Wildfire briefing, December 18, 2014

Moonlight fire scandal continues to grow

The accusations of prosecutorial abuse, fraud, and government coverups related to the 2007 Moonlight Fire in northern California are gathering more nationwide attention. Here is how an article by Kathleen Parker begins:

First there’s the spark, then the conflagration, followed by the litigation and then, surely, the movie. Call it “Moonlight Fire,” and prepare to suspend disbelief. The story is a doozy — a tale of corruption, prosecutorial abuse, alleged fraud upon the court, and possible government cover-ups in the service of power and greed. All the script needs is a Forest Service employee urinating on his bare feet in his lookout tower just as the fire was beginning.

What?!

This is what a real-life ranger discovered when she went to the tower to pick up a radio for repair. She also reported spotting a small glass pipe and smelling marijuana. As for the urinary exercise, the lookout said he was treating his athlete’s foot. But of course.

So goes one of the more colorful anecdotes surrounding the 2007 California wildfire that burned up to 65,000 acres — 45,000 of them on federal land — in the northern Sierra Nevada Mountains…

Jonathan Keim also wrote about the debacle for the National Review.

Other articles at Wildfire Today tagged Moonlight Fire.

Study on the Rim Fire recommends more interagency prescribed fires

Excerpts from an article a KSBW:

A fierce wildfire that scorched part of Yosemite National Park burned less intensely in places that had fires in recent years – a finding that researchers said Wednesday supports a belief that controlled burning often curtails extreme fires.

The U.S. Forest Service study focused on areas of the Rim Fire that burned 400 square miles in Stanislaus National Forest, Yosemite’s backcountry and private timber land.

It was the largest fire in the recorded history of the Sierra Nevada. It destroyed 11 homes and cost more than $125 million to fight.

Areas hit by the Rim Fire within Yosemite had burned within 14 years and experienced less intense flames, said U.S. Forest Service Pacific Southwest Research Station, which authored the study.

Researchers recommend that forestry agencies with shared borders and interests combine their efforts to conduct controlled burns during moderate weather conditions, giving them the best chance for to avoid massive high-intensity fires.

Night flying helicopters in southern California

An article at The Coast News reports on the two night-flying helicopters operated by the city of San Diego.

10-year high for people charged with lighting fires in Victoria

From The Age in Australia:

The number of charges for lighting fires on days of total fire ban or during bushfire danger periods has reached a 10-year high, as police crack down on the foolishness that has sparked destructive blazes since Black Saturday.

There were 227 charges for lighting a fire on a total fire ban day or in a fire danger period last year, an increase of more than 17 per cent compared to the previous year and more than five times the number recorded in 2010-11.

While most of the fires raging in Victoria this week are believed to have started because of lightning strikes, Emergency Services Commissioner Craig Lapsley said some of the 350 blazes burning on Wednesday would have been caused by people ignoring the volatile conditions.

“It wouldn’t all be lightning. There would have been some foolish behaviour…

Homes burn in Victoria bushfire

Four homes burned in a bushfire in the Creighton’s Creek area of Victoria. State Control Centre spokesperson Leigh Miezis said 1,500 firefighters are currently battling the blaze.

The video below was filmed by Jacob Haddrill in Creightons Creek. He saved his cattle but his feed and fencing was damaged in the fire.

Share

Bushfire threatens community near Perth, Australia

Whiteman Park Fire, Perth, Australia

In spite of these very impressive photos of a bushfire in Australia, the reports we have seen indicate that it started Sunday morning and had been knocked down but not contained by nightfall — no homes had been lost at that time. The fire was fought by several fire crews and water-dropping helicopters. It burned at least 140 hectares (346 acres) northeast of Perth in Western Australia.

Perth fire

Bushfire northeast of Perth in Western Australia. Photo by Cate White.

Whiteman Park Fire, Perth, Australia Whiteman Park Fire, Perth, Australia Whiteman Park Fire, Perth, Australia

Share

Firefighter killed in South Australia

Brian Johnston

CFS volunteer Brian Johnston.

A firefighter was killed December 9 in South Australia. Below is an excerpt from an article at news.com.au:

Country Fire Service volunteer Brian Johnston would have marked 50 years of fighting fires in 2015 — a heroic milestone cut short by a tragic accident Tuesday afternoon.

The 65-year-old, who was a member of the Millicent Brigade and Deputy Group Officer of Wattle Range, was killed when he was hit by a truck while preparing to fight a grass fire at Rendelsham in the state’s Southeast late yesterday afternoon.

Mr Johnston was standing behind the CFS utility he had been driving on the Southern Ports Highway, about 12km northwest of Millicent, and preparing to fight a fire when another truck attending the blaze crashed into him.

Shortly before the crash, at about 4.30pm on Tuesday, CFS fire trucks had been called to a grass fire in the area.

Mr Johnston, who had retired just 12 months ago from an extensive career at the Kimberley Clark mill in Millicent was the second CFS volunteer to be killed this year, after father-of-two Andrew Harrison was killed while fighting a fire at Nantawarra in October.

CFS chief officer Greg Nettleton said the tragedy had happened in low visibility, due to smoke from a the nearby fire Mr Johnston was fighting.

Our sincere condolences go out to Mr. Johnston’s family and co-workers.

Share

Bushfire briefing, December 8, 2014

News about vegetation fires in Australia

*****

South Australia bushfire on the Fleurieu Peninsula

A fire in South Australia is being fought by more than 100 firefighters with the help of six air tankers.

From 9news:

An out of control bushfire on South Australia’s Fleurieu Peninsula is believed to have been started by an angle grinder.

