Wildfire briefing, July 12, 2013

Congressional hearing about Wildfire and Forest Management

On Thursday the House Committee on Natural Resources held a hearing about wildland fire and forest management. You can watch a 2 hour and 15 minute video of it at C-SPAN. (Are there any volunteers who would like to watch it and give us a summary?)

Here is how it is described at C-SPAN:

“Wildfire and Forest Service officials testified on ways to reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfire. The hearing also focused on the increasing number and intensity of wildfires in the West and Southwest.

Representatives Doug Lamborn (R-CO), Scott Tipton (R-CO), Paul Gosar (R-AZ), and Ann Kirkpatrick (D-AZ) testified in the first panel.

Panel Two:

  • Jim Hubbard, Deputy Chief, State and Private Forestry, U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture
  • James Douglas, Acting Director, office of Wildland Fire, Senior Adviser, Public Safety, Resource Protection and Emergency Services, U.S. Department of the Interior
  • Phil Rigdon, Deputy Director, Yakama Indian Nation Department of Natural Resources
  • Joe Duda, Deputy State Forester, Colorado State Forest Service, Colorado State University
  • Christopher Topik, Director, Restoring America’s Forestsm, North America Region
  • Chuck Roady, Vice President & General Manager, F.H. Stoltze Land & Lumber Company”

NIFC lowers Preparedness Level

The National Interagency Fire Center has lowered the national Preparedness Level from 3 to 2.

MAFFS sent home

By the end of the day the U.S. Forest Service will release the four Modular Airborne FireFighting System (MAFFS) C-130 air tankers being operated by the military. The last four remaining are from California and North Carolina.

Map of Chariot Fire

CAL FIRE, the agency responsible for suppressing the devastating wildfire that spread from the desert to the mountain community of Mt. Laguna east of San Diego, still has not released a current map of the fire showing that it burned significant acreage in the Cleveland National Forest and wiped out much of the Al Bahr Shrine Camp. Their last map is dated July 8. Approximately 149 structures were destroyed and 9 were damaged.

Smoke Map

Wildfire smoke map
Wildfire smoke map at 4:30 p.m. MDT July 12, 2013

The map below shows the distribution of smoke from fires in the United States and Canada as of 4:40 p.m. MDT, July 12, 2013.

California: Chariot Fire

(UPDATE July 15, 2013)

The Chariot fire is listed at 100 percent contained, so the map below could be the final one. A zoomable map is available HERE.

Map of Chariot fire, July 15, 2013
Map of Chariot fire, July 15, 2013


(UPDATE at 9:15 a.m. PDT July 10, 2013)

S-2T dropping near electronic site
S-2T dropping near electronic site on Mt Laguna at 3:29 pm July 8, 2013 HPWREN

The Chariot Fire not only burned a landmark-type lodge on Mt. Laguna east of San Diego, it also destroyed 120 structures, according to CAL FIRE, the agency attempting to suppress the fire. Initial reports by the San Diego Union that the lodge at the Sierra Club’s facility across the highway was destroyed were incorrect, but at least one structure there did burn.

Most of the structures, including the lodge built in 1925, were in the Al Bahr Shrine Camp a mile north of the US Forest Service’s Laguna Engine Station and about two miles north of the post office in the small community.

The fire started Saturday afternoon near the Butterfield Ranch in the Anza-Borrego Desert, 3.000 vertical feet below the community. Most of the damage was done Monday afternoon. CAL FIRE reports the fire has burned 7,055 acres and is 40 percent contained. The only map provided by CAL FIRE is dated July 8 and does not show the fire’s presence on Mt. Laguna.

Shriners International contributes funding to children’s hospitals, but most people know them as the organization that drives tiny cars performing maneuvers in parades.

The web cameras operated by the University of California’s High Performance Wireless Research and Education Network (HPWREN) captured the aerial fire fight as air tankers dropped retardant to protect the electronic sites, including their own, on Mt. Laguna at the former Air Force base.

