Wildfire briefing, March 30, 2014

Prescribed fire smoke in Manhattan, Kansas

Prescribed fire smoke in Manhattan, Kansas, March 29, 2014. Photo by Eric Ward.

Prescribed fire smoke in the Flint Hills

In light of the discussion on Wildfire Today about prescribed fire as a tourist attraction in the Flint Hills of Kansas, Eric Ward sent us the above photo that he took Saturday afternoon in smoky Manhattan, Kansas. He explained that many of the ranchers in the area conduct extensive burning projects this time of the year in order to enhance weight gains of cattle if they plan to stock pastures in May. On days when the relative humidity and wind speed are within an acceptable range, the evidence of the burning is very visible in the atmosphere, especially if weather for the previous week or so has been bouncing between snow and red flag weather conditions, as it has this year.

Colorado report recommends contracting for air tankers and helicopters

Colorado Firefighting Air CorpsA long-awaited report about aerial firefighting by state agencies in Colorado was released Friday by the Colorado Firefighting Air Corps (CFAC). Some of the more significant recommendations include:

  • Increase the number of Single Engine Air Tankers (SEAT) on exclusive use contracts from two to four.
  • Contract for the exclusive use of four Type 3 or larger rotor-wing aircraft. (Type 3 helicopters can carry 100 to 300 gallons.)
  • Contract for the exclusive use of two Type 2 or larger air tankers. (Type 2 air tankers can carry 1,800 to 3,000 gallons). The contingency, if the State is unable to contract for two air tankers, is to contract for two helitankers, or a combination of one fixed-wing air tanker and one helitanker.

More details are at Fire Aviation.

Arizona seeks to immunize the state from liability from wildfires

A bill that was approved unanimously Tuesday by the Arizona Senate Appropriations Committee, House Bill 2343, would exempt the state and state employees from prosecution for harm resulting from the action, or inaction by state employees on state lands. Hundreds of millions of dollars in claims have been filed by the families of the 19 firefighters killed on the Yarnell Hill Fire and by property owners whose homes burned. The fire was managed by the state of Arizona in June, 2013.

Firefighters assisting with Oso landslide

Personnel that usually can be found at wildfires are helping to manage the response to the tragic landslide at Oso, Washington. We have reports that some of the resources assisting include Washington Incident Management Team #4 (a Type 2 team), miscellaneous overhead, and some Washington Department of Natural Resources chain saw teams. The IMTeam was dispatched on March 27.

New topic from “Safety Matters”

The “Safety Matters” group has released their “Topic #5″, and they are seeking input from wildland firefighters. Below is an excerpt:

…2014 marks the 20th Anniversary of South Canyon and the 38th Anniversary of Battlement Creek. Both fires fit the model of firefighters dying in a brush fuel type, on a slope, during hot and dry conditions.

The loss of the Granite Mountain Hotshots indicates that a significant accident occurs every 18 to 20 years. Is there a reoccurring cycle, and if so why? Could it be related to a cyclic turnover of firefighter culture, training and attitude? What are the thoughts of Safety Matters readers?

Bushfire season ends in New South Wales

The bushfire season has reached its official end in New South Wales.

Tribute to author Norman Maclean

The Daily Beast has reprinted an excellent essay that Pete Dexter wrote for Esquire in 1981 about Norman Maclean. It explores a side of of the author that is not revealed in his book about firefighters, Young Men and Fire. Mr. Dexter spent quite a bit of time with Mr. Maclean, who at that time was writing the final chapter. Mr. Maclean also wrote A River Runs Through It, which was made into a movie starring Robert Redford and Brad Pitt. The Esperanza Fire, a book written by his son John N. Maclean, is working its way towards becoming a movie.

U.S. National Guard assists with fire in Puerto Rico

From the AP:

Puerto Rico has enlisted the U.S. National Guard to help extinguish a fire that has ravaged a forest in the island’s central region. Firefighting Chief Angel Crespo says that about 40 percent of the Modelo Forest in the town of Adjuntas has been destroyed. Authorities say they believe the fire was intentionally set and that it has consumed up to 290 acres (117 hectares). A U.S. National Guard helicopter helped dump water over the area on Friday.

Fantastic photo

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Throwback Thursday

Today at Wildfire Today we’re looking six years back, at what we were writing about March 16-22, 2008.

