Progress made on some wildfires in the South, while others still grow

Above: Firefighters operate leaf blowers on the Chestnut Knob Fire. The fire is 6 miles south of Morganton, NC and at the last report grew by 9 acres. Undated and  uncredited InciWeb photo.

While several large fires in the southern states are still actively spreading, firefighters have made progress on dozens of others.

On Monday the Southern Geographic Area reported 52 large uncontained fires, for a total of 133,146 acres. There were 185 new fires of all sizes for 1,477 acres; most of those were suppressed while still small. That was considered “moderate” initial attack activity.

Firefighting resources assigned in the South:

  • 78 aircraft
  • 83 hand crews
  • 1,011 pieces of equipment
  • 4,476 personnel
map wildfires south
Map showing the location of some of the large fires in the southern states. The red dots represent heat detected by a satellite at 2:22 am November 21, 2016.

On Sunday evening four fires reported 24-hour growth of more than 100 acres:

Rock Mountain Fire

Map Rock Mountain Fire
Map of the perimeter of the Rock Mountain Fire at 6 p.m. ET November 20, 2016.

The Rock Mountain Fire that started about 10 miles northwest of Clayton Georgia has spread north into North Carolina. At the last report it had burned 11,287 acres, an increase of 862 acres. On Sunday it was very active, moving through the hardwood leaf litter in all directions at a rate of about one mile each day. Evacuations are still in place for Dream Catcher Cove north of Tate City, Georgia.

On Saturday strong winds pushed the blaze across the Appalachian Trail on the north end of the fire. Winds blowing leaves still falling from trees are creating problems for firefighters, covering existing firelines and causing some areas to re-burn.

East Miller Cove

The East Miller Cove Fire is just east of Walland, Tennessee, 16 miles south of Knoxville. On Sunday evening the incident management team reported it had burned 1,492 acres, an increase of 1,292 acres, threatening 100 structures north of Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Big Branch

The Big Branch Fire is in southeast Kentucky three miles south of Roxana and five miles northeast of Cumberland. It has burned 625 acres, an increase of 175 acres.

Oakwood 1 Fire

This fire is in Arkansas, listed at 468 acres, an increase of 278. No other information is available.

Chestnut Knob Fire
A firefighter on the Chestnut Knob Fire. InciWeb.

*

For the latest articles at Wildfire Today about how smoke from the wildfires is affecting various locations in the South, check out the articles tagged “smoke”.

Firefighter killed after being struck by tree limb

Rodney Collett
Photo courtesy of Red Bird VF&R

We regret to pass along the news that a firefighter in Kentucky has been killed while fighting a wildland fire. Rodney Collett served on two departments, the Bell County Volunteer Fire Department in Pineville, Kentucky and the Redbird Volunteer Fire and Rescue Department in Manchester, Kentucky.

On October 29th Firefighter Collett was working with Red Bird VF&R on a wildfire in Clay County when a tree limb fell striking the fire apparatus and Firefighter Collett causing him to suffer head and arm injuries. He was airlifted to Pikeville Medical Center for treatment. Tragically, Firefighter Collett succumbed to his injuries Thursday evening, November 17.

Firefighter Collett was 44 years and is survived by his parents — Ted and Shirley, and his sister — Connie. Funeral arrangements are pending and will be posted on SupportingHeroes.org.

Between 1990 and 2014 18 firefighters were killed by hazardous trees.

Our sincere condolences go out to Firefighter Collett’s family, friends, and co-workers.

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

Wildfire news, October 16, 2013

Boulder Fire Department to convert seasonals to full time

In a budget approved by the City Council on Tuesday, the Boulder, Colorado Fire Department will be able to convert its seasonal wildland firefighting crew to full time.

NFPA announces first Wildfire Preparedness Day

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) today announced its first national Wildfire Community Preparedness Day (Wildfire Preparedness Day) will take place on Saturday, May 3, 2014. Projects on May 3 can range from a short time commitment up to an entire day and can be undertaken by individuals or groups. Potential projects include hosting a chipping day, distributing wildfire safety information to neighbors, organizing brush clean up and more. Residents of all ages are invited to join in the effort. A list of project ideas is available at www.nfpa.org/wildfirepreparednessday/.

The 2014 Wildfire Preparedness Day comes on the heels of NFPA’s Colorado Wildfire Preparedness Day of Service that was piloted in May 2013 where nearly 600 volunteers participated in more than 16 projects across the state.

Charities raise millions for families of Granite Mountain 19

Charities have raised over $11 million for the families of the 19 members of the Granite Mountain Hotshots that were killed June 30 on the Yarnell Hill Fire at Yarnell, Arizona.

Granite Mountain Hotshot Girls host benefit for Yarnell

A group of women made up of Hotshots’ mothers, wives, sisters, fiancées, and more, have joined forces to help give back some of the support they received. The group that calls itself the “Granite Mountain Hotshot Girls” will be hosting a benefit to help with the rebuilding efforts after the Yarnell Hill Fire swept through Yarnell destroying more than 100 structures in the town.

