Wildfire briefing, November 25, 2015

Man killed in Bully Fire identified

Bully Fire

Bully Fire as seen from 35,000 feet. Photo by Sandym415.

The man who was killed in the Bully Fire in July near Ono, California has been identified as Jesus Arellano Garcia, 35, of Michoacán, Mexico. The body was badly burned and investigators used DNA and circumstantial evidence to make the identification. The fire eventually burned 12,661 acres in Shasta County.

There is a $500,000 bench warrant for the arrest of Freddie Alexander Smoke III who allegedly started the Bully Fire as he was driving a truck to a marijuana plantation he was tending. Mr. Smoke was arrested the day the fire started and charged with causing the fire, but was freed after posting a $10,000 bail. The bench warrant was issued after he failed to show up on August 22 for an arraignment in which he was going to be charged with an additional crime, involuntary manslaughter.

Some California residents hope to overturn Fire Prevention Fee

As California residents in semi-rural areas are receiving their annual $150 bill for the state’s “Fire Prevention Fee”, the Howard Jarvis Taxpayer Association is continuing their litigation over what they call an illegal tax. Some residents say they already pay property taxes to support their local fire departments.

Below is an excerpt from an article in the San Diego Reader:

The lawsuit alleges that after Cal Fire’s loss of $80 million in funding due to 2011’s lingering budget crisis, then-assemblyman Robert Blumenfield (D-Van Nuys) pushed through as an emergency, carefully worded ABX1 29, stating the $150 fee was needed for “benefit services.” By not labeling it as a tax, a two-thirds vote of the legislature was not required. Fellow Democratic legislators quickly passed the bill, and Governor Brown signed it.

Cal Fire claims that in wildfire crises in those semi-rural areas they usually become the lead firefighting agency.


Red Flag Warnings, November 24, 2014

Red Flag Warning wildfire

Red Flag Warning, November 24, 2014

Some areas in southern California will be under a Red Flag Warning until 6 p.m. PST Wednesday for strong gusty winds and low humidities.

The winds today are expected to be northeast at 20 to 30 mph with gusts to 45 in the mountains and below the canyons and passes, increasing Monday night and Tuesday morning with gusts up to 60 mph. The relative humidities will be as low as five percent during the day with poor overnight recovery.

The low humidities will continue through Thanksgiving with locally gusty east winds in the mountains and valleys of Riverside and San Diego Counties.


Multiple small lightning fires in southern California

Strawberry Fire,

Strawberry Fire, Rim Forest, San Bernardino National Forest. USFS photo.

While some areas in northern California have received more than two inches of rain in the last 24 hours (as of 1 p.m. PST, November 22) lightning has caused at least five small fires on the San Bernardino National Forest in the south part of the state on Friday and Saturday.

From Inciweb:

November 21:

1. 7:46 am– “Strawberry” – located near Rim Forest, single snag with 5’x5′ ground fire – contained

2. 9:18 am – “North Face 1″ – located north of San Jacinto Peak, single snag with 5’x5′ ground fire

3. 11:40 am – “North Face 2″ – located north of San Jacinto Peak, single snag with 5’x5′ ground fire

4. 3:30 pm – “Lackey”- located near Camp Lackey north of San Jacinto Peak, single snag with 5’x5′ ground fire

November 22:

5. 10:00 am – “Keller” – located near Keller Peak Road, 1 manzanita bush and 5×5 ground fire

Precipitation california

Precipitation in the 24 hour period ending at 1 p.m. PST, November 22, 2014.


Sequoia National Forest plans to rebuild Needles Lookout destroyed by fire

Needles Lookout Tower

Needles Lookout Tower, July 28, 2011.

The U.S. Forest Service intends to rebuild the iconic Needles Lookout Tower in the Giant Sequoia National Monument located in the Sequoia National Forest. It was destroyed by fire July 28, 2011 when an ember from the wood stove’s chimney in the structure ignited the shake shingle roof. Burning debris raining down as the structure burned caused additional fires below the rocky precipice.

