Report released on burnover of CAL FIRE engine

The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection has released what they call a “Green Sheet”, a summary of the burnover of an engine that occurred as it was making a mobile attack on the Pacheco Fire, which eventually burned 341 acres in Calaveras County south of Valley Springs.

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“SUMMARY

On July 12, 2016, a CAL FIRE Type 3 Model 34 engine (E1) attempted to start a mobile attack toward the head of a vegetation fire. Firefighters deployed two lines, but before they could anchor and start the mobile attack, the main fire and several spot fires converged on the fire engine. One firefighter took refuge in the engine, and one firefighter ran into the green. The engine sustained damage from the fire. Neither firefighter was injured.

CONDITIONS

  • Weather: 89°, 21% relative humidity, winds 9 mph from the west and shifting, taken from the Campo Seco RAWS at 1400 hours.
  • Fuel Type: Approximately two feet tall grass.
  • Topography: Southeast aspect, rolling topography with multiple draws
  • Fire Behavior: Sheeting, fire whirls, spotting

SEQUENCE OF EVENTS

On July 12, 2016, at approximately 1314 hours, CAL FIRE and local government resources were dispatched to a vegetation fire in the vicinity of Langford Pacheco Road and Milton Road in Calaveras County. The initial report on conditions given by the Air Attack at 1329 hours was 15 acres of grass woodland and spotting out in front of the main fire. At 1356 hours, the fire was reported to be 100 acres in size and spotting under the column.

A CAL FIRE engine (E1) arrived at scene at 1345 hours and was assigned Division R, the right flank of the fire. The crew met with a Battalion Chief (BC1) and came up with a plan to create an anchor point and start a mobile attack toward the head of the fire. A second CAL FIRE Engine (E2) and Dozer (D1) were just behind E1.

As E1 crossed through a gate to make access to the fire. E1 stopped in the green and deployed a one inch THY-600 Angus line manufactured by Rawhide Fire, with a 3/8 inch tip for the mobile attack and a reel line to pick up any spot fires. The Captain (FC1) on E1 saw the engine was between the main fire and multiple spot fires. Winds were shifting and the fire behavior was erratic so FC1 from E1 gave the order to pick up the lines so they could move to a better location. As the two firefighters (FF1 and FF2) began to roll up the hose, the main fire and spot fires converged and burned up to the engine. FF1 jumped into the engine while FF2 ran away from the engine into the green, losing his helmet. FC1 lost sight of FF2, and seeing only flames, announced on the tactical frequency that a fire fighter had been burned over. Engine E2 radioed to E1 that they were heading toward them. A large fire whirl was between E2 and E1.

Uninjured, FF2 looked back toward E1 from the green and saw the under carriage of the engine was on fire. FF2 contacted E1 on the radio and told them the engine was on fire. FF1 exited the cab and used the reel line to extinguish the fire under the engine.

Flame impingement caused the airlines above the frame rails to burst. When the air pressure dropped below 60 psi, FC1 was unable to release the spring brake. FF2 ran back to E1. A helicopter dropped water around E1 while D1 constructed line around a portion of E1 to protect the crew. FC1 notified the Incident Commander that all personnel were accounted for and in a good location.

There were no injuries. E1 sustained heat damage to the tires, fenders, lens covers, air brake lines and pump panel.

CAL FIRE engine damage

SAFETY ISSUES FOR REVIEW AND LESSONS LEARNED

STANDARD FIRE ORDERS

  • Base all actions on current and expected fire behavior.

WATCH OUT SITUATIONS

  • Wind increases and/or changes direction.
  • Getting frequent spot fires across line.

LESSONS LEARNED

  • Consider topographical features and fuels, no matter how minor, in relation to you and/or your vehicle’s location to anticipate fire behavior.
  • Base actions on current fire situation and activity potential.
  • Properly wear your PPE”

Federal government seeks to recover $25 million in costs for the 2013 Mountain Fire

Mountain Fire, from Hwy 74
Mountain Fire, from Hwy 74, July 17, 2013. USFS Photo by Sam Wu.

The United States federal government has filed suit to recover the costs of the suppression and damage caused by the 2013 Mountain Fire that burned 27,500 acres. Most of the fire was in the San Bernardino National Forest in southern California. The lawsuit seeks nearly $25 million in damages from the owner of a Mountain Center residence and the property’s caretakers for alleged negligence that led to the fire.

The civil complaint alleges negligence and violations of California law as being the cause of the fire that started on July 15, 2013, and burned a large swath of the San Jacinto Mountains, for a time threatening the town of Idyllwild and forcing over 5,000 residents to evacuate. An investigation determined that the fire started when an electrical discharge inside of an improperly maintained electrical junction box “shot sparks and hot material out of the box and onto dry ground vegetation below,” according to the lawsuit.

Map of Mountain Fire
Incident Management Team map of Mountain Fire, July 18, 2013 a few days before the spread was stopped.

