Rainfall in western states slows wildfire season in many areas

Rainfall last 2 weeks washington oregon
Rainfall last 2 weeks, Washington and Oregon

Rainfall over the last two weeks has slowed or in some cases, ended the wildfire season in some areas.

On October 19 we ran the numbers for the accumulated precipitation for the last 14 days in the western states. These maps show amounts that exceeded 0.05 inches at some of the Interagency Remote Automatic Weather Stations (RAWS).

Washington, Oregon, and northern California have received a good soaking and I would imagine that local fire officials may be declaring an end to the fire season. Of course this is not unusual for these areas this time of the year, and some locations had already seen their season end. But what IS unusual, is the high amount of moisture that occurred in just two weeks.

You can click on the images to see larger versions.

Rainfall last 2 weeks, northern California
Rainfall last 2 weeks, northern California
Rainfall last 2 weeks central California
Rainfall last 2 weeks, central California

Continue to see maps for the other western states.
Continue reading “Rainfall in western states slows wildfire season in many areas”

Hicks Creek Fire south of Cedar City, Utah

Above: Hicks Creek Fire October 17, 2016. Screen grab from Inciweb video.

The Hicks Creek Fire has burned about 1,100 acres four miles south of Cedar City Utah. The cause is under investigation but a private landowner checking on a smoldering pile of logging debris initially reported it.

From Inciweb:

Firefighters responded at that time and based on dozer lines and other containment features, planned to suppress the fire beginning the following morning. High winds after midnight caused the fire to escape containment resulting in rapid growth and a call for resources.

Strong winds are expected to continue through Tuesday.

The main reason we wanted to tell you about the Hicks Creek Fire was to show you this video. The narrator uses Google Earth to show us around the fire. This is a great idea, and was even enhanced with embedded video and still photos.

Map Hicks Creek Fire
Map of the Hicks Creek Fire at 9:46 p.m. MDT October 17, 2016.

Former firefighter reports sexism on a Utah hotshot crew

Hazing resulted in her seeking another line of work.

After working for one season as a rookie on a 21-person firefighting hotshot crew in Utah, Melissa Lewis decided not to return the following season.

She had been excited to begin the job, and felt that having recently hiked 2,178.2 miles of the Appalachian Trail solo and stepping up her physical training would make her a good fit on the crew.

Below is an excerpt from an article she wrote for the Huffington Post, published last month:

…Unfortunately, the job was not what I hoped it would be. The work itself was much as I had imagined and trained for, but the behavior of my co-workers was not. I quickly learned that the hazing of rookies is a common practice. A male firefighter who recently had his rookie year told me that because he had been hazed, it was now his turn to haze me. Hazing lasted all season for us three “newbs.” For instance, we three were expected to rush to do the lowliest of tasks and faced verbal abuse if we were slow.

On top of that, because so many of them derided anything feminine in correlation to our work, I felt I had to prove over and over again why I, as a woman, deserved to be there. In discussing it with another firefighter, he agreed that it wasn’t fair, but he had accepted it as “just the way things are” in this male-dominated field.

As the season progressed, so did my feelings of isolation and depression. Some of my co-workers routinely made statements belittling and objectifying women in front of me. While time has erased many of the words, I haven’t forgotten how they made me feel. They further fueled my downward spiral; never have I felt so low about myself simply for being female…

I am not aware of any hazing on the two hotshot crews I was on, but have heard stories in recent years about rookies being tied up with duct or fiber tape, and “blanket parties” where the victim is covered with a blanket while he is beaten by multiple firefighters who are too cowardly to show their faces. These are assaults and could result in jail time if reported to law enforcement.

In April and May of this year there were two examples of rookie firefighters on their first or second day on the job being hospitalized with conditions that are sometimes fatal. Both of the incidents, Rhabdo and heat stroke, occurred after strenuous physical training that may have been appropriate for a seasoned, experienced hotshot firefighter, but apparently was not feasible for a person that walked in off the street.

