Premier of short film: “Unacceptable Risk”

This trailer is about a short film that will premier February 24, 2015 at the Dairy Center for the Arts in Boulder, Colorado on 26th Street, between Canyon Boulevard and Walnut Street.

Here is how the film is described:

“Celebrate the premiere of Unacceptable Risk: Firefighters on the Front Lines of Climate Change – a short film, featuring local firefighters who have battled many of Colorado’s epic fires of the past decade.

Our wildland firefighters are witnessing climate change impacts in their daily lives. Unacceptable Risk examines how these climate changes are transforming Colorado’s fire environment, bringing higher temperatures, drier fuels, and diseases to forests, which combine to create volatile conditions for firefighters and communities.

Following the screening, firefighters, climate scientists, and the filmmakers will join the audience for a conversation about ways that Coloradans can work together to address climate change and the growing threat of wildfires.

A reception will follow in The Dairy’s McMahon Gallery. The gallery is currently featuring an exhibition inspired by climate-related issues, entitled “Fire and Rain,” by Colorado-based artist Mary-Ann Kokoska, who will speak about her work.

The film is produced by The Story Group, a Boulder-based company.”

Admission is free.

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Colorado: man fleeing cops drives on rims, sparks grass fire

Castle Rock Fire Colorado State Patrol photoA driver suspected of being intoxicated failed to stop for police Friday night and led them on a chase on and off Interstate 25 in the Castle Rock area south of Denver (map). While trying to escape from the cops, he crashed into four other vehicles, one in a parking lot and three more on the Interstate.

Officers deployed stop sticks which flattened his tires but he kept going, eventually running on just the wheel rims, leaving a shower of sparks behind which ignited a grass fire. The suspected drunk driver and two crash victims in other vehicles were transported to a hospital with non-life threatening injuries.

Police have identified the driver as Garrett Neugebauer, 41, of Peyton, Colorado. He faces 18 charges.

The photos were provided by the Colorado State Patrol.

Castle Rock Fire Castle Rock Fire

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National Ecological Observatory Network studies the High Park Fire

This video was published June 6, 2013.
In response to one of the worst wildfires in Colorado history, scientists from the Warner College of Natural Resources at Colorado State University (CSU) are leading a first of its kind, large-scale wildfire impact study on the High Park Fire in partnership with Colorado’s newest research facility, the National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON). The study will provide critical data to communities still grappling with how to respond to major water quality, erosion and ecosystem restoration issues in an area spanning more than 136 square miles.

Supported by a National Science Foundation (NSF) RAPID grant, the collaboration will integrate airborne remote sensing data collected by NEON’s Airborne Observation Platform (AOP) with ground-based data from a targeted field campaign conducted by CSU researchers. RAPID, short for Grants for Rapid Response Research, are used for proposals having a real urgency, including quick-response research on natural disasters. This effort is the first time a comprehensive airborne remote sensing system of this caliber will be used to enhance research on wildfire causes and impacts. The system will be able to detect remaining vegetation, identify plant species, ash cover, soil properties and other details to help illustrate how the fire burned–over the span of the entire fire scar.

“The NEON Airborne Observatory is transforming research by providing data to researchers and resource managers at temporal and geographic scales that could not previously be captured,” says Elizabeth Blood, NSF program director for NEON. “By combining ground measurements with data gathered from cutting-edge instruments in NEON airplanes, scientists are gathering potentially pivotal information about small scale and large scale processes that affect the spread of fires through forests and subsequent forest recovery.”

NEON will be to ecological health what an EKG is to heart health. Like an EKG generates snapshots of heart health by measuring heart activity at strategic locations on a patient’s body, NEON will generate snapshots of ecosystem health by measuring ecological activity at strategic locations throughout the U.S. Resulting ecological data will enable scientists to generate the first apples-to-apples comparisons of ecosystem health throughout large regions of the U.S. and the entire country over multiple decades.

