Firefighter fatality on Mendocino Complex of Fires

(UPDATED at 3:02 p.m. PDT August 14, 2018)

Matthew Burchett
Matthew Burchett. Photo: Draper City FD

Draper City, Utah has identified the firefighter that was killed August 13 on the Mendocino Complex as Draper Battalion Chief Matthew Burchett. He leaves behind his wife and their 6-year-old son.

Below is a press release that the city issued today.

Press Release 8/14/2018 from Draper City.

1020 East Pioneer Rd.
Draper, UT 84020

Media Release

August 14, 2018

Draper Battalion Chief Dies Fighting Mendocino Fire

DRAPER, Utah. – It is with tremendous sadness that we announce the tragic loss of one of our own. Last night while fighting the Mendocino Complex Wildfire in California, Draper Battalion Chief Matthew Burchett lost his life in the line of duty. Draper deployed five fire fighters to California on August 2nd, and the team has worked tirelessly to protect lives and property. The entire community of Draper is grieving our loss.

Chief Burchett came to Draper City Fire Department in May of this year. Prior to working for Draper, he worked for Unified Fire Authority for the past 20 years. Chief Burchett had extensive experience in wildland and structure fire. Chief Burchett leaves behind a wife and a young son. He was 42 years old.

This is not only a loss for our Draper Fire Department, but a loss for all fire departments in the Nation.

We appreciate all the heartfelt support from the Draper Community, Cal Fire, the State of Utah, and our family of firefighters from across the nation.

At this time, we ask for some privacy for Chief Burchett’s family as they process this tragedy.

In the coming days we will have information about funeral plans, a donation fund for Matt’s family and more details as they become available.

Another release issued by Draper City on August 14 included a statement from the Fire Chief:

Draper City’s Fire Chief Clint Smith is out of the country and he has given us his statement about this tragic event.

“Draper City Fire Department has no words to describe the depth of sorrow we are feeling upon learning of the death of Battalion Chief Matt Burchett while assisting with the devastating California Wildfires. Matt is a true hero who has given the ultimate sacrifice while serving others. Matt is a strong leader and experienced wildland firefighter who always put the safety and needs of his subordinates first, but most of all, Matt was a devoted husband and loving father. His family was his world. We are grateful to those fellow firefighters that were with Matt and for the immediate aid they were able to render. We pray for all firefighters, friend and family affected by this tragic loss. This event has rocked our small department to its very core but we will work to honor Matt’s legacy and sacrifice and care for his family.”

(UPDATED at 8:22 a.m. PDT August 14, 2018)

Officials on the Mendocino Complex of Fires reported Monday night that a Utah firefighter who was working on the incident was killed in an accident. No other details or the identity of the person has been released.

Fact finding is ongoing and notification of next of kin is in progress.

We send out our sincere condolences to the firefighter’s friends, family, and co-workers.

The sender of the tweet below is in Draper City, Utah.

It has been a tragic summer in California. Five other agency employees or contractors have died in the line of duty in the last month while working on wildfires in the state:

-Andrew Jason Brake, a heavy equipment mechanic, died August 9 on the Carr Fire.
–Don Ray Smith, contract dozer operator, of Pollock Pines, CA, on the Carr Fire July 26.
–Redding fire Inspector Jeremy Stoke, Fire Inspector for the Redding, CA Fire department, on the Carr Fire July 26.
–Brian Hughes, Captain on National Park Service Arrowhead Hotshots, Ferguson Fire, July 29.
–Braden Varney, CAL FIRE Heavy Fire Equipment Operator, July 14, Ferguson Fire.

Thanks and a tip of the hat go out to Tom.
Typos or errors, report them HERE.

Largest fire in California’s history continues to spread north

The Ranch Fire has burned 295,970 acres east of Ukiah

(Originally published at 12:13 p.m. PDT August 13, 2018.)

A few days ago the 295,970-acre Ranch Fire, part of the Mendocino Complex of Fires east of Ukiah, California, became the largest wildfire in the recorded history of the state. It blew past the previous record set by last December’s Thomas Fire near Santa Barbara, exceeding it now by about 14,000 acres.

But the fire is not resting on its achievements — in recent days it has been very active on its north side where it has spread practically unfettered one to two miles farther north over the last seven days, approaching Lake Pillsbury.

(To see all articles on Wildfire Today about the Mendocino Complex of Fires, including the most recent, click HERE.)

The mapping flight Sunday night did not show any major fire activity on the rest of the fire, or on any of the perimeter of the other fire in the Complex, the River Fire west of Clear Lake.

map mendocino complex fire Ranch fire
The red lines represent the perimeters of the fires at 10 p.m. PDT August 12, 2018. The red shaded areas had intense heat at that time. The white line was the perimeter seven days before. Click to enlarge.

CAL FIRE reports that 147 residences have been destroyed in the two fires and another 1,025 remain threatened.

A very large army of firefighters are still battling the two fires, including 256 fire engines, 58 fire crews, 20 helicopters, 76 dozers, and 79 water tenders, for a total of 3,221 personnel.

CAL FIRE’s information about the Ranch Fire on August 13 included this:

Ranch Fire California
I need to learn how they do that.

Mendocino Complex of Fires grows larger across three counties

Together the two fires, which have not merged, have burned 290,000 acres

(Originally published at 12:39 p.m. PDT August 7, 2018)

The two wildfires that comprise the Mendocino Complex of Fires continue to chew up acres in three counties in northern California — Mendocino, Lake, and Colusa Counties.

The Ranch Fire, north and east of Clear Lake, has been expanding on all sides for the last two days except for the northwest side. Firefighters have slowed the growth near Upper Lake, Nice and Lucerne, but it has kept moving on the southeast side around Indian Valley reservoir and on the northeast side in the remote areas west of Lodoga.