The hazing reported by Ms. Lewis and the careless disregard for the physical safety of the two new employees that suffered very serious injuries, show what may be too common in the ranks of wildland firefighters. If the agencies want to encourage people, and especially women, to apply for jobs and eventually make a career choice of being a firefighter, these examples and the facts that were revealed in the September 22 Congressional hearing about sexual harassment and hostile work environments will make it very difficult to recruit and retain quality personnel.

Do you think any women who watched that hearing will enthusiastically apply for a job as wildland firefighter with the federal agencies?

I have always felt that the performance and behavior of a crew is a reflection of the personality and ethics of the supervisor; in the case of a hotshot crew, the Crew Superintendent. And if others higher in the chain of command look the other way and become enablers of a hostile work environment, it can build to a point where good people quit and in very rare cases, a crew is disbanded.

Rarely in the wildland fire service or land management agencies are the perpetrators or enablers held accountable for their actions. Too often they are scolded or transferred, much like the Catholic priests accused of assaults on altar boys.

During the Congressional hearing last month the National Park Service’s Deputy Director for Operations, Michael Reynolds, testified that he was not aware of anyone in his agency being fired for sexual harassment. However, a week after the hearing, the Superintendent of Yosemite National Park who was identified at the hearing as contributing to a hostile work environment (not sexual harassment), resigned after being told he was being transferred from California to Denver, Colorado.

Time-lapse video of Alcorn Fire in Utah

Bill Blevins shot this fascinating time lapse of the Alcorn Fire on September 11, 2016 from a point 3 miles southwest of the fire. He said it was captured at one frame every three seconds.

The fire burned 730 acres 25 miles southwest of Provo, Utah. Firefighters expect full containment today, September 13.
Thanks and a tip of the hat go out to Jim.

West Antelope fire spreads overnight, sending smoke over Salt Lake City

West Antelope Fire 412 am July 23, 2016 (1)
A heat map of the West Antelope fire, captured at 4:12 a.m on Saturday, July 23, 2016, two days after the fire’s start.
Since Friday, Salt Lake City residents have been watching smoke billowing from Antelope Island, where a wildfire grew exponentially overnight.

Lightning is believed to be cause of the fire, which ignited Thursday night in the Utah State Park northwest of Salt Lake City. The fire grew from a few hundred acres on Friday to around 8,000 acres by Saturday morning, said Shayne Ward, a public information officer.

“That’s coming from some of the resources on the ground,” Ward said of the estimated size. An aircraft has yet to fly over the fire to take a more exact reading of its size, Ward said on Saturday.

Meanwhile, several Bureau of Land Management Engines, a dozer, a helicopter and two Single Engine Airtankers are helping crews contain the blaze. Officials have requested a larger airtanker, which is on its way, Ward said.

Fire and smoke were visible from Salt Lake City on Friday night.

Officials from the Utah Department of Natural Resources posted on Twitter to warn area residents to keep their drones out of the skies while firefighting aircraft headed to Antelope Island.

On a state-run website, utahfireinfo.gov, officials listed seven active wildfires in the state.

Check back on wildfiretoday.com for more updates on this fire. 

Utah Wildfires, July 23, 2016

Utah develops plan to reduce the impacts of catastrophic wildfires

Utah fire strategyThe state of Utah has developed a plan to mitigate and prevent the adverse impacts of what they call “catastrophic wildfires”.  A 25-person steering committee wrote the document which identifies 14 statewide pilot projects
designed to offer the greatest positive impact on community
safety, water supply, utility and transportation
infrastructure, and damage to waterways and reservoir
storage. The projects include public education, improved address and road signage, the acquisition of more fire apparatus, and various types of fuel treatments. The estimated cost of the 14 projects is $129 million.

The plan is titled Catastrophic Wildfire Reduction Strategy. I’m sure that “catastrophic” describes wildfire, rather than the strategy.

Considering what has been going on in Utah during the last couple of years I was surprised to not see anything in the plan about taking over federal land to turn it over to the state or private companies.

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