Oklahoma State Trooper burned in grass fire. Trooper Josh Tinsler, 23, was severely burned while checking to see if there was anyone at home in a house that was threatened by a grass fire near Hollis, OK.

Update on study about large fires and greenhouse gases

Brush fire at Monkey Junction

The sweet smell of smoke. That was the headline above an editorial in the Payson Roundup in Arizona. They were “giddy” about the Forest Service reducing fuels and burning piles.

Lawsuit against Mark Rey and the USFS dismissed. A lawsuit that forced the nation’s top forestry official to apologize in a Missoula courtroom was over.

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Florida to install sensors to detect degraded visibility on highway subject to smoke and fog

January 9, 2008 crash on Interstate 4 in Florida

The wreckage of the January 9, 2008 crash on Interstate 4 in Florida. The Ledger.

In 2008 and 2012 two massive car pile-ups on Florida Interstate highways were caused by poor visibility due to combinations of wildfire smoke and fog. A total of 16 motorists were killed in the crashes. At the location where 11 people died on I-75 in 2012 the Florida Department of Transportation will be installing sensors and warning systems to detect dangerous conditions and notify drivers of the deteriorating conditions.

Standard and infrared cameras, visibility sensors, dynamic messaging signs and vehicle detection devices will be set up south of Gainesville where I-75 crosses Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park. The infrared camera and 18 visibility sensors will monitor will measure fog, while other devices will detect moving traffic.

The equipment will be installed in a low-lying area where cold air settles, sometimes causing fog. If a vegetation fire is nearby, as was the case in both pile-ups, the mixture of fog and smoke can cause very poor visibility.

The crash in 2008 on Interstate 4 was caused by fog that combined with the smoke from an escaped prescribed fire.

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Wildfire briefing, October 29, 2013

Smoke creates health problems in Australia

Smoke from wildfires and prescribed fires is being blamed for increased visits to hospitals in New South Wales. On Monday when air quality was at its worst, the number of people treated for asthma in hospitals more than doubled. In recent weeks Sydney has been inundated with smoke from bushfires, but since the weather moderated a week or so ago smoke from prescribed fires, or “backburns”, has replaced it.

Landowners are motivated to use fire to reduce the hazards around their property by insurance companies that impose higher premiums if they don’t have a buffer around their improvements. Some of them are taking advantage of the favorable weather to conduct the backburns before the normal beginning of the bushfire season in December.

Australian government warns operators of UAVs who operate over fires

In what may be a reaction to a stunning video and others taken by unmanned aerial vehicles over bushfires, Australia’s Civil Aviation Safety Authority issued a warning to the operators of small UAVs, saying they are putting fire fighting operations at risk and should be aware of appropriate regulations.

Catastrophic wildfires in Colorado ignite new center for managing ‘WUI’ wildfire risk

Colorado State University’s Department of Forest and Rangeland Stewardship is launching a new center dedicated to creating and applying the next generation of wildfire management solutions. The Center for Managing Wildland Urban Interface (WUI) Wildfire Risk will provide science-based answers to critical questions raised by the most destructive wildfires in Colorado’s history. The Center for Managing WUI Wildfire Risk will provide science-based answers to critical questions raised by the most destructive wildfires in Colorado’s history.

Catching up with Fire Aviation

Recent articles at Fire Aviation:

  • Disney to release animated wildfire aviation movie
  • V-22 Tilt-Rotor Osprey as a firefighting aircraft
  • K-MAX helicopter converted to unmanned aircraft system
  • Slow-motion video of Lockheed Electra L-188 retardant drops
  • 10 Tanker Air Carrier moves to Albuquerque, begins converting a third DC-10
  • Two Aircraft crashes in Australia connected to bushfires
  • Stunning UAV video of bushfire
  • Airliner painted to honor FDNY firefighters
  • Airbus begins tests of C295 air tanker
  • 2013 Airtanker and Water Scooper Forum

Prescribed fire projects underway

Pile burning, Grand Canyon

Pile burning on the Bright Angel project, North Rim of the Grand Canyon, October 24, 2013. NPS photo.

Prescribed fire Shasta-Trinity National Forest

Shasta-Trinity National Forest, October 21, 2013. USFS photo.

Prescribed fire on the Helena National Forest

Prescribed fire on the Helena National Forest, Helena Ranger District. USFS photo.

