Bushfire threatens community near Perth, Australia

Whiteman Park Fire, Perth, Australia

In spite of these very impressive photos of a bushfire in Australia, the reports we have seen indicate that it started Sunday morning and had been knocked down but not contained by nightfall — no homes had been lost at that time. The fire was fought by several fire crews and water-dropping helicopters. It burned at least 140 hectares (346 acres) northeast of Perth in Western Australia.

Perth fire

Bushfire northeast of Perth in Western Australia. Photo by Cate White.

Whiteman Park Fire, Perth, Australia Whiteman Park Fire, Perth, Australia Whiteman Park Fire, Perth, Australia


Wildfire briefing, December 4, 2014

Fires in U.S. and Australia determined to be caused by power lines

Map of Pfeiffer Fire

Map of Pfeiffer Fire at Big Sur, California, looking northwest, showing the fire perimeter at 10:34 p.m. PST, December 18, 2013. (Click to enlarge)

Two fires, in Western Australia and California, have recently been determined to be caused by electrical power lines.

The Pfeiffer Fire at Big Sur, California started on December 16, 2013 and burned 34 homes and 917 acres in the coastal community 23 miles south of Monterey. The U.S. Forest Service reported on Wednesday:

The cause of the fire was determined to be high resistance heating of the Pfeiffer Ridge Mutual Water Company electrical control wires immediately adjacent to a steel water pipe line. The high resistance heating of the electrical control wires created a competent ignition source for this fire. The first fuel ignited was accumulated dried leaves and redwood needles.

The other fire was in Western Australia. Below is an excerpt from an article in Western Australia Today:

A rotted power pole infested with termites has been blamed for the Parkerville bushfire which destroyed more than 40 homes this year. But EnergySafety director Ken Bowron said the organisation would not take action against Western Power or the landowner.

The EnergySafety report into the cause of the fire on January 12 was released on Thursday and found the bushfire originated from a private pole at 180 Granite Road, Parkerville.

“There was no evidence to suggest the work performed by Western Power to replace the surface aerial seven months before the incident, or the work to replace the adjacent pole two day before the bushfires, causes the PA pole to fail,” Mr Bowron said.

“Based on the available evidence and legal advice, EnergySafety will not be taking any legal action against any party. The clear finding of the report is that the pole failed because it was rotten and had been infested by termites.

Hearing in Prescott on Granite Mountain Hotshots’ retroactive retirement benefits

From the Daily Courier in Prescott, Arizona:

Now nearly a year and a half after 19 Granite Mountain Hotshots died fighting the Yarnell Hill wildfire, the matter of retroactive retirement benefits continues to play out at Prescott City Hall.

With its earlier decision granting retirement benefits to the family of fallen Hotshot Andrew Ashcraft still under appeal, the local fire retirement board will take on two new retirement cases today.

During a 9 a.m. Thursday hearing at Prescott City Hall, the Prescott Board of the Public Safety Personnel Retirement System Board will turn to the retirement claims by the families of Sean Misner and William Warneke, and whether the scope of the actual hearings on the claims should be limited…

Tree ring researcher at the University of Arizona honored

Thomas Swetnam

Thomas W. Swetnam with tree-ring specimens in the UA’s Laboratory of Tree-Ring Research. (Photo courtesy of Michaela Kane/Arizona Daily Wildcat)

Thomas W. Swetnam, Regents’ Professor of dendrochronology and director of the University of Arizona Laboratory of Tree-Ring Research, has been named a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the world’s largest general scientific society.

As part of the Section on Geology and Geography, Swetnam was elected as an AAAS Fellow for his investigations of tree rings as a record of past changes in climate, allowing scientists to predict future forest-fire frequencies in the Southwest.

Mr. Swetnam specializes in analyzing climate changes through history and prehistory, dangerous insect outbreaks and forest fires. In recent years, enormous blazes, some 10 times greater than those that firefighters have been accustomed to seeing in California and Arizona, have forced scholars to attempt to understand this phenomenon. The conclusions from Swetnam’s studies of these so-called megafires and their alarming size, duration and frequency have made the scientific community, governments throughout the world and media to pay close attention. Swetnam has appeared on programs such as PBS’ “NewsHour” and CBS’ “60 Minutes.”