To see all of the articles on Wildfire Today about the Mendocino Complex, including the most recent, click HERE.

The River Fire west of Clear Lake has only spread substantially in recent days on the north side east of Talmage. In spite of reports that the two fires have merged, as of Monday night they were more than two miles apart.

If the size of the two fires are considered together, they have burned 290,692 acres, which would make the complex of two fires, which are managed together, the largest in modern recorded state history. But if added to the list, it would need an asterisk since it is two fires. The Ranch Fire has blackened 241,772 acres, and considered alone it qualifies as the 5th largest in modern California history. To reach the number one position it would have to exceed the 281,893 acres attributed to last December’s Thomas Fire near Santa Barbara. The River Fire has burned 48,920 acres.

map Mendocino complex Fires California wildfires
Map showing the perimeter, in red, of the Mendocino Complex of Fires at 9 p.m. MDT, August 6, 2018. The white line was the perimeter two days before. The red shaded areas represent intense heat. Click to enlarge.

Mendocino Complex burns more than 273,000 acres

(Originally published at 8:12 a.m. PDT August 6, 2018)

The Mendocino Complex of Fires east of Ukiah, California has blackened more than 273,664 acres, becoming the second largest wildfire in the state’s recorded history if the size of the two fires in the “complex” are combined. Since we last reported on the fire two days ago it has grown by 120,000 acres, according to the numbers released by CAL FIRE Monday morning.

(To see all articles on Wildfire Today about the Mendocino Complex of Fires, including the most recent, click HERE.)

The Ranch Fire, north of Clear Lake, over the last two days has spread five miles east, one to two miles north, and three miles south. Sunday it spread into the footprint of the Pawnee Fire that in June of this year burned 14,000 acres west and south of Indian Valley Reservoir north of Highway 20.  The blaze is threatening communities on the east shore of Clear Lake, including Nice, Lucerne, Pepperwood, Glenhaven, and Clearlake Oaks.

The other fire that makes up the “complex” is the River Fire west of Clear Lake. About three-quarters of the perimeter has been quiet recently, but it is still moving aggressively north, coming to within less than two miles of merging with the Ranch Fire to the north. The report by one local media outlet that they had already merged was premature.

largest California wildfires fires
The table released by CAL FIRE on August 4, 2018 does not include the Mendocino Complex, since it is still very actively growing.

On the two fires 75 residences have been destroyed and another 9,300 remain threatened.

Resources assigned to the fire include 432 fire engines, 89 water tenders, 15 helicopters, 57 hand crews, and 80 dozers, for a total of 3,781 personnel.

map Mendocino Complex fires
Map showing the perimeter, in red, of the Mendocino Complex of Fires at 7 p.m. MDT, August 5, 2018. The white line was the perimeter two days before. The red shaded areas represent intense heat. Click to enlarge.

Nationwide on wildfires 558 hand crews, 186 helicopters, and 1,907 fire engines are assigned on wildfires, for a total 28,234 personnel including overhead and other firefighting resources.

Australia and New Zealand have sent 138 fire personnel to assist. They are currently deployed in California, Oregon, and Washington.


California fires as seen from the Space Station

Astronaut Alexander Gerst tweeted these photos on August 3 of the wildfires in California, apparently taken from the International Space Station. He didn’t specify the date, but presumably they are very recent.

I’m not positive, but I think the photo that has multiple fires includes, from bottom to top (south to north), the Ferguson Fire at Yosemite National Park, the Mendocino Complex east of Ukiah, and the Carr Fire at Redding. The smoke farther north could be the Natchez Fire and blazes in Oregon.  The other photo is most likely the Ferguson Fire.

Click on the images twice to see larger versions.

The Mendocino Complex of Fires grows by 43,000 acres

The Ranch Fire will most likely burn into the Pawnee Fire of June, 2018.

(Originally published at 11:02 a.m. PDT August 3, 2018)

The Mendocino Complex of Fires east of Ukiah, California were extremely active Thursday, adding another 43,000 acres west and east of Clear Lake. Firefighters were again engaged in house to house structure protection as the fire moved through the wildland-urban interface.

The northernmost of the two fires, the Ranch Fire, ran for about 6 miles to the southeast, coming very close to the burn scar from the Pawnee Fire of June, 2018, according to the infrared sensing data from a fixed wing aircraft collected at 11:30 p.m. August 2. The Ranch Fire also grew significantly on the northeast side.

Mendocino complex fires river ranch
Map showing the perimeter, in red, of the Mendocino Complex of Fires at 11:30 p.m. MDT, August 2, 2018. The white line was the perimeter 24 hours before. The red shaded areas represent intense heat. Click to enlarge.

The River Fire west of Clear Lake only showed major growth on its north side, where it moved to the north for up to a mile along an eight-mile long active edge.

Photographer Kent Porter wrote on Twitter (see below) that more evacuations were ordered north of Clear Lake. He said “the firefight was intense in Scotts Valley” Thursday. His photos confirm that statement.

To see all of the articles on Wildfire Today about the Mendocino Complex of Fires, including the most recent, click HERE.

Both fires are remaining active throughout the night. On Friday firefighters will prep and construct primary and secondary control lines. Difficult access and hot, dry weather make it difficult to fight fire directly in many areas.

CAL FIRE reports that 41 residences have been destroyed, up from 14 in Thursday’s update. The two fires have burned a total of 153,738 acres — 112,226 on the Ranch Fire and 41,512 on the River Fire, according to the numbers released by CAL FIRE Friday morning. That is a total increase of over 43,000 acres since Thursday.

Kent Porter got some great photos at the fire on Thursday, including one of the 747 Supertanker. Click on the pictures below to see larger versions.