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.

Junkins Fire causes evacuations west of Pueblo, Colorado

Above: Map of the Junkins Fire October 18.

(Click HERE to view our most recent article about the Junkins Fire.)

(UPDATED at 4:31 p.m. MDT October 19, 2016)

The Junkins fire west of Pueblo, Colorado, according to mapping on October 18, has burned 16,832 acres. Fire officials said Wednesday a shortage of firefighting resources is slowing the construction of firelines and the containment of the fire. In fact, they are saying firefighters have not contained any of the fire.

It started during strong winds on October 17 when a power line failed and hit a barbed wire fence.

A Type 1 Incident Management Team from the Great Basis assumed command of the fire on Wednesday.

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(UPDATE at 1:56 p.m. MDT October 18, 2016)

The Junkins Fire 21 air miles west of Pueblo, Colorado had burned 15,751 acres when mapped by one of the state’s Multi-Mission Aircraft at 7 p.m. on Monday. The fire continued to spread after that flight, particularly on the south and the northeast sides, and an updated acreage should be available after it is mapped again this morning.

Much of the activity of the firefighters has been defensive, staging firefighting resources well outside the fire perimeter to protect structures. Tuesday afternoon should bring winds out of the southwest and east, so a priority will be the structures along Highway 96.

The Tuesday forecast for the fire area also includes temperatures in the low 60’s, relative humidity in the low 20’s, and partly cloudy skies.

Junkins fire map
Planning Operations Section Chief Dan Dallas briefing about the Junkins Fire Tuesday Morning. Screen grab from Incident Management Team video. The gray shaded area on the right side is the 2005 Mason Fire. (The highway numbers were added by Wildfire Today.)

Some of the geographic Divisions are larger than desired due to a shortage of resources, according to Planning Operations Section Chief Dan Dallas.

East of County Road 387 the fire has burned into the large scar from the 2005 Mason Fire, slowing the spread. Monday night one of the most active sections of the fire was on the northeast side, between County Road 387 and the fire scar.

The county Sheriff said another residence burned Monday night, bringing the total up to two homes and 5 outbuildings that have burned.

Tuesday morning 114 personnel were assigned to the fire. Aircraft being used include 2 large air tankers, 4 single engine air tankers, 2 large helitankers, 2 national guard helicopters, a lead plane, and the Multi-Mission Aircraft. Operations Section Chief Dallas said he expected the aircraft will be used more heavily today than yesterday.

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(UPDATED at 6:30 p.m. MDT October 17, 2017)

The Junkins Fire about 25 miles west of Pueblo, Colorado has burned about 13,300 acres according to a 3:30 p.m. update from fire officials. Approximately 80 personnel are on scene. One residence and three outbuildings have been destroyed. Part of the fire has spread into a an old burn from 2005, which slowed the progress of the fire in that area.

A Type 3 Incident Management Team is running the fire now, but a Type 1 Team has been ordered.

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(UPDATED at 12:34 p.m. MDT October 17, 2016)

A fire that was reported at 3:40 a.m. MDT on Monday has already burned thousands of acres and forced evacuations about 29 miles west of Pueblo, Colorado. The Westcliffe Daily Record reported at 10:46 that the Junkins Fire has blackened approximately 11,000 acres. It is burning in the general vicinity of McKenzie Junction, the intersection of Highways 165 and 96, eight miles southwest of Wetmore.

map Junkins fire
Map showing the location of the Junkins Fire at 11 a.m. MDT October 17, 2016. The map was produced by the state of Colorado, but Wildfire Today added the highway numbers and other large black text.

Continue reading “Junkins Fire causes evacuations west of Pueblo, Colorado”

A tractor and graders help stop the Bradberry Fire in Colorado

Above: Two graders on the Bradberry Fire work in tandem, parallel to the fire’s edge. Screencap from KUSA video.

A grass fire southeast of Denver in Elbert County burned about 300 acres before firefighters and other locals stopped the spread Monday afternoon.

We are writing about it because it was interesting watching portions of a video shot by KUSA. It’s almost 25 minutes long, but if you skip around you’ll see not only shots of the fire spreading, but also:

6:20–An engine crew implements a strategic pause.

