Tanker 12 made quick turnarounds at wildfire in Colorado

(This article first appeared on Fire Aviation.)

Tanker 12, the BAe-146 air tanker working the Sunshine Fire near Boulder, Colorado on March 19, was dropping retardant about every 35 minutes, according to Rob McClure of the CBS TV station in Denver.

After a million acres burned in Kansas and Oklahoma on March 6 and 7, the National Interagency Fire Center mobilized three large air tankers on March 10, a little earlier than usual, sending Tanker 12 to the Jeffco Air Tanker base at Rocky Mountain Metropolitan Airport and two others to the OK/KS area.

It turned out that Jeffco was only 12 miles southwest of where the Sunshine Fire started on March 19 near Boulder, Colorado. Rob McClure of CBS4 in Denver timed the interval between drops made by the BAe-146, determining it to be about 35 minutes.

Sunshine Fire Boulder
The Sunshine Fire was 12 miles northwest of Rocky Mountain Metropolitan Airport (in the foreground).

From the air tanker base the pilots could probably see the fire soon after it started. If they took off from runway 30R they would be heading straight at the fire.

In addition to Tanker 12, four helicopters and Colorado’s Multi-mission aircraft were working the incident.

Three National Guard helicopters were made available by a verbal executive order by Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper hours after the fire started. The aircraft, from Buckley Air Force Base, included two UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters, one CH-47 Chinook helicopter, as well as a refueling truck.

Sunshine Fire
Sunshine Fire near Boulder, Colorado. Boulder Office of Emergency Management photo.

Firefighters limited the wildland/urban interface fire to about 74 acres according to the Boulder Office of Emergency Management. We were not there but this appears to have been a pretty aggressive initial attack, an aspect of firefighting along the Front Range that has improved in the last couple of years.

The video below was shot March 19 from the Multi-mission aircraft, showing normal and infrared images.

Sunshine Fire near Boulder, Colorado

Above: Sunshine Fire near Boulder Colorado. Photo by Colorado’s Multi-mission Aircraft.

(UPDATED at 10:45 a.m. MDT March 20, 2017)

The pre-evacuation and mandatory evacuation orders west of Boulder, Colorado for the Sunshine Fire have been lifted.

The strong winds predicted for Sunday night did not occur and firefighters have been able to contain the fire within hand-built firelines, roads, and retardant dropped from aircraft.

Colorado’s front range between Colorado Springs and the Wyoming border is the only area on Monday under a Red Flag Warning.

wildfire Red Flag Warning
Red Flag Warning March 20, 2017.

ABC’s Good Morning America devoted over two minutes on Monday to the fire in Colorado and the wildfire danger in the United States.

ABC
ABC

****

(Originally published at 5:47 p.m. MDT March 19, 2017)

The Sunshine Fire on the west side of Boulder, Colorado has burned about 62 acres since it started early Sunday morning and has required the evacuation of 426 homes. The spread slowed late Sunday afternoon thanks to the work of firefighters on the ground, several helicopters, and at least one air tanker.

wildfire Red Flag Warning
The Boulder area was under a Red Flag Warning on Sunday.

Wildfire in northeast Colorado burns 30,000 acres

Above: An infrared image of  a wildfire in Logan and Phillips counties in Colorado, from Colorado’s MultiMission Aircraft, Wednesday morning.

Below is an excerpt from a Tuesday morning news release by Logan County Emergency Management about a wildfire in the northeast corner of Colorado that has burned at least 30,000 acres.

****

“…Efforts by 13 departments on scene yesterday kept the fire contained to 50% last night, overnight and this morning. Seven fire engines were used overnight to knock down hot spots and flare ups. Firefighters will remain on scene today as windy weather conditions are expected to be similar to yesterday, causing fire flare ups and limited visibility due to blowing smoke and dust. There are an expected 80 firefighters to be on scene today.

“Structure damage confirmed includes three homes in Logan County and one home in Phillips County. Between the two counties, there are also multiple incidences of partial damage to homes and/or complete out-building damage.

“There are no reported injuries.

“Due to strong winds and low visibility, the Colorado Department of Transportation has closed Highway 59 between I-76 and Haxtun in Phillips County.”

Continue reading “Wildfire in northeast Colorado burns 30,000 acres”

Cold front drives numerous large wildfires in Kansas

Above: Large wildfires (red) in Kansas as detected by a satellite at about 1 p.m. MST March 6, 2017.

(UPDATED at 5:43 p.m. MST March 6, 2017)

Below is an updated map showing growth of some of the fires in Kansas, especially the one 17 miles southeast of Meade, Kansas that burned from Oklahoma into the state. That one, using very rough satellite data, appears to be more than 130,000 acres.

map wildfires kansas
The red areas represent wildfires in Kansas detected by a satellite at 4:07 p.m. MST March 6, 2017. The map above has more information.

There was a report, as yet unconfirmed, that in Kansas a tornado moved over a going fire.

****

(Originally published at 4:17 p.m. MST March 6, 2017)

Strong winds along with relative humidities in the teens and twenties are causing problems for firefighters in the western half of Kansas. The passage of a cold front is bringing sustained wind speeds of 30 to 40 mph with maximum gusts in the 40’s and 50’s.

