Wildfire news, November 5, 2012

More than 100,000 lightning strikes in South Australia

Thunderstorms over the last couple of days have blasted South Australia with more than 100,000 lightning strikes. One report says 173,000 strikes left 80,000 residents without electrical power. Firefighters are working on over a dozen fires on the Eyre Peninsula, Kangaroo Island and Fleurieu Peninsula.

Fire jumps Interstate 15 in Cajon Pass

A fire that started near Interstate 15 in Cajon Pass in southern California jumped the interstate and burned 350 acres at the last report. The Devore Fire began at 10:55 a.m. and was 5 percent contained by late afternoon, with full containment expected by 6 p.m. Tuesday. The fire is being fought by 450 personnel and required the evacuation in the Matthew’s Ranch area. More information is available at InciWeb.

Fuel filter being recalled after starting fires

A fuel filter used on diesel engines is being recalled after failures of the unit caused two fires. The California Air Resources Board announced that that the LongMile diesel particulate filter made by Cleaire Advanced Emission Controls is being voluntarily recalled after a second fire attributed to the device. The most recent fire burned three acres on August 4, but in September of 2011 another fire blackened 3,600 acres in Washington and cost $5.2 million to suppress. The initial attack on that fire was made by a group of nuns using buckets of water.

Red Flag Warning for southern California Sunday night and Monday

Red Flag Warnings, 7:38 a.m. PT, November 4, 2012
Red Flag Warnings, for 7 p.m. PT Sunday through 4 p.m. PT Monday

The National Weather Service has issued Red Flag Warnings and Fire Weather Watches for portions of southern California beginning at 7 p.m. Sunday through 4 p.m. Monday. Winds in the mountains will gust at 30 to 40 mph with lesser gusts of 25 to 35 in the inland valleys. Relative humidities will be in the single digits Sunday night through Monday while temperatures on Monday will be in the upper 80s to lower 90s.

The map was current as of 7:38 a.m. PT on Sunday. Red Flag Warnings can change throughout the day as the dozens of National Weather Service offices around the country update and revise their forecasts. For the most current data, visit this NWS site.

Air Spray hires former Aero Union employees

As Wildfire Today told you on October 2, a Canadian company, Air Spray, has opened a facility in Chico, California which will be used for converting air liners into air tankers. They have already acquired a used BAe-146 and intend to convert it into a next-generation air tanker.

The Chico ER reports that Air Spray has hired eight former employees of Aero Union, a California-based company that went out of business after the U.S. Forest Service cancelled their contract for supplying eight P-3 air tankers, citing safety concerns.

Not only is Air Spray employing former Aero Union workers, but they have leased from the city of Chico one of the hangars formerly occupied by Aero Union.

Air Spray Aviation Services operates Lockheed L-188 Electra “Longliner” air tankers and Turbo Commander 690 “Bird Dog” aircraft in Canada. When they complete the BAe-146 conversion in Chico, they expect to begin other conversions at the facilty.


Thanks go out to Brian

Morning briefing, October 29, 2012

CAL FIRE Line of Duty Death

A Battalion Chief with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection has died while on duty. Battalion Chief Rob Van Wormer, 47, who was based in Santa Clara County was working on an investigation when he suddenly lost consciousness and died, despite numerous attempt to revive him. Chief Van Wormer had worked for CAL FIRE for 24 years conducting investigations and also had a long history in the aviation program.

Ken Pimlott, Chief of CAL FIRE, released a statement.

Our sincere condolences go out to the Chief’s family and coworkers.

Man charged with felony trash burning

The Cortez Journal reports that Roger Stratton has been charged with felony fourth-degree arson for allowing his trash fire to get out of control, which started the 400-acre Roatcap Fire in Colorado’s Montezuma County. The fire started Wednesday morning and forced the evacuation of about 30 homes.

Sid Beckman named FMO for National Park Service’s Pacific West Region

(From the NPS)

Sid Beckman has been selected as the new fire management officer for Pacific West Region (map of NSP Regions), working out of the San Francisco office. He replaces Sue Husari, who recently retired after 39 years of exemplary federal service. Beckman has a strong background in fire management planning, operations and incident management. His experience in prescribed fire and wildland fire management will be an asset to the region.