The Mountain Fire started on property known as Gibraltar West that is owned by Tarek M. Al-Shawaf, who is the lead defendant in the lawsuit.

The defendants had a duty “to properly inspect and maintain their electrical equipment, electrical wires, and electrical junction boxes to ensure that they were safe, properly secured, and clear from dangerous conditions,” the complaint alleges.

“In addition to endangering countless lives, including those of firefighters who battle these large-scale blazes, the failure to properly manage the property and the electrical equipment on the property in this case cost taxpayers approximately $24 million dollars,” said United States Attorney Eileen M. Decker.

The complaint specifically alleges that the Forest Service spent more than $15 million to fight the fire, that the fire caused more than $9 million in damages to natural resources, and that more than $300,000 had to be spent to perform emergency rehabilitation.

Articles on Wildfire Today tagged “Mountain Fire”.

California: Sage Fire evacuation orders lifted for Stevenson Ranch

Above Photo by Jeff Zimmerman

Jeff Zimmerman of Zimmerman Media took some excellent photos at the Sage Fire southwest of Santa Clarita on the west side of Interstate 5 north of Los Angeles.

The South Zone Coordination Center reports this morning that the fire has burned 800 acres. The evacuation orders for 700 homes have been lifted for the Stevenson Ranch community however the area remains closed for non-residents. The fire started near Sagecrest Circle and The Old Road.

About 1,200 firefighters battled the blaze.

Sage Fire
Photo by Jeff Zimmerman.
Sage Fire
Sage Fire. Photo by Jeff Zimmerman.

The map of the Sage Fire below was generated at 8 a.m. PDT July 10, 2016 with data current as of 2:25 a.m PDT July 10, 2016.

Map Sage Fire
Map showing heat detected by a satellite (the red dots) over the Sage Fire at 2:25 a.m. PDT July 10, 2016.

Lost hikers set signal fire, attracts firefighters

missing hikers
Cody Hopkins, 14 (left) and Joseph Hopkins, 54 (right)

After an extensive five-day search two missing hikers were found in a very remote area of the Marble Mountain Wilderness Area in the Klamath National Forest 41 air miles southwest of Yreka, California. They were rescued after the smoke from their signal fire attracted firefighters.

When Cody Hopkins, 14, and his father, Joseph Hopkins, 54, did not return home on June 29 as planned, Mr. Hopkins’ wife notified the Siskiyou County Sheriff’s Department. With the assistance of many other agencies, the Department searched from June 30th until July 4th when the hikers were found a considerable distance from the initial search location. Both father and son were in relatively good shape considering their ordeal and were reunited with family members shortly after their rescue.

As of Wednesday night the fire, now named “Wilderness”, has burned 46 acres in the footprint of a 2008 fire. On Wednesday 18 smokejumpers were dispatched and two hotshot crews are on scene or en route.

Wilderness Fire map
3-D map of the Wilderness Fire perimeter at 11:50 p.m. July 6, 2016. Data provided by USFS.

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

Some evacuations lifted on Erskine Fire

Above: Power line repair, Erskine Fire. Undated uncredited photo from InciWeb.

(UPDATED at 9:17 a.m. PDT June 28, 2016)

Most of the evacuation orders have been lifted for residents that were forced to leave their homes during the Erskine Fire near Lake Isabella, California.

Map of the Erskine Fire
Map of the Erskine Fire. The square red icons represent heat detected by a satellite at 2:51 a.m. June 28, 2016. The red line was the fire perimeter at 11:30 p.m. PDT June 26, 2016.

The latest satellite overflight showed much-reduced heat on the Erskine Fire, only detecting heat on the southwest side where there was some westward movement of the fire. This does not mean the rest of the fire is out. The satellite is hundreds of miles away and only finds the larger heat sources. There is no doubt some fire activity in other areas, but this latest data does show that much of the fire is not still spreading.

Highway 178 is now open. However some roads off of Highway 178 remain closed, including Entrada, McCray Rd, Dogwood, Kelso Valley Rd and Kelso Creek Rd.

The incident management team has not updated the size of the fire since Monday when they said it had burned 45,388 acres.

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(UPDATED at 7:15 a.m. PDT June 27, 2016)

The latest results from the damage assessment at the Erskine Fire at Lake Isabella, California reveal that at least 250 structures have been destroyed and another 75 were damaged.

The Incident Management Team reports that 45,388 acres have burned, an increase of about 9,000 acres over the figure released on Sunday.

Map Erskine Fire at 1130m MDT June 26, 2016
Map of the Erskine Fire. The red line was the fire perimeter at 11:30 p.m. PDT June 26, 2016.

On Sunday an incursion by a privately operated hobby drone in an area where helicopters were assisting with firefighting operations caused fire managers to ground all of the helicopters due to safety concerns. The drone operator was located and detained, and the helicopters were able to resume fire operations after a 30-minute delay.

