15 new rookie smokejumpers in the Northern Geographic Area

Above: The 15 graduates of the 2017 Northern Geographic Area rookie smokejumper training program. USFS photo.

Fifteen trainees were successful graduates of the rookie smokejumper training that recently concluded in Missoula, Montana. The Missoula base will claim 9 of them, Grangeville Idaho gets 5, and West Yellowstone one.

A person associated with the program told 26 started the class, which was more than they usually have.

And in related smokejumper news, last week Tory Kendrick was promoted to Base Manager in Missoula.

And, another 13 jumpers from McCall, Idaho, recently finished the Ram Air Transition Training (round canopy to square canopy).

Rainfall in western states slows wildfire season in many areas

Rainfall last 2 weeks washington oregon
Rainfall last 2 weeks, Washington and Oregon

Rainfall over the last two weeks has slowed or in some cases, ended the wildfire season in some areas.

On October 19 we ran the numbers for the accumulated precipitation for the last 14 days in the western states. These maps show amounts that exceeded 0.05 inches at some of the Interagency Remote Automatic Weather Stations (RAWS).

Washington, Oregon, and northern California have received a good soaking and I would imagine that local fire officials may be declaring an end to the fire season. Of course this is not unusual for these areas this time of the year, and some locations had already seen their season end. But what IS unusual, is the high amount of moisture that occurred in just two weeks.

You can click on the images to see larger versions.

Rainfall last 2 weeks, northern California
Rainfall last 2 weeks, northern California
Rainfall last 2 weeks central California
Rainfall last 2 weeks, central California

Continue to see maps for the other western states.
Continue reading “Rainfall in western states slows wildfire season in many areas”

Pile burning on the Beaverhead-Deerlodge NF

Over the last week Derek Wittenberg has been working with his colleagues on the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest in western Montana (map) burning piles that were created while building a fuel break on the Pole Fire. Other piles were part of a project to promote a Whitebark Pine stand that is resistant to Blister Rust.

He posted photos and videos on his Instagram page that are used here with his permission.

Piles like these are often burned while there is snow on the ground in order to minimize the chance of the fires spreading out of control. Some of the keys to success are constructing the piles so that some material remains relatively dry even after rain or snow, and using firefighters that are skilled with a drip torch.

The crew took advantage of the opportunity to conduct training with a Very Pistol.

Veri pistol training and pile burning

A photo posted by Derek Wittenberg (@ridebigmtn) on

#burnpilesinstyle

A video posted by Derek Wittenberg (@ridebigmtn) on


Continue reading “Pile burning on the Beaverhead-Deerlodge NF”

South entrance to Yellowstone opens after being closed by the Berry Fire

The Maple Fire in Yellowstone spreads closer to West Yellowstone and Hwy. 191


The video above was uploaded Monday August 29 the day before Highway 89 opened.

The south entrance to Yellowstone National Park opened Tuesday morning after having been closed for the last week after the Berry Fire burned across U.S. Highway 89 at the north end of Jackson Lake in Grand Teton National Park.

The fire was active Monday on the northeast, south, and west sides and has burned about 13,200 acres. A large smoke column actually assisted firefighters working on the east side of the highway Monday by shading the fire on that side of the lake, slowing the spread.

Fires Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks
Fires in Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks, August 30, 2016. The green lines are the boundaries of the two parks. The white line is the Wyoming/Montana boundary.

A new fire in Yellowstone National Park is named the Central Fire, probably because it is in the center of the park. It is 9 miles west of the Lake developed area and 2 miles south of Hayden Valley. The fire is just northwest of the 2015 Spruce fire which is expected to block the fire’s growth to the east. Currently it is burning in mature lodgepole pine.

The Maple Fire has spread considerably over the last several days and is within about 2 miles of Highway 191 north of West Yellowstone, Montana, and about 3.5 miles from the community. It has crossed from Wyoming into Montana and on the south side is burning along the Madison River very close to the West Entrance Road (Highway 20). It has reached the east side of the Boundary Fire that spread on its west side to within a quarter mile of Highway 191.

The staff at Yellowstone wants visitors to know that all entrances and roads within the park are open. Visitor facilities and businesses in the park and surrounding communities are not impacted by the fires and remain open.

The Buffalo Fire is in the north-central part of Yellowstone about 2 miles north of the Northeast Entrance Road (Highway 212). The fire has burned about 4,000 acres, a few of which may be just across the state line in Montana.


Above: the Maple Fire burns along the Madison River in Yellowstone National Park August 29, 2016. Video by Jeremy Weber of the West Yellowstone News.

Firefighters and first responders on Roaring Lion Fire thank the community

Often on a wildfire we see members of the community displaying signs thanking the firefighters. It is less common to see an organized effort that goes in the other direction — firefighters thanking the community.

On the Roaring Lion Fire southwest of Hamilton, Montana five people representing the first responders and firefighters appeared in a video expressing their appreciation for the support they received from the community.

In the video you’ll see:

  • Hamilton Fire Chief Brad Mohn
  • Ravalli County Sheriff Chris Hoffman
  • Northern Rockies Incident Management Team Incident Commander Greg Poncin
  • Bitterroot National Forest Supervisor Julie King
  • USFS District Ranger Eric Winthers

Maybe this will start a trend.