Wildfire briefing, June 13, 2014

(Originally published at 9:19 a.m. CT, June 13, 2014)

House teetering on cliff to be prescribed burned

House above lake

NBCDFW photo.

A house at the top of a cliff over Lake Whitney in Texas will be burned intentionally Friday morning. The cliff below part of the house has fallen away, leaving the house precariously teetering. The house will be burned, which is considered a better option than allowing it to fall into the lake where the debris would have to be removed.

A crew is prepping the house by breaking out windows and adding bales of hay soaked in diesel fuel to the interior.

The prescribed fire is being covered live by a television station in Texas.

(UPDATE at 10:15 a.m. CT, June 13, 2014)

Ignition has begun. Firefighters are on scene applying water between the burning home and a nearby house, perhaps to minimize damage to a couple of trees.

House above lake burning

(UPDATE at 11:36 a.m. CT, June 13, 2014)

It’s pretty much over:

House above lake burning House above lake burning

The photos are from NBCDFW.

Funeral services for Nevada firefighter

The funeral services for Donovan Artie Garcia Jr. will be held today, Friday, June 13. Mr. Garcia, the Assistant Chief of the Hungry Valley, Nevada fire department, died of a heart attack while participating in wildland fire training June 5. Services will be in Reno at 11 a.m. at the Hungry Valley Gymnasium, 9070 Eagle Canyon Drive.

MD-87 air tanker makes first drops

Erickson Aero Tanker’s two MD-87 air tankers, T-101 and T-105, made numerous drops on the Two Bulls Fire near Bend, Oregon shortly after they became certified and reported for duty. Wallowa.com has an article in which they quote pilot Brent Conner:

“I mean, I always wanted to be flying propeller planes, so this is new for me, and for most of us in this business,” he said.

“We can hold it in check, as we did with this fire, for about two days with retardant,” he said. “That gave them enough time to get the other flank taken care of.”

While it’s a job he’s done countless times before, it was Conner’s first weekend in real wildfire action with the Aero Tanker.

“It was a little nerve-wracking, actually,” he said. “We hadn’t been on a fire yet, the fire’s only 15 miles away. We barely had time to get the airplane cleaned up and we were already putting the flaps down, slowing down and getting ready to go.”

More information about the MD-87s is at Fire Aviation.

Reward for information about Two Bulls Fire

And speaking of the Two Bulls Fire at Bend, Oregon, the reward for information leading to a conviction of the person or persons responsible for setting the 6,908-acre fire has increased to $31,500. Anyone with information that could help identify suspects in the fire is asked to contact the Crime Stoppers Tip Line at 1-877-876-8477 (TIPS).

Hot pink may be the new color of fire retardant

The Missoula Technology Development Center is testing new colors for the fire retardant that is dropped by air tankers and helicopters. Below are excerpts from KPAX:

Over the last three years, some pilots have been complaining that the bright orange retardant is hard to see. “Particularly in late season when we’ve got grasses and trees that start turning color,” said Zylstra. With that concern, researchers at the US Forest Service’s Technology and Development Center in Missoula began looking into a solution, potentially a hot pink colored slurry. “So we run a product through a variety of different tests in our lab before it’s used out in the field,” said Zylstra.

[...]

The first batch of the hot pink slurry will be tested at four air tanker bases in California in regions predicted to have busy firefighting season.

Helitack crews train in Idaho

MagicValley.com has an article about U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management helitack crews training for the upcoming wildfire season.

Austin, Texas to get wildfire detection system

The Austin City Council voted to purchase a system of sensors mounted on towers that can detect smoke. The approval will allow the installation of two towers which will be tested for a year. At the end of the year they may decide to expand the system. In 2013, West Lake Hills, a community near Austin, also approved the acquisition of a similar system. It can detect smoke within 6 miles by rotating their sensors, completing a 360-degree rotation every 8 to 12 minutes, during which it takes images, analyzes, and then transmits those images for secondary analysis. If possible fire events are detected, the system alerts fire authorities.

Hotshots assist with prescribed fire on military base

The Laguna Hot Shots, based at Descanso, California, helped conduct a prescribed fire at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar on Thursday north of San Diego. Below is an excerpt from an article at 10News:

As a formation of Marine FA/18′s passed overhead to land at MCAS Miramar, members of the Laguna Hotshot crew were setting fire to the east side of the base.

The prescribed burn, as it’s called, is part of an annual brush management system put in place after the 2003 wildfire.

“After it burned more than 17,000 acres, the Cedar Fire really opened our eyes to a strong brush management program at the air station,” said Miramar Fire Operations Chief Paul Thompkins.

Construction begins on firefighter memorial in Prescott

Construction has started on a memorial in a cemetery in Prescott, Arizona for the members of the Granite Mountain Hotshots that were killed while fighting the Yarnell Hill Fire on June 30, 2013.

Below is an excerpt from KJZZ.org:

Construction is starting on a cemetery memorial for 19 firefighters killed in the Yarnell Hill wildfire, nearly a year after the fire started near Prescott. Each firefighter will have a plot and a bronze grave marker at the state-owned Pioneers’ Home Cemetery in Prescott. The plots are surrounded by a two-foot wall where mourners can sit.

