Map of smoke from wildfires, June 5, 2011

Smoke map 1345 6-5-2011
Wildfire smoke map, 1:45 p.m. MT, June 5, 2011. NOAA

The map shows smoke created by wildfires. It appears that the states of New Mexico, Colorado, and parts of Wyoming, Arizona, and Nebraska are being hit pretty hard.

The red dots are fires, while the smoke is green (thin), yellow (moderately dense), and purple (dense). The Wallow fire in southeast Arizona is responsible for much of the smoke in the central United States.

(Update: on June 6 we posted an updated smoke map.)

Wallow fire update, 9:30 p.m. June 4


Wallow and Horseshoe 2 fires satellite photo smoke 1932, 6-4-2011
Smoke from the Wallow and Horseshoe 2 fires, photographed by NASA weather satellite at 7:32 p.m., MT June 4, 2011. Notations added by Wildfire Today. Click to enlarge.

Judging from the smoke in the satellite photo above, both the Wallow and Horseshoe 2 fires were extremely active Saturday afternoon.

Map of Wallow fire, data 1450 6-4-2011
(Click to enlarge.) Map of the Wallow fire, showing new heat (the red squares) detected by satellites at 2:48 p.m. MT June 4. An earlier perimeter, mapped at 12:25 a.m. MT 6-3-2011, is in red. MODIS/Google

The imagery in the map of the Wallow fire was obtained at 2:48 p.m. MT Saturday. It is very likely that the fire spread significantly between that time and dark on Saturday.

Joe Reinarz Southwest Area Type 1 Incident Management Team has assumed command on the north side of the fire. The Eastern Arizona Type 2 team will now command the south side of the fire.

There has been no update from the incident management team on the size of the fire since this morning; they are still calling it 140,000 acres, and there is no report on the containment percentage.

A call center has been established by the White Mountain Joint Information Center for information, including evacuations, regarding the Wallow fire. Their phone number is (928) 333-3412, and their web site is 593.orgInciWeb is another source.

Our earlier report on the Wallow fire, from Saturday morning June 4.

Our report on the Horseshoe 2 fire, Saturday morning, June 4.

And here is Sunday morning’s, June 5, report about the Wallow and Horseshoe 2 fires.

Monday, June 6, report on the fires.

Tuesday, June 7, report on the fires.

Smoke hampers evacuation from fly-in town in Canada

Wollaston Lake fire
Wollaston Lake fire. Photo:

Residents in the northern Saskatchewan town of Wollaston Lake would like to evacuate because a wildfire is burning nearby, but:

  1. There is no permanent road access;
  2. Smoke from the fire is grounding aircraft trying to fly in and out of the small airport;
  3. A lake where a ferry runs in the summer still has ice on it.

Here is an excerpt from at article at

Smoke and shifting winds hampered efforts to evacuate a northern Saskatchewan fly-in community where a forest fire burned at the edge of town.

The smoke briefly cleared at Wollaston Lake airport Wednesday, allowing 200 people to be flown out of the remote community, about 840 kilometres north of Saskatoon. But at least 1,000 other residents remained hunkered down in two local schools.

The five-square-kilometre fire was burning next to the airport and winds were blowing smoke across the runway, shutting down access to the facility.

“The airport is in-and-out of service on a minute-by-minute basis and the road that was leading to the airport obviously is in jeopardy and is closed — temporarily we hope — because of smoke conditions or danger in that particular area,” said Saskatchewan fire commissioner Duane McKay.

McKay said officials are “investigating other options” to move people. But options are limited.

There’s no permanent road access to Wollaston and the lake, where a ferry runs in the summer, still has ice on it. McKay said officials are looking at using boats to move people across a small nearby bay, if it’s free of ice, or using helicopters. Calls for helicopter help have been made to Alberta and Manitoba, he said.

“It is our priority to move these people out as quickly as possible,” said McKay.

“While we would like that airport to open and we’d like to get these people out that way, it’s the simplest way, we are looking at other options to continue to accomplish the task that we’ve set out to do.”

There are about 30 homes in the hamlet along with 193 houses on the Wollaston Lake and Hatchet Lake reserves.

Fifteen aircraft lifted out about 240 people Tuesday from the hamlet and a nearby reserve. They were taken to shelters in Prince Albert


Residents have voiced concern about the ability to get out. Rescue co-ordinator Anne Robillard, who lives in Wollaston Lake, said flames were getting close.

“The wind’s shifting our way … and it’s going to go directly to us,” she said.

Robillardaid she was trying to remain calm even though she could see the fire advancing.

“Personally, I’m taking responsibility, so I’m not on the panicky side yet. I have to say that because I see the flames so close.”

Check out this satellite photo, and you’ll get an idea why roads are not very feasible in the vicinity of Wollaston Lake.

Smoke from Fourmile fire provides bonanza for researchers, bad news for firefighters and the public

smoke in Moscow
A woman wears a mask in central Moscow to "protect" herself from smoke from fires outside the city. August, 2010. Photograph: Mikhail Voskresensky/Reuters

When the Fourmile Canyon fire was burning west of Boulder, Colorado in September, 2010, Jim Roberts, a chemist with NOAA’s Earth System Research Laboratory, was surrounded by something he had previously studied at the U.S. Forest Service’s Missoula Fire Science Laboratory in Montana — smoke, and lots of it. In Missoula he used a new instrument they had built, a custom mass spectrometer, to examine the levels of isocyanic acid in the atmosphere and in smoke. Isocyanic acid has been difficult to detect with conventional measurement techniques. At Missoula, he measured the levels of the chemical in smoke generated when the researchers burned vegetation in the lab and in cigarette smoke.

When the Fourmile Canyon fire started, Roberts had the mass spectrometer at the University of Colorado at Boulder’s Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences.

Here is an excerpt from the Daily Camera:

Isocyanic acid easily dissolves in water, which makes it possible for the acid to also dissolve into moist tissues in the body, including the lungs. The full health effects of exposure to isocyanic acid in the air aren’t fully understood, but the chemical has been linked to cataracts, cardiovascular disease and rheumatoid arthritis.

Last September, the researchers had the opportunity to measure the presence of the acid in a real wildfire. On Labor Day, the Fourmile Fire began burning in the foothills west of Boulder, just a few miles upwind of the state-of-the-art atmospheric instruments housed at NOAA’s campus on Broadway.

“Boulder has a world-class atmospheric chemistry building and only once in its lifetime is it going to have a full-on hit from a wildfire,” said Joost de Gouw, a co-author of the study and a researcher at the Cooperative Institute for Research in the Environmental Science. “So just everyone in that building turned on their instruments.”

CIRES is a joint institute of the University of Colorado and NOAA.

The sensitive new spectrometer used in Missoula also picked up the isocyanic acid in the plume of smoke from the Fourmile Fire.

More information

Fourmile fire near Boulder
Smoke from the Fourmile fire as imaged by the MODIS satellite on September 6, 2010.