Wildfire briefing, November 21, 2014

FDNY Incident Management Team deploys to Buffalo, NY

The New York City Fire Department’s Incident Management Team has deployed to Buffalo, New York to assist in the organization and management of snow removal efforts following this week’s record snowfall. Friday morning at 5:45 the team departed from the Randalls Island Fire Academy after being requested by the New York State Division of Homeland Security and in coordination with the New York City Office of Emergency Management.

The FDNY saw the benefits of an IMT when they received help from Type 1 interagency IMTs after the attack on the World Trade Center in 2001. Soon thereafter they began training personnel to fill the positions for a team. Since then, the FDNY IMT has responded to multiple national emergencies including forest fires; to New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina; in Broome County, NY following Hurricane Irene and in New York after Hurricane Sandy.

Leaf burning leads to felony charge

A 74-year old man was charged with a felony after his leaf burning caused a wildfire north of Allentown, Pennsylvania on November 4. A police officer used a fire extinguisher to keep the fire, which had spread to within eight feet of a neighbor’s garage, from burning the structure.

“[Dale] Schaeffer failed to call the police or fire department, and continued to let the fire burn out of control in a reckless and dangerous manner,” the officer wrote in his affidavit of probable cause.

Mr. Schaeffer was arraigned Thursday before District Judge Robert Hawke on a felony charge of reckless burning and summary dangerous burning.

Grass fires occurring in Oklahoma

Cured grasses in Oklahoma are providing fuel for an increased number of wildfires in the state.

Brush fire at nudist resort

Firefighters suppressed a wildfire at the Sunny Rest Lodge on Thursday, in Carbon County, Pennsylvania.

Country Fire Service to cease aerial firefighting if a drone is spotted

State aviation operations manager David Pearce said South Australia’s Country Fire Service will cease all aerial operations at bushfires if an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) is spotted in the area.

“Helicopters are particularly susceptible,” Mr Pearce said.

“If the drone is sucked into the intake of the jet engines, or goes into the tail rotor, then it’s probably curtains for the helicopter.”

Gyrocopter crash kills pilot, starts fire

The crash of a gyrocopter near Gatton in Queensland, Australia killed the pilot and started a bushfire on Friday.

Queensland helicopters to go high tech

QGAir Rescue

QGAir Rescue. Photo: Queensland Fire and Emergency Services.

From itnews:

The Queensland (Australia) Government has invested $1 million to install screen sharing technology in its Kedron emergency services hub as well as five helicopter bases across the state.

The new kit – based on Cruiser Interactive technology – will allow Queensland Government Air (QGAir) teams across the six sites to share the same view of incoming data and emergency monitoring, and to switch between different screen views with a flick of the wrist.

Interactive screens have been set up in the co-ordination sites, onto which information from phones, tablets and PCs can be displayed.

Aero-Flite moving to Spokane

The company that operates Avro RJ-85 air tankers is moving from Kingman, Arizona to the airport at Spokane, Washington. Aero-Flite announced Thursday that it is moving its corporate headquarters and air tanker fleet to Spokane International Airport.

More information about Aero-Flite’s move is at Fire Aviation.


In Victoria, “Creating our future together” means slashing 164 positions in the Country Fire Authority

As Australia enters their bushfire season, there is a report that the Country Fire Authority in Victoria will eliminate 164 positions.

Below is an excerpt from an article at 9news.com.au:

…CFA documents obtained by the Herald Sun reveal close to 10 percent of the organisation’s paid staff will be cut.

The restructure, called Creating Our Future Together, will save the CFA $16 million annually.

CFA spokesman Gerard Scholten said no frontline firefighters positions would be cut. But 71 roles in “Fire and Emergency Management” are to be axed, 16 of which have already been cut. Business services will lose 59 positions, operational training and volunteerism 20, people and culture 7, and communities and communication 1.

United Firefighters Union Victorian Secretary Peter Marshall said he was “gobsmacked” when he found out about the job cuts. Many of the positions being cut lent critical support to firefighters during bushfires, he said.

