Wildfires kill 25 in Portugal

(12:42 a.m. MDT June 18, 2017)

The BBC is reporting that 25 people have been killed in wildfires in central Portugal. Several firefighters are reported to be among about 20 people injured.

Most of the fatalities occurred while attempting to flee in their cars from the Pedrógão Grande area about 30 miles southeast of Coimbra.

From the BBC:

Secretary of State for the Interior Jorge Gomes earlier said that three people died from smoke inhalation and 16 died in their cars on the road linking Figueiró dos Vinhos to Castanheira de Pera.

About 60 forest fires broke out across the country overnight, with 1,700 firefighters working to put them out. The flames spread “with great violence” on four fronts, Mr Gomes said.

Spain has sent two water-bombing planes to help tackle the fires.

Portugal has been experiencing dry thunderstorms and temperatures well above 100F in recent days.

wildfires west of Pedrógão Grande in Portugal
Map showing the location of wildfires west of Pedrógão Grande in Portugal. Click to enlarge.

Wildfires kill three on Portugal’s Madeira Island; fires force thousands to evacuate on the mainland

Above: A Google Earth 3-D map of the Portuguese Island of Madeira, looking northwest.

(UPDATED at 7:25 a.m. MDT August 13, 2016)

The satellite image below from Friday August 12, shows fewer heat sources on Madeira and less smoke from the wildfires.

Madeira fires August 12, 2016
The red dots represent heat detected by a satellite over Madeira on August 12, 2016. Smoke can be seen drifting to the southeast. Click to enlarge.


(Originally published at 4:42 MDT August 2, 2016)

Wildfires on the Portuguese archipelago of Madeira have taken the lives of three civilians and destroyed over 150 homes while firefighters on the mainland are battling nearly 200 blazes. The fire has reached Madeira’s largest city, Funchal, which has a population of 110,000.

Madeira has no firefighting aircraft. They sometimes borrow CL-215’s, CL-415’s, (both are water-scooping air tankers) and Polish SOKOL helicopters from the Canary Islands 280 miles to the south.

Italy and Morocco have sent a total of three firefighting aircraft across the ocean to help control the fires. Russia has dispatched two Be-200 water-scooping air tankers, which last operated in Portugal in 2006.

Map of fires on Madeira
The red dots on the photo of Madeira represent heat detected by a NASA satellite on August 10, 2016. Smoke can be seen drifting off to the southwest.

Madeira is in the north Atlantic, 530 miles southwest of Portugal. The terrain on the popular tourist island is very steep which no doubt presents a challenging environment for firefighters.

Below is an excerpt from an article in the New York Times:

…The fire caused chaos, panic and despair around Funchal. Portuguese television showed elderly people, many of them barefoot or in wheelchairs, being escorted to safety in the middle of the night by emergency services or neighbors. Residents watched in tears as their homes burned down, and some were seen running around helplessly, trying to cover their faces to minimize smoke inhalation…

The four images in the tweet below are very impressive.

This video, uploaded today, was shot from a cable car as it travelled over areas affected by the fire. It’s a little long at 18 minutes, but if you skip around it gives an overview of some of the effects of the fire.

Wildfires rage in Portugal and Spain; one firefighter killed

From the Daily Mail at 8:29 p.m. MDT August 8, 2016:

“More than 4,400 firefighters battled hundreds of forest blazes in Portugal as a man admitted causing a huge Spanish wildfire by lighting soiled toilet paper.

The National Civil Protection Authority in Portugal said by late afternoon almost 1,500 vehicles and 32 water-dumping planes were deployed at 702 wildfires, some of which have been burning for days.

Wildfires in Portugal
NASA satellite image showing in red the location of wildfires and smoke produced by the blazes in Portugal at 12:55 UTC August 9, 2016. The image shows most of Portugal and the west coast of Spain.

Meanwhile, after raging for six days, a Spanish wildfire which started when a German lit his spoiled toilet paper was finally brought under control as 500 residents were evacuated and a forest worker was killed.

In Spain, authorities said firefighters had managed to bring a six-day-old forest fire on the Atlantic island of La Palma under control and were allowing evacuated residents to return to their homes.

The regional government for the Canary Islands archipelago said the measure affected 500 residents evacuated a day earlier from the town of Villa de Mazo.

The fire claimed the life of one forest worker and has destroyed more than 4,000 hectares (9,900 acres) of forest on the volcanic island off the northwest coast of Africa.”

Drone video of wildfire in Portugal

This video of a fire in Portugal, shot August 29, 2013, is very impressive, and technically well done. If these devices turn out to be a hazard to firefighting aircraft, our Air Attack planes are going to have to live up to their name and start arming themselves with air-to air missiles.

Here is the description from FlyMoviePRO Portugal on YouTube:

Fire at Figueira do Guincho, concelho de Cascais – Biscai (Portugal), on the 29/08/2013 recorded by a small drone and a gopro.

Wildfire briefing, September 6, 2013

Scientists expect fire risk in the U.S. to escalate by the end of the century

Map elevated wildfire risk, climate changeHot and dry conditions lead to more fires. Those were the findings presented in 2012 by a team of researchers that used NASA satellite data and climate models to predict fire activity in the United States. Now, a new animation shows how dry conditions will cause different parts of the U.S., Canada and Mexico to experience an increased risk of fire by the end of the century. By mapping projected values for a measure of dryness known as the potential evaporation—a calculation that’s based on temperature, rainfall and wind speed estimates—scientists are able to interpret how fire activity will be influenced by future climates. Changes in dryness relative to 1980 levels are shown in the animation using colors, where reds represent an increase in dryness and blues represent a decrease. Watch the video to see how dry conditions are expected to spread across North America by the year 2100.

