The desert changes one year after the Powerline Fire in Big Bend NP

Above: Charred Pitaya cactus in Big Bend National Park during the Powerline Fire, February 2, 2017. NPS photo.

A year ago the Powerline Fire burned 1,792-acres near the headquarters of Big Bend National Park in south Texas. Since then a tireless camera has been taking photos of a particular area. When they are put together in a time-lapse fashion the resurgence of the vegetation is enough to convince anyone to stop using the word “destroyed” when describing the effects of a wildfire.

I almost decided not to post the video below because unfortunately the resolution of the photos is very, very poor, but check it out for yourself.

Strong wind causes Coyote Fire to awaken

(UPDATED at 8:26 a.m. MDT May 25, 2016)

Coyote Fire map 3-D
Map, in 3-D, showing the perimeter of the Coyote Fire at 10 p.m. May 24 in red, and in yellow, the perimeter from May 16.

Pushed by strong winds over the last couple of days the Coyote Fire in Guadalupe Mountains National Park has grown by approximately 1,770 acres to about 13,590 acres. The fire started May 7 in the west Texas park and spread across the border into New Mexico.

After being downgraded from a Type 2 fire to a Type 3, it was escalated back to a Type 2 after the fire began spreading again on May 22. Richard Nieto’s Type 2 incident management team arrived May 24.

The area is under a Red Flag Warning on Wednesday.

The National Park Service has not provided any information on InciWeb about the fire since 5 p.m. on May 23.

Coyote Fire map
Map showing the perimeter of the Coyote Fire at 10 p.m. May 24 in red, and in yellow, the perimeter from May 16.

KRWG has an article about a fire crew comprised of veterans being assigned to the fire. Below is an excerpt:

New Mexico State Forestry is sending two crews from the Returning Heroes Wildland Firefighters program to aid wildfire suppression efforts at the Guadalupe Mountains National Park in Texas.  One crew arrived at the park today and a second is pre-positioned in Ruidoso in Lincoln County.


The Returning Heroes Wildland Firefighter Program was created to provide veterans of the U.S. Armed Forces with training and work opportunities to fight wildland fires. Previously a pilot program, Returning Heroes was made permanent and signed into legislation by Governor Susana Martinez in 2014.


(UPDATED at 12:52 p.m. MDT May 24, 2016)

While we are waiting for an update from the National Park Service about the Coyote Fire in New Mexico and Texas, we’ll post this graphic showing the wind gusts out of the southwest and west at weather stations in and near in Guadalupe Mountains National Park.

Coyote Fire wind gusts
Coyote Fire wind gusts at 12:48 p.m. May 24, 2016.

The updated forecast for the fire area for Tuesday is for southwest winds of 22 gusting to 32, 87 degrees, and a relative humidity of 7 percent. Wednesday will be about the same, except the sustained wind speed will be 32 mph with gusts as high as 47 mph. Strong winds are in the forecast through Saturday.


(UPDATED at 5:25 p.m. MDT, May 23, 2016)

map coyote fire
The yellow, red, and brown dots represent heat detected by a satellite on the Coyote FIre in the 24 hours ending at 2:41 p.m CET May 23, 2016, 2016. Click to see larger version.

Pushed by very strong winds, the Coyote Fire in Guadalupe Mountains National Park in west Texas flared up again, prompting the park to re-escalate the management structure back to a higher qualified Type 2 incident management team. Originally there was an initial attack organization running the fire, then a Type 3 team, then Type 2, then Type 3, and now it is going back to a Type 2 team. Transition periods from one team to another can be dangerous.

Strong winds on Sunday “pushed fire further past Bush Mountain ridge toward Guadalupe Peak” according to a news release by the park. We believe this area is on the southwest side of the fire and on the map is above the word “Park” in “Guadalupe Mtns. National Park”.

The weather forecast predicts very strong afternoon winds to continue through Thursday. Sustained winds during the daylight hours will be in the 25 to 35 mph range with gusts from 35 to 50 mph. The minimum relative humidity will be from 6 to 10 percent, and no rain is expected the rest of this week.

