Followup on dozer rollover in California

The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection has released a preliminary report on the July 6 dozer rollover on the Monticello Fire southeast of Lake Berryessa in Yolo County.

The summary:


“On July 6, 2014, at approximately 1320 hours, a CAL FIRE dozer was operating on Division M of the Monticello Incident. The dozer was working sidehill, constructing fire line in steep terrain. The dozer became unstable and rolled at least two times coming to rest on its tracks in a small drainage below. The operator sustained a head injury and a possible loss of consciousness.

Fire line personnel immediately responded to assist and treat the operator. A CAL FIRE helicopter performed a hoist rescue. The operator was transferred to a waiting medevac helicopter and was transported to a trauma center for evaluation. The operator was released from the hospital later that evening.”


Rattlesnake Fire, 61 years ago

Stanford Patton Rattlesnake FireIt was 61 years ago today that Stanford Pattan threw a match into some brush on the Mendocino National Forest in northern California. A matter of hours later 15 firefighters that were working on the Rattlesnake Fire were dead. has a copy of a very interesting article that appeared in American Forests in 1953 describing Mr. Pattan, the struggles he faced, his earlier attempt to start a major fire that day, and his movements before and after he started the fire. The article includes one graphic photo.

Below is a brief summary of the incident from our Infamous Wildland Fires Around the World publication.

On July 9, 1953 a New Tribes Mission firefighting crew under the direction of U.S. Forest Service overhead was trapped by flames as they worked on a brush covered hillside in Powderhouse Canyon on the Mendocino National Forest. The crew was working on a spot fire in a narrow canyon covered with 40 year-old Chaparral brush. They had just completed construction of a hand line around their spot fire when a sudden wind shift caused another spot fire to flare-up. This other spot fire was located up-canyon from the crew. However, the unusually strong down-canyon wind pushed the uncontrolled spot fire toward the crew’s location. Within 30 minutes the fire had run more than a mile down canyon, catching the crew while they attempted to fight their way through the heavy brush to safety. Fifteen firefighters perished on the Rattlesnake Fire that day. Nine fellow crewmembers barely escaped.


California: Banner Fire east of Julian

Banner Fire

Banner Fire as seen from an SDG&E camera.

(UPDATED at 7:12 a.m. PDT, July 4, 2014)

The Banner Fire has been mapped at 217 acres and the firefighters are calling it 40 percent contained. At CAL FIRE’s 7 a.m. update there were 331 personnel assigned, along with 28 engines, 10 hand crews, and 4 helicopters.

This will be our last report on the Banner Fire.


(UPDATED at 8:35 p.m. PDT, July 3, 2014)

CAL FIRE reports that the Banner Fire just east of Julian, California is holding at 150 acres and they are calling it 15 percent contained. All evacuation orders have been lifted.


(Originally published at 5:27 PDT, July 3, 2014)

The Banner fire started near Banner Grade about a mile east of Julian, California at about 10:43 a.m. PDT, July 3, 2014. After a heavy attack by ground and air firefighters it burned 150 acres by 4:30 p.m.

Local media reported that two homes and an outbuilding burned.

By 5:20 p.m. local time a few units were being released and the radio traffic had subsided, which usually means they are beginning to obtain containment.

Map of Banner Fire, July 3, 2014

Map of Banner Fire, July 3, 2014. Map by San Diego County.

NBC in San Diego recorded some excellent video (below) showing drops by S-2T air tankers. It appeared that the camera operator and at least one resident got cooled off by the retardant, who was very pleased that she protected her camera.

The video below is a time lapse showing the smoke from the fire.


Fire Chief seriously wounded by rock thrown from brush clearing machine

From Firefighter Close Calls:


Murrieta (San Diego County, California)
Fire Chief Matt Shobert was severely injured Wednesday by a rock thrown from brush-clearing equipment. Shobert, who has served as chief of the Murrieta Fire Department since 2011 and was previously fire chief in Hemet, suffered severe trauma to his face. He was taken to Inland Valley Medical Center in Wildomar Wednesday then flown to Loma Linda University Medical Center in Loma Linda. He underwent his first reconstructive surgery last night.

Chief Matt Shobert

File photo of Chief Matt Shobert. Murrieta FD photo.

Maintenance crews were clearing brush yesterday morning and had called the Fire Department to make sure they weren’t at risk of starting a fire. A Firefighter, along with Chief Shobert, went to check on conditions there.

About 0900 hours, Chief Shobert was standing outside his SUV, a good distance from the nearest mower, when a large rock struck him in the face — witnesses thought he was shot. When paramedics saw the trauma to his face, they thought it was a gunshot wound as well.