On the map above we identified and very roughly mapped four of the largest fires. The acreages shown are estimates based on satellite detections of heat at about 1 p.m. MST on Monday. One of them has burned from Oklahoma into Kansas.

  • 53,000 acres; 17 miles southeast of Meade, Kansas. It is in Meade and Beaver Counties in Kansas, and Clark County in Oklahoma.
  • 6,500 acres; in Clark County 23 miles east of Meade, Kansas.
  • 7,000 acres; in Lane County Kansas 10 miles southeast of Dighton, Kansas.
  • 4,000 acres; in Rooks County Kansas just southwest of Stockton, Kansas. Residents in part of the city have been ordered to evacuate.

A fire in Logan County in the northeast corner of Colorado has burned 6,000 acres 20 miles northeast of Sterling.

wind and rh in kansas wildfires map
In Kansas at 3:52 p.m. MST. Sustained wind speed on the left and relative humidity on the right.

Before the cold front passed the fires were driven by a southwest wind (see the animated radar map below). As the front passes the wind is shifting 90 degrees to come out of the northwest. This could be a very, VERY dangerous situation for firefighters on the south side of the fires, as the right flank turns into the head of the fire.

map kansas fires infrared
Satellite infrared image showing heat from fires (in black) in Kansas, 3:45 p.m. MST March 6, 2017.

Wildfires in Colorado while fire weather warnings affect 7 states

Above: Red Flag Warnings and Fire Weather Watches affect seven states, February 10, 2017.

(UPDATED at 2:57 p.m. MT February 10, 2017)

Evacuations, earlier mostly lifted, have been reinstated for the wildfire west of Longmont, now named the Rogers Fire.

The name of the fire northwest of Boulder is Wagon Wheel Gap Fire.

****

Originally published at 10:07 a.m. MT February 10, 2017.

While Red Flag Warnings and Fire Weather Warnings are in effect in seven states, two fires erupted early Friday morning just outside the warning area in Boulder and Longmont, Colorado.

Before 7 a.m. a grass fire started near the 5000 block of Nelson Road west of Longmont that forced the evacuation of 125 homes. It burned two barns and a haystack before firefighters stopped it at 15 acres.

Just after 8 a.m. a second fire broke out northwest of Boulder near the intersection of Lee Hill Drive and Wagon Wheel Gap Road that required the evacuation of 157 homes. At the last report at 9:10 a.m. it had burned three to five acres.

There is no indication so far that the two fires, 12 miles apart, are related.

The video below shows the fire near Boulder burning in steep terrain.

Strong winds that pushed the fires have also toppled semi-trucks across the state and left 3,960 customers without power in Boulder County.

It is unusual to have wildland fires burn structures and require evacuations only an hour or two after sunrise in mid February. Much of the front range in Colorado has had less snow than usual. When I drove through the area a few days ago there was virtually no snow on the ground near Colorado Springs, Longmont, and Denver, and these are areas above 5,000 feet.

Most of the Red Flag Warnings were issued around 5 a.m. on Friday and will expire at 5 to 6 p.m. local time today, depending on the area.

map fires longmont boulder
Map showing the location of fires near Boulder and Longmont, Colorado.

Incident Management Team from Colorado assisted with the Chimney Tops 2 Fire

The following article, written by Phil Daniels, is from the Colorado Division of Fire Prevention and Control and describes an assignment of the “Gray Team” on the fire that burned into Gatlinburg, Tennessee in late November.

****

“The Southern Area of the US had been suffering from significant drought for most of 2016.  Early in November, the George Washington / Jefferson National Forest requested our crew to respond to Virginia to be available for fires which may occur.  They didn’t have to wait long! During their over two week assignment, the crew worked on two large fires in addition to their being pre-positioned for new fires.

Later that month, the USFS requested that we deploy our Multi Mission Aircraft to South Carolina to assist in the detection of new fires and provide mapping and other services to existing fires.  The MMA flew missions daily across all of the southern states for over three weeks.

Finally, on the week of Thanksgiving, the Southern Area again asked for our assistance; this time requesting a Type 3 Incident Management Team to preposition to Eastern Tennessee in case of a large fire needing a higher level of management.  Our Team departed for Johnson City, TN, on November 27, but before they could arrive they were diverted to the Great Smoky National Park to manage the Chimney Tops 2 fire just South of Gatlinburg.

Our arrival coincided with the mass evacuation of Gatlinburg and the team members got to experience first hand the chaos associated with moving 25,000 people down a single road in advance of an inferno.

For the next two weeks, our team and the Southern Area “Red Team” (a type 1 IMT) assisted the Park and the surrounding communities in suppressing the wildland fires and returning their lives to as close normal as possible.

The team consisted of experts in the area of incident management from DFPC, Boulder Rural Fire Rescue, Pagosa Fire Department, and the BLM.  Each of the team members were able to have a positive impact on their counterparts in the towns of Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg.”

****

The fire spread into Gatlinburg, killing 14 people, burning 2,013 homes and 53 commercial structures, and causing more than $500 million in damage.

For the most current information about the Chimney Tops 2 Fire at Gatlinburg, see our articles tagged “Chimney 2 Fire”.

Typos or errors, report them HERE.