California: Madison fire threatens structures

Monrovia fire
Madison Fire in Monrovia at 5:47 p.m. PT, screen grab from ABC7, April 20, 2013

UPDATE at 7:09 p.m. PT, April 20, 2013:

The City of Monrovia says the fire has burned 170 acres and is 10 percent contained. Evacuation orders are still in place for all of the affected areas. For more information, visit the city’s web site.

A map of the fire area can be found HERE.

As we write this a bear has been sighted on the east side of the fire. A few hours ago there was another sighting of a bear.

This will be our last update unless there is a significant change in the size of the fire.

Madison Fire
Los Angeles County Sheriff Department’s mobile office. LASD photo by Eric Fox.


UPDATE at 5:20 p.m. PT, April 20, 2013:

The ABC TV station in Los Angeles is streaming live video of the fire. But there is no guarantee that it will last more than a few minutes.


UPDATE at 4:54 p.m. PT, April 20, 2013:

The radio traffic has decreased significantly, which usually means the fire is moving more slowly or firefighters are starting to get a handle on it.

The City of Monrovia has announced that the fire has burned 150 acres and mandatory evacuations are still in place. Resources on the fire include 65 fire engines and 6 hand crews. There have been no reports of any structures being damaged.

Madison Fire at 11:57 a.m., April 20, 2013. Photo by David J Smith
Madison Fire at 11:57 a.m., April 20, 2013. Photo by David J Smith

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CAL FIRE chief pleads not guilty to vehicular manslaughter

A Chief with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection has pleaded not guilty to misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence. On August 2, 2012, Timothy J. McClelland, the Chief of the San Bernardino unit, rear-ended a vehicle driven by Gregory Francis Kirwin, 48, of Banning. Mr. Kirwin died at the scene.

The California Highway Patrol report said Chief McClelland was using a cell phone when the pickup truck he was driving rear-ended the Ford Focus driven by Mr. Kirwin.


Thanks go out to Ken

Southern California fire destroys two homes

A wind-driven wildfire in rural Ventura County, California burned 170 acres and at least two homes Monday evening 50 miles northwest of Los Angeles. It began as a mobile home fire and quickly spread uphill into the vegetation requiring the evacuation of about 84 homes, affecting some 200 people. Just after midnight Tuesday morning the residents were allowed back into their homes after 400 firefighters from Ventura County, L.A. County, Santa Barbara, Santa Paula and Fillmore slowed the spread of the fire which. By 6 a.m. Tuesday it was 80 percent contained.

KTLA has a video report.

Wildfire briefing, March 27, 2013

25,000 acres burned in Mexican wildfires

According to the Latin American Herald Tribune, about 25,000 acres burned last week in the Huasteca Potosina region in the north-central Mexican state of San Luis Potosi. Two people were identified as suspects for starting a fire near the town of Lagunillas. One person died in one of the fires, which have been fought by 600 firefighters.

USFS says naturally occurring asbestos was not a problem on the Chips Fire

The U.S. Forest Service conducted extensive tests of naturally occurring asbestos on the Chips Fire that burned over 75,000 acres on the Plumas/Lassen National Forest last August. The results indicated that firefighters were not exposed to dangerous levels of asbestos particles and confirmed that there is no need to wear high-efficiency particulate air respirators in the area. During suppression activities a Safety Officer, worried that dust might contain asbestos, had raised the issue of firefighter safety in areas where fireline was being constructed by crews and dozers.

Victims of Colorado’s Lower North Fork Fire have filed 95 claims against the government

At least 95 claims have been filed against government agencies in Colorado following the Lower North Fork Fire, a state-run prescribed fire that escaped March 26, 2012, killed three local residents at their homes and burned 27 structures. An article in the Denver Post quotes a local resident who said two previous prescribed fires in the area also escaped or reignited before the state ignited the Lower North Fork project.

Volunteer firefighter charged with arson

Nathaniel Ridgway Schmidt, a former volunteer firefighter with the Timber Cove Fire Protection District in Sonoma County, California, has been charged with setting five fires in Sonoma and San Mateo Counties.

One of the cases occurred on a prescribed fire when Mr. Schmidt was tasked with patrolling a section of fireline. Here is an excerpt from the San Francisco Chronicle:

…A half-hour later, Schmidt yelled that the fire was out of control, but investigators determined he had set a new quarter-acre blaze, [District Attorney Steve] Wagstaffe said. He said authorities believe Schmidt, who has no prior criminal record, set the fires “for excitement.”

The San Mateo County fire happened eight days after the first two of four fires allegedly set by Schmidt in Sonoma County. Prosecutors there charged Schmidt with four felony counts of arson and five misdemeanor counts of falsely reporting emergencies, including a car going over a cliff.


Thanks go out to Dick, Chuck, and Kelly.

John Maclean and a panel of firefighters talk about the Esperanza Fire

John Maclean's Esperanza presentation

At the Rustic Theater in Idyllwild, California on March 8, not far from where the Esperanza Fire killed the five-member crew of U.S. Forest Service engine 57, John N. Maclean talked about his new book, The Esperanza Fire: Arson, Murder, and the Agony of Engine 57. A video recording of the presentation is on the C-SPAN web site. It is an hour and 21 minutes long, but if you are interested in the fire, it will be worth your while.

The video, which can’t be embedded here, includes Mr. Maclean’s talk which is followed by a brief statement from Norm Walker, a former Division Chief on the San Bernardino National Forest, who discussed the three investigations of the fire and how they all fit together, and didn’t in some ways. Then there is a period for questions from the audience, all of which generated very interesting answers from Mr. Maclean and a panel of firefighters who were on the fire.

If you are put off by the first speaker’s remarks, jump to 3:40 when Mr. Maclean’s presentation begins.

Mr. Maclean allowed us to publish an excerpt from his book in January.


Thanks go out to Kelly

LA County to conduct major earthquake exercise

LA County OESThe Los Angeles County Office of Emergency Management will be hosting a major functional exercise to respond to a simulated magnitude 7.8 earthquake, Thursday March 21.

The exercise will feature the California Integrated Seismic Network’s Earthquake Early Warning Demonstration System and the participation of 53 City emergency operations centers, American Red Cross, Emergency Network Los Angeles, Southern California Edison and County departments (Chief Executive Office, Community & Senior Services, Coroner, Fire, Health, Human Resources, Internal Services, Mental Health, Public Health, Public Social Services, Public Works and Sheriff). These departments and organizations will be communicating and coordinating various types of resource and commodity requests by utilizing the Operational Area Response and Recovery System in response to a simulated magnitude 7.8 earthquake that impact the entire LACOA.

A functional exercise is a training event that is designed to test and evaluate selected emergency functions and the interaction of various levels of government, response organizations, volunteer groups, and industry in a simulated environment. This type of exercise usually involves key decision makers, the local emergency operations center and representatives from response and support organizations. Field response units are not normally activated and deployed during a functional exercise.