“It is inconceivable that on the back of a royal commission into the loss of 173 lives, heading into what we now know to be another potentially catastrophic fire season you actually have an organisation that is downsizing critical positions,” Mr Marshall said.

A CFA spokesperson said most cutbacks, in back office positions, were due to the completion of projects stemming from the Victorian bushfires royal commission.

“All were by natural attrition or the completion of contracts,” the spokesperson said on Monday.

“The process is about putting CFA on a more efficient, sustainable footing and living within its means.”


Woman burns toilet paper, starts fire, is given suspended sentence

A woman in South Australia who dealt with soiled toilet paper by burning it, was given a two-month suspended sentence for the one-acre bushfire she started near Murphy’s Haystacks last December.

Below is an excerpt from the West Coast Sentinel:

…[Melissa Jane] Carmody was camping for several days near Murphy’s Haystacks, which resulted in a pile of debris forming, which a member of the public became concerned about.

This alerted Ms Carmody to set fire to the pile of toilet paper she had accumulated from not having a bathroom.

“You burnt soiled toilet paper in a situation where you thought that that was something that you ought to do,” Judge [Simon] Stretton said.

“What you should of realised is on that December 2, 2013 you were right in the middle of bushfire season and there is an obvious risk that burning paper outdoors is going to cause a grass fire,” he said.

We are aware of at least four other fires started by the same behavior, and documented three of them here. A fourth was in the 1980s in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park in southern California during the annual big horn sheep count. There are other reports of fires with the same cause in George Creek Canyon on the Inyo National Forest in 1979, and the Narrows Fire on the Angeles NF in 1997.   (Check out the comments below this article at Wildfire Today.)


Wildfire briefing, November 11, 2014

Lightning injures three people in Australia

Lightning in Western Australia struck and injured three people, including a person near his home who was believed to be a volunteer firefighter. According to a neighbor the man later walked to an ambulance but was holding his arm. A spokesperson for the Department of Fire and Emergency Services said the man fell to the ground after being hit.

“He had an initial check and was cleared, suffering a little anxiety, and was transported to hospital,” the spokesman said.

Firefighters in Victoria contained the spread of a fire that came within 250 meters of properties in the state’s north-east on Monday.

U.S. Representative activated with the National Guard in response to volcano lava flow in Hawaii

Tulsi Gabbard national guard

Tulsi Gabbard working in the Command Cell at Joint Task Force Response in Pahoa, Hawaii. (Photo: SSG Katie Gray/DVIDS)

The lava from the Kilauea volcano in Hawaii continues to spread and ignite vegetation that it contacts, but for now the threat of significant wildfire has decreased

U.S. Representative Tulsi Gabbard completed her State Active Duty orders with the Hawaii Army National Guard last week in response to the lava flow.

The Congresswoman served as a military police captain in the command cell at Joint Task Force Response in Pahoa, assisting with personnel and logistics.

Gabbard worked with approximately 80 other National Guard soldiers and airmen working to patrol the area and assist the Hawaii Police Department with traffic control points.

Planes: Fire and Rescue released on DVD

planes fire and rescue

DisneyToon Studios has released the animated film Planes: Fire and Rescue on DVD. The movie about fire aviation hit theaters in July and had a domestic and overseas box office of $219 million. It was in the top five highest-grossing family films of the summer.


South Australia firefighter killed while fighting vegetation fire

In South Australia a Mt. Templeton Country Fire Service volunteer firefighter, Andrew Harrison, 38, was fighting a fire when he suffered severe burns. He was flown to the Royal Adelaide Hospital in critical condition with severe burns to much of his body and later died.

There are reports that the fire originated from a lentil harvesting operation. CFS chief officer Greg Nettleton said there had been a spate of fires involving lentil harvesting over the past year.

“We will be speaking to the farmer representative bodies to sit down and say how can we work in partnership to reduce the potential for fire during farming operations whatever they may be,’’ he said.

Research by Queensland academic Graeme Quick for Grain Producers SA earlier this year found lentil dust had a lower ignition point than other grain residue.

Our sincere condolences go out to the family of Mr. Harrison.