Only 10 percent of the fire is being fully suppressed. The other 90 percent is a combination of Confine, Monitor, and Point Protection strategies. The fire has been burning for 17 days. The longer a fire is allowed to spread without suppression, the greater the chance of encountering a wind event that could change the complexion of the incident.


(UPDATED at 5:30 p.m. MDT May 16, 2016)

Coyote Fire map May 16, 2016
The National Park Service released this fire progression map on May 16.

On May 16 the National Park Service said they are “actively monitoring” the Coyote fire, which has burned 11,820 acres in western Texas and southeast New Mexico.

Yesterday: There was limited new growth on the fire yesterday. However, fire managers continued to actively monitor the fire as some heat remained in interior pockets of unburned forest debris and brush.

Today: Red flag weather conditions, including strong winds and low humidities, are predicted to develop over the fire area today. Crews will continue to monitor the fire for any wind driven flare-ups. Some interior smoldering is likely to continue, producing light, visible smoke.

“Although there was limited growth yesterday, we will remain vigilant,” said Eric Brunnemann, Superintendent of the Guadalupe Mountains National Park. “This is still an active fire area and may remain so for some time.”

Continue reading “Strong wind causes Coyote Fire to awaken”

Mexican citizens fighting America’s fires

Above: a screen grab from The Atlantic’s documentary about a fire crew from Mexico that assists a U.S. National Park.

The Atlantic produced this seven-minute documentary about Mexican citizens, Los Diablos, that help Big Bend National Park in southern Texas conduct prescribed fires and suppress wildfires. The crew assisted with the Powerline Fire that burned about 1,800 acres in Big Bend in February.

Here is how The Atlantic describes the video:

In Texas, Mexican firefighters are saving the Rio Grande. Known as Los Diablos, or “the devils,” the elite firefighting crew is hired by the National Park Service to fight wildfires and conduct controlled burns along the border. The river provides water to more than 5 million people in the U.S. and Mexico, and sustaining its flow is vital. The water in the Rio Grande is already 150% over-allocated. In this short documentary, The Atlantic follows the group’s conservation efforts to rid the river of giant cane, an invasive plant that narrows the river and threatens native plants and fish.

Below are more screen grabs from the video.

Los Diablos Los Diablos

Thanks and a tip of the hat go out to Bill.

Texas firefighters busier than last year

The Texas Forest Service released this graphic showing that more acres have burned this year compared to the same period in 2015. The brown (or orange) bars and line are acres burned in 2016, while blue represents 2015.

HERE is a larger version of the graphic.

Red Flag Warnings, February 8, 2016


The National Weather Service has issued Red Flag Warnings for areas in Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas and California.

In the California counties of Ventura and Los Angeles 20 to 35 mph northeast winds with gusts of 40 to 50 are in the forecast until 6 p.m. tonight. The Texas and Oklahoma areas under Red Flag Warnings from noon until 6 p.m. CST tonight will experience relative humidities in the teens with wind gusts out of the north to northwest at around 30. Firefighters in south-central Kansas should expect 20 to 30 mph northwest winds gusting to 45 mph along with a minimum humidity of 30 percent from noon until 7 p.m. CST tonight.

The map was current as of 8:45 a.m. MDT on Monday. Red Flag Warnings can change throughout the day as the National Weather Service offices around the country update and revise their forecasts and maps. For the most current data visit this NWS site.

Evaluation of fatal explosion in West, Texas

Above image: A screen grab from the video produced by the U.S. Chemical Safety Board about the explosion in West, Texas in 2013.

You may remember the terrible fire and explosion that injured 260 people and killed 15 in the small town of West, Texas April 17, 2013. Ten firefighters died. The incident occurred at the West Fertilizer Company when 30 tons of fertilizer grade ammonium nitrate exploded after being heated by a fire at the storage and distribution facility.

The U.S. Chemical Safety Board just released this excellent video with professional quality animations explaining how it occurred. They also point out some training, zoning, and regulatory issues that if implemented may have prevented a large-scale catastrophe.