Wildfire briefing, October 15, 2014

Half of the Holy Grail of Firefighter Safety demonstrated at the Happy Camp Fire

The Holy Grail of Firefighter Safety is to have key members of the Operations and Planning Sections knowing two things about a fire in real time:

  1. The location of the fire, and
  2. The location of firefighters.

Half of that was provided on the Happy Camp Fire, when true video and infrared video were streamed in real time down to the Incident Command Post from an Air Attack aircraft over the incident. At times the Planning Section Chief controlled the camera, looking at sections of the fire that were key to his situation awareness, mapping responsibilities, decision making and planning.

Below is an excerpt from an article at Fire Aviation.

A suite of video sensors normally used on an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) was installed on an Air Attack aircraft working on the 134,056-acre Happy Camp Fire in northern California. The instruments provide normal and infrared video, making it possible for the Air Tactical Group Supervisor and personnel at the Incident Command Post to see in real time through smoke to determine where the priorities should be and where aircraft should be assigned to drop water or retardant.

Read the rest here.

Cleanup after the Boles fire has started

The government has started a massive cleanup in the northern California town of Weed, following the Boles Fire that destroyed 157 residences and 8 commercial structures last month.

Victoria, Australia rolls out new fire trucks

The rollout of Victoria’s new ground-based $82.1 million forest firefighting fleet has begun for the upcoming fire season.

Minister for Environment and Climate Change Ryan Smith said the 306 new firefighting vehicles to be rolled out over a six-year period were specifically designed to provide greater protection to fire crews and would deliver increased water carrying capacity of 630 litres (166 gallons), up from 400 litres (105 gallons) previously.

The new vehicles, based on the Mercedes Benz G Wagon, are fitted with equipment designed for Department of Environment and Primary Industries’ (DEPI) firefighting and planned burning needs, including cabin fire curtains for improved crew safety; and, the highest level of falling object protection for a vehicle of this size.

Attorney argue over evidence in Rim Fire arson case

The attorney representing the person charged with starting the 257,000-acre Rim Fire in the Stanislaus National Forest and Yosemite National Park is arguing that prosecutors aren’t providing all of the evidence they have collected against her client. The fire became the third largest in California recorded history, destroyed 11 homes, and cost $125 million to suppress. In August a Federal Grand Jury indicted 32-year-old Keith Matthew Emerald for starting the fire, charging him with two felonies, “Timber set afire” and “False statement to a government agency”, plus two misdemeanors, “Fire left unattended and unextinguished” and “Violating a fire restriction order”.

Read the story of how Mr. Emerald became a suspect.

Busy wildfire season in Canada’s national parks

From GuelphMercury.com:

The number of wildfires in Canada’s national parks was close to average last summer, but the size of some of those fires made it an unusually hot season.

“We’ve had a more active than normal wildfire season,” said Jeff Weir, Parks Canada’s national fire manager. “A small number of those fires have been quite challenging.”

The agency reported 85 wildfires in the spring and summer of this year. That’s slightly higher than the average of 82.

The amount of forest burned was almost 3,000 square kilometres — an area about half the size of Prince Edward Island.

“That’s higher than normal,” Weir said.

There were several large fires in Wood Buffalo National Park, which straddles the boundary between northern Alberta and the Northwest Territories. Together with a large fire in Banff National Park, the fires accounted for 1,300 square kilometres of forest burned.

Over 100 structures damaged or destroyed in Boles Fire at Weed, California

(UPDATE at 11:10 a.m. PDT, September 17, 2014)

CAL FIRE has revised upward the number of structures that were damaged or destroyed in the Boles Fire that devastated much of the small town of Weed in northern California, now saying 150 structures have been affected. They are calling the 375-acre fire 25 percent contained.

Wednesday morning the Angel Valley and Hoy Road areas were still under evacuation orders. Firefighting resources assigned include 969 personnel, 72 engines, 20 hand crews, and 5 helicopters.

A reward of “up to $10,000” has been offered for anyone providing information about how the fire started.

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(UPDATE at 3:35 p.m. PDT, September 16, 2014)

Boles Fire damage
An aerial view of the effects of the Boles Fire. CAL FIRE photo. (click to enlarge)

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(UPDATED at 8:30 a.m. PDT, September 16, 2014)

CAL FIRE is still going with the estimate of “over 100 structures damaged or destroyed” in the Boles Fire in the northern California town of Weed. Three of the homes belonged to firefighters. The 375-acre fire is listed at 20 percent containment and evacuations are still in place affecting 2,000 people in the communities of Weed, Carrick, and Lake Shastina.

When the fire started south of Weed Monday afternoon it was pushed by a strong southeast wind gusting over 40 mph. Later in the day the wind slowed, making it possible for firefighters to stop the forward spread of the fire around sunset.

The fire is being managed by CAL FIRE, so the chances are we will not see a map of the fire any time soon.

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(UPDATED at 8:25 p.m. PDT, September 15, 2014)

CAL FIRE PIO Daniel Berlant said at about 8 p.m. that the fire had damaged or destroyed over 100 structures, and had burned about 300 acres. (Update at 9 p.m.: 350 acres and 15 percent contained.)

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(Originally published at 5:31 p.m. PDT, September 15, 2014; updated at 5:56 p.m.)

Boles Fire
The Boles Fire, looking at Weed, CA from the south. KRCR7 photo.

On the internet feed that relays radio traffic from a new fire that broke out at about 1:38 p.m. PDT on Monday, firefighters can be heard estimating that 75 and later 100 structures have been damaged or destroyed in the Boles Fire at Weed in northern California. Pushed by a strong southeast wind at 26 mph gusting at more than 40 mph, the fire has crossed both Interstate 5 and Highway 97, requiring the closure of both highways. There are reports that there is fire in the attic of a school in Weed, as well as structures at a lumber mill. Evacuations are occurring in several areas.

Boles fire
Boles fire, Caltrans cam at I-5 and US 97.

Weed is 58 miles north of Redding, California and 66 miles south of Medford, Oregon. Two DC-10 air tankers have been ordered along with several other aircraft. The DC-10s will probably reload at Medford; Redding also has an air tanker base. With the King Fire near Placerville spreading rapidly, there will likely be competition for firefighting resources.

The area is under a Red Flag Warning until 9 p.m. Monday for strong winds and low relative humidity. The forecast through Tuesday evening predicts winds of 25 mph gusting to 44 mph, gradually decreasing to 14 mph with 23 mph gusts.

In addition to the dozens of engines and water tenders previously ordered, at 5:12 p.m. PDT firefighters placed an order for 20 additional water tenders. With the electricity shut off, obtaining water from traditional sources could be problematic.

At about 5:10 p.m. on Monday, Air Attack said they have a retardant line around about 60 percent of the fire, and most of it is holding, But in other areas firefighters are reporting they are making progress on spot fires, but “we are getting hundreds of them”.

The Incident Commander estimated at about 5:40 p.m. that the fire was 15 percent contained.