Some of NEON’s data collection and educational operations have already begun, and others will begin incrementally until NEON becomes fully functional in 2017. All of NEON’s data, synthesized data products and associated educational materials will be made freely available on the Internet. These materials will thereby provide grist for groundbreaking analyses and educational activities by researchers, students, decision-makers, educators and the public.

NEON will be fully operational for some 30 years.

Articles at Wildfire Today tagged “High Park Fire”.

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Wildfire briefing, November 28, 2014

Mail carrier stops wildfire

Bob Trujillo was delivering mail near Genesee, Colorado in August when he discovered a wildfire near a home. Since he had no cell phone service he went to a nearby house and asked the residents to call 911. While a woman at the house made the call, her husband joined Mr. Trujllo while he constructed a fire line around the fire.

A Sheriff’s deputy arrived and helped the men until the fire department arrived.

“When I arrived there was a lot of smoke but not much fire due to the line that Robert built around the fire,” the deputy wrote in his report. “The wind was blowing out of the South East at about 10 miles an hour with strong gusts.”

This week, Mr. Trujillo was honored with a Postmaster General’s “Hero’s Award”, Jefferson County Commissioners honored him with a Citizen’s Coin, and Foothills Fire Chief Brian Zoril presented him with a fireman’s helmet.

Washington state pays wealthy landowner following wildfire

A controversy is developing in the state of Washington after it was discovered that after the Carlton Complex of Fires that burned 300 homes and 256,108 acres, the state’s Department of Natural Resources (DNR) paid nearly $2 million to one of the wealthiest landowners in Okanogan County.

Below are some excerpts from an article at King5:

…The taxpayer funded payment was reimbursement to Gebbers Farms, owner of one of the largest fruit orchards in the world.

Gebbers was paid for equipment and personnel that it used to fight fire, mostly on its own privately-owned property.

DNR says the payment was appropriate, because Gebbers was able to launch a large scale assault on the fire in coordination with public agencies fighting the wildfire.

DNR regional manager Loren Torgerson said the so-called “fire control contract” is the same kind of arrangement the agency uses when hiring contractors to fight fires.

Records show Gebbers was reimbursed $209,000 for salaries for its orchard workers and managers for 19 days of firefighting. It was paid $680,000 for the use of heavy equipment. And $435,000 was paid for at least four helicopters that Gebbers leased.

There’s evidence that the Gebbers property fared much better than neighboring properties.

A satellite image taken in the days after the fire shows a large, circular scar of burned vegetation. In the middle is a green patch that is mostly Gebbers property.

One of the family’s friends also happens to be the man who runs the DNR – lands commissioner Peter Goldmark.

“I knew the late Danny Gebbers – yes,” Goldmark said when KING 5 asked about his association with the family.

Danny Gebbers was the elderly family patriarch who died after he suffered an injury in a fall during the Carlton Complex Fire.

Like the Gebbers, Goldmark is a ranch owner and one of the largest landowners in Okanogan County.

But he says his relationship with them, the political contributions they have made to his campaigns over the years, had no bearing on DNR’s decision to reimburse Gebbers.

Thanks and a tip of the hat go out to Dick and Carl.

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Investigation report released for Black Forest Fire

Origin of the Black Forest Fire

Origin of the Black Forest Fire

The El Paso County Sheriff’s Office has released a summary report on the investigation of the Black Forest Fire which started June 11, 2013 near Colorado Springs, Colorado. The fire killed two people and burned 489 houses and 14,280 acres, resulting in $420 million in insured losses.

The investigators eliminated natural causes, such as lightning. That left human-related ignitions.

Below are excerpts from the report:

…Given the known devastation of the fire at that point, an Investigation Team was formed consisting of recognized experts in the area of Wildland fire investigation from agencies including the USDA Forest Service, the Aurora Fire Department, the US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATFE), the 4th Judicial District Attorney’s Office and others. This team was assisted by surveyors from the El Paso County Public Services Department.