Police were called out for fear there was a person armed with a gun. They used an armed vehicle to search the area but found not sign of a gunman. Eventually, they realized it must have been a projectile flung by the mower and they found the rock that struck the chief.

Reports are that Chief Shobert is likely to face many more surgeries. His wife is at the hospital and other family are on their way from Arizona.


California: Butts Fire

(UPDATED at 7 a.m. PDT, July 4, 2014)

The Butts Fire is still listed at 4,300 acres and the incident management team is calling it 55 percent contained. Two residences and seven outbuildings have been destroyed and all evacuation orders have been lifted. Favorable weather conditions led to a successful burning operation Thursday on the Lake County side of the fire.

This will be our last report on the fire.


(UPDATED at 2 p.m. PDT, July 3, 2014)

CAL FIRE reported at 1:30 p.m. that most of the evacuations on the Butts Fire north of Napa, California have been lifted.

Evacuations have been lifted along Butts Canyon Rd north to Snell Valley Rd
An Evacuation Advisory is in effect for residents in Lake County on Butts Canyon Road from the Lake County line to Langtry Estates.


(UPDATED at 9:55 a.m. PDT, July 3, 2014)

The Butts Fire north of Napa, California has grown to 4,300 acres with 30 percent containment according to CAL FIRE. Winds Wednesday afternoon were from the west at 7 to 15 mph with gusts up to 21, while the relative humidity bottomed out at 17 percent at the Konocti weather station north of the fire. The forecast for Thursday is for 93 degrees, a 7 mph wind out of the south, and a relative humidity of 27 percent — not extreme weather, but it is likely that the fuel moisture is very low, which can contribute to elevated fire behavior. Similar weather is in the forecast for Friday.

An Evacuation Order remains in effect along Butts Canyon Rd from James Creek Road to Snell Valley Road, as well as the Berryessa Estates. An Evacuation Advisory is in effect for residents in Lake County on Butts Canyon Road from the Lake County line to Langtry Estates.

CAL FIRE reports that two residences and seven outbuildings have been destroyed.


(UPDATED at 7:40 a.m. PDT, July 2, 2014)

The Butts Fire 26 miles north of Napa, California slowed down overnight when the wind decreased and the relative humidity went up into the 50s. CAL FIRE reported Wednesday morning the size is now 3,200 acres with 30 percent containment. Crews made “good progress”, they said. The fire continues to burn northeast into Lake County toward Snell Peak. Five structures have been destroyed. The weather forecast for the fire area predicts 94 degrees, winds generally out of the south at 8 mph, and a relative humidity of 25 percent. Firefighting resources assigned to the Butts Fire include 1,000 personnel, 57 engines, 10 hand crews, and 12 dozers. Continue reading


One-liners, June 18, 2014

Assayii Fire June 15

Assayii Fire June 15, 2014. InciWeb photo.

*The Assayii Fire in northwest New Mexico, reported on Friday the 13th, has burned 12,107 acres on the Navajo Nation in the Bowl Canyon area.

*Missoula smokejumpers got checked out on a new Eurocopter (now Airbus Helicopters) EC135 helicopter on Tuesday.

*On Tuesday five fires were intentionally set in vegetation in Oakland, California about two miles from where the Tunnel Fire began, which in 1991 killed 25 people (23 civilians, 1 police officer, and 1 firefighter), injured 150, and destroyed 2,449 single-family dwellings and 437 apartment and condominium units.

*An off duty firefighter employed by the city of Arcadia, California is missing in the Los Padres National Forest in southern California.

*California will give $10 million of the $48 million of the “fire fees” they have collected to counties and organizations who intend to use the funds for fire prevention and mitigation projects.

*Evaluations of how agencies in San Diego County handled the rash of wildfires in mid-May determined that communications was major issue; that and the need for a third helicopter, but the $5 million request for the helicopter was not approved.

*Three cities in the Austin, Texas area plan to install a network of wildfire detection cameras to add to the one purchased last year by West Lake Hills.

*Squirrels may be to blame for some patchy reproduction of lodgepole pines following the 1988 wildfires in Yellowstone National Park.

*An unfortunate raven started a wildfire 25 kilometers northeast of Yellowknife in the Northwest Territories of Canada when it contacted electrical wires; we will add this to our Animal Arson series, although it may have been a case of suicide arson.

*Dan Glickman and Harris Sherman, two former very high-ranking appointees in the Department of Agriculture, wrote an opinion piece for the New York Times supporting the bill that would allow the Forest Service to draw money from federal disaster funds when firefighting costs reach 70 percent of the 10-year average.
Thanks and a hat tip go out to Doug