Teenager accused of starting Eagle Creek Fire likely to get probation

The fire burned over 48,000 acres in Columbia River Gorge in September, 2017

Above:  Photo of the Eagle Creek Fire posted September 5, 2017.

(Originally published at 12:53 p.m. MT February 10, 2018)

February 16 is the sentencing date for the boy who was 15 years old when he allegedly started the Eagle Creek Fire near the Washington/Oregon border in the Columbia River Gorge. A witness reported seeing the Vancouver juvenile throw a “smoke bomb” into vegetation near the Eagle Creek trail on September 2, 2017. In less than 24 hours the fire grew to 3,000 acres and to 20,000 acres by the morning of September 5.

Eventually burning 48,831 acres, it required the extended closure of Interstate 84, forced hundreds to evacuate, and poured smoke into Portland.

Eagle Creek Fire
A view across the Eagle Creek suspension bridge after a support cable pulled free during or after the fire. The bridge and cables hang near the stream. It will probably be removed before it causes more resource damage.

Because the boy is a juvenile, Oregon Live reports, the options for sentencing include years of probation, probably less than eight days of detention, or about a year in a juvenile correctional facility.

If the judge requires restitution for the costs of suppressing and rehabbing the fire, which are reportedly more than $18 million, the boy will likely only be able to pay a small fraction of the total.

Eagle Creek Fire
The Oneonta Tunnel burned during the Eagle Creek Fire. Rocks are falling from the burned slopes above onto Hwy. 30 and the trail, creating a hazard that will grow worse with winter rains.
Eagle Creek Fire
There is some fire damage near the Multnomah Falls, but the main falls area was mostly spared. Rocks falling in the vicinity of the falls and lodge are concerns.

Articles on Wildfire Today tagged “Eagle Creek Fire”.

(All photos are from InciWeb)

Water tender rollover, Jolly Mountain Fire in Washington

Report released

Water tender rollover
Water tender rollover on the Jolly Mountain Fire in Washington. Photo from PNW RLS report.

A brief lessons-learned report has been released for the rollover of a water tender that occurred September 11 on the Jolly Mountain Fire in central Washington.

Here is an excerpt from the document:

On night shift, at approximately 1845, while driving to the fire line just a short distance outside of fire camp on a county road in a semi-rural area, a cooperator Water Tender drifted to the right-hand side of this narrow road that had a minimal shoulder. According to witness statements, the Water Tender was traveling approximately 34 miles per hour.

The Water Tender driver said that he felt the rear tires move off of the pavement onto the gravel shoulder. The driver did not try to correct for fear that this action would cause the Water Tender to rollover. The driver believes that when both rear tires went off of the pavement, this action pulled the truck into the ditch—causing it to rollover and land on its side. The Water Tender was full of water. During this rollover, the Water Tender’s axles became separated from the vehicle and four sections of private fence were destroyed.

Members of the public who were following the Water Tender were first on scene and called 911. They acknowledged that the driver—who was wearing his seatbelt at the time of the accident—was alert, oriented, and had minor facial lacerations. (This Water Tender was mobilized through the state and did not go through the inspection process during check in.)

The Rapid Lesson Sharing report released by the Wildland Fire Lessons Learned Center, other than the facts above, only discusses the management of the incident within an incident, and does not cover causes, prevention, or mention the frequency of rollovers involving water tenders and fire engines. There may be a more complete analysis completed in the coming months. At Wildfire Today there are over three dozen articles tagged “rollover”.

Our hope is that the agencies that respond to wildfires will place more emphasis on training drivers and acquire vehicles that are less likely to rollover and that have a cab strong enough to protect the occupants during a crash.

Update on Eagle Creek Fire in Columbia River Gorge

Eagle Creek Fire Columbia River Gorge Oregon

According to the Incident Management Team, the Eagle Creek Fire in the Columbia River Gorge on the Oregon/Washington border is nowhere near contained — they are calling it 46 percent.

The fire started on the south side of the river September 2, allegedly by a teenager playing with fireworks, and grew rapidly on September 5, spotting across the river into Washington near Archer Mountain.

Cooler temperatures and higher humidity levels helped slow fire growth over last week or so, and as of September 23rd, it is 48,668 acres.

These excellent photos were taken by the Incident Management Team this weekend. They show vast areas of burned trees but also large swaths of green canopy.

Eagle Creek Fire Columbia River Gorge Oregon Eagle Creek Fire Columbia River Gorge Oregon Eagle Creek Fire Columbia River Gorge Oregon


Wildfires persist in the Cascades and Northern Rockies

Today there are 71 large uncontained wildfires in the United States.

Above: the red and orange dots on the map represent heat on wildfires detected by a satellite in the 24 hours before 7:30 a.m. MDT September 11, 2017. Heat found before that is not shown.