The only clearly established fact was that no natural causes existed and thus the fire was human caused. A potential cause associated with the metal particles can not be ruled out, or positively identified. A potential cause associated with an intentional ignition is not supported by the evidence or circumstances, but can not be completely ruled out. The origin of the fire is in an area that is not readily accessible from a roadway, allowing an easy escape, as is typical in intentionally set Wildland fires. There was no evidence of any other miscellaneous cause such as blasting, fireworks, welding, target shooting, etc.

Upon the completion of the investigation, the entire case was reviewed by the Sheriff’s Office Investigations Division and the District Attorney’s Office to determine if any additional leads remained. It was the determination of the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office and the District Attorney’s Office that there was not sufficient evidence to warrant criminal prosecution at this time. None of the investigation or forensic examination supported any one possibility to the extent needed to pursue criminal charges. Additionally, no additional recommended follow-up work could be identified at this time.

Three other reports have previously been released about the Black Forest Fire:

  1. Report on how the fire was managed on the first day, issued by the Black Forest Fire District Board on February 19, 2014. The complete report can no longer be found on the District’s web site.
  2. A 2,000 page, 345 megabyte report, released March 14, 2014, commissioned by the Black Forest Fire District which evaluated how the fire was managed, including the performance of Fire Chief Bob Harvey during the first hours of the fire. Sheriff Terry Maketa had been extremely critical of the Chief in numerous interviews with the media. The complete report can no longer be found on the District’s web site.
  3. After Action Report, by the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office, May 15, 2014. We preserved this report on the Wildfire Today web site.

 

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Colorado high school students study fire for five weeks

fire training

Eagle Rock High School students dig line during the “Snow Fire” exercise while Alpine IHC Superintendent Paul Cerda coaches them. The Snow Fire was the culmination of the “Fire!” program with Alpine crew. NPS photo.

From the National Park Service:

Sayings like these are more than just words in the world of firefighting: “Punctuality shows respect,” “Train like you fight,” “Crew cohesion is important.” They are life lessons that students from an alternative residential high school in Estes Park, Colorado, learned during a five-week class on wildland fire.

Simply called “Fire!,” the program, now in its second year, linked six students from Eagle Rock school with Alpine Hotshots and ecologists from Rocky Mountain National Park and the Continental Divide Research Learning Center.

An existing relationship between the school, the park and hotshot crew sparked the idea for the “Fire!” program. An Eagle Rock student has been a member of the Alpine Hotshots for the past four fire seasons. In May 2011, Rafael Mcleod graduated before joining the team. Vidal Carrillo became a hotshot in 2012 and continues to work on the crew while also pursuing his undergraduate degree at Colorado State University.

This enthusiasm is part of what ignited the “Fire!” program. Ben Baldwin, ecologist at the learning center, and Paul Cerda, Alpine Hotshot superintendent, discussed opportunities with Eagle Rock School when they came up with the idea for the pilot program. “After Vidal and Rafael’s success as members of the hotshot crew, we knew several kids were interested in wildland fire,” Cerda said. “Ben and I decided we needed to build on that, partly as an opportunity for diversity recruiting.”

Baldwin approached Eagle Rock School with the idea to develop the pilot course for citizen fire science, similar to other citizen science programs offered through the learning center. While the initial idea was to put the students through a 40-hour basic wildland fire course in order to certify them as wildland firefighters, Cerda and Baldwin quickly realized lectures were not going to be the best learning environment for these students.

“These are students who were not going to get much out of sitting in the classroom,” Cerda said. “They are used to more experiential learning through a hands-on approach. That’s also why we incorporated the physical training standards as part of the curriculum.”

This year, learning center staff member Holly Nickel used her expertise in education and curriculum development to refine and develop materials for this course. “Four of the key principles in fire — safety, physical training, fire ecology, and fire suppression — were the goals of the new fire curriculum,” Nickel said.

– See more at: http://www.nps.gov/fire/wildland-fire/connect/fire-stories/2014-parks/rocky-mountain-national-park-1.cfm#sthash.eNyL3qKi.dpuf

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