Wildfire briefing, June 13, 2014

(Originally published at 9:19 a.m. CT, June 13, 2014)

House teetering on cliff to be prescribed burned

House above lake

NBCDFW photo.

A house at the top of a cliff over Lake Whitney in Texas will be burned intentionally Friday morning. The cliff below part of the house has fallen away, leaving the house precariously teetering. The house will be burned, which is considered a better option than allowing it to fall into the lake where the debris would have to be removed.

A crew is prepping the house by breaking out windows and adding bales of hay soaked in diesel fuel to the interior.

The prescribed fire is being covered live by a television station in Texas.

(UPDATE at 10:15 a.m. CT, June 13, 2014)

Ignition has begun. Firefighters are on scene applying water between the burning home and a nearby house, perhaps to minimize damage to a couple of trees.

House above lake burning

(UPDATE at 11:36 a.m. CT, June 13, 2014)

It’s pretty much over:

House above lake burning House above lake burning

The photos are from NBCDFW.

Funeral services for Nevada firefighter

The funeral services for Donovan Artie Garcia Jr. will be held today, Friday, June 13. Mr. Garcia, the Assistant Chief of the Hungry Valley, Nevada fire department, died of a heart attack while participating in wildland fire training June 5. Services will be in Reno at 11 a.m. at the Hungry Valley Gymnasium, 9070 Eagle Canyon Drive.

MD-87 air tanker makes first drops

Erickson Aero Tanker’s two MD-87 air tankers, T-101 and T-105, made numerous drops on the Two Bulls Fire near Bend, Oregon shortly after they became certified and reported for duty. Wallowa.com has an article in which they quote pilot Brent Conner:

“I mean, I always wanted to be flying propeller planes, so this is new for me, and for most of us in this business,” he said.

“We can hold it in check, as we did with this fire, for about two days with retardant,” he said. “That gave them enough time to get the other flank taken care of.”

While it’s a job he’s done countless times before, it was Conner’s first weekend in real wildfire action with the Aero Tanker.

“It was a little nerve-wracking, actually,” he said. “We hadn’t been on a fire yet, the fire’s only 15 miles away. We barely had time to get the airplane cleaned up and we were already putting the flaps down, slowing down and getting ready to go.”

More information about the MD-87s is at Fire Aviation.

Reward for information about Two Bulls Fire

And speaking of the Two Bulls Fire at Bend, Oregon, the reward for information leading to a conviction of the person or persons responsible for setting the 6,908-acre fire has increased to $31,500. Anyone with information that could help identify suspects in the fire is asked to contact the Crime Stoppers Tip Line at 1-877-876-8477 (TIPS).

Hot pink may be the new color of fire retardant

The Missoula Technology Development Center is testing new colors for the fire retardant that is dropped by air tankers and helicopters. Below are excerpts from KPAX:

Over the last three years, some pilots have been complaining that the bright orange retardant is hard to see. “Particularly in late season when we’ve got grasses and trees that start turning color,” said Zylstra. With that concern, researchers at the US Forest Service’s Technology and Development Center in Missoula began looking into a solution, potentially a hot pink colored slurry. “So we run a product through a variety of different tests in our lab before it’s used out in the field,” said Zylstra.

[...]

The first batch of the hot pink slurry will be tested at four air tanker bases in California in regions predicted to have busy firefighting season.

Helitack crews train in Idaho

MagicValley.com has an article about U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management helitack crews training for the upcoming wildfire season.

Austin, Texas to get wildfire detection system

The Austin City Council voted to purchase a system of sensors mounted on towers that can detect smoke. The approval will allow the installation of two towers which will be tested for a year. At the end of the year they may decide to expand the system. In 2013, West Lake Hills, a community near Austin, also approved the acquisition of a similar system. It can detect smoke within 6 miles by rotating their sensors, completing a 360-degree rotation every 8 to 12 minutes, during which it takes images, analyzes, and then transmits those images for secondary analysis. If possible fire events are detected, the system alerts fire authorities.

Hotshots assist with prescribed fire on military base

The Laguna Hot Shots, based at Descanso, California, helped conduct a prescribed fire at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar on Thursday north of San Diego. Below is an excerpt from an article at 10News:

As a formation of Marine FA/18’s passed overhead to land at MCAS Miramar, members of the Laguna Hotshot crew were setting fire to the east side of the base.

The prescribed burn, as it’s called, is part of an annual brush management system put in place after the 2003 wildfire.

“After it burned more than 17,000 acres, the Cedar Fire really opened our eyes to a strong brush management program at the air station,” said Miramar Fire Operations Chief Paul Thompkins.