Another firefighter fatality in Portugal

A seventh firefighter in a month passed away in a hospital in Portugal after suffering burn injuries on a wildland fire last week.

MAFFS demobilized

Five military Modular Airborne FireFighting System C-130 air tankers were released  from fire suppression duty yesterday. Since the year’s initial activation June 11, MAFFS crews have flown 572 missions and made 535 drops using 1,375,981 gallons of fire retardant. That works out to 2,406 gallons per mission.

Granite Mountain Hotshots memorial items to be removed

Soon after 19 members of the Granite Mountain Hotshots were killed on the Yarnell Hill Fire on June 30, mourners began placing memorial items on the fence surrounding their compound at the Prescott Fire Department. Now over two months later the city decided they have to do something with the hundreds of objects which include T-shirts, photos, posters, and other items. The City announced Thursday that the Fire Department and area volunteers would begin to remove them on Sept. 10.

Below is an excerpt from an article in the Daily Courier:

Now, officials say, it is time to begin packing away the items for preservation, and possible inclusion in a more permanent memorial in the future.

“Items that are able to be preserved will be temporarily stored until plans are finalized for the future permanent memorial,” the city’s new release stated.

City officials have noted that the outdoor elements have taken a toll on many of the items. Flowers, cardboard signs, and other perishable items were earlier removed. Many of the T-shirts from fire departments around the country have faded from dark-blue to gray.


Wildfire briefing, August 23, 2013

Firefighter dies in Portugal

A female firefighter was killed and nine were injured Thursday on a wildfire in Portugal near the small city of Tondela. Commander Antonio Ribeiro of the Serra de Caramulo firefighters said the crew ran from the fire but the firefighter who died fled in the wrong direction. Euronews reports that three firefighters have died this month. High temperatures and strong winds have contributed to the spread of 13 large fires in Portugal.

The national wildfire situation

Today there are 49 uncontained large fires listed on the national Situation Report in the United States, and that number does not include individual fires within complexes. There are currently 854,480 acres within the perimeters of those active fires. The national Preparedness Level has reached the highest category, PL 5, for the first time since 2008. And while it may seem like much of the west is on fire, the number of acres burned to date, 3.4 million, is much less than average, which is 5.6 million.

Competition for firefighting resources is occurring. There is only one California-based Type 1 or Type 2 incident management team available that is not assigned to a fire; 33 IMTeams are assigned nationwide. But surprisingly, there are no Area Command Teams committed.

We have 11 large and very large air tankers working right now on exclusive use contracts, and there are another 9 that the USFS has borrowed from the military, the state of Alaska, and the Canadian government. In 2002 there were 44 large air tankers on contract.

Forest Service runs out of money for firefighting

For the sixth time in the last ten years the U.S. Forest Service has run out of funds for suppressing wildfires. Even though the number of acres burned to date this year is below average, the USFS is having to divert funds from other non-fire accounts in order to cover the shortfall. This is due in part to reductions in the amount of money Congress allocates for the FLAME fund, which is supposed to fund firefighting while protecting other accounts. The Washington Post has more details.

Scott Olsen writes about a firefighter’s first day on the job

You may have seen the articles written last year by W. Scott Olsen, a professor of English at Concordia College in Moorhead, Minnesota about “the war on wildfires out west, meeting shot-callers and looking at the operation from the inside”. He has just published a new article at the Huffington Post about a wildland firefighter’s first day on the job.

Granite Mountain 19

The issues surrounding the deaths of the 19 members of the Granite Mountain Hotshots June 30 on the Yarnell Hill Fire continue to make the news. Firefighters with the New York City Fire Department have raised $30,000 so far for the families of the 19, and they are hoping to add to that total. The Prescott Daily Courier asked the candidates for Mayor and the City Council to express their positions on the discrepancy between the benefits for the seasonal and full time members of the crew. And there is a debate about whether the city’s hotshot crew should be rebuilt.

Investigative reporter John Dougherty has two recent articles about the Yarnell Hill Fire: “Yarnell Hill Fire: The Granite Mountain Hotshots Never Should’ve Been Deployed, Mounting Evidence Shows” and “A Granite Mountain Hotshot’s Father Says the Blaze That Incinerated His Son Could’ve Been Controlled“.

Montana residents contribute for free coffee for firefighters

Residents near Lolo, Montana are contributing to a fund to provide free, good quality coffee for firefighters working on the Lolo Creek Complex. According to an article at KZBK, Samantha Harris, a barista at Florence Coffee Company in Lolo, said customers have been donating money to give firefighters coffee.

“We have a huge tab here so all the firefighters’ coffee is paid for,” Harris said. “Which has been really fun to tell them their coffee is free.” The tab is at nearly $300, she said.

Florence Coffee Company is at 11880 HWY 93 in South Lolo, Montana.

Photos of pyrocumulus

The Alaska Dispatch has some very impressive photos of pyrocumulus smoke columns caused by wildfires.

Goat manure fire stinks up town

A burning pile of goat manure is affecting the quality of life for residents of Windsor, Vermont. The pile ignited from spontaneous combustion Wednesday at George Redick’s 800-goat dairy. Windsor Town Manager Tom Marsh said he could smell the fire at his home which is five miles from the dairy.