Red flag warnings for portions of New Mexico, Texas, and Florida

Red Flag Warning, Texas-NM, 2-18-2013
Red Flag Warning, Texas and New Mexico, 2-18-2013

The National Weather Service has issued a Red Flag Warning for dry and windy conditions between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. MT today in the Guadalupe and Davis mountains, Van Horn, Highway 54 corridor, Reeves County, Upper Trans Pecos, Stockton Plateau, and Terrell County. The NWS forecast predicts the winds will be 20 to 30 mph with the relative humidity between 5 and 10 percent.

There is also a Red Flag Warning for an area in the Florida panhandle between Pensacola and Tallahassee until 6 p.m. CST today for a relative humidity below 35 percent and an Energy Release Component at or above 20.

In case there is a fire:

The U.S. Forest Service does not have any large air tankers on exclusive use contracts at the present time. They issued a solicitation for “next generation” air tankers 15 months ago, but no contracts have been awarded. The contracts for the existing Korean War vintage air tankers, and Neptune’s new-ish BAe-146s, expired in 2012. Usually air tankers come on duty in Alamorgordo, New Mexico in mid-February and in Boise in late February.

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The map above was current as of 12:10 p.m. MT on Monday. Red Flag Warnings can change throughout the day as the dozens of National Weather Service offices around the country update and revise their forecasts. For the most current data, visit this NWS site.

Video about wildfire and the endangered Cape Sable Seaside Sparrow

Deer Hammock Wildfire from Into Nature Films on Vimeo.

This five-minute film features a lightning-ignited wildfire and the endangered Cape Sable Seaside Sparrow in Everglades National Park. These last, remaining sparrow populations increase the complexity of fire management in the Everglades.

The video was produced by Jennifer Brown of Into Nature Films. If her name sounds familiar it may be because we embedded one of her other films that she produced for Everglades NP when she was working there under a short-term appointment. That video, River of Fire, is excellent. It’s a shame that the National Park Service could not figure out a way to retain an employee with such unique and valuable skills. But she is still available as a contractor.

Battalion Chief fired for forgetting about crew on wildfire

A Battalion Chief for Estero Fire Rescue in Florida has been fired for failing to maintain accountability of firefighters on a large brush fire. Jeannine Horton, a nine-year veteran, allegedly forgot about a San Carlos fire crew that was still working in the woods when she “terminated incident command and left the scene prior to accounting for all resources”.

According to NBC2 News, Horton was also accused of making other mistakes, including entering a home when a fire alarm was going off without the owner being present to change batteries in a smoke detector. On another call she instructed a crew to re-wire smoke detectors, engaging in electrical work that firefighters are not authorized to perform.
NBC-2.com WBBH News for Fort Myers, Cape Coral

Photos of prescribed fires, Oregon and Florida

St.Vincent Island prescribed fire
St.Vincent Island prescribed fire USFWS photo by Brian Pippin

Today we have photos of prescribed fires in opposite corners of the United States, all are from U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service projects. The photo above is a prescribed fire on St. Vincent Island in north Florida (map). The entire 12,000-acre island is a USF&WS refuge. Brian Pippin took this photo from a helicopter during the the 1,150-acre burn.

The photos below show prescribed fires in Williamette Valley near Eugene, Oregon. More photos from similar projects can be found on their Facebook page.

USFWS Prescribed fire
Williamette Valley prescribed fire near Eugene, OR. USFWS photo

USFWS Prescribed fire in Williamette Valley

Thanks go out to Brian

Everglades National Park’s excellent film about prescribed fire

Above: Prescribed Fire Burn Boss, Jon Wallace

The National Park Service and Everglades National Park have produced a wonderful film about prescribed fire in what is frequently called the “river of grass”, but this is titled “River of Fire”. (Thankfully they stayed away from the over-used terms “burning issue” and “trial by fire”.) The footage was shot during a 31,000-acre prescribed fire November 29th and 30th, 2011

While we appreciate the video projects about fire management that are produced by local land management units using not much more than an inexpensive videocam, this film takes it to the next level … or more. The technical aspects, the production values, and the editing make this project stand out among all others and in my opinion makes it suitable for network television.

When you watch it, I suggest you expand it to full screen and increase the quality to 720p or 1080p.

At the 5:00 minute mark of the 13-minute film I saw something completely unexpected — the air boat drives through flames. Watch for the ash that accumulates on the camera lens.