S-2T dropping near electronic site on Mt Laguna
S-2T dropping near electronic site on Mt Laguna at 3:39 pm July 8, 2013. HPWREN
DC-10 dropping near electronic site
DC-10 dropping near electronic site on Mt Laguna at 6:38 pm July 8, 2013 HPWREN

Thanks go out to the Lone Ranger for pointing out the HPWREN site that has 14 other photos of the air tankers working on Mt. Laguna.


(UPDATE at 11:18 p.m. PDT, July 8, 2013)

3-D Map of Chariot Fire 1:20 p.m. PT July 8, 2013
3-D Map of Chariot Fire 1:20 p.m. PT July 8, 2013. The squares represent heat detected by a satellite, with the red ones being the most current. The location of the squares can bee as much as a mile in error.

The San Diego Union is reporting that the Chariot Fire not only made it to the top of the slope, from the desert 3,000 vertical feet up to the Mt. Laguna area, but it crossed the Sunrise Highway and burned into the Cleveland National Forest. And, most importantly, it burned two landmark-type buildings on special use permits in the Forest — the large and very old lodges at the Sierra Club and the Al Bahr Shrine Camp on opposite sides of the highway, plus about six other buildings.

The fire crossed the Sunrise Highway and burned into at least one of the group campgrounds in the Laguna Campground complex adjacent to the Shrine Camp. A fire spokesperson said 120 residences were evacuated. The fire is burning about a mile north of the Laguna (or Camp Ole) engine station… one of my old stations on the Cleveland National Forest.

CAL FIRE reports the fire has burned 4,700 acres and is being fought by 1,383 personnel. It is about 50 miles east of San Diego.

The San Diego Union also reported, (incorrectly) “Loud booms could be heard as trees caught fire and their tops exploded.” The old “exploding trees” myth lives on.


(UPDATE at 3:42 p.m. PDT, July 8, 2013)

Kelly found this photo on the Mt. Laguna web cam that shows a crew in the foreground.

Chariot Fire at 12:34 p.m. July 8
Chariot Fire at 12:34 p.m. July 8


(Originally published at 7:12 a.m. PDT, July 8, 2013) 

Chariot Fire
Chariot Fire at 6:10 a.m. PT, July 8, 2013

The Chariot Fire north of Mt. Laguna, California that is causing evacuations on the mountain can be watched in near-real time thanks to a web camera at the old Air Force Base at Mt. Laguna. The photo above was taken at 6:10 a.m. on Monday — the one below at 11:58 a.m. Sunday. Several campgrounds as well as the Al Bahr Shrine Camp have been evacuated.

Chariot Fire
Chariot Fire at 11:58 a.m. July 7, 2013

CAL FIRE said at 7:15 Sunday night the fire had burned 2,500 acres. The fire is burning on the desert slopes below Mt. Laguna, my old stomping grounds. There is a difference in elevation of about 3,000 feet from the desert floor to the forested area at the top. In the last 10 years or so there have been several fires in this general area so it is possible that it will burn into one or more of those and slow down considerably.

map of Chariot Fire near Mt. Laguna
Map showing heat detected by a satellite on the Chariot Fire at 2:20 a.m. PT July 8, 2013. The icons representing heat can be as much as a mile in error.

The map of the Chariot Fire above shows heat detected by a satellite at 2:20 a.m. Monday.

The San Diego Union has some photos of firefighters from the U.S. Forest Service’s Descanso Engine Crew watching the fire from the top of the hill. The slopes below are far too steep on which to attack a rapidly moving fire.

CAL FIRE arrests Yosemite Lakes Park area arson suspects

Kenneth Alan Jackson
Kenneth Alan Jackson. Madera County Sheriffs Office photo.

After a rash of suspicious fires, CAL FIRE law enforcement officers Tuesday night arrested a Yosemite Lakes Park couple on suspicion of dozens of arson fires. Kenneth Alan Jackson, 40 and Allison Marie Waterman, 46, both of Coarsegold, were booked into the Madera County Jail for arson. Jackson is being charged with 31 counts of arson, resisting arrest, as well as attempted battery on a peace officer. Waterman was booked on a single charge of arson.