The fire continued to spread Sunday on the southwest side toward Inspiration Point and has crossed Bright Star Creek.

Air tankers were very busy yesterday working on the south side of the fire.

Continue reading “Some evacuations lifted on Erskine Fire”

California: San Gabriel Complex of Fires near Los Angeles

(UPDATED at 6:10 a.m. PDT June 22, 2016)

San Gabriel Complex Mt Wilson
The area of the San Gabriel Complex as seen from Mt. Wilson at 6:05 a.m. PDT June 22, 2016. The fires are on the right side of the picture on the far side of the ridge. Very little smoke is rising above the inversion. UCLA photo. Click to enlarge.

The activity on the Fish and Reservoir Fires that comprise the San Gabriel Complex near Los Angeles has lessened over the last 24 hours. The Fish Fire is still generating heat near the top of the fire and on the southwest side.

The combined acreage for the two fires is now 4,900 acres according to the U.S. Forest Service — 1,200 acres for the Reservoir Fire and 3,700 acres for the Fish Fire. Approximately 1,040 personnel are currently committed to these fires.

The mandatory evacuations for parts of the city of Duarte and in the national monument still remain in effect.

In spite of predictions otherwise, the two fires have still not merged and are over a mile apart.

Tuesday night firefighters continued structure protection along the south perimeter above Duarte. On Wednesday hand crews will hold and improve the fire perimeter, patrol along Highway 39, and seek opportunities to build indirect dozer lines along the Red Box Road.

weather forecast San Gabriel Complex fires
Weather forecast for the area of the San Gabriel Complex of Fires, generated at 6:30 a.m. PDT June 22, 2016. NWS.

With the exception of the wind, which could be an issue, the weather forecast for Wednesday favors firefighters, with moderate temperatures and relative humidity. However the wind will be out of the southwest at 8 to 11 mph with gusts up to 17 mph.

Map San Gabriel Complex
Map of the San Gabriel Complex at 3 a.m. PDT June 22, 2016. Click to enlarge.

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(UPDATE at 9:232a.m. PDT, June 21, 2016)

At a 9 a.m. press conference fire officials at the Fish and Reservoir Fires said the expected nighttime downslope winds that intensified after 4 a.m. caused an increase in fire activity, pushing the Fish Fire down the steep slopes above Duarte, California. With the assistance of at least one water-dropping night-flying helicopter firefighters were able to prevent the loss of any structures.

After a Chief with Los Angeles County Fire Department said they put out the fire at the base of the slopes behind the residences early Tuesday morning, he said there is no containment in that area or any other area on the fire. He also said he does not foresee any relaxation of the evacuation order in the near future.

Fire officials expect the two fires to merge. The incident is now known as the San Gabriel Complex.

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(UPDATE at 7:54 a.m. PDT June 21, 2016)

Map Fish Reservoir Fires
Map showing heat detected on the Fish and Reservoir Fires at 3:23 a.m. PDT June 21, 2016. Click to enlarge.

The Fish and Reservoir Fires near Glendora, Azuza, and Duarte in southern California have not grown together. According to satellite heat-sensing data they were still about 1.3 miles apart at 3:23 Monday morning.

The U.S. Forest Service reports that the size estimates of the fires are 3,000 acres for the Fish Fire and 2,400 acres for the Reservoir Fire.

A Type 2 incident management team with Mike Wakoski as Incident Commander is assigned to both fires. They had an inbriefing scheduled for 8 p.m. on Monday.

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(UPDATE at 9:40 p.m. PDT June 20, 2016)

The U.S. Forest Service reports the Fish Fire has burned 3,000 acres and the Reservoir fire, 1,500 acres. LA County reports that as of 8:30 p.m. the two fires had not merged… yet. They were still 1.5 miles apart. But at that time the Fish Fire was 2,000 acres.

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(Originally published at 4:45 p.m. PDT June 20, 2016. Updated at 5:33 p.m. PDT June 20, 2016)

Map Fish and Reservoir Fires
Map showing heat detected on the Fish and Reservoir Fires at 1:21 p.m. PDT June 20, 2016. Click to enlarge.

Two wildfires started today near Los Angeles and both got off to a roaring start. The map above shows the location of the fires at 1:21 PDT on Monday,  about two to three hours after they started. They have grown substantially since then.

Reservoir Fire
Reservoir and/or Fish Fire. Screen capture from KABC at 5:11 p.m. PDT 6-20-2016.

The Reservoir Fire ignited at about 11 a.m. after a vehicle accident on Highway 39 near Morris Reservoir on the steep slopes above Glendora, California. Within about three hours it had burned 1,200 acres and required the evacuation of San Gabriel Canyon recreation area. At 5:30 p.m. it was estimated at 1,500 acres.

Continue reading “California: San Gabriel Complex of Fires near Los Angeles”