Two reports released on the same day about the escaped prescribed fire near Carson City, NV

Above: Map of the Little Valley Fire at 9:23 p.m. PDT October 14, 2016.

On February 15 two reports were released about the prescribed fire that escaped, burned 2,291 acres, and destroyed 23 homes northwest of Carson City, Nevada on October 14, 2016. The first report about what became the Little Valley Fire included the results of a months-long independent investigation by the Reno Gazette-Journal (RGJ). The other, released a few hours later, was the product of the official investigation requested by the Nevada Division of Forestry (NDF), the agency responsible for conducting the prescribed fire.

Hours before the fire escaped, all eleven firefighters that had been mopping up the prescribed fire left the project and returned to their stations between 1:30 p.m. and 4:45 p.m. on October 13, 2016. During that day there were a number of smokes that received the attention of the firefighters. During the last two hours before the seven-person helitack crew departed they noticed the wind increasing — trees were blowing down and branches were falling.

The RGJ reported on the reason the firefighters were ordered to leave the burn site.

Gene Phillips, NDF forest health specialist and burn boss for the Little Valley Burn, made the decision to pull crews from the burn site after discussing the high wind forecasts for the evening with a burn boss trainee, according to the review.

The decision not to staff the site on the evening of Oct. 13 was made, according to NDF, “based on the limited amount of heat near the control lines, success of the current mop-up effort, and the risk to firefighters working in timber during high winds.”

escaped fire map
From the NIMO report.

At 5:38 p.m. the Little Valley weather station recorded sustained winds out of the west at 15 mph with a maximum gust of 39 mph. By 12:38 a.m. on October 14, about the time the fire escaped, the wind was at 19 mph with gusts up to 87 mph. The relative humidity was 32 percent.

A Red Flag Warning for gusty winds and low humidity was in effect from the morning of October 11 through 5 p.m. on October 14. Strong winds persisted until mid-day on October 17.

The NIMO team concluded that the fire escaped when embers from a burning stump hole were blown 34 feet and crossed the fireline at a corner, or “dog leg” in the fire perimeter.

According to the RGJ there was confusion in initially responding to the fire after it escaped at around 12:38 a.m. on October 14:

Response to the fire was delayed, affecting how fast it could be contained: A call at 1:23 a.m. about smoke at the burn site was later dismissed as “unfounded,” causing a TMFPD [Truckee Meadows Fire Protection District] fire engine to return to the station three minutes after it left. After a second call about smoke at the burn site, it took TMFPD more than an hour to get to the site after crews were dispatched, according to 911 transcripts.

The NDF’s report was written by the U.S. Forest Service’s Phoenix National Incident Management Organization (NIMO), a team that usually manages fires and other incidents that are often of longer duration than a typical wildfire. The team was supplemented with a Fire Behavior Analyst, a GIS/Fire Behavior Analyst, a Public Information Officer, a Fire Investigator, and others for a total of 10 personnel that were listed in the report.

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”

Little Valley Fire burns structures northwest of Carson City, NV

In the hours before the fire was reported, wind gusting at 87 mph was recorded at a nearby weather station.

(UPDATED at 11:35 p.m. PDT October 14, 2016)

At 9:30 p.m. Washoe County updated the number of structures burned — 22 homes and 17 outbuildings. The fire has blackened 3,455 acres.

Map Little Valley Fire
Map of the Little Valley Fire at 9:23 p.m. PDT October 14, 2016.

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(UPDATED at 3:24 p.m. PDT October 14, 2016)

Washoe County reported at 2:45 p.m. Friday about the Little Valley Fire:

Everyone who lives on the east side of Washoe Lake or the east side of I-580 can return home.

Evacuations for residents of the Galena, Montreaux, Joy Lake Rorad, and St. James neighborhoods can return home but need to be prepared to evacuate throughout the weekend if need be.

The west side of Washoe Lake from Bowers exit to the bottom of Franktown Rd. remains evacuated. Several local hotels are offering discounted room rates for those displaced by Friday’s fires.

A weather station near the fire recorded 0.10 of rain after 11 a.m. today. The relative humidity has increased to 83 percent but the wind is still strong, 14 mph gusting to 34 mph. Radar showed light rain in the area at 3:24 p.m. on Friday.

@TMFPD is the Twitter account for the Truckee Meadows Fire Protection District.

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(Originally published at 1:16 p.m. PDT October 14, 2016)

Dozens of structures have burned in the Little Valley Fire 6 miles northwest of Carson City, Nevada and 17 miles south of Reno. It was reported at 2 a.m. PDT on Friday, Oct, 16, 2016. At 12:15 p.m. Washoe County reported that firefighters are estimating 2,000 acres, 18 homes, seven outbuildings, and seven barns have burned in the fire west of Washoe Lake.