Wildfire briefing, November 11, 2014

Lightning injures three people in Australia

Lightning in Western Australia struck and injured three people, including a person near his home who was believed to be a volunteer firefighter. According to a neighbor the man later walked to an ambulance but was holding his arm. A spokesperson for the Department of Fire and Emergency Services said the man fell to the ground after being hit.

“He had an initial check and was cleared, suffering a little anxiety, and was transported to hospital,” the spokesman said.

Firefighters in Victoria contained the spread of a fire that came within 250 meters of properties in the state’s north-east on Monday.

U.S. Representative activated with the National Guard in response to volcano lava flow in Hawaii

Tulsi Gabbard national guard

Tulsi Gabbard working in the Command Cell at Joint Task Force Response in Pahoa, Hawaii. (Photo: SSG Katie Gray/DVIDS)

The lava from the Kilauea volcano in Hawaii continues to spread and ignite vegetation that it contacts, but for now the threat of significant wildfire has decreased

U.S. Representative Tulsi Gabbard completed her State Active Duty orders with the Hawaii Army National Guard last week in response to the lava flow.

The Congresswoman served as a military police captain in the command cell at Joint Task Force Response in Pahoa, assisting with personnel and logistics.

Gabbard worked with approximately 80 other National Guard soldiers and airmen working to patrol the area and assist the Hawaii Police Department with traffic control points.

Planes: Fire and Rescue released on DVD

planes fire and rescue

DisneyToon Studios has released the animated film Planes: Fire and Rescue on DVD. The movie about fire aviation hit theaters in July and had a domestic and overseas box office of $219 million. It was in the top five highest-grossing family films of the summer.


Wildfire briefing, January 13, 2014

One resident dead and 49 homes destroyed in Australian bushfire

One person collapsed and died on the roof of his house while spraying water to defend his home from a fire in the Perth hills of Western Australia on Sunday. The 62-year old man’s house was not damaged while the 650-hectare (1,606 acres) fire burned 49 others in the Shire of Mundaring. One resident tried to get back to their house on Monday afternoon and suffered burns to the hands and feet.

More information.

Three homes burn in Kansas wildfire

At least three homes burned Sunday in a large grass fire near the Kansas-Missouri border. The 600-acre fire was pushed by very strong winds which caused problems for the firefighters that responded from both Kansas and Missouri. Cherokee County officials said the fire may have been caused by a power line that failed due to the wind.

Wind speeds in Missouri and Kansas,  January 12, 2014

Wind speeds in Missouri and Kansas, January 12, 2014

Red Flag Warnings, January 13

Red Flag Warnings, January 13, 2014

Red Flag Warnings (red) and Fire Weather Watches (beige), January 13, 2014

Areas in southern California, Texas, Oklahoma, and Kansas are under Fire Weather Watches and Red Flag Warnings today.

UPDATE at 6:25 p.m. PST, January 13, 2014. The Red Flag Warning areas in California have grown:

Red Flag Warnings, California, 1-13-2014

More information.

2014 MAFFS Commander named

North Carolina resident Col. Charles D. Davis III will command the national military mission charged with combating wildland fires using C-130 aircraft outfitted with the Modular Airborne Fire Fighting System.

Col Charles D Davis III

Col. Charles D Davis III, USAF photo by Master Sgt. Patricia Moran

“MAFFS is a team effort,” said Davis, who also commands the Operations Group at the North Carolina Air National Guard’s 145th Airlift Wing based at Charlotte Douglas International Airport in Charlotte, N.C. “We protect lives and property from forest fires, and I’m proud to be a part of it.”

As commander of the Air Expeditionary Group Wildland Fire Fighting, Davis will lead three Air National Guard and one U.S. Air Force Reserve Command units that fly military C-130 aircraft and use them as aerial tankers. Headquartered in Boise, Idaho, the Group controls MAFFS operations nationwide at the direction of the U.S. Forest Service.