An all woman engine crew responds to a fire in Lexington, KY

It is surprising that this is a news item in 2013, but on September 5 in Lexington, Kentucky a three-person all women engine crew responded to a fire in the city. This is the first time an all women crew has responded to a fire in Lexington. The city made a big deal of it Wednesday, presenting the trio — Captain Maria Roberts, Amanda Arbogast and Sarah McGill — with certificates.

The women appreciated the recognition, but all agreed that they were just doing their job.

“It was just another run for us,” said Roberts, who joined the division in November 1999. “I had two really good firefighters riding in my truck and that’s not any different than any other day.”

In the 523-person fire department, 14 of them are women.

It will actually be news when similar occurrences are no longer news.

Wildfire briefing, November 16, 2012

Pennsylvania Firefighter sentenced for arson crimes

A 21-year old former volunteer firefighter pleaded guilty in October to conspiracy to commit arson after igniting a wildfire in July 2010 in Northampton County. Cory A. Praschyk suffers from anxiety and depression and has been diagnosed as a pyromaniac, according to a psychological evaluation completed prior to sentencing. He is already serving time for arson in Lehigh County. The new sentence for the Northampton County offense is one to 12 months in county prison to run concurrently with his Lehigh County sentence, which will conclude in about three months.

Kentucky man dies suppressing debris fire

Robert Childress, 64-years old, died in a Lexington hospital from smoke inhalation and burns over 95 percent of his body after he was found by a Kentucky Division of Forestry fire crew that arrived to suppress a vegetation fire reported by an aircraft. According to a report at Kentucky.com, Mr. Childress was apparently attempting to put out a fire that was called a debris burn by officials.

California fire crew accused of drug use and murder threats

Television station 17 KGET in central California has an article about their investigation into what appears to be serious problems last summer within the Rincon hand crew, a Sequoia National Forest Type 2 crew based out of Kernville, California. Here is how it begins:

Fire crew members say drug and alcohol abuse, fighting, and even murder threats were just some of the reasons a Forest Service fire crew was grounded over the summer. Those allegations came to light after a four-month investigation by 17 News.

We received hundreds of pages of previously secret government documents. 17’s Rob Martin broke the first story in June and has been digging ever since.

Rincon, a National Forest Service, Type 2 fire crew based in Kernville, was grounded for months this summer.

Rincon was rife with salacious allegations, including years of drug use on the team. It’s something the Forest Service refused to talk to us about, so we did the story without them.

Koalas injured in large vegetation fire in South Australia

Animal hospitals are caring for koalas that were injured in a massive brush fire in South Australia.

Summary of this year’s wildfires in the west

Bill Croke has written an interesting article at Spectator.org that nicely summarizes the wildfire season in the western United States. Here are some excerpts:

…There were notable named conflagrations in Colorado such as High Park near Denver and Waldo Canyon near Colorado Springs, and in Idaho (Hallstead near Stanley; Mustang near Salmon; Trinity Ridge near Boise). New Mexico saw the Whitewater-Baldy Fire on the Gila National Forest, at 465 square miles (297,000 acres) the largest in state history. The Waldo Canyon Fire took the grand prize for structures burned with 347. A hot, dry summer coupled with ongoing conditions of heavy fuel loads in pine beetle-infested forests (thanks to past fire suppression and little timber harvest on federal land) has brought us record fire seasons in the West for the last two decades.

According to a story in Montana’s Missoulian newspaper, recent seasons have seen a sevenfold increase in fires greater than 10,000 acres as compared to the 1970s, and five times more fires larger than 25,000 acres. Current seasons are an average of 75 days longer. Is this last the result of the factors noted above, or those factors and climate change proceeding in tandem? So goes the endless argument on the public lands in the West.

[…]

A young woman named Anne Veseth, 20, a U.S. Forest Service firefighter, was killed when a burning tree fell on her in Idaho’s Clearwater National Forest. She joined seven fellow firefighters (mostly air tanker crew members) who died in the field this year. In June a plane crash on a fire in Utah took the lives of two Idaho men, Todd Tompkins and Ronnie Chambers. Another crash in South Dakota this summer killed four, as a donated North Carolina Air National Guard C-130 went down. This brings to twenty the number of aircraft related fatalities recorded since 1987. An aging fleet of air tankers has become a chronic problem.

Fusees redesigned

Orion signal flare
Orion signal flare/fire starter. Photo by Orion

The Orion company is one of the companies that manufacture “fusees”, hand-held torches that wildland firefighters use to ignite prescribed fires, backfires, and burn outs. Now Orion is producing a modified version of the fusee that is designed to be a “signal flare/fire starter”.

It is much smaller than a fusee and does not have a handle. Apparently the entire device will burn up, so if someone is using it for signaling, they are cautioned to place it on the ground in an area where it will not start a wildfire. However, it can also be used to start a campfire while it burns for five minutes at over 3,400 degrees.

Fusee
The standard fusee used by wildland firefighters. Photo by Orion.

 

Thanks go out to Dick