Officials say 10 of the Granite Mountain Hotshot firefighters are already buried there. They say there’s room for family members to be buried alongside them.

The state designated a new section of the cemetery for the hotshots and charged $100 per grave site, instead of the usual $900.

 

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Wildfire in Texas destroys 75 homes

Map Double Diamond Fire

Map showing the location of the Double Diamond Fire in the panhandle of Texas.

(Updated at 11:10 a.m. CDT, May 13, 2014)

Firefighters have stopped the spread of the Double Diamond Fire near Fritch, Texas and are mopping up the remaining hot spots. A more accurate assessment of the damage revealed that the fire destroyed 156 structures, at least 89 of which were homes, Texas Forest Service spokesman Troy Duchneaux said late Monday.

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(Originally published at 11:04 a.m. CDT, May 12, 2014)

The Double Diamond wildfire in the Texas panhandle has destroyed about 75 homes 30 miles northeast of Amarillo, but as of Monday morning the fire is 75 percent contained, according to Fritch chief of police Monte Leggett. The fire, approximately 1,200 acres in size, forced hundreds of the town’s residents to evacuate.

At the time the fire was reported at 5 p.m. Sunday, a weather station four miles northeast of the fire recorded winds of 20 mph gusting up to 39 mph, a temperature of 96 degrees, and a relative humidity of 7 percent, conditions very conducive to rapid fire spread. Today at 10:35 a.m. CDT, weather conditions have moderated significantly in favor of the firefighters — 51 degrees, wind of 16 mph gusting to 25, and a relative humidity of 52 percent.

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Weather radar detects wildfire smoke in Texas

The San Anglelo, Texas office of the National Weather Service published some interesting messages yesterday on Twitter.

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Fire briefing, April 26, 2013

California firefighter entrapped and injured

A Lieutenant with Tulare County in California suffered minor burns to his hands when his patrol unit became stuck in a ditch as a vegetation fire approached. Working by himself, he attempted to knock down the fire using the pump and hose on the truck but was unsuccessful. He was transported to a hospital complaining of difficulty breathing in addition to the burn injuries.

Texas legislature considers bills to promote prescribed fire

The Texas legislature is considering two bills that would make it easier in some cases for landowners to use prescribed fire as a tool. SB 702 would establish standards for prescribed burners, as well as education and insurance for those conducting the prescribed fires. A second bill, SB 764, would limit prescribed burning liability on government-owned agricultural lands, making it easier for government agencies to use prescribed fire, even under a burn ban. Both bills passed unanimously in Senate committees.

Colorado’s risk assessment tool for residents

The Colorado State Forest Service has an online tool available for residents which allows them to explore wildfire risk levels within a 1/2-mile radius of a home, or any other point of interest on the map.

Steam engine starts fires in England

steam engine

North Yorkshire Moors Railway photo

A steam-powered train started three vegetation fires in North Yorkshire County on Sunday in the United Kingdom. The fires burned about 19 acres in a remote area that was difficult for firefighters to access. Some of them hitched a ride on a train from Goathland that was packed with tourists. On Tuesday the train started another fire in Beck Hole. Weather has prevented the North Yorkshire Moors Railway from conducting their usual prescribed fires along the railway.

MAFFS annual training

MAFFS 2 training

A C-130 Hercules from the 302nd Airlift Wing drops a load of water April 22, 2013 near Fairplay, Colo during training. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Nathan Federico) Click to enlarge.

Two of the four military units that provide military C-130 aircraft configured to serve as air tankers are conducting their annual training, certification, and recertification. Peterson Air Force base in Colorado Springs had their’s April 19-23 and Warren Air Force Base in Cheyenne has chosen the week of May 5. The military Modular Airborne FireFighting System (MAFFS) can help fill a need for a surge capacity when all of the privately owned contract air tankers are committed.

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Summary of the explosion-related firefighter fatalities in West, Texas

As you probably know, many people were injured and killed in the small town of West, Texas Wednesday as a result of a very large explosion at the Central Texas fertilizer plant. The investigation into the cause of the incident began on Friday, but the suspected culprit at this early stage is a highly-explosive fertilizer, ammonium nitrate, which was being stored in large quantities on site.

Our sincere condolences go out to all of the families and departments affected by this tragedy. Facts about the exact number of fatalities and injuries have been slow to emerge, but it appears that approximately 200 were injured and about 14 were killed. Today FirefighterCloseCalls put together a summary of the firefighter and EMS line of duty deaths that occurred:

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“As of now, it appears that there were 12 deaths related to the fire & EMS operations on the scene.

  • 5 Firefighters with West FD.
  • 2 Firefighters with Abbott FD/West EMS.
  • 1 Firefighter with Merknel FD/West EMS.
  • 1 Firefighter with Bruceville Eddy FD/West EMS.
  • 1 Dallas FD Captain who lived in West went to the scene to assist.
  • 2 Civilians who have ties to the West FD were helping on the scene.

(The 4 Firefighter/EMT’s were at the West EMS Station taking an EMT class, saw the fire and went to assist.)

NOTE: Preliminary plans indicate that there will be a memorial service on Thursday, April 25, at the Ferrell Center – Baylor University in Waco, Texas at 1400 hours.”

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