Tallac Hotshots

Above: Photo by Tallac Hotshots

We were not familiar with the Tallac Hotshots until yesterday when we ran across this recently taken photo. The crew, based near Lake Tahoe in California, was officially certified in 2014.

Below is an excerpt from their website:

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Crew Profile

On June 19, 2014, the Tallac Hotshots completed the extensive certification process to become the first Interagency Hotshot Crew (IHC) from Lake Tahoe. Formerly, the Tallac Hand Crew, the Tallac Hotshot Crew joins an exclusive group of roughly 2,000 firefighters in the country. The Tallac Hand Crew was established in 2001 as part of a nationwide buildup of resources for a maximum efficiency level of preparedness as direct by the National fire Plan. The original intent of the crew was to perform fuels management projects along with resource management objectives and to be availalbe for wildland fire response. The crew evolved through extensive training, recruitment, and retention of leadership to become a highly skilled 20 person crew. The crew completed the 2-day certification process, which covered all the standards for IHC operations.

Forest Organization Overview

The Tallac Hotshots are based on the Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit and are one of three federally funded, Forest Service 20 person, fire suppression and fuels management crews in the Tahoe Basin. There are two on call organized crews O.C 36 and O.C 37. The Lake Tahoe Basin also has four type 3 engines, four fire prevention staff, a VUFF Staff Officer, Forest Fire Management Officer (Chief 1), one Assistant Forest Fire Management Officer (Chief 2), one Fuels Battalion (Battalion Chief 42)and Fuels Division (Division 4). Everything is overseen by Forest Supervisor and Deputy Forest Supervisor. ECC Dispatch is located at Camino on the Eldorado NF.”

Atmospheric river brings extreme wind and precipitation to northern California

Atmospheric river
Atmospheric river funnels moist tropical air into northern California.

The atmospheric river of moist tropical air being funneled into northern California continues to dump very large amounts of precipitation in areas suffering from five years of drought.

The rain began Wednesday, January 4 and is predicted to continue at least into Wednesday of this week. Some areas have received between 5 and 9 inches of precipitation since Friday.

Atmospheric river extreme precipitation
Storm total precipitation in selected northern California locations, 5 p.m. Friday 1/6 through 5 p.m. Sunday 1/8.

The National Weather Service office in Reno, Nevada reported that multiple wind sensors recorded gusts Sunday morning that exceeded 170 mph.

Atmospheric river extreme wind
Extreme winds gusting above 170 mph were reported by the National Weather Service office in Reno, Nevada, Sunday January 8, between 6:45 a.m. PST and noon. Posted by the NWS at about noon local time on Sunday.

Some areas in the Sierra Nevada mountains could see another 3 to 7 inches of precipitation between Monday and Wednesday. Flooding is being reported in many areas.

Atmospheric river extreme precipitation
Precipitation forecast for northern California Monday 1/9 through Wednesday 1/11.

National Park Service officials evacuated the valley in Yosemite National Park Friday except for essential personnel.

Continue reading “Atmospheric river brings extreme wind and precipitation to northern California”

NPR on allowing fires to burn

The lack of aggressive action during the early days of the Chimney Tops 2 Fire that burned more than 2,000 homes in Gatlinburg, Tennessee has ignited discussions about allowing some wildfires to spread under predetermined conditions.

National Public Radio explores how four national forests in California are modifying their fire strategy. (Less than 4 minutes.)

Huge amounts of precipitation expected in the Sierras

A weather system meteorologists are calling an “atmospheric river” is bringing massive amounts of rain and snow to California.

precipitation forecast
Seven-day precipitation forecast for the period beginning early Wednesday morning.

As a high pressure system over the west coast moves out of the way, massive amounts of precipitation are being funneled into California and Oregon. As orographic lifting squeezes the moisture out of the air mass some areas in the Sierras could receive up to two feet (24 inches!) of precipitation before this event is over. If most of it falls as snow in the mountains, the peaks in the Sierras could see up to 10 feet of snow.

It has already started, as you can see in the graphic below showing the snow received as of Wednesday morning. And the storm has just begun.

snow reports Sierras

It remains to be seen how this will affect California’s five-year drought and the 2017 fire season. In 2016 the northern part of the state saw some relief from the drought, but there was not much change farther south.

Research: Wildfires in Sierra Nevada driven by past land use

Changes in human uses of the land have had a large impact on fire activity in California’s Sierra Nevada since 1600, according to research by a University of Arizona researcher and her colleagues.

Above: Indian Canyon Fire near Edgemont, SD, 2016. Photo by Bill Gabbert.

By Mari N. Jensen, University of Arizona College of Science

Forest fire activity in California’s Sierra Nevada since 1600 has been influenced more by how humans used the land than by climate, according to new research led by University of Arizona and Penn State scientists.

For the years 1600 to 2015, the team found four periods, each lasting at least 55 years, where the frequency and extent of forest fires clearly differed from the time period before or after.

However, the shifts from one fire regime to another did not correspond to changes in temperature or moisture or other climate patterns until temperatures started rising in the 1980s.

“We were expecting to find climatic drivers,” said lead co-author Valerie Trouet, a UA associate professor of dendrochronology. “We didn’t find them.”

Instead, the team found the fire regimes corresponded to different types of human occupation and use of the land: the pre-settlement period to the Spanish colonial period; the colonial period to the California Gold Rush; the Gold Rush to the Smokey Bear/fire suppression period; and the Smokey Bear/fire suppression era to present.

“The fire regime shifts we see are linked to the land-use changes that took place at the same time,” Trouet said.

“We knew about the Smokey Bear effect — there had been a dramatic shift in the fire regime all over the Western U.S. with fire suppression. We didn’t know about these other earlier regimes,” she said. “It turns out humans — through land-use change — have been influencing and modulating fire for much longer than we anticipated.”

Continue reading “Research: Wildfires in Sierra Nevada driven by past land use”

Dozer rollover on the Trailhead Fire

Above: Dozer rollover at the Trailhead Fire on the Eldorado National Forest in California July 2, 2016. Photo from the report.

A report has been released by the Wildland Fire Lessons Learned Center about a dozer rollover that occurred July 2, 2016 at the Trailhead Fire on the Eldorado National Forest in California. You can read the entire report, but here’s a brief summary.

After getting unstuck from being high centered on a large stump, a dozer operator found himself off the ridge where he was building an indirect fireline, and was on a steep slope. Again he got stuck and was not able to backup, this time due to the slope which in places exceeded an 80 percent incline. At various times he was advised by two Resource Advisors, the Structure Group Supervisor, and the owner of the dozer to stay put. In the meantime another dozer with a winch was en route to assist.

Ignoring the advice, the operator continued down the slope and got into a heated argument with the owner, who then left the area. Determined to get the dozer back up to the ridge top, the operator began building a road and creating pads where he could work to push over trees that were in his way, including a 30-DBH cedar which missed by 50 feet the two Resources Advisors who had to run to get out of the way.

The incident-within-an-incident finally came to an end, at least temporarily, when the dozer rolled over onto its side. The operator escaped with only a scratch, after which the dozer continued to roll over onto its top in the creek bottom.

The report did not include information about how the dozer was eventually extracted, or what repercussions, if any, befell the operator and the contractor.