One-liners, June 18, 2014

Assayii Fire June 15

Assayii Fire June 15, 2014. InciWeb photo.

*The Assayii Fire in northwest New Mexico, reported on Friday the 13th, has burned 12,107