Authorities have not released a cause for the fire but the Reno Gazette-Journal raised the possibility that it might have been associated with a prescribed fire:

As part of the investigation on the cause of the fire, the forestry division will look into any potential links from a prescribed burn that was held prior to the fire, said Jenny Ramella, Nevada Forestry Division spokeswoman. Ramella stressed that the cause of the fire has yet to be determined.

We don’t yet have a good map showing the exact location of the wildfire, but the Nevada Division of Forestry covered on their Facebook page the progress of the “Little Valley Burn”, a prescribed fire, that was ignited between October 4 and 7. On October 12 the NDF reported they had completed 208 acres. The location appears to have been west of where the wildfire is burning now.

Continue reading “Little Valley Fire burns structures northwest of Carson City, NV”

Firefighter killed near Baker, Nevada

Justin Beebe was a member of the Lolo Hotshots

Justin Beebe
Justin Beebe. USFS photo.

A wildland firefighter with the U.S. Forest Service was killed Saturday August 13 while working on the Strawberry Fire near Baker, Nevada.

The National Park Service and the U.S. Forest Service confirmed that Justin Beebe, a firefighter with the Lolo Hotshots based in Missoula, Montana, succumbed to injuries suffered when he was struck by a tree. The line of duty death of the Bellows Falls, Vermont firefighter will be investigated by the Forest Service.

“This loss of life is tragic and heartbreaking,” said Park Superintendent, Steve Mietz “Please keep the family and Forest Service employees in your thoughts and prayers during this time.”

The Strawberry Fire is being managed jointly by Great Basin Incident Management Team 7, the National Park Service, and the Bureau of Land Management. It is burning mostly in Great Basin National Park in eastern Nevada 10 miles west of the Utah/Nevada state line. Since starting from lightning on August 8 it has burned 4,600 acres, but satellites have not detected much heat on the fire since Friday, August 12.

map strawberry fire
The yellow dots represent the location of the Strawberry Fire August 14, 2016.
Strawberry Fire trees
Strawberry Fire. Photo by Steve Mietz.

Our sincere condolences go out to Mr. Beebe’s family, friends, and coworkers.

Laboratory camera captures photos of Little Den Fire in Nevada

Above: The Little Den Fire at about 7:55 p.m. MDT July 20, 2016. Screen shot from Nevada Seismological Laboratory camera.

Earlier this month a mountain top camera operated by the Nevada Seismological Laboratory captured excellent images of the Hot Pot Fire near Midas, Nevada as it burned approximately 120,000 acres within its first 30 hours. The still images were converted to time-lapse videos condensing an hour of fire activity into one minute.

Now it has taken photos of a new fire, the Little Den Fire 39 miles west of Austin, Nevada between U.S. Highway 50 and Highway 2. By Wednesday evening it had burned an estimated 1,800 acres and was being suppressed by 3 hand crews, 7 engines, 3 air tankers, and 2 helicopters. Hecht’s Type 3 incident management team is assigned to the fire.

map Little Den Fire
Map showing heat detected by a satellite over the Little Den Fire at 2:15 a.m. MDT July 21, 2016. Click to enlarge.

In one video you can see the initial stages of the fire as it started at 10:15 a.m. on Wednesday July 20.

The one-minute video below shows the rapid spread of the Little Den Fire from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Wednesday.

The next video covers 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. and has some very interesting images just before sunset showing wind shear effects on the smoke.

Other videos of the Little Den fire posted by the laboratory.

Memorial service for two BLM firefighters to be held July 19

Memorial services have been scheduled for Bureau of Land Management wildland firefighters Jacob O’Malley and Will Hawkins who lost their lives July 10 in a single-vehicle accident July 10 on Nevada State Route 140. The services will take place at the Winnemucca Events Complex Exhibit Hall (map) from 1:00 to 4:00 p.m. on Tuesday, July 19, in Winnemucca, Nevada.

The BLM firefighters were returning from duty in the Denio area on their way back to Winnemucca when the accident occurred at about 5:20 p.m. Sunday evening. Jacob, 27, and Will, 22, were killed in the rollover accident. Their coworker, Zachery McElroy, 23, was flown to Renown Medical Center in Reno, where he was treated; he was released Tuesday afternoon. The BLM fire crew was returning from a routine patrol looking for lightning fires in the area when the accident occurred.

The two men both resided in Winnemucca, though Jacob was from Lake Tahoe’s Zephyr Cove and Will was from Reno. The families of Jacob and Will have established private family memorial services in the Lake Tahoe and Reno areas, respectively.

“Everyone is invited to attend the Winnemucca services on Tuesday to honor Jacob and Will – two brave, hardworking firefighters who were dearly loved by their families and coworkers,” said BLM Nevada State Director John Ruhs.

The BLM deployed a Serious Accident Investigation (SAI) team to determine the accident cause and other
information.

Winnemucca Events Complex (map)
1000 Fairgrounds Road
Winnemucca, NV 89445

Jacob O'Malley
Jacob O’Malley. Photo provided by BLM.
Will Hawkins
Will Hawkins. Photo provided by BLM.