Wildfire News, March 7, 2016

Alaska April wildfire potential
April wildfire potential in Alaska, based on vegetation conditions and weather predictions.

Fire officials say to ‘expect an early start’ to Alaska wildfire season.

Shooter’s tracer rounds ignite 2-day forest fire at Missouri gun range

A proposed Utah law would enable police to shoot drones, but people have been arrested for doing so.

–A massive bushfire cut off and isolated the South Island town of Hanmer Springs, New Zealand on Tuesday (local time).

–The Arizona Wildfire Academy is taking place in Prescott this week.

Hubbardston, Massachusetts gets military surplus truck to help battle brush fires.

Hubbardston Mass mil surplus truck
Hubbardston, Mass. military surplus truck. Photo: Hubbardston Fire Department.

Wildfire briefing, October 26, 2015

Oregon declares wildfire season to be over

Bald Butte area fire
A fire in the Bald Butte area started near Springfield, Oregon October 10 when a burning car ignited vegetation above Forest Service Road 23. Dry fuels and gusty winds left 24 acres of burnt timber and brush on national forest lands. Oregon Department of Forestry photo by Greg Wagenblast.

The Oregon Department of Forestry has declared the 2015 wildfire season to be over. Rain and the arrival of cool, moist weather patterns prompted the declaration as of 12:01 a.m. Saturday. Oregon experienced a third consecutive difficult wildfire season this year. As of Sept. 11, total wildfire costs totaled more than $211 million in Oregon, according to the Oregon Department of Forestry. (That figure may include costs incurred by all agencies in the state, including federal, not just the ODF.)

The Oregon state government has an insurance policy with Lloyd’s of London which provides up to $25 million of state government fire suppression costs that exceed $50 million. The $3.5 million cost of the policy is split between the state and private timberland owners.

Board approves design for Yarnell Hill Fire memorial

The Yarnell Hill Memorial Site Board has approved a conceptual design for a memorial to commemorate the site where 19 members of the Granite Mountain Hotshots were entrapped by fire and killed June 30, 2013. According to the Daily Courier, the design by architect Bill Gauslow “consists of 19 white marble crosses, each placed where a man fell, surrounded by 19 low walls, spaced a short distance apart, and built of rip-rap rock.” The memorial would be placed at the fatality site which will be purchased by the Arizona State Parks department. Interpretive signs, one for each of the 19 firefighters, would also be placed every 1/10 mile along the 1.9 mile trail from the parking lot to the memorial site.

Researchers think fires were more common 300 million years ago

Scientists from the Department of Earth Sciences at Royal Holloway, University of London together with colleagues from the USA, Russia and China, have discovered that forest fires across the globe were more common between 300 and 250 million years ago than they are today. This is thought to be due to a higher level of oxygen in the atmosphere at that time.

Full text of the research article.

Landfill near nuclear waste site has been burning for six years

From the Chicago Tribune:

Beneath the surface of a St. Louis-area landfill lurk two things that should never meet: a slow-burning fire and a cache of Cold War-era nuclear waste, separated by no more than 1,200 feet.

Government officials have quietly adopted an emergency plan in case the smoldering embers ever reach the waste, a potentially “catastrophic event” that could send up a plume of radioactive smoke over a densely populated area near the city’s main airport.

Although the fire at Bridgeton Landfill has been burning since at least 2010, the plan for a worst-case scenario was developed only a year ago and never publicized until this week, when St. Louis radio station KMOX first obtained a copy…

Fire jumps Missouri River, from Kansas into Missouri

A fire that burned on both sides of the Missouri river forced residents to evacuate from an area in St. Joseph, Missouri on Sunday. Fire personnel believe the fire started in Elwood, Kansas and jumped the river, spreading over hundreds of acres and for about five miles along the river near St. Joseph. The fire is much less active today, but the area is under a Red Flag Warning.

wildfire Elwood St. Joseph
The yellow, brown, and red dots represent the approximate location of heat detected by a satellite. The locations of the dots are accurate to within about a mile.

We checked Google Earth and found that the river in that area is about 0.16 miles (820 feet) wide. Depending on the vegetation, weather, and topography, it is not unusual for burning embers to start fires quite a distance from the main fire. There is a trial going on now in San Diego County that revolves around a fire that may have been ignited by an ember that traveled 0.44 miles and started a new fire that destroyed 36 homes in San Marcos, California. And last September on the King Fire near Pollock pines in California an ember started a spot fire approximately 2 miles ahead of the main fire front. There have been reports of spot fires starting even farther away.