The Country Fire Service on Monday made 71 aerial water drops on the 280-hectare fire near Mt Terrible Road and Louds Hill Road which was travelling in a westerly direction towards Sellicks Hill. By Monday evening the fire had shifted northwest towards Plains Road, Chaff Mill Road, Culley Road and Rogers Road.

Outlook for Victoria bushfire season upgraded

From the AAP:

Victoria’s bushfire season has been upgraded from above normal to major for 2014-15 following record warm October weather. Record-breaking heat and an ongoing warming trend in southern Australia have worsened the state’s fire warning, a new Climate Council report released on Tuesday said.

“These types of conditions drive up the likelihood of very high fire danger weather in Victoria this season,” report author Lesley Hughes said.

Residents of Victoria: “leave and live”

From ABC:

A new safety campaign has been launched for this year’s Victorian bushfire season. The campaign, titled ‘Leave and Live’, encourages Victorians to leave their homes early instead of taking a wait-and-see approach. Premier Daniel Andrews said the expert advice was it would be a long, hot, dry and dangerous summer.

He said nobody could expect Country Fire Authority crews to be door knocking homes when they were trying to fight fires.

“This campaign we’re about to launch is an attempt, and I think it will be successful, in driving home the message that the Government and its agencies have a job to do and will get on and do that but the community has a responsibility as well,” he said.

He said lives were lost by those who left too late.

City of Bunbury warns of ember attack

From ABC:

The City of Bunbury has changed its bushfire message to warn all residents they are at risk of an ember attack.

[…]

City’s spokesman Chris Widmer said Bunbury was not immune from the threat of fires.

“I guess the critical change to the message we have this year is that everyone is at risk from ember attack but if you are within 100 metres of any bushland, then you need to be concerned about the addition to radiated and convected heat from bushfires nearby,” he said.

“We’ve now done some assessments on bushfires risk using Australian standards and we can tell everyone in the City of Bunbury they are at risk from ember attack, which means they could lose their homes through embers from a nearby fire.

Share

Wildfire briefing, December 4, 2014

Fires in U.S. and Australia determined to be caused by power lines

Map of Pfeiffer Fire

Map of Pfeiffer Fire at Big Sur, California, looking northwest, showing the fire perimeter at 10:34 p.m. PST, December 18, 2013. (Click to enlarge)

Two fires, in Western Australia and California, have recently been determined to be caused by electrical power lines.

The Pfeiffer Fire at Big Sur, California started on December 16, 2013 and burned 34 homes and 917 acres in the coastal community 23 miles south of Monterey. The U.S. Forest Service reported on Wednesday:

The cause of the fire was determined to be high resistance heating of the Pfeiffer Ridge Mutual Water Company electrical control wires immediately adjacent to a steel water pipe line. The high resistance heating of the electrical control wires created a competent ignition source for this fire. The first fuel ignited was accumulated dried leaves and redwood needles.

The other fire was in Western Australia. Below is an excerpt from an article in Western Australia Today:

A rotted power pole infested with termites has been blamed for the Parkerville bushfire which destroyed more than 40 homes this year. But EnergySafety director Ken Bowron said the organisation would not take action against Western Power or the landowner.

The EnergySafety report into the cause of the fire on January 12 was released on Thursday and found the bushfire originated from a private pole at 180 Granite Road, Parkerville.

“There was no evidence to suggest the work performed by Western Power to replace the surface aerial seven months before the incident, or the work to replace the adjacent pole two day before the bushfires, causes the PA pole to fail,” Mr Bowron said.

“Based on the available evidence and legal advice, EnergySafety will not be taking any legal action against any party. The clear finding of the report is that the pole failed because it was rotten and had been infested by termites.

Hearing in Prescott on Granite Mountain Hotshots’ retroactive retirement benefits

From the Daily Courier in Prescott, Arizona:

Now nearly a year and a half after 19 Granite Mountain Hotshots died fighting the Yarnell Hill wildfire, the matter of retroactive retirement benefits continues to play out at Prescott City Hall.

With its earlier decision granting retirement benefits to the family of fallen Hotshot Andrew Ashcraft still under appeal, the local fire retirement board will take on two new retirement cases today.

During a 9 a.m. Thursday hearing at Prescott City Hall, the Prescott Board of the Public Safety Personnel Retirement System Board will turn to the retirement claims by the families of Sean Misner and William Warneke, and whether the scope of the actual hearings on the claims should be limited…

Tree ring researcher at the University of Arizona honored

Thomas Swetnam

Thomas W. Swetnam with tree-ring specimens in the UA’s Laboratory of Tree-Ring Research. (Photo courtesy of Michaela Kane/Arizona Daily Wildcat)

Thomas W. Swetnam, Regents’ Professor of dendrochronology and director of the University of Arizona Laboratory of Tree-Ring Research, has been named a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the world’s largest general scientific society.

As part of the Section on Geology and Geography, Swetnam was elected as an AAAS Fellow for his investigations of tree rings as a record of past changes in climate, allowing scientists to predict future forest-fire frequencies in the Southwest.

Mr. Swetnam specializes in analyzing climate changes through history and prehistory, dangerous insect outbreaks and forest fires. In recent years, enormous blazes, some 10 times greater than those that firefighters have been accustomed to seeing in California and Arizona, have forced scholars to attempt to understand this phenomenon. The conclusions from Swetnam’s studies of these so-called megafires and their alarming size, duration and frequency have made the scientific community, governments throughout the world and media to pay close attention. Swetnam has appeared on programs such as PBS’ “NewsHour” and CBS’ “60 Minutes.”

Share

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.

Share