Beckman has three years of experience working for the National Park Service. He has been the deputy regional fire management officer overseeing the region’s fuels management program since 2009. He previously served as a fire management specialist in the U.S. Forest Service Enterprise Program. He has also worked as a battalion chief with the Stanislaus National Forest and has had a variety of other fire management positions, including fuels management specialist, hotshot, and fire engine operator on the Angeles and Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forests.

“I am honored to work with the dedicated fire management staffs in the national parks of the Pacific West Region, and look forward in assisting them in their continued success managing prescribed and wildland fire,” Beckman commented upon hearing of his selection.

Beckman lives with his wife in the Sierra Nevada town of Arnold, California, and will be residing in the Bay Area during the week. When in the mountains, he enjoys hiking, snowshoeing, and skiing. A lifelong Detroit Tigers fan, Beckman also noted that “the Tigers have won 10 World Series — four more than the San Francisco Giants!”

Currently the acting FMO, Beckman will formally begin his new assignment in November.

Response by the land management agencies and firefighters to the effects of Hurricane Sandy

On Monday we will put together some information about how the land management agencies and firefighters are responding to prepare for and help the east coast recover from the impacts of Hurricane Sandy. If you have information about firefighters and incident management teams that are responding, let us know in a comment below, or visit our Contact Us page to give us a call (8 a.m. to 6 p.m. MT) or send us a message.

Esperanza fire, six years ago

It was six years ago that five U.S. Forest Service wildland firefighters died on the Esperanza fire near Cabazon, California on October 26, 2006. Killed were engine Capt. Mark Loutzenhiser, 44, of Idyllwild; engine operator Jess McLean, 27, of Beaumont; assistant engine operator Jason McKay, 27, of Phelan; and firefighter Daniel Hoover-Najera, 20, of San Jacinto. A fifth firefighter Pablo Cerda, 23, of Fountain Valley, who was injured along with the other four, passed away on October 31. The five firefighters comprised the crew of a wildland engine, Engine 57, from the San Bernardino National Forest. They were assigned to a state managed fire approximately 60 miles east of Los Angeles and were entrapped while protecting a structure.

Tim Walton of Photo 1 Productions has put together a video of some nighttime firefighting on the Esperanza fire.


UPDATE November 12, 2013:

Esperanza Fire Factual Report, and the USDA Office of Inspector General’s Report on the fire.

CAL FIRE installing hoists on helicopters

Fighting wildland fires can be a dangerous job. One of the most difficult challenges is providing treatment to an injured firefighter during that first “golden hour” if an accident occurs in a remote location.

The California Department of Forestry & Fire Protection is taking a step to speed the transfer of a patient from the fireline to a hospital by installing hoist systems on their 11 firefighting helicopters. They recently completed the first round of training on the new systems at the CAL FIRE academy at Ione. Some of the hoists have already been installed and all 11 should be ready to go by the end of the year.

This is a great step in the right direction and may save firefighters’ lives if they suffer an injury during daylight hours.

Currently there are no CAL FIRE or U.S. Forest Service helicopters that can fly at night. The USFS is going to tip toe into night flying operations again next year by contracting for one helicopter with that capability. It is unknown if it will have a hoist.

The USFS was criticized for not taking advantage of the Los Angeles County Fire Department’s night flying helicopters during the first night after the Station Fire started near Los Angeles in 2009. The fire was three to four acres at 7 a.m. on the second day, but no helicopters were used the first night. The fire took off at mid-morning on day two and later burned 160,000 acres, killing two firefighters.

There were accusations that the USFS employed a less than aggressive attack on the Station fire in an effort to save money. If that was their strategy, it failed. A GAO review estimated the cost of suppressing the Station Fire to be $93 million, placing it among the most costly fires in the nation’s history. This does not include the costs of rebuilding the 89 homes that burned in the fire which may have been another $15 to $35 million.
Thanks go out to Eric