Lake Fire near Castaic Lake in Southern California

Above: the Lake Fire burns near a dozer line near Castaic Lake in Southern California. Screen grab from Los Angeles County Fire Department video.

(Originally published at 11:01 p.m. PDT June 17, 2017)

Firefighters in Southern California are battling a wildfire that started east of Interstate 5 near Castaic Lake north of Santa Clarita. As the sun was setting Saturday evening firefighters estimated that it had burned at least 1,000 acres, spreading from County land near the lake into the Angeles National Forest .

The fire was first reported at about 2 p.m. PDT on Saturday. Two small outbuildings were reportedly destroyed.

Some firefighters were transported across the lake in boats, according to the Angeles National Forest.

Lake Fire map
Map showing the approximate location of the Lake Fire north of Castaic Lake in Southern California, Jun e17, 2017.
Lake Fire, June 17, 2017. Los Angeles County FD photo.

More details released about the May 24 inmate fatality in California

Above: The top of the tree that struck Matthew Beck on May 24, 2017. CAL FIRE photo.

The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection has released a few more details about the accident that killed a California inmate firefighter in Humboldt County on May 24. As disclosed earlier, Matthew Beck died after being struck by a falling tree.

Now we know that the tree had been previously identified as being hazardous but it was thought to be outside the work area.

Alder Crew #4 was working on Ishi Pishi Road towards Somes Bar picking up piles of limbs and brush from the previous two days of work to feed into a chipper. The machine was running at full throttle when the crew supervisor saw the tree falling and yelled a warning, which was not heard by the entire crew due to the noise from the chipper.

The supervisor attempted to call the Fortuna Emergency Communications Center on his hand held radio but could not make contact. He got in the crew carrier truck and drove about 400 yards to a location from which he could talk to the ECC with the vehicle’s mobile radio.

Mr. Beck received a fatal blow from the tree causing blunt force trauma to the head, neck, and torso.

The tree was a 105-year-old, 146-foot Douglas-fir, with a 21.5-inch diameter (DBH). It weighed approximately 3,000 pounds and had a downhill lean of about 46 degrees. Mr. Beck was hit by a portion of the tree that was about 18 feet from the tree top.

Thanks and a tip of the hat go out to Eric.
Typos or errors, report them HERE.

CAL FIRE’s Wildfire app

CAL FIREThe California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, CAL FIRE, has a new application for smart phones that provides wildfire alerts. After downloading Ready for Wildfire users can sign-up for customized alerts that will send a text or a push notification to their device when CAL FIRE is responding or assisting at a wildfire in their area. Additionally, users can set up alerts for single counties, multiple counties, or statewide. If traveling, the app lets them enable an alert system when a wildfire is reported within 30 miles of their device.

The Ready for Wildfire app also gives homeowners tips for creating defensible space, hardening their homes with fire-resistant construction, assembling an emergency supply kit, and creating a family communication and evacuation plan.

“One of the many benefits of our new Ready for Wildfire app is the timely and accurate information it provides to residents about a wildfire in their area,” said Chief Ken Pimlott, CAL FIRE director and California’s state forester. “I am excited about this new valuable tool that will provide early alerts to the public to help ensure their safety.” To download the app, visit the App Store or the Google Play Store – search for CAL FIRE and install.

For more information visit ReadyForWildfire.org

California inmate firefighter killed by falling tree

Matthew Beck firefighter
Matthew Beck. Photo credit: CDCR.

(Revised at 1:13 p.m. MDT May 27, 2017)

The California inmate firefighter in Humboldt County was killed May 24 while working on a county roads project in the northwestern part of the state in Del Norte County.

According to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, Matthew Beck, 26, was working with a crew in the Hoopa area. He suffered major head, neck and back injuries when a 120-foot tall tree uprooted and fell on him. He died before life-flight crews were able to reach him.

“We are saddened by the death of Matthew Beck, and our thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends,” said CDCR Secretary Scott Kernan. “The inmates who year after year help protect our communities from the devastation of fires perform a valuable public service, and it is a tragic event when we lose one of them.”

Mr. Beck, who was assigned to the Alder Conservation Camp in Del Norte County, was serving a six-year sentence for burglary and was due to be parolled in October. He is the fourth inmate firefighter to die on a fire since the conservation program was created in the 1940s.

In February of 2016 another California inmate firefighter, Shawna Lynn Jones, 22, died after being struck by a boulder that rolled down a hill on the Mulholland Fire near Malibu.

Our sincere condolences go out to the friends, family, and coworkers of both firefighters.

This article has been edited to rectify incorrect information initially provided by the CDRC. The firefighter was not working on a fire at the time of the accident.

Caifornia Fuels and Fire Behavior Advisory

The Southern California Geographic Area Coordination Center has issued a Fuels and Fire Behavior Advisory for the central and southern areas of California due to a heavier than usual grass crop brought on by above average winter rains. Because of the vegetation and climate in Southern California it seems like we hear similar warnings often — heavy rains bring lots of flashy grass fuels, and a dry winter results in low fuel moistures. An average winter can mean typical fire potential, which in this area can still mean large devastating wildfires. But as we often say, the most important factor that affects the number of acres burned is the weather during the fire season.

Below is an excerpt from the Advisory. Following that is the entire document.

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“Due to the heavy winter rains, a significant grass crop has developed across much of California in the recent months. These light, flashy fuels have now cured across most of the southern and central portions of the state, which has led to a significant increase in fire activity across much of the Southern California Geographic Area. Despite the volatility of these grass fires, the heavier fuels are less supportive of fire as moisture levels in the larger diameter materials is near normal for this time of year. In addition, live fuel moisture remains above average in many areas. Therefore, while significant acreage consumption will continue to occur on future fires within the grassy fuel beds, large fires among the heavier fuels are less likely.”

Fuels And Fire Behavior Advisory SoCal

Thanks and a tip of the hat go out to Ken.
Typos or errors, report them HERE.

Crews make progress on San Diego-area Gate Fire

The Gate Fire, burning in San Diego County since Saturday morning, grew to 1,500 acres by Sunday morning, though crews made progress overnight.

No structures have been damaged, and no injuries were reported.

Rising overnight humidity levels allowed firefighters to make meaningful progress toward complete containment, Cal Fire reported. The fire was primarily burning in grass with some sparse brush and was 30 percent contained by Sunday morning.

Evacuation orders lasted into Sunday.