UPDATE, March 17, 2015: It took me a while to find this. It is in a report about bushfires in Australia, “Report on the Physical Nature of the Victorian Fires occurring on 7th February 2009“. It not about burning embers, but lightning caused by the fire.

In 2003, lightning induced by a pyrocumulus cloud started fires in the Snow River National Park, 25 km [15 miles] ahead of the fire front. These fires did develop into a significant area. Other examples exist of this phenomenon.

Wildfire briefing, January 25, 2013

Caylym continues to develop containers for dropping retardant

Caylym system
Caylym system dispersing a liquid after exiting an aircraft. Photo credit: Caylym

Since Wildfire Today last covered their disposable container for delivering retardant over wildfires,the Caylym company has continued to develop and promote their concept. The system consists of containers constructed of cardboard, plywood, a plastic bladder, and dozens of yards of straps. They hold 264 gallons each and are designed to be carried in military aircraft such as the C-130 or C-27 using the standard cargo system. The containers when empty weigh 100 pounds.

At Fire Aviation we have more photos and a video, as well the results of our interview with Rick Goddard, the Managing Director of Caylym

South Africa: Firefighter Man killed fighting a fire near Clanwilliam

(UPDATE January 26, 2013: It turns out the man that was killed was not a trained firefighter, volunteer or paid. As so frequently happens in remote areas of South Africa, he lived nearby and was doing what he could to fight the fire while hoping that firefighters might show up.)

A man has died fighting a wildfire near Clanwilliam in South Africa (map). Christo Fourie, a retired bank manager, had been missing since Wednesday and his body was found Thursday in a burned area near his vehicle. A police spokesperson said Mr. Fourie was caught in the fire but the exact circumstances of his death were being investigated. A news report described the man as a volunteer firefighter.

The fire has burned 24,000 hectares (59,305 acres) and is being fought by firefighters supported by helicopters and four air tankers.

Missouri: Fire destroys Mammoth-area home 

A wildfire destroyed a home on County Road 527 off the T Highway near Mammoth, Missouri on Monday. The fire was fought by the Timber Knob and Pontiac VFDs for several hours but the home was a total loss.

Utah: fire baloons may become illegal

Fire Balloon, Mercedes
Fire Balloon — a screen grab from a Mercedes commercial on CBS, November 4, 2012.

Proposed legislation in Utah would outlaw fire balloons, sometimes called Chinese lanterns or sky lanterns. These devices are small, lightweight, inexpensive hot air balloons powered by burning material at the base. They can be made out of common household materials or purchased in large quantities online.

We first wrote about fire balloons in November after seeing the concept promoted by Mercedes in a car commercial on network television. An article in the Deseret News quotes Coy Porter, the Utah State Fire Marshal, as saying, “The biggest problem is just if they’re slightly damaged, there’s a small rip, they don’t get the elevation, they can still come down while the flame is still going in there.”

These incendiary devices are sometimes released by the hundreds at weddings or in celebration of the Chinese New Year.

More information from the article:

During the wedding rehearsal for former BYU and current NBA basketball player Jimmer Fredette last May, hundreds of lanterns were released into the Denver sky. One of those lanterns landed in a neighbor’s yard and lit a tree on fire. Fortunately, it didn’t do too much damage.

Last summer, Porter said a wildland fire in St. George was also started as a result of a sky lantern.

Links to information about a few fires that have been caused by these devices: here, here, and here.

Los Angeles: law firm has Wild Land Fire Litigation Practice Group

I guess there should be no surprise that a law firm has a “Wild Land Fire Litigation Practice Group”. In our litigious society there are probably lawyers that specialize in every conceivable niche. The Murchison and Cummings law firm in Los Angeles has such a group chaired by Friedrich W. Seitz. They are representing the Bluebonnet Electric Cooperative in defending them against the numerous lawsuits that have been filed relating to the September 2011 fire in Bastrop County, Texas that burned 34,000 acres and destroyed 1,600 homes. In an effort to try to get in on the action, a law firm in Texas created a web site in order to recruit clients to sue Bluebonnet for another fire in Bastrop County, the Wilderness Ridge fire, which burned 26 homes, 20 businesses, and 1,491 acres in Bastrop County, Texas in February, 2009.

Murchison and Cummings has defended Southern California Edison and Breitburn Energy Partners against litigation arising out of wild land fires for many years.