Wildfire briefing, April 16, 2014

Idaho sues over Steep Corner Fire

The state of Idaho has filed a lawsuit to recover the costs they incurred while suppressing the 2012 Steep Corner Fire near Orofino, Idaho. The suit claims that a timber company and its contractor did not meet U.S. Forest Service standards. It names Potlatch Land and Lumber, Potlatch Forest Holdings, Clearwater Paper Corp., Potlatch Corp., and DABCO Inc., a Kamiah-based logging contractor.

A firefighter, Ann Veseth, in her second season working as a firefighter for the USFS, was killed when she was struck by a falling 150-foot tall fire-weakened green cedar tree. The tree fell on its own and was 13 inches in diameter where it struck her.

Nebraska to join a fire compact

If the governor of Nebraska signs a bill approved by the legislature, the state will become a member of the Great Plains Interstate Compact, making it easier to share firefighting resources with Colorado, Wyoming and the Dakotas.

UPDATE, April 18, 2014Gov. Dave Heineman announced that he signed the bill.

Next-generation 911

The next generation of 911 could include live video and photographs which could be sent to first responders.

From Governing.com:

On May 1, 2010, a terrorist attack in New York City’s Times Square was thwarted when street vendors noticed smoke coming from a vehicle in which a homemade bomb had failed to explode. Imagine if those street vendors could have used their cellphones to send pictures or video of the vehicle and its license plate to a 911 call center. What if the 911 center could then push that data to first responders and police to get the location from GIS and buildings visual in the photos?

“They could really capture the dynamics of the event,” said Brian Fontes, executive director of the National Emergency Number Association (NENA). “That is what I call an information-rich 911 call, which will be supported in a next-generation 911 system…

Wildfire activity in British Columbia

From cbc.ca:

Fire officials are keeping a close eye on wildfires in the interior. There have been twice the average number of fires so far this year in the Kamloops Fire centre. Monday, five homes were put on evacuation alert in Bridge River near Lillooet. Nearly two dozen firefighters were sent to the area. Two fires are also being fought in the Okanagan. Kayla Pepper is an information officer with the Kamloops Fire Centre. She says it is dry and there has been a fair amount of wind throughout the Interior and Okanagan. She says there have already been 34 wildfires in the region. Pepper says so far, it’s too early to predict how active wildfires will be this year.

National Parks with web pages devoted to wildland fire

The National Park Service has a web page that lists dozens of Parks that have web pages devoted to their unique wildland fire programs. Below is a screen shot of a portion of the page.

NPS park fire programs


Serious injury to a Boise smokejumper

Secretary Jewell and smokejumpers

File photo of Secretary of Interior Sally Jewel (center, with green flight suit) with Boise smokejumpers, May 13, 2013. BLM photo.

(Originally posted at 12:16 p.m. MT, March 25, 2014; updated March 28, 2014)

A smokejumper for the Bureau of Land Management working out of Boise, Idaho suffered a serious injury on a training jump Monday. The patient was initially evaluated on scene by the other jumpers and then flown by Life Flight to a Boise hospital, arriving within 46 minutes, and received treatment, including surgery, for two fractured femurs.

According to Jennifer Smith, a spokesperson for the BLM, the injury resulted from the smokejumper’s landing. There was no parachute malfunction. Boise BLM smokejumpers conduct training jumps on a regular basis in the area where the accident occurred southeast of Emmett, 20 miles northwest of Boise.

An accident investigation team is being organized and is expected to begin work today.

(UPDATE March 28, 2014)

The BLM released a “72-hour report” yesterday. Below is an excerpt.



A BLM Boise Great Basin smokejumper incurred two broken femurs when he experienced a hard landing during a routine refresher parachute jump. This was the second jump of the day at the same location. The jump spot was located along an open ridgeline in an area commonly used for training jumps. Life Flight was immediately contacted and smokejumper EMT’s on scene provided emergency medical care and prepared the injured jumper for transportation. Life Flight was able to land in close proximity to the patient, who was transported to a local Boise area hospital approximately 20 miles from the injury site, arriving within an hour of the accident.

Action Taken to Date:

An Interagency Accident Investigation Team has been assigned. The intent of the investigation is to determine the cause of the injury and provide recommendations to help prevent future occurrences.”


Wildfire briefing, January 3, 2014

Drought Monitor

The Drought Monitor shows that most of California, Nevada, and southern Idaho are in either a severe or extreme drought. This could be an interesting winter fire season if it continues.

Drought Monitor 12-31-2013

Arizona State Forestry Division wants to almost double budget

The state organization responsible for managing the Yarnell Hill Fire is requesting a budget for the Arizona State Forestry Division that is nearly double what they received in the fiscal year that ends June 30. According to an article at Azcentral, State Forester Scott Hunt wants to add $6.2 million to this year’s budget of $7.3 million. The additional funds would be used to hire 15 additional staffers, replace firefighting and communications equipment, and allocate $2 million to remove hazardous vegetation on state and private lands. The budget request was filed in October, after 19 firefighters died on the Yarnell Hill Fire but before the state Division of Occupational Safety and Health issued their report on the fire and recommended a $550,000 fine be imposed on the Arizona State Forestry Division as a result of the fatalities on the fire.

Retired smokejumper interviewed on Montana Public Radio

Retired smokejumper Wayne Williams is featured in an interview on Montana Public Radio. In the 11-minute recording Mr. Williams speaks eloquently from his decades of experience. It is refreshing to hear someone interviewed about wildland fire in the media who knows the subject matter. The audio is HERE, and a short article with his photo is HERE.

Army attempts to prevent wildfires at Schofield Barracks

Raising the berm at Schofield Barracks

A soldier with 2nd Platoon, 523rd Engineer Company, 84th Engineer Battalion, 130th Engineer Brigade, 8th Theater Sustainment Command, uses a D7 bulldozer to increase the size of the berm so it is a 20 feet by 20 feet dimension. (U.S. Army photo by: 1st Lt. Lucian Myers, 2nd Platoon, 523rd Engineer Company, 84th Engineer Battalion, 130th Engineer Brigade, 8th Theater Sustainment Command)

In October and November two wildfires started at a range used for controlled detonations to dispose of unexploded ordnance at Schofield Barracks west of Honolulu, Hawaii. The fire that started October 15 burned more than 250 acres. It was fought for five days, then two days later rekindled and was finally extinguished October 28. Another fire in November burned about 30 acres.

In order to reduce the chances of vegetation fires igniting from the explosions, soldiers are using dozers to increase the height of the dirt berm surrounding the range from 7 feet to 22 feet. During the project, which was conducted 24 hours a day between December 9 and 13, they moved 5,800 cubic yards of dirt.

Wildfire Tweets

Below are a couple of messages on Twitter that had photos of fires — at Valparaiso, Chile and Lake Tahoe, California (which may be a prescribed fire).


Thanks and a hat tip go out to Dick and Chris


Fire caused by exploding target results in $168,000 settlement

The U.S. Attorney’s office in Boise has reached a settlement agreement over a wildfire that was caused by an exploding target in Idaho. The Ten Mile fire in Lemhi County started July 18, 2012, on land owned by Jeffrey and Paula Kerner. Mr. Kerner was shooting at an exploding target on a ninety-five degree day when the target blew apart and ignited the fire which spread and threatened at least two homes and burned 440 acres of federal land.

The settlement reached with Mr. Kerner’s insurance company requires $168,596 be reimbursed to the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management for their costs of suppressing the fire.

Idaho law prohibits exploding targets on public lands from May 10 to Oct.10, but Mr. Kerner was target shooting on private land.

Exploding targets have caused many fires since they became more popular in recent years. They have been banned in some areas, and caused the death of one person. In June a man attending a bachelor-bachelorette party in Minnesota was killed after shrapnel from the device struck him in the abdomen causing his death.


Prescribed fire at Oxford Slough

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recently completed a 670-acre prescribed fire at the Oxford Slough Waterfowl Production Area (WPA) in Idaho.

Oxford Slough Rx fire USFWS

The photo above shows a fire whirl on the prescribed fire. These have also been called “fire tornadoes”, but recently someone coined the term “firenado”, which we have taken a liking to. In August we posted a video of a massive firenado on a fire in Alaska.

Oxford Slough Rx fire USFWS Oxford Slough Rx fire USFWS

These photos, which were all taken by Lance Roberts, and others can be found on the USFWS Facebook page, where they described the Oxford Slough WPA:

Oxford Slough WPA is one of nearly 7,000 WPAs nationwide, and the only WPA in Region 1. The 1,878-acre WPA is located 10 miles north of Preston, Idaho, abutting the small town of Oxford, where it provides valuable foraging habitat for species such as cranes, geese, Franklin’s gulls, and white-faced ibis, and nesting habitat not only for waterfowl, but white-faced ibis, Franklin’s gulls, and other waterbirds.