The BBC reports that two people have been found dead in a very large bushfire south of Perth in Southwestern Australia. Police say the bodies of two men in their 70s were discovered in the debris of burnt-out houses in the town of Yarloop. Most of the structures in the town were destroyed when the Waroona Bushfire, pushed by strong winds, raged through the community.
The blaze continues to spread and threaten populated areas, but less intensely now, with less extreme weather conditions. An emergency warning was issued at 10:51 a.m. local time on January 9 for the following locations: Hamel, Cookernup, Yarloop, Harvey, east of Waroona and the surrounding areas. It doesn’t include the Waroona townsite.
The Department of Fire and Emergency Services reports that the fire has consumed 70,876 hectares (175,000 acres) and 143 homes and outbuildings. It is being fought by 250 firefighters, 50 appliances including 38 heavy machines, air tankers, and helicopters. The fire perimeter is more than 140 miles.
(Click on the videos at the top and bottom of this article in order to view them.)
Firefighters found the body of a 90-year-old man in a brushfire on November 3 near Bainbridge, Ohio. Preliminary indications are that Melvin B. Elliott was raking leaves during the early stages of the fire, but the cause of death has not been determined.
California city bans drones during emergencies
The city council of Poway, California passed a new ordinance this week that prohibits launching, operating or landing drones in any part of the city where an emergency has been declared. The objective is to eliminate conflicts between unmanned aerial vehicles and helicopters or fixed wing aircraft responding to the incident. Several times this year hobby drones flown near wildfires have required firefighting helicopters and air tankers to be grounded for safety reasons.
Efforts to wrest control of federal lands can’t be ignored
The movement to grab federal lands, such as national forests, BLM land, and national parks, and turn it over to states or private landowners can’t be ignored. The efforts are real and are not going away. At least 37 land transfer bills have been introduced in state legislatures with six of them passing; another four have been finalized as “study” legislation.
Below is an excerpt from an article in Wyofile written by Angus M. Thuermer Jr., in which the view is expressed that one of the tactics is to starve federal agencies by reducing their funding, then accuse them of mismanagement, and arguing that states, individuals, or large companies would be better land managers.
[The views of Whit Fosburgh, president and CEO of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership] illuminate the seriousness with which some in the conservation community are now viewing the renewed Sagebrush Rebellion. The movement is supported by a strategy that’s decades old — starving land management agencies — transfer critics say. Launched under the guise of deficit reduction and fiscal responsibility, budget cutting is also a cynical ploy to sow dissatisfaction of federal western land management at the grassroots level, Fosburgh contends.
At least six hikers were killed and three others suffered severe burns in a wildfire on Indonesia’s island of Java, according to the BBC.
Below is an excerpt from a BBC article:
Officials believe the fire [at Mount Lawu] was caused by a bonfire started by hikers that was not extinguished properly, and spread quickly due to dry conditions.
Local disaster agency official Agung Lewis told AFP news agency that the area the hikers were in had been closed off earlier.
“The area is actually closed for hiking because there had been previous cases of wildfires due to the dry weather, so we suspect these hikers could have used unofficial routes,” he told the news agency.
The U.S. Forest Service has released a preliminary report for the fatality of Dave Ruhl on the Frog Fire. Mr. Ruhl went missing the evening of July 30, 2015 while scouting the fire on foot, serving as incident commander during the initial attack in a very remote area of the Modoc National Forest 46 air miles east of Mt. Shasta, California. His body was found about 14 hours later approximately one-quarter mile from where he was last seen.
(Click on the image below, the timeline of the fire, to see a larger version.)
On August 4 the USFS said the autopsy determined that Mr. Ruhl’s death was attributed to “carbon monoxide poisoning and smoke inhalation”.
Not much information is in the report that sheds light on what led to his being entrapped by the fire, or what decisions were made or not made that led Mr. Ruhl to be in that spot at the wrong time. The wind direction did shift, which drove the fire in different directions, possibly resulting in his location becoming compromised.
The report’s narrative ends with this:
Although much will remain unknown about Dave’s decision making and complete route of travel, the final 100 feet of his route were accurately established. It appears he was cut-off and overcome by fire during the period of time that the fire spread shifted dramatically toward the west-southwest. Dave’s fire shelter was not deployed.
This document, called by the USFS a “learning review, preliminary report — narrative”, was released a little over two months after the fatality, a remarkably short amount of time for the agency. It comes after the USFS was extremely secretive during the first five days after the accident, refusing to divulge if a fire shelter was deployed, where the remains were found, or if the fatality was caused by a burnover, vehicle accident, lightning, or another type of accident.
The report confirms something that could be occurring at many fires — behind the scenes communications via cell phones. The Zone Duty Officer sent two text messages to Mr. Ruhl confirming that he was a TRAINEE Type 3 Incident Commander, and ordering him to clarify that over the radio to the others on the fire. The next text message sent to Mr. Ruhl was, “And I won’t text anymore. Sorry for that.” And finally, an hour and a half later after it became obvious he was missing, “I need you to call or text ASAP, we are very concerned on your status.” The screen shot of those four messages from the Zone Duty Officer’s iPhone did not include any replies from Mr. Ruhl.