(Originally published at 7:45 a.m. MDT September 11, 2017)

In spite of the hurricanes impacting the southeast United States, the wildfires in the Cascade Range and the Northern Rockies persevere in Montana, Idaho, Oregon, Washington, and Northern California.

Off and on over the last week they have slowed as clouds and even some scattered very light showers passed over the areas, but the National Interagency Fire Center reported today there are 71 active large fires, 32 that are being suppressed and 39 that are being suppressed only where needed to protect property.

So far this year 8.2 million acres have burned in the United States, which is 46 percent higher than the 5.6 million average to this date.

Red Flag Warning Northwest Montana
Red Flag Warning for Northwest Montana, September 11, 2017. There is a Fire Weather Watch due to “abundant lightning on dry fuels” predicted Tuesday afternoon for areas in northern California and south-central Oregon.

The weather for Monday and Tuesday could be conducive to fire growth, especially in Northwest Montana where a Red Flag Warning is in effect Monday. But Wednesday through Saturday will bring a chance of rain to Idaho and Western Montana, while the forecast for Northern California, Oregon, and Washington looks dry this week.

Weather forecast Wednesday September 13
Weather forecast for Wednesday September 13, 2017. Weather.com

Satellite detects heat from wildfires, September 7

(Originally published at 6:36 p.m. MDT September 7, 2017.)

Large wildfires Washington Oregon northern California
Large wildfires currently active in Washington, Oregon, and northern California. The red, yellow, and orange dots represent heat detected by a satellite in the 24 hour period ending at 10 a.m. MDT September 6.

These maps show heat that was detected by a satellite on wildfires in the northwestern United States during the 24-hour period ending at 6 p.m. Thursday September 7, 2017. We did not include heat from the 6 days previous to the last 24 hours.

If there was heat found, it means the fires are still active, however some of it could be from proactive burning by firefighters to secure the area between firelines and the edge of the fires.

map wildfires idaho montana
Large wildfires currently active in Montana and Idaho. The red, yellow, and orange dots represent heat detected by a satellite in the 24 hour period ending at 6 p.m. MDT September 7.

Military mobilized to help fight wildfires

Above: Personal Protective Equipment is distributed to soldiers at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in preparation for deployment to the Umpqua North Fire in Oregon.

(Originally published at 7:53 a.m. MDT September 7r, 2017)

With the National Preparedness Level at 5, the highest level, the National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC) in Boise, Idaho has mobilized active duty military personnel to serve as firefighters to assist with wildfire suppression efforts.

The National Multi-Agency Coordinating Group (NMAC) at NIFC requested the Department of Defense to provide 200 active duty military personnel to assist with firefighting efforts. The DoD has approved the request and identified the 1-2 Stryker Brigade Combat Team (23rd Brigade Engineer Battalion and 1st Battalion 23rd Infantry Regiment), 7th Infantry Division at Joint Base Lewis-McChord (JBLM) in Washington to provide the active duty military personnel. The Soldiers will be organized into ten crews of 20 persons each, all of which will be sent to the Umpqua North Complex which is burning on approximately 30,000 acres on the Umpqua National Forest, approximately 50 miles east of Roseburg, Oregon.

“We are committed to continuing to do everything we can to provide the firefighters, aircraft, engines, and other wildfire suppression assets that Incident Commanders need to protect lives, property, and valuable natural and cultural resources,” said Dan Buckley, Chair of NMAC. “The U.S. military is a key partner in wildland firefighting and we greatly appreciate their willingness to provide us with Soldiers to serve as firefighters as well as aircraft to help with wildfire suppression efforts.”

Their training, which began September 6, is expected to conclude by September 9th, and the Soldiers are expected to begin working on a wildfire on September 10th. While on a wildfire, the Soldiers will be accompanied by experienced wildland fire strike team leaders and crew bosses from wildland fire management agencies.

The training will consist of one day of classroom training at JBLM and two days of field training when the Soldiers reach the wildfire that they will be assigned to.

The last time that active duty military personnel were mobilized to serve as wildland firefighters was in August, 2015 when 200 soldiers from the 17th Field Artillery Brigade based out of JBLM were mobilized to work on wildfires in Washington for 30 days. The last time before that was in 2006. Currently, several states – including Oregon, Montana, and Washington – have mobilized National Guard helicopters and personnel to serve as wildland firefighters to assist with wildfire suppression efforts.

army soldiers Onata Fire
File photo. Part of the Army’s assignment on the Onata Fire in 2015 was to assist putting in a hose lay as part of preparation for a planned burnout. Robert “Hippie” Horn (left) of North Dakota Forest Service hands rolls of hose to soldiers to distribute along a road. Photo by Tom Story,  August, 2015.