Congratulations to the NPS, and producer/director/editor Jennifer Brown, who has a field biology background as well as a Master of Fine Arts degree from the film program at Montana State University. In addition, Burn Boss Jon Wallace from the Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge did a great job providing excellent on-camera narration.

I talked with Rick Anderson, the Fire Management Officer of Everglades National Park, who told me that Ms. Brown is a GS-9 employee working for the Environmental Education section of the Interpretation Division under a term appointment which will end soon. She has been working for the NPS for about three years, has a Red Card, her own high-definition video equipment, and has produced a number of films for the park. If you disregard her salary, the cost of making the film was very, very low. The Southeast Region of the NPS recently paid a contractor about $25,000 to make a similar film.

Mr. Anderson said they don’t use an air boat on every prescribed fire because some projects are in wilderness areas which prohibit mechanized equipment, or the water levels may not be high enough. He said a skilled air boat operator can perform some interesting maneuvers, such as spinning donuts to mash down the grass or cattails in order to create a safety zone. An operator can also make a sharp turn to create a wake, and then turn the air boat so that the fan blows air across the wave picking up water in the form of a spray or fog knocking down the fire on the other side — a unique form of fire suppression.

Here is a description of the film provided by the National Park Service:

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River of Fire is now complete and posted to YouTube. We wanted to depict both the complexity and the beauty of fire in the Everglades Ecosystem. For the narration we used the two burn bosses on this Type 1 burn. Gary Carnall from the Everglades Fire Management was the trainee and Jon Wallace from Arthur R Marshall Loxahatchee NWR was the trainer. This was intentional. These are among the best in south Florida and their collaboration is an example of Interagency cooperation here. They also demonstrate the vast amount of knowledge that fire managers must possess to gain trust in this highly complicated ecosystem. Many themes in which responsible burn bosses must possess a high level of fluency are emphasized, fire ecology, wildlife, fire behavior, exotics, water quality and concern for the community. Jon Wallace’s command of the subject matter serves as an excellent example of a burn boss representing the craft of fire management.

The quality of this short film is a testament to skilled fire managers working with a expert video producer. In this case our video producer, Jennifer Brown who has a field biology background as well as a MFA from the film program at Montana State University. She also has completed 130/190 and the arduous WCT. Her background and talent was instrumental in creating this compelling short film. All the firefighters with helmet cams in the world could not give us a production of this quality. The experience of Jon on the airboat was critical in placing Jennifer in many locations that enabled her to get this beautiful footage. She also produced the beautiful “Pine Rocklands Composition” centered upon the highly imperiled Pine Rocklands of South Florida and features Everglades prescribed fire.”

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For more information about the film or fire management at Everglades National Park contact: Rick Anderson, Fire Management Officer, at 305.242.7853.

UPDATE: April 12, 2013: The park has produced another video about their prescribed fire program about a prescribed fire at a Boy Scout camp.

Everglades National Park to burn 31,000 acres

Everglades National Park, Coastal Prairie prescribed fire, May, 2011. NPS photo by Jennifer Brown
File photo. Everglades National Park, Coastal Prairie prescribed fire, May, 2011. NPS photo by Jennifer Brown

Today and tomorrow Everglades National Park in south Florida expects to burn 31,000 acres in one project. The prescribed fire will be part of their continuing program control exotic species and reduce fuel in the area south of U.S. 41, east of the Shark Valley park entrance.

Equipment to be used on the “River of Grass Northeast” project will include three engines, two helicopters, a single-engine air tanker, and one airboat.

At 2:00 p.m. ET we talked with the park’s information officer, Linda Friar, who said the prescribed fire started at 11:00 a.m. ET and so far was going well. We will post an update to this article later today or tomorrow as the burn progresses.

From the photo below, it appears that personnel flying over the Everglades National Park’s Coastal Prairie Prescribed Fire in May, 2011 were a little casual in their choice of attire. In most government-operated helicopters working on a fire, a helmet and fire resistant clothing would be required. More National Park Service photos from that prescribed fire are on the park’s flickr page. UPDATE:  As you can see in the comments below this article, we heard from Rick Anderson, the Fire Management Officer for Everglades National Park, who said:

That photo is Huw Cordry of Wild Horizons LTD, you may know his work from the “Planet Earth” series filming a fire on our coastal prairies. This is not a NPS mission and the ship is private.. Thanks for your comments on aviation safety. Everglades Fire and Aviation flies around 500 missions a year with an excellent safety record. We seek safety in everything we do.

Everglades NP prescribed fire
File photo. Everglades National Park, Coastal Prairie prescribed fire, May, 2011. NPS photo by Jennifer Brown