“The Yosemite Lakes Park community has been threatened by countless wildfires over the past several months that we believe were a result of arson,” said Chief Nancy Koerperich, CAL FIRE Unit Chief for the Madera-Mariposa-Merced Unit. “We appreciate the community’s support and assistance as we worked to track down these suspects.”


Thanks go out to Ken

Final arrangements for Luke Sheehy

Luke SheehyBelow is information provided by the U.S. Forest Service about the final arrangements for Luke Sheehy who lost his life while suppressing a wildfire in northern California on June 10. Mr. Sheehy was struck by a falling portion of a tree on the Saddle Back Fire in the South Warner Wilderness about 15 miles southeast of Alturas, Calif.


“UPDATE: Latest on Saddle Back Incident Support

Release Date: Jun 17, 2013

Contact(s): Saddle Back Support Public Information (530) 638-3319

REDDING, Calif.– Preparations are underway to support the family of recently deceased firefighter Luke Sheehy. The 28-year-old perished on June 10 as a result of injuries received on the Saddle Back Fire on the Modoc National Forest in northeast California.

There will be a procession to honor and transport Luke Sheehy on Wednesday from Alturas, Calif. to Susanville, Calif. The Sheehy family would like the procession in Alturas to remain a private family affair. For Susanville, close family and the firefighter community are invited.

Details on the agency memorial ceremony are currently pending. The ceremony is planned for June 23 at 1 p.m. at the Civic Auditorium in Redding, Calif. The Sheehy family has requested that family members, close friends, fire community and all those who want to honor Luke are invited to attend.

The family will be holding a separate memorial at the Walker Mansion Inn located in Westwood, Calif. on June 22 at 2 p.m.

Those interested in showing support for the Sheehy family can send flowers, cards and donations to: Doug and Lynn Sheehy or Sheehy Family, 2850 Main St., Suite 12 #386, Susanville, CA 96130

Or the Wildland Firefighter Foundation. Mail in a donation: Care of Sheehy Family. Make your check payable to: Wildland Firefighter Foundation, 2049 Airport Way, Boise ID 83705. Or, online at: http://www.wffoundation.org/  Or to any U.S. Bank location; account number: 157501822199 “

Wildfire briefing, June 17, 2013

The worst wildfires

The Mother Nature Network has assembled what they call “10 of the Worst Wildfires in U.S. History”. Check it out to see if you agree with their list.

Furloughs cancelled for NWS

As wildfire season heats up the National Weather Service has cancelled their plans to force their employees to take four days off without pay before September 30. While a memo to all 12,000 NWS employees did not mention fire weather forecasts or Incident Meteorologists, it did refer to the tornadoes that plowed through Midwestern states last month. The Las Cruces Sun-News has more details.

Photos and videos of the 747 Supertanker, and a new CWN contract for the 20,000-gallon beast

Fire Aviation has some photos and videos of Evergreen’s 747 Supertanker that is receiving a new call when needed contract from the U.S. Forest Service. When you see the two photos of the 747 dropping on a fire in Mexico, compare them to this photo of a P2V dropping on a fire in the San Diego area Monday.

“Fire goats” in Oakland

The Oakland City Council approved $1.75 million in 2010 for a herd of goats to reduce hazardous vegetation in the Oakland Hills.

Denver post on the shortage of air tankers

The Denver Post has an article about the shortage of large air tankers in the United States and how that may have affected the early stages of the recent fires in Colorado. They also quote a very reliable source about the number of Unable to Fill (UTF) requests for air tankers.

Arizona: Wild Bill Fire

I just wanted to mention that there is a fire named Wild Bill on the Kaibab National Forest in northern Arizona.

Aspen Fire on Mount Lemmon, 10 years ago

It was 10 years ago today that the Aspen Fire ripped across the top of Mount Lemmon in Arizona, destroying nearly 340 homes and burning 84,000 acres.

Birds start fires in California and Nevada

A deluded conspiracy theorist might assume that terrorists have trained birds to fly into power lines and start fires, since over the last two days it happened in Chico, California and in Reno, Nevada. But in spite of the tin foil hat I’m wearing, I don’t think this quite meets the threshold for our Animal Arson series, since it is fairly common.