way to break some new ground.

Andy Pearce and Amala Posey Grand Canyon

Andy Pearce and Amala Posey in the studio. NPS photo.

The video below is an example of their work. It is very professional, and looks like it could have been filmed at the NBC studios in New York instead of government facilities at the Grand Canyon.


Firefighters on the Slide Fire discover historic site

 cabin site

Firefighter Leo Holley, who discovered the cabin site. USFS photo.

Firefighters from the Coronado National Forest working on the Slide Fire near Sedona, Arizona discovered the almost imperceptible remains of a historic log cabin. Leo Holley made the initial find and he worked with several other firefighters to protect the site from being consumed in the fire, constructing fireline and later placing aluminum fire shelter material over the area.

Mr. Holley first noticed that there were logs laying at right angles and continued to examine clues until he decided it was probably a cabin site.

Below is an excerpt from an article in the LA Times (which has more photos of the firefighters and the site):

“What is remarkable is that archaeological remains of the cabin were almost imperceptible,” [Jeremy Haines, a U.S. Forest Service archaeologist] said. “Forest Service archaeologists work … to protect these special places, and Leo’s discovery demonstrates how much we depend on firefighters to help us do this job.”

The cabin probably belonged to someone who was pushing the margins of habitable space because all the prime land is farther south, Haines said.

The cabin was probably destroyed years ago by a wildfire. The cabin was probably no more than 150 square feet. The firefighting crew also found a collapsed mound of rocks, which may have been the chimney.

Cabin site protected from the fire

Cabin site protected from the fire by fire shelter material. USFS photo.

The Slide Fire has burned 21,217 acres and the incident management team is calling it 75 percent contained.