The lookout tower in central California was constructed in 1937-38 by the Civilian Conservation Corps atop the rock formation at 8,245 feet.  Access was along a series of stairways and walkways suspended from the granite or across granite outcrops.

In attempting to get an update on the status of the reconstruction, we contacted the USFS’ Western Divide and Hume Lake Ranger Districts. They referred us to Del Pengilly, President of the Giant Sequoia National Monument Association who is coordinating many of the efforts to rebuild the structure. Mr. Pingilly told us that the GSNMA has raised $30,000 of the $50,000 they will need, and if they meet their goal they hope to begin construction in 2015. Apparently the non-profit 501(c)(3) organization is taking on much of the work themselves, including soliciting the volunteered time of civil engineer Bill Roberts of Porterville, California who is drawing up the plans for the project. The new design will include the use of fire resistant materials.

Other than raising the funds needed, one of the hurdles is getting the plans approved by the U.S. Forest Service so that the volunteers from GSNMA can begin work.

Mr. Pengilly said they will be happy to accept donations from anyone who wants to help raise the last $20,000 they need.

Needles Lookout burningUPDATE November 5, 2014:

Below is a photo of the Visitor Center at Devils Tower National Monument in Wyoming, taken May 14, 2007 — a structure that at that time also had a shake shingle roof. I believe it still has a shake shingle roof.

Shake shingle roof Devils Tower National Memorial

Shake shingle roof on the visitor’s center at Devils Tower National Monument. Photo by Bill Gabbert. (click to enlarge)



Property owners sue over wildfires in Washington and California

Two lawsuits are being threatened over separate wildfires in Washington and California.

Poinsettia Fire

About two dozen landowners are suing a golf course over last summer’s Poinsettia Fire in Carlsbad, California. The lawsuit that was filed in San Diego Superior Court blames Omni La Costa Resort & Spa LLC for the May 14 wildfire that destroyed five homes, 18 apartment units, one commercial building, and 600 acres on May 14 in Carlsbad, California.

As we wrote on October 19, a fire investigator has determined that a golf club striking a rock is one of the possible causes for the fire which started near a cart path on the 7th hole on the resort’s golf course.

Carlton Complex of fires

In central Washington 65 landowners filed tort claims Friday against the state’s Department of Natural Resources (DNR) over the management of the Carlton Complex of fires.

Below are excerpts from an article at King5:

…”We represent mom and pops, cattle ranchers, apple farmers, (and) business owners,” said Brewster attorney Alex Thomason, who filed the legal paperwork in Olympia.

Even before the smoke from the fires had cleared this summer, complaints from landowners started to echo through the Okanogan region.

“They sat over there in the field and watched and took pictures,” Kim Maltias told KING 5 on July 28.

Thomason says some of his clients believe that DNR allowed the fires to grow bigger so that they would receive more state funding.

“The DNR firefighters call this ‘God money.’ It’s an unlimited amount of resources, so they get access to that money by letting the fire get bigger and bigger,” said Thomason.

The tort claims accuse DNR of negligence for failing to protect the properties from the wildfires.

“In the very beginning, DNR stood by and did nothing. They let this fire grow and grow and grow,” said Thomason.

Thomason says some of his clients believe that DNR allowed the fires to grow bigger so that they would receive more state funding.

“The DNR firefighters call this ‘God money.’ It’s an unlimited amount of resources, so they get access to that money by letting the fire get bigger and bigger,” said Thomason.

Thanks and a tip of the hat go out to Carl.


Inversion traps smoke over prescribed fire

Sequoia Kings Canyon National Park

Smoke is trapped by an inversion in Sequoia Kings Canyon National Park. NPS helitack photo.

In this photo taken Wednesday, smoke is attempting to break through an inversion over the Mosquito prescribed fire in Sequoia Kings Canyon National Park in California.

Normally, as you rise in altitude, the temperature decreases due to the changes in air pressure. In a weather (or temperature) inversion, instead of getting cooler at higher temperatures, it is actually warmer higher up.

weather inversion

Cool air trapped under a warmer layer, creating an inversion. From Fortair.org.