Wildfire news, October 9, 2012

Another claim against the USFS for escaped prescribed fire in Montana

Another land owner has filed a claim against the U.S. Forest Service for the 2010 Davis prescribed fire that escaped on the Helena National Forest and burned approximately 450 acres of private land belonging to multiple owners. In June Wildfire Today told you about three land owners who are suing the government seeking unspecified damages and a jury trial.

The latest claim is from Andy Skinner, who is asking for $137,770 for damage to his property. He is also asking for $50,000 for the time it has taken for him to research the damage and file the claim.

The Davis prescribed fire northwest of Helena, Montana escaped on August 26, 2010 and burned over 2,000 acres of private and U.S. Forest Service land.

Wildfire Today covered the Davis Fire extensively in 2010, and summarized some of the coverage on November 22, 2010 after the U.S. Forest Service released their report on the incident. We highlighted some of the issues that led to the escaped prescribed fire.

Minnie fire may burn for weeks

The Minnie fire in northwest Minnesota near Fourtown, between Upper Red Lake and Lake of the Woods, has moved into areas containing peat, and is now burning deep underground in the organic soil, making it extremely difficult to suppress. Unless the area receives a great deal of rain soon, it will most likely burn for weeks, or longer.

Extraordinary photo of vehicle fire

A motorist that had to stop when a vehicle fire in Missoula closed a road, took some photos of the burning car. One of them captured the moment a vessel inside the car exploded, demonstrating why firefighters need to employ proper tactics on these fires, and why adequate personal protective equipment should be worn.

Red flag warnings and record-breaking heat expected in California

A weather forecast for record-breaking triple-digit heat and single digit humidities has brought out a red flag warning for some areas in southern California for Monday and Tuesday. The temperatures are expected to be about 20 degrees hotter than normal,  between 95 and 105 at the lower elevations in the mountains of Los Angeles and Ventura Counties on Monday, then a few degrees cooler on Tuesday. Downtown Los Angeles is expected to hit 100 degrees on Monday, with it reaching 105 degrees in Burbank and Pasadena.

Northeast winds at 10 to 20 mph with 30 mph gusts are expected on Monday, with Tuesday afternoon bringing 25 mph onshore winds.

Red Flag Warnings, October 1, 2012

The map below shows the area in southern California covered by the red flag warning, which is in effect from 6 a.m. Monday until 6 p.m. PDT Tuesday.

Red Flag Warning, Southern California, October 1, 2012

There is also a red flag warning for some areas in northwest Montana for gusty winds and low humidities from 11 a.m. through midnight MDT on Monday. The winds are expected to be southwest at 15 to 25 mph with gusts up to 50, with the humidities as low as 16 percent.

The passage of a cold front has resulted in a red flag warning for western Minnesota from 2 p.m. until 7 p.m. CDT on Monday. Winds should be northwest at 20 with gusts up to 30 mph along with humidities as low as 20 percent.

A fire weather watch is in effect for areas in Wyoming, Montana, North Dakota, and South Dakota.

Incident Management Team using iPads on Sawtooth Fire

Sawtooth Fire
Sawtooth Fire, Inciweb photo

Greg Poncin’s Type 1 Incident Management Team is using iPads as they manage the Sawtooth Fire near Hamilton, Montana. A member of the team developed an app that can assist in collecting and distributing information on a near real time basis wirelessly using a 3G cell phone system. The team is using them to share maps, documents, photos, and videos.

An article at KAJ18 about the system does not say, but I imagine they are putting the Incident Action Plan on the devices as well. iPads may not be very practical to carry on the fireline, but if it is compatible with an iPhone, firefighters in a spike camp may in the future be submitting their time to the finance section on a hand-held wireless device.

If the team does not have a wireless hot spot at the Incident Command Post, the system would be dependent on 3G cell phone service, which is not always easy to find at the scene of a large wildland fire.

A video at KAJ18 features Incident Commander Poncin describing the innovation.

The Sawtooth fire, according to the information on InciWeb, has burned 5,882 acres and is 45 percent contained.

UPDATE at 10:40 a.m. MT, September 28, 2012:

Kelly reports to us that a helicopter pilot friend told her that on the Sawtooth fire the Helicopter Managers were getting the Incident Action Plans (IAP) wirelessly. On the Halstead fire the pilot obtained copies of maps by using a smart phone or iPad to scan a QR code (similar to a bar code) on the front of the IAP.

The possibilities for this kind of technology are endless.

What new technologies have you seen recently on wildfires? Or, what new technologies have the potential to be implemented on fires which could enhance efficiency, reduce costs, or help to provide a safer working environment for firefighters?

Time lapse video of Dugan Fire in Montana

I like time lapse videos of wildfires. This one of the Dugan Fire near Ekalaka in southeast Montana (map) not only shows the fire itself, but also includes some dozers working at what appears to be 500 miles an hour. It begins with some still images — the time lapse starts at 0:37.

The Dugan Fire burned 10,675 acres and is contained, according to InciWeb. Below is another photo of the fire.

Dugan Fire
Dugan Fire, InciWeb photo

Montana is grateful for borrowed Canadian aircraft

Highway 87 Fire
In August retardant dropped by air tankers helped slow the spread of the Highway 87 Fire in Montana. Montana DNRC photo.

Several firefighting aircraft from Canada have been in Montana this summer, on loan thanks to an international agreement. The provinces of Saskatchewan and Alberta sent three CV-580 air tankers, two lead planes, and one Bell 212 helicopter under the provisions of an arrangement between five U.S. states and five Canadian provinces titled the “Northwest Wildland Fire Protection Agreement”, which allows ground and air firefighting resources to be exchanged between the two countries. The aircraft have been stationed at Helena and Billings since June.

Here is an excerpt from an article in the Billings Gazette about the agreement and the aircraft:

With the Canadian tankers and helicopter available, fire crews can throw more resources — and do it faster — than usual at new starts in an effort to nip them before they can blow up. For example, the Hibbard fire sparked on Sunday north of Pompeys Pillar and, within hours, three heavy tankers and a helicopter were helping local crews, dousing the fire after it burned 326 acres.

“We want to get in there and dogpile the fires as soon as we hear about them,” [Matt] Wolcott [the Montana DNRC Southern Land Office’s area manager] said.

And its not just the Billings area benefiting from the Northwest Compact. They’ve helped out everywhere from Yellowstone National Park to the Hi-line, from the Crow Indian Reservation to the Missouri Breaks.

Last year, Montana also sent crews to help fight fires in Alaska and an overhead crew, engines and other resources to British Columbia during the 2010 fire season.

While the U.S. has sent ground-based firefighters to Canada on several occasions, I can’t recall any long-term deployment of government-owned air tankers from the U.S. to Canada. Oh, right… that’s because we don’t have have any.


Thanks go out to Dick and Kelly.

Count the spot fires

Albert Fire
Albert Fire, MDNRC photo

The photo above was taken Sunday by state employees from a Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation helicopter during the initial attack of the Albert fire west of Missoula on the south side of the Clark Fork River.

It is a very interesting photo, in that you can see what appear to be multiple spot fires. How many can you count?

The spread of the fire was halted at 75 acres Sunday night, but firefighters still have a lot of work to do on the fire. They credit their success to a quick and aggressive initial attack with single engine air tankers, helicopters, and ground resources who could take advantage of the aerial attack.

Here is one other photo also taken from the helicopter:

Albert Fire
Albert Fire, MDNRC photo

Thanks go out to Chris