Abundant lightning in California, Utah, and Nevada

Lightning has been hammering parts of California, Utah, Idaho, Arizona, Wyoming, and Nevada during the last two days, especially on Tuesday and Tuesday night. The maps below show the strikes that were detected as well as the approximate amount of precipitation that came along with the storms. The black areas indicate no rain, while red means there was less than 0.08 inch.

The first map is for the 24 hour period that ended at 6 a.m. MT on June 30. The second is for the 24 hour period that ended at 6 a.m. MT on July 1.

lightning map

Lightning, 24 hrs ending at 6 a.m. June 30, 2015.

lightning map

Lightning 24 hrs. ending at 6 a.m. MT July 1, 2015.

The data is from Predictive Services at the National Interagency Fire Center.


California firefighter sentenced for arson

A reserve firefighter on the Tule River Indian Reservation in central California has been sentenced to two years in state prison for setting wildland fires. In a Visalia courtroom on Wednesday Zachary Janoko pleaded guilty to felony arson.

Below is an excerpt from the Porterville [California] Recorder.

…In July 2014, Janoko was arrested for suspicion of arson for starting fires on the Reservation and along the Tule riverbed. During the investigation, Janoko, who was then assigned to the Natural Resource Department at the Reservation, and who at times had assisted the Tule River Fire Department battling fires, was accused of causing the fires for financial gain.

“It was hard on people here. Zack had been assisting here,” said Jay Henshaw, wildland fire investigator with the Bureau of Indian Affairs. He said Janoko had been a reserve firefighter that provided backup and support.

“We worked with the county, tribal police and Bureau of Indian Affairs on the investigation and were successful,” Henshaw said.

Henshaw attended Janoko’s sentencing in Visalia and said he was glad that Janoko had been caught and found guilty because it isn’t very often that arsonists are actually caught.


Wildfire briefing, June 25, 2015

Happy Camp Complex, 2014

Happy Camp Complex in northern California. Photo by Kari Greer in 2014.

The 2014 Happy Camp Fire Complex is still burning

The Happy Camp “megafire” that blackened over 134,000 acres in northwest California in 2014 is not out. Last weekend firefighters found four small areas that were still burning inside the fire perimeter. During normal weather conditions snow and rain in the winter would usually fully extinguish a wildfire, but the drought and warm weather has allowed some areas within the Happy Camp Complex to continue to burn. There was no indication that the small hot spots were any threat to cause the fire to consume additional acres. Fire managers have re-activated the InciWeb page for the fire.

(Articles tagged Happy Camp on Wildfire Today.)

Florida Governor vetoes pay increase for state firefighters

Florida Governor Rick Scott on Tuesday vetoed a bill containing $1.5 million for state wildland firefighter pay increases that Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam had requested.  Some Florida firefighters complained earlier this year that they are “grossly underpaid”, and that their salaries are comparable to cafeteria workers.

Drone grounds air tankers over the Lake Fire

A “hobby drone” spotted over the Lake Fire east of San Bernardino, California grounded firefighting aircraft that were working on the fire Wednesday. The drone was seen flying over the Onyx Summit area around 5:30 p.m., Cal Fire officials say.

A collision between a drone and a helicopter or fixed wing aircraft could be fatal if it damages the windshield, the engine, props, or rotors.

More evacuations on the Lake Fire

Late Wednesday night, June 24, the San Bernardino County Sheriff Department initiated a mandatory evacuation for the Burns Canyon and Rimrock areas. The fire spread significantly to the east on Wednesday. More information at Wildfire Today.

Calgrove Fire north of Los Angeles

The Calgrove Fire burned 398 acres Wednesday afternoon near Santa Clarita, California. Fire Aviation has a video of one of Erickson Aero Tankers’ DC-7s making a retardant drop on the fire. The aircraft, Tanker 60, is sporting a brand new paint job.

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


Washington Fire, near Markleeville, California

(UPDATE at 8:12 a.m. PT, June 24, 2015)

Washington Fire, burned area

A burned area in the Washington Fire. Undated photo from InciWeb.

Below is an update on the fire, from the incident management team Tuesday night:

“Firefighters made excellent progress today by strengthening fire lines and establishing five percent containment on the 16,553 acre fire. The Washington Fire, 8 miles south of Markleeville, CA, experienced lighter winds and burning conditions more conducive to aggressive ground and air suppression actions.

“Several campgrounds along Highway 4 to the north end of Markleeville remain evacuated. For the safety of the public and active fire suppression activities, Highways 4 and 89 in the Monitor Pass area remain closed, as do the Turtle Rock and Indian Creek campgrounds. Markleeville residents remain under an evacuation advisory issued by Alpine County Sherriff’s office. No mandatory evacuations are in effect at this time.

