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.

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“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.”

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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”.

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Two large wildfires in Colorado

Two fires over the last two days in Colorado have burned a total of almost 2,200 acres. 

wildfire red flag warning
The red-shaded area was under a Red Flag Warning Friday, December 16, 2016.

The largest fire started Thursday night when very strong winds blew over a truck which then skidded along the road, creating sparks.  The blaze, now contained, burned about 2,000 acres near Interstate 25 south of Walsenburg, Colorado.

A fire near Loveland, Colorado also started Thursday night. Loveland Fire and Rescue reports that they have it contained at 189 acres.

A large portion of southeast Colorado was under a Red Flag Warning on Friday, but it expired at 6 p.m.

Snow will begin in the area Friday night after midnight and will continue off and on into Saturday afternoon. The high temperature near Walsenburg Saturday will be around 15 degrees.

 

Spread of the Junkins Fire slows

Above: Junkins Fire. Undated photo by the Incident Management Team.

The Junkins Fire has spread very little over the last two days. Most of the changes to the perimeter have been on the south side east of Highway 165, and on the northeast side south of Greenwood.

The number of personnel assigned has grown to 918. The latest size estimate is 18,132 acres. Evacuation orders are still in effect for County Road 387. Highway 165 and Custer County Road 358 are now open, however some spur roads in the fire area remain closed.

Progression Junkins Fire
Progression map of the Junkins Fire. The large blue area burned 9,442 acres on the first day, October 17. Click HERE to see a higher resolution version.

Firefighters are working on containing the northern flank, progressing east from Highway 165. Indirect dozer and hand line will be constructed along the Hardscrabble Creek drainage in preparation for planned firing operations. The northeast and eastern divisions remain in monitor and patrol status with engines continuing to secure areas around structures.

Along the southern portion of the fire, crews continue burning operations where needed, constructing direct line where possible. Multiple water sources have been established to assist as mop up operations continue.

bobcat Junkins Fire
A bobcat on the Junkins Fire near Highway October 25, 2016. USFS photo by Daryl Bressan.

Articles on Wildfire Today tagged “Junkins Fire”.

Firefighters continue to battle the Junkins Fire west of Pueblo, Colorado

Above: Map of the Junkins Fire, October 21, 2016. The black line is completed fireline, while the red line is uncontained. Produced by the incident management team.

(UPDATED at 10:48 a.m. MDT October 22, 2016)

The number of structures burned in the Junkins Fire west of Pueblo, Colorado has been updated. Officials are now saying 8 homes and 19 outbuildings burned, but only one of the homes was a primary residence. The incident management team is still calling the fire 17,809 acres.

The last of the evacuation orders for the portion of the fire in Pueblo County have been lifted. Evacuations are still in effect in some areas of Custer County.

The number of personnel and equipment assigned to the fire has significantly increased, to 722.

The map below shows heat detected by an aircraft at 12:18 a.m. MDT October 22, 2016.

map junkins fire
Map showing heat detected by an aircraft over the Junkins Fire at 12:18 a.m. MDT October 22, 2016.

Continue reading “Firefighters continue to battle the Junkins Fire west of Pueblo, Colorado”

Rainfall in western states slows wildfire season in many areas

Rainfall last 2 weeks washington oregon
Rainfall last 2 weeks, Washington and Oregon

Rainfall over the last two weeks has slowed or in some cases, ended the wildfire season in some areas.

On October 19 we ran the numbers for the accumulated precipitation for the last 14 days in the western states. These maps show amounts that exceeded 0.05 inches at some of the Interagency Remote Automatic Weather Stations (RAWS).

Washington, Oregon, and northern California have received a good soaking and I would imagine that local fire officials may be declaring an end to the fire season. Of course this is not unusual for these areas this time of the year, and some locations had already seen their season end. But what IS unusual, is the high amount of moisture that occurred in just two weeks.

You can click on the images to see larger versions.

Rainfall last 2 weeks, northern California
Rainfall last 2 weeks, northern California
Rainfall last 2 weeks central California
Rainfall last 2 weeks, central California

Continue to see maps for the other western states.
Continue reading “Rainfall in western states slows wildfire season in many areas”

Sky lanterns cause problems for landowner

Sky lantern
File photo of a sky lantern release in Chiang Mai, Thailand. Photo by Takeaway.

Hundreds of sky lanterns released at an October 15 event 18 miles north of downtown Denver caused problems for at least one landowner five miles away from where they were launched.

A company that makes money by hosting “festivals” where they charge participants who release the small hot air balloons that are lofted by burning fuel at their base, organized an event at the Colorado National Speedway adjacent to Interstate 25.

Below is an excerpt from an article at KDVR:

…”We were watching it not really knowing what it was, but liking it. It was beautiful,” Lauren Gueswel said. She said the view was stunning, until close to 200 lanterns landed on her 40-acre farmland.

“I was extremely concerned and a little angry,” Gueswel said.

Gueswel and her husband chased after the debris while also trying to calm spooked animals.

“Terrified. They were absolutely terrified,” Gueswel said.

The lanterns blew nearly five miles to end up on her property. The couple was worried about dry patches of grass.

“Several of these were landing with embers still burning,” Gueswel said.

A spokesman for the event said the lanterns never hit the ground still hot. Several organizers from the event visited the farm to help pick up the leftover lanterns. They said cleanup is always protocol…

The company that organized the incident, Lantern Fest, had planned to continue releasing the fire-carrying devices on a second night, but it was cancelled due to strong winds. But, they are planning two other events in Colorado — November 5 in Colorado Springs and another one November 6 at the Colorado National Speedway north of Denver.

The company is also planning large-scale releases of the fire balloons near Phoenix, Indianapolis, St. Louis, Albuquerque, El Paso, Austin, Dallas, South Padre Island, Spokane, and Boise.

Colorado is one of the 21 states that still have not banned these dangerous devices.

Thanks and a tip of the hat go out to Allen.