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Report: in 2011 two-thirds of Americans lived in counties affected by wildfire smoke

Wildfire smoke,  August 24, 2013

Wildfire smoke, August 24, 2013 (click to enlarge)

Last summer large wildfires in Idaho, California, Oregon and many other states produced huge amounts of smoke that affected residents across much of the United States. The Natural Resources Defense Council has studied and quantified wildfire smoke that drifted across America the year before, in 2011. Below is an excerpt from their report:

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New Report Shows Wildfire Smoke Poses Health Risk to Millions of Americans Many Miles from the Blazes

WASHINGTON (October 24, 2013) – Wildfires will get worse with climate change, not only endangering those near the blazes, but also threatening the health of millions of Americans from wildfire smoke that can drift hundreds of miles, according to a new report by the Natural Resources Defense Council.

As a result, communities must protect themselves from the health risks arising from exposure to wildfire smoke—including asthma attacks, pneumonia, and more serious chronic lung diseases. And the report, titled “Where There’s Fire, There’s Smoke,” suggests the country should take action to curb the threat of climate change.

“There’s trouble in the wind: What blazes in Texas rarely stays in Texas. Wildfire smoke can pose serious health risks to people hundreds of miles away from the sources of fires,” said Kim Knowlton, a senior scientist in NRDC’s Health and Environment Program, who directed the analysis. “Wildfire smoke already clouds the skies of millions of Americans and because climate change will fuel more wildfires, that danger will rise.

“Communities need safeguards against this peril, and our country needs standards to curb the unlimited carbon pollution from power plants that’s driving climate change.”

The study, based on smoke data from the 2011 wildfire season, one of the worst in recent decades, found that the area affected by smoke is 50 times greater than the area burned by fire. About two-thirds of Americans—nearly 212 million people—lived in counties affected by smoke conditions in 2011. Many states had large wildfires that year, but the study found that among the top 20 most affected states, six with no major fires nonetheless had to cope with more than a week of medium- to high-density smoke conditions during the year.

The states with the greatest numbers of residents affected by wildfire smoke conditions for a week or longer in 2011, according to the report, were: Texas, Illinois, Florida, Missouri, Georgia, Louisiana, Michigan, Alabama, Oklahoma and Iowa.

The report found that in 2011:

  • Texas ranked 1st nationally with more than 25 million people living in areas with wildfire smoke conditions for one week or more.
  • Illinois ranked 2nd with 11.9 million residents in affected areas.
  • Florida ranked 3rd with 11.2 million residents in affected areas.
  • Missouri ranked 4th with 5.9 million residents in affected areas.
  • Georgia ranked 5th, with 5.7 million residents in affected areas.
  • Louisiana ranked 6th, with 4.5 million residents in affected areas.
  • Michigan ranked 7th, with 3.93 million residents in affected areas.
  • Alabama ranked 8th, with 3.92 million residents in affected areas.
  • Oklahoma ranked 9th, with 3.7 million residents in affected areas.
  • Iowa ranked 10th, with 3 million residents in affected areas.

Other states where large numbers of people lived in areas with smoky conditions include, ranked in order, are Arkansas, Mississippi, Kansas, Tennessee, Colorado, New Mexico, Nebraska, Indiana, South Carolina and Minnesota. Altogether, more than one-third of the states experienced medium-to-high density smoke conditions for a week or longer, the report shows.

“The clear takeaway is that wildfires, smoke and the conditions that increase fire risk are national health concerns that spread well beyond the borders of local fire perimeters, conditions that are only projected to worsen with climate change,” the report says. NRDC used smoke data from federal weather satellites and also looked at the locations of Environmental Protection Agency ground-based air quality monitoring stations.

Climate change is fueling droughts that are projected to intensify in the future in across much of the United States as a result of less rainfall and more evaporation, turning wild-land vegetation tinder-dry. It also is projected to fuel more frequent, longer lasting extreme heat and lengthen warm-weather seasons, reducing moisture and setting the stage for fire risks, the report says.

 

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Wildfire smoke in Reno similar to air in casinos

Researchers at the University of Nevada said the smoky air that enveloped Reno while the Rim Fire in Yosemite National Park was burning was no worse than the air patrons breathe on the casino floors in the city.

Wildfire smoke map

Wildfire smoke map August 25, 2013

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