“Twelve helicopters and 8 air tankers support the suppression effort on the fires, dropping retardant, ferrying equipment and supplies, transporting firefighters, and providing essential surveillance of areas far inside the perimeter not safely accessible by foot. Other key resources include 19 engines, 10 water tenders, and 19 crews. There are approximately 681 personnel assigned to the fire.

“Firefighters made significant progress around the entire fire perimeter, with their priority being the line along the north of State Highway 89. The primary tactical priority is to prevent the fire from reaching Markleeville. The next priorities are to buttress the lines along Wolf Creek and the Leviathan Mine reclamation site.”


(UPDATE at 3:19 p.m. PT, June 23, 2015)

Washington Fire map wildfire

Map of Washington Fire, June 22, 2015. Incident Management Team.

The incident management team for the Washington Fire near Markleeville, CA posted this map today, Tuesday. It is labeled June 22 at 1200, but it does not indicate when the perimeter was mapped. This is a portion of the map; you can see the entire map here. The fire is still listed at 16,544 acres.


(UPDATE at 10:33 a.m. PT, June 23, 2015)

Washington Fire sat photo June 22, 2015

Satellite photo of smoke from the Washington Fire, June 22, 2015.

The Washington Fire south and east of Markleeville, California was relatively quiet overnight due to very little wind and an inversion that settled into the area.

On Monday the area of the fire that was initially heading to the northwest toward the town of Markleeville moved more to the east than the north. The tactical priority is still to keep the fire from spreading further northwest towards the town.

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Proposal: plant oak trees to limit spread of a brush fire

Tony Shafer and Shea Broussard have developed a fire simulator or model they say can predict the spread of a brush fire. With their “FlameMapper” program they have focused primarily on the Santa Monica Mountains of southern California.

Below is an excerpt from an article in the Malibu Times:

…Shafer, who retired after 43 years with the Los Angeles County Fire Department, has two master’s degrees and is a longtime Malibu resident. He has extensively studied the wildfires of the Santa Monica Mountains from 1900 to today.

“Virtually every stick between the 101 and the Pacific Ocean has burned at least once or twice in the last 50 years,” Shafer said. “Some areas have burned six or seven times.”

Local wildfires tend to start at or near the 101 Freeway and strong Santa Ana wind conditions drive the flames toward the coast. FlameMapper software incorporates data from the burn paths of every major wildfire in the last 115 years, including many variables, and is now able to simulate the probable paths and speed a fire could take, based on location, wind, humidity, etc.

In detailed studies of the most common paths that fires have taken through the mountains over the years, Shafer noticed something interesting. “I noticed that oak trees next to a structure protected that structure,” he said.

He began building computer simulations of oak tree plantings at various areas on fire paths. The results showed that “the spread of the fire is vastly reduced by oak trees that have the understory (flammable plants growing underneath the tree) removed.”

Shafer noticed while running simulations of past fires that came down Malibu Canyon that there is a narrow “choke point” or “corridor” near Piuma and Malibu Canyon roads that a fire beginning at the 101 has to get through in order to make it all the way into Malibu. He feels that if oak trees were planted at that particular site, it would stop fires on that route from getting into Malibu…

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


CAL FIRE says vegetation conditions are the worst on record

Redding, CA sunset CAL FIRE engines.

Sunset in Redding, California enhanced by smoke from the Eiler Fire, August 10, 2014. (Click to see a larger version.) Photo by Bill Gabbert.

Below is an excerpt from an article at Capital Public Radio:

…CAL FIRE says the timing of this year’s rains and four years of drought will combine to make fire conditions in 2015 the worst on record.

“We measure the fuel moisture content of all of the vegetation -the brush and the trees and we track that over the course of time and compare it month to month each year,” says Ken Pimlott, Director of CAL FIRE. “And we put it through formulas and determine how much energy and how much heat it will put out when it’s burning. And we have seen -we saw it last year and we will see it again this year- we’ll be reaching records for potential heat output for times of the year that would normally not be burning in those conditions.

CAL FIRE Director Ken Pimlott urged homeowners to clear space and conserve water.

“We don’t have water to water lawns and unnecessary landscaping. So, what that means is, is you need to  remove that vegetation as it dries. We don’t want your dry lawn and your dry brush to contribute to more of the fire hazard. So, stop watering your lawn and remove it.”

Thanks and a tip of the hat got out to Barbara.