A U.S. Air Force master navigator with more than 5,300 hours of military flying time, Davis, of Weddington, N.C., has more than 1,000 hours of combat time earned supporting Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom. In civilian life, he is an Airbus A330 Flight Crew Training Instructor at U.S. Airways.

Arizona legislators consider bills related to hotshots’ deaths

State legislators in Arizona are considering bills that are related to wildfire management and the deaths of the 19 members of the Granite Mountain Hotshots. The firefighters were entrapped and killed on the Yarnell Hill Fire near Yarnell, Arizona on June 30, 2013.

  • The state organization responsible for managing the Yarnell Hill Fire is requesting a budget for the Arizona State Forestry Division that is nearly double what they received in the fiscal year that ends June 30.
  • A bill is being considered that would allow local governments to ban the sale of certain fireworks.
  • Another bill seeks to clarify what autopsy documents and photos are available to the public. County authorities refused to release autopsy reports for the Yarnell Hill firefighters.
  • Some legislators want the state to buy the state trust land where the hotshots died so it can be preserved as a memorial.
  • Legislators are considering helping the city of Prescott with its costs related to the hotshots’ deaths, but they may wait until the 100+ claims and/or lawsuits are settled before proposing anything specific.
  • They may propose legislation that would at least provide life insurance for public safety workers.

Type 2 helicopter contracts contested

WorldWind Helicopters has protested the contracts that were awarded for 31 Type 2 helicopters used to fight wildland fires. On December 17 the U.S. Forest Service announced exclusive use contracts for the award period that began December 17 and ends April 30, 2015 with options for three additional years. The solicitation was first announced on April 5, 2013 and took over eight months to complete.

More information.

Wing box replacements in the USFS C-130s

Coast Guard C-130H No 1714

Coast Guard C-130H No 1714, October, 2008. This is one of the seven C-130s being transferred to the U.S. Forest Service. Photo by PhantomPhan1974

The legislation that enabled the transfer of seven C-130H aircraft from the Coast Guard to the U.S. Forest Service to serve as air tankers required that the wing boxes be replaced and other maintenance be performed.

Fire Aviation has more information about the replacement of the wing boxes and other steps that must be taken to convert the C-130Hs into air tankers.


Firefighter killed in Western Australia

A firefighter in Western Australia was killed by a falling tree branch at 10:30 a.m. Friday morning near the city of Quindanning (map). Here is an excerpt from a report in the Sydney Morning Herald:

The Association of Volunteer Bush Fire Brigades has expressed concern for volunteer firefighters and urged diligence, following the death of a firefighter on Friday.

Sixty-year-old Hori Clarke died when he was hit by a falling limb while clearing burnt trees and rubble with volunteer firefighters in Quindanning, in the state’s south.

AVBF president Mr Terry Hunter, who called Mr Clarke “a member of the AVBFB family”, said the tragedy was a difficult reminder of the many risks volunteers were exposed to every day when they went to work for their local communities.

Our sincere condolences go out to the family of Mr. Clarke and his co-workers.


Injured Australian firefighter released from hospital

One of the two Australian firefighters that were seriously injured when their engine was overrun by a bushfire has been released from the hospital. The 24-year old woman, whose name has not been released, had burns over 40 percent of her body and had been treated at the at the Royal Perth Hospital.

Wendy Bearfoot

Wendy Bearfoot

Her colleague, 45-year old Wendy Bearfoot, passed away on Thursday, November 1, after suffering burns over 60 percent of her body while fighting the same fire on October 12. Both of the firefighters worked for the Department of Environment and Conservation in Western Australia.

Ms. Bearfoot joined the Department in 2003 as an Indigenous Land Management Trainee and progressed through the roles of conservation employee, national park ranger and most recently overseer in the Albany District office.

Both firefighters had been suppressing a fire in a pine plantation with 20 other firefighters near Albany when strong winds caused the fire to suddenly change direction on a slope. Three other firefighters were also injured in the burnover and were treated at a hospital in Albany.

Burned engine, Photo credit Department of Environment and Conservation

Burned fire engine in Western Australia. Photo credit: Department of Environment and Conservation