13:12–Two graders are nose-to-nose. At first it looked like they were battling, like two bighorn sheep, but apparently one got stuck, high-centered, and the other was pushing it free. If the grader had been operating alone — well, that’s how equipment and sometimes equipment drivers get hurt. For example, earlier this year in northwest Oklahoma.

20:20–A farm tractor appears to be building fireline.

23:15–After a grader operator dismounts to cut a wire fence, the two graders begin operating in tandem parallel to the fire’s edge.

Bradberry Fire
After a grader become stuck on the Bradberry Fire, a second one pushes it free. Screencap from KUSA video.

If you click full-screen at bottom-right in the video below, it will be easier to skip around.

Likely cause of Beulah Hill Fire in Colorado was an excavator

Above: Map of the Beulah Hill Fire at 12:20 p.m. MDT October 5, 2016. Data from  Colorado’s MultiMission Aircraft.

(UPDATED at 11:43 a.m. MDT October 6, 2016)

Data from Colorado’s MultiMission aircraft has produced the map above showing the perimeter of the Beulah Hill Fire southwest of Pueblo, Colorado. The incident management team added the completed vs. open fireline, showing that more half of the fire’s edge is contained. The latest size estimate is 5,232 acres.

Fire officials today announced that the preliminary cause of the Beulah Hill Fire was a Colorado Department of Transportation excavator performing routine drainage maintenance work. It was moving rocks with the bucket and that may have created sparks, or it could have been hot particles from the exhaust. Investigators eliminated all other possible causes.

Officials also announced at a 10:30 a.m. press conference today that the state will be awarding each homeowner whose house burned a $5,000 grant to assist with immediate expenses.

Evacuation orders have been lifted in some areas.

The MODIS satellite orbiting 438 miles overhead has not detected any large heat sources on the fire since it found one at 2:46 a.m. on October 5. But there are no doubt many small hot areas on the fire.

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(UPDATED at 10:47 a.m. MDT October 5, 2016)

As a result of better mapping, it has been determined that the Beulah Hill Fire has burned 4,848 acres 17 miles southwest of Pueblo, Colorado.

The number of structures burned has been revised to 8 homes and 16 outbuildings. Evacuations are still in effect for the Beulah area and approximately 200 homes still do not have electricity.

The Information Officer for the Type 2 incident management team that assumed command at 6 a.m. Wednesday announced Wednesday morning that firefighters have not achieved any containment (scroll down at the link) on the fire, saying it is at zero percent. The fire started early in the afternoon on Monday, October 1. In spite of the stated lack of containment the approximate number of personnel on the fire has decreased from 400 on Tuesday, to 340 on Wednesday (300 firefighters plus 30 to 40 overhead) over the last 24 hours according to the numbers provided over the last two days. Some incident management teams conflate the terms “contain” and “control”.

Other resources on the fire include 4 hand crews, 30 engines, 3 helicopters, 2 heavy air tankers, and 2 single engine air tankers.

Continue reading “Likely cause of Beulah Hill Fire in Colorado was an excavator”

Wildfire news, September 14, 2016

Highlights of recent news about wildland fire.

California has fewer inmates available for fighting wildfires

With fewer inmates available for fighting fires, the state of California is turning to civilian crews within their Conservation Corps.

From KCRA:

…But the number of available inmates is declining because counties now oversee most lower-level felons under a law aimed at easing prison overcrowding. In addition, there are fewer incentives for inmates to risk their lives since a federal court broadened an early release program for firefighters to include other inmates.

The state is about 600 inmates short of the 4,300 prisoners who could be available for fire lines. So this year, the California Conservation Corps reopened a camp to train three crews of young civilians to do the same backbreaking work as the inmates. Corps Director Bruce Saito expects to create at least four more fire crews with roughly 15 members each by next summer and a half-dozen new crews during each of the next two years.

The corps has more than 1,400 members, but fewer than 200 currently work alongside local, state and federal firefighters battling blazes in rural areas.

The members include both men and women and range in age from 18 to 25. They enlist for one year and earn the state’s minimum wage of $10 an hour. Military veterans can enroll until they turn 30…

Oregon sues 3 people responsible for starting the Ferguson Fire

Oregon hopes to recover $892,082 from three individuals who they say are responsible for starting the Ferguson Fire that burned 200 acres and destroyed two structures in Klamath County in July 2014.

The suit alleges that Joe Askins started a campfire, then took a nap. When he awoke, the campfire had escaped. Askins also said “I’ll take all the blame for the fire,” according to the lawsuit.

More evidence that beetle-killed forests do not increase the risk of catastrophic wildfires.

An article at News Deeply summarizes several research studies which mostly concluded that beetle-killed forests do not burn more severely than forests that have not been attacked by the insects. This is in spite of statements to the contrary by the Secretary of Agriculture, a spokesperson for CAL FIRE, and media stories about trees that are now part of a “tinder box”.

Air tanker 132 starts contract in Australia

air tanker 132 australia
Air Tanker 132 is reintroduced to the media in New South Wales, Australia. Photo by Sgt. Brett Sherriff, Royal Australian Air Force.

Fire Aviation reports that Coulson’s Air Tanker 132 started its contract with New South Wales on September 6, helping to provide air support for wildland firefighters in Australia. This is the second year in a row that the L-382G, a variant of the C-130 platform, has worked down under during their summer bushfire season.

Cheyenne is concerned about the effects of the Snake Fire on their water system

“The location of the fire is close proximity to our major watershed collection area for the Hog Park Reservoir” said Dena Egenhoff, the Board of Public Utilities’ (BOPU) Water Conservation Manager. “We are unable to know the impact of the Snake Fire at this time, but the location suggests there may be some adverse impacts to the City of Cheyenne’s water collection system.” As of September 11, 2016, the Hog Park Reservoir is 91.8% full

For Cheyenne, BOPU collects water in the Little Snake River drainage from snow melt and streams and transports it under a mountain by a tunnel to the eastside of the Continental Divide. That water is then stored in Hog Park Reservoir. From there, the collected water from Hog Park Reservoir is traded for water in Rob Roy Reservoir which can more easily be transported without pumping to Cheyenne. “In this way, the amount of water can be exchanged between the two different Mountain Ranges with all water rights being satisfied,” said Dena Egenhoff.

The Snake fire is in south-central Wyoming just north of the Colorado border. It is 115 air miles miles west of Cheyenne, and 20 miles west of the 38,000-acre Beaver Creek Fire that has been burning in Colorado and Wyoming since July 19, 2016.

Colorado fire chiefs’ recommendations for improving wildfire response

Each year since 2013 the Colorado Legislature has created interim Wildfire Matters Review Committees, with the apparent primary purpose of proposing bills relating to wildfire. And every year the Colorado State Fire Chiefs Association (CSFC) submits to the committee a broad range of recommendations for improving the state’s ability to mitigate and respond to wildfires.

This year is no exception. On August 15, CSFC Executive Director Garry Briese testified before the 2016 committee, providing the association’s view of the progress that has been made, the work underway, and the work that remains to be done on seven priorities that the CSFC first identified in 2013.

The written version of the testimony is an interesting look at how the association’s recommendations have evolved since 2013. For each of the seven priorities an update was added every year showing the history of the progress made, or not made, in each category.

Their seven recommendations, with the three highest priorities at the top, are:

  1. Ensure the stability and reliability of the current Colorado statewide emergency radio system;
  2. Continue to invest in the development, expansion and implementation of the State resource mobilization plan;
  3. Expand the current local, regional and state command, control, and coordination capabilities;
  4. Provide sufficient funding to the Division of Fire Prevention and Control (DFPC) to fulfill its stated missions;
  5. State aviation resources are an essential and integral part of the initial attack on WUI fires; 
  6. Develop measurable and clearly articulated performance goals for response to WUI fires to guide the response of local, mutual aid and State resources; and,
  7. Recognize that while community and individual homeowner mitigation is an essential component of a comprehensive WUI strategy, it is not an effective immediate or mid-term solution to our State’s immediate threats.

The report identifies progress in mobilization, and called as success stories the multi-mission aircraft, the Colorado Wildfire Information Management System (CO-WIMS), and the Colorado Center of Excellence for Advanced Technology Aerial Firefighting. But much remains to be done, the CSFC report said, in communications, homeowner hazard mitigation, and support for incident management teams.

You can read the entire document here.

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