Construction begins on firefighter memorial in Prescott

Construction has started on a memorial in a cemetery in Prescott, Arizona for the members of the Granite Mountain Hotshots that were killed while fighting the Yarnell Hill Fire on June 30, 2013.

Below is an excerpt from KJZZ.org:

Construction is starting on a cemetery memorial for 19 firefighters killed in the Yarnell Hill wildfire, nearly a year after the fire started near Prescott. Each firefighter will have a plot and a bronze grave marker at the state-owned Pioneers’ Home Cemetery in Prescott. The plots are surrounded by a two-foot wall where mourners can sit.

Officials say 10 of the Granite Mountain Hotshot firefighters are already buried there. They say there’s room for family members to be buried alongside them.

The state designated a new section of the cemetery for the hotshots and charged $100 per grave site, instead of the usual $900.

 

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Butte fire shelter deployment

In 1985 118 firefighters were burned over while fighting the Butte Fire on the Salmon National Forest in Idaho — 45 of them took refuge in a safety zone in a clear cut, but 73 had to spend an hour and a half in fire shelters in deployment sites that had been created by dozers on a ridge top. The fire made a 2-mile run at them in about 15 minutes. The heat was so intense that handles on shovels next to the firefighters were completely consumed by fire. None of the firefighters suffered any burns, but five were treated in a hospital for heat exhaustion and released the next day .

This video has been around on VHS tape since shortly after the burnover, but the Wildland Fire Lessons Learned Center uploaded this digital version to YouTube in April.

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Report released for 2013 smokejumper fatality

smokejumpers on the Hastings fire

File photo of smokejumpers on the Hastings Fire, northwest of Fairbanks, Alaska, May 31, 2011. Photo by Mike McMillan/Alaska Fire Service.

The Bureau of Land Management has released an Accident Investigation Factual Report on the fatality of the smokejumper in Idaho last year. On September 27, 2013 Mark Urban was killed on a parachute jump while conducting an equipment evaluation at a remote airstrip outside of Prairie, Idaho, approximately 50 miles east of Boise.

Mr. Urban and other smokejumpers were collecting data during jumps to validate the vertical speeds and the activation window under which an automatic activation device (AAD) would initiate the opening sequence of either a main or reserve canopy in smokejumper operations. The AAD was not intended to be engaged during the jump and was not thought to be a factor in the cause of the accident. The parachute was to be manually opened.

All of his previous 287 jumps had been from approximately 3,000 feet above ground level (AGL), but the test on September 27 was designed to begin from the 6,000-foot level. The plan was to wait until reaching 3,000 feet AGL to deploy the main parachute. Similar tests had been conducted years earlier and several jumpers successfully executed the procedure earlier that day.

Mr. Urban’s parachute did not deploy until he was 138 feet AGL, which did not result in any significant deceleration. He was killed upon impact with the ground.

After leaving the Twin Otter aircraft, Mr. Urban, as did other jumpers that day, experienced some spinning while descending from 6,000 to 3,000 feet. The jumpers had been briefed on procedures to correct the spin, but while the exact cause of the accident may never be known, at least one of the investigators concluded that it is possible Mr. Urban spun fast enough to create G-forces that caused him to lose consciousness.

Below is an excerpt from the report in the Human Factors section. It was written by Randy McCalip, a LtCol with the U.S. Air Force, trained as a human factors/aerospace physiology expert and military free fall jumpmaster with 16 years of jumping experience.

…I believe the [Mishap Smokejumper] MS experienced enough initial G-force to cause visual, cognitive, and/or physical degradation delaying early necessary action. The MS channelized on fulfilling the T&E jump profile requirements exposing him to longer and higher G-forces resulting in a G-LOC. The GLOC caused the MS to lose all motor function and go limp. This reversed the MS’s spin and eventually slowed the spin enough to return blood flow to the brain. The MS regained consciousness and initiated pull sequence at 138 ft AGL, well below safe deployment altitude.
Gravitational forces were CAUSAL in this mishap.

F. HF Summary
I thoroughly reviewed all factors that possibly caused and contributed to this mishap. Although the team had eye witness testimonies and two different video angles of the mishap, exactly why the MS didn’t pull at the instructed altitude will never be known with 100% certainty. The MS was highly regarded as an exceptional leader and experienced smokejumper that paid attention to details and standards. This HF analysis attempted to piece together the most logical reasons why the MS failed to deploy his main parachute.

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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

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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.

****

Narrative:

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.”

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