Wildfire briefing, May 7, 2014

Cause determined for southern California wildfire

Investigators found that the cause of the Etiwanda Fire that burned over 2,000 acres east of Los Angeles last week was an illegal campfire. The Colby Fire that burned almost 2,000 acres in January east of Los Angeles near Glendora was also blamed on an illegal campfire.

Report released for fatality on Grassy Mountain Fire

The Wildland Fire Lessons Learned Center has posted the factual report for the fatality of a dozer transport operator on the Grassy Mountain Fire August 10, 2013 southeast of Rome, Oregon.

Report: firefighter kills intruder

The Christian Science Monitor (CSM) is reporting that a firefighter shot and killed an intruder in the firefighter’s garage. The victim was Diren Dede, a 17-year old German exchange student, which has stirred up interest in the case overseas.

Prosecutors have charged 29-year old Markus Kaarma with homicide.

The CSM referred to Mr. Kaarma as a U.S. Forest Service firefighter. The Missoulian in two different articles referred to him also as a U.S. Forest Service firefighter, and then later as a “former firefighter”.

An excerpt from the CSM:

Kaarma’s live-in girlfriend told neighbors that someone had stolen marijuana from the firefighter’s garage stash on several occasions. Investigators say they removed a glass jar full of pot during the course of their investigation.

An open question is whether a jury will believe police allegations that Kaarma set a trap for Diren by opening the garage door and linking up a baby monitor feed before shooting blindly into the darkened garage after spotting movement.

Brush fire related deaths in Iowa hospitals

Officials in Iowa are concerned about the number of brush fire related deaths in Iowa hospitals recently. Between February and April this year, the University of Iowa Burn Treatment Center reports three people have died and three others have been injured as a result of brush fires.  During that same time period last year, 2013, the Burn Treatment Center reported one death and one injury from burns sustained in brush fires.  All four deaths were of people ages 75 years and older. Not all of the victims were Iowans; some were flown in from surrounding states.

Woman found dead in Omaha brush fire

Firefighters suppressing a brush fire in Omaha, Nebraska late Tuesday night found a deceased woman in the fire area near 14th and Mason. She has been identified as  30-year old Amanda Brown, who had been in and out of a homeless shelter in recent years.
Thanks and a hat tip go out to Ken.


Wildfire briefing, April 16, 2014

Idaho sues over Steep Corner Fire

The state of Idaho has filed a lawsuit to recover the costs they incurred while suppressing the 2012 Steep Corner Fire near Orofino, Idaho. The suit claims that a timber company and its contractor did not meet U.S. Forest Service standards. It names Potlatch Land and Lumber, Potlatch Forest Holdings, Clearwater Paper Corp., Potlatch Corp., and DABCO Inc., a Kamiah-based logging contractor.

A firefighter, Ann Veseth, in her second season working as a firefighter for the USFS, was killed when she was struck by a falling 150-foot tall fire-weakened green cedar tree. The tree fell on its own and was 13 inches in diameter where it struck her.

Nebraska to join a fire compact

If the governor of Nebraska signs a bill approved by the legislature, the state will become a member of the Great Plains Interstate Compact, making it easier to share firefighting resources with Colorado, Wyoming and the Dakotas.

UPDATE, April 18, 2014Gov. Dave Heineman announced that he signed the bill.

Next-generation 911

The next generation of 911 could include live video and photographs which could be sent to first responders.

From Governing.com:

On May 1, 2010, a terrorist attack in New York City’s Times Square was thwarted when street vendors noticed smoke coming from a vehicle in which a homemade bomb had failed to explode. Imagine if those street vendors could have used their cellphones to send pictures or video of the vehicle and its license plate to a 911 call center. What if the 911 center could then push that data to first responders and police to get the location from GIS and buildings visual in the photos?

“They could really capture the dynamics of the event,” said Brian Fontes, executive director of the National Emergency Number Association (NENA). “That is what I call an information-rich 911 call, which will be supported in a next-generation 911 system…

Wildfire activity in British Columbia

From cbc.ca:

Fire officials are keeping a close eye on wildfires in the interior. There have been twice the average number of fires so far this year in the Kamloops Fire centre. Monday, five homes were put on evacuation alert in Bridge River near Lillooet. Nearly two dozen firefighters were sent to the area. Two fires are also being fought in the Okanagan. Kayla Pepper is an information officer with the Kamloops Fire Centre. She says it is dry and there has been a fair amount of wind throughout the Interior and Okanagan. She says there have already been 34 wildfires in the region. Pepper says so far, it’s too early to predict how active wildfires will be this year.

National Parks with web pages devoted to wildland fire

The National Park Service has a web page that lists dozens of Parks that have web pages devoted to their unique wildland fire programs. Below is a screen shot of a portion of the page.

NPS park fire programs


Wildfire briefing, March 24, 2014

Research: global wildfires did not kill the dinosaurs

Contrary to what other researchers concluded, a new study revealed that an asteroid that hit the Earth 65 million years ago on the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico did not cause global wildfires that wiped out the dinosaurs. The first study led scientists to think that the impact raised temperatures to 1,000 degrees C, igniting global wildfires that killed most organisms.

The latest research team from Royal Holloway, University of London, led by Claire Belcher, concluded that “…the amounts of thermal radiation released by the impact of an asteroid with the Earth 65 million years ago, were not as significant as previously thought, and the energy component of the K-T event was not responsible for the extinctions seen at this time”.

Research: Understanding evacuation preferences and wildfire mitigations among Northwest Montana residents

The paper with the above title, written by Travis Paveglio, Tony Prato, Douglas Dalenberg, and Tyron Venn, employees who work at state Universities in Idaho, Missouri, and Montana, is available for taxpayers to read if they pay $25 to an organization in Australia.

Public Service Announcements about wildfire

An organization in Nevada has produced and released nine 31-second public service announcements about wildfire evacuation and defensible space. The list is HERE, and below is an example:

Colorado state Senator has second thoughts about bill that would have limited agricultural burning

A Colorado state Senator who introduced a bill that would allow county commissioners to ban agricultural burning and campfires when fire danger is high has had second thoughts and now wants to pull the bill. Senator Larry Crowder from Alamosa, under pressure from farmers, said Friday that there could be a possibility of county officials over using the power. The bill already passed the House by a 36 to 27 vote on February 14.

A tweet from Smokey Bear

Tweets about a fire in Capetown, South Africa

(Hopefully the photos will appear below. Sometimes they do, and sometimes they don’t.)


Wildfire briefing, January 6, 2014

January wildfires in northern California

Map northern California fires

Even though a major winter storm has caused 4,121 flights to be cancelled and another 11,284 to be delayed today across the United States, northern California has experienced four medium to large fires already this year.

  • The Campbell Fire, which started January 2 on the Lassen National Forest 24 miles southeast of Red Bluff, according to the U.S. Forest Service has burned 600 acres and is 40 percent contained. No structures are threatened and no evacuations are planned for this fire that is burning in the proverbial “steep, rugged terrain”. Minton’s NORCAL Incident Management Team 1 is assigned.
  • The Red Fire, south of Berry Summit in Humboldt County, has burned 350 acres and is 40 percent contained. It started January 4.
  • The Bridge Fire, near Bridgeville in Humboldt County, started January 3 and burned 18 acres. It is 100 percent contained.
  • The Honcut Fire, started January 1 in Butte County near Honcut and burned 60 acres before it was contained.
  • The Grant Fire, started December 31 and burned 40 acres in Santa Clara County near Grant Ranch County Park before it was contained.

On Sunday the U.S. Forest Service activated one large air tanker, Minden’s Tanker 48. CAL FIRE has been using multiple helicopters and air tankers on these fires.

Timeline released for Colorado’s Black Forest Fire

The El Paso County Sheriff’s Office has released their own timeline for the early stages of the Black Forest Fire near Colorado Springs that burned 486 homes beginning on June 11, 2013. Below is an excerpt from an article at The Denver Channel:

The El Paso County Sheriff’s Office has released its own timeline of events for the Black Forest Fire which indicates the fire was first reported nearly two hours earlier than the Black Forest Fire/Rescue District reported.

In a Dec. 10 news release, the Black Forest Fire/Rescue District said the fire was first located at 1:45 p.m. on June 11.

However, the sheriff’s office timeline released Monday shows callers to 911 started reporting a haze and the smell of smoke at 11:54 a.m.

At 1:40 p.m., emergency radio traffic is heard saying, “you might start getting more call of localized smoke,” but they blamed it on the Royal Gorge wildfire burning in Canon City, saying”looks like there is a fire in Canon City.”

However, in the same report, the person says, “pretty good column on Hodgen Rd.,” which is near the Black Forest area.

County Sheriff Terry Maketa has been EXTREMELY critical of Bob Harvey, the Fire Chief responsible for the first two hours of the initial attack of the fire.

Prescribed fire workshops in Nebraska

Prescribed fire workshops will be held in eight locations across Nebraska between January 21 and March 19, 2014. Hosted by Pheasants Forever, Nebraska Game and Parks, and several other organizations, the one-day sessions are broken down into basic and advanced classes.

The workshops for landowners will discuss benefits of prescribed fire and how to safely conduct a project. Topics covered include equipment and safety, environmental factors, techniques for conducting prescribed fires, briefings, items to consider when writing a burn plan, possible funding sources, and how to factor in weather conditions. There will also be an exercise on how to write a burn plan. The registration fee of $10 includes lunch and training materials.

In order to conduct a prescribed fire in Nebraska, a landowner needs to have a burn plan and a permit from the local fire department.

More information, including dates and locations.

Recent articles at Fire Aviation

Here is what you may have missed at Fire Aviation:


Forest Service bans exploding targets in Rocky Mountain Region

The U.S. Forest Service announced today that the agency has banned exploding targets on National Forest system lands in the Rocky Mountain Region. In October when we first wrote about these devices that explode when shot with a rifle, we listed 24 wildfires we found with a quick internet search that were started by shooters using the targets in 2012.

Exploding targets have become popular in the last year with shooters who get a thrill from seeing the explosion when their bullet hits its mark. The devices are sometimes called “binary exploding targets”, since they are completely inert until two powders are mixed by the target shooter. After they are combined, the compound is illegal to transport and is classified as an explosive by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives and is subject to the regulatory requirements in 27 CFR, Part 555.

In June a man attending a bachelor-bachelorette party in Minnesota was killed by an exploding target. After someone shot the device, shrapnel struck 47-year-old Jeffery Taylor in the abdomen causing his death.

The new ban affects national forest system lands in the states of Wyoming, Nebraska, South Dakota, Colorado, and Kansas. Under the Order prohibiting the devices, anyone using them can face a fine of up to $5,000 and imprisonment of not more than 6 months. The Order is effective for one year and expires August 2, 2014.

The U.S. Forest Service has previously banned exploding targets on national forests in Washington, Oregon, Arizona, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Texas according to Forest Service spokeswoman Sarah Levy.

The Bureau of Land Management bans them during certain times on their land in some states — not only the use but the possession of the devices.

“The Bureau of Land Management is working on a Fire Prevention Order that will ban exploding targets on BLM lands in Colorado as well,” said John Bierk, State Staff Ranger for BLM Colorado/Eastern States.

They are also banned or soon will be when new legislation takes effect on state lands, at least under some conditions, in Washington, Utah, Oregon, and Idaho.

Exploding targets have started at least 16 wildfires since 2012 on Forest Service lands in 8 western states causing the federal government to spend approximately $33.6 million in suppression costs. The U.S. Forest Service provided the table below which lists seven fires started by exploding targets in the Rocky Mountain Region during that time period. The fires burned a total of 1,187 acres in the Region and cost $2.9 million to suppress.

Fires caused by exploding targets

“Exploding targets pose a very real safety threat to visitors and our employees” said U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell.

“We have seen a significant increase in the use of exploding targets on National Forest lands within the Region” said U.S. Forest Service Regional Special Agent in Charge Laura Mark. “Our objective is to educate the public on the dangers associated with the use of these targets in vegetation that can ignite a fire, as well as the safety risk they pose to the public, our employees and first responders. In addition to the seven fires caused by exploding targets on national forests in the Region since 2012, explosives ordinance demolition experts have had to respond on three occasions this year to safely dispose of unused targets that had been mixed but not yet used.”


Thanks go out to Rick


Northwest Fires

Wildfires in the Northwest

Map of wildfire in northwest, July 28, 2013

There are numerous large uncontained wildfires in the Northwest region today. The map  above (click to enlarge it) is a screen shot of a handy tool developed by the Billings Gazette.

Smoke from the fires in southwest Oregon’s Douglas Complex blew south over Josephine County again today, according to swofire.com — other fires include 24 incidents on the list of the Oregon Dept. of Forestry’s Grants Pass Unit, plus the 400-acre Labrador Fire about 10 miles northwest of Selma on the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest.

Douglas Complex

Douglas Complex

The 13,400-acre Douglas Complex north of Glendale was 2 percent contained Sunday; about 4 dozen homes have been evacuated, according to the Oregonian, and another 30 homes were under a secondary evac notice. A Friday lightning storm ignited 54 fires in southwest Oregon. The Douglas Complex was listed as the #1 fire priority in the nation this afternoon.

Gov. John Kitzhaber declared the complex a conflagration yesterday, allowing the state fire marshal to call in crews and equipment from around the state. (Oregon’s conflagration declaration allows dispatch of structural firefighters and equipment by the state fire marshal; more information is online at the OSFM website.) About 300 homes are threatened, and four structural task forces have been activated from Lane County, Linn County, Marion County, and Lincoln County.

About 750 personnel were assigned as of Sunday evening; crews reported extreme fire behavior, with 100-foot flamelengths on the  Dad’s Creek Fire with crown runs, torching, and long-range spotting.

The Oregon Department of Forestry (ODF) mobilized Sifford’s IMT 2 for the complex; it’s burning  in the southern portion of the district east of I-5, mostly on Douglas Forest Protection Association (DFPA) protected lands, which include BLM and private forestlands.

According to ODF reports, residents throughout Josephine County can expect to see ash and burned tree needles falling this evening and overnight. The Brimstone Fire, 5 miles west of Sunny Valley, breached lines this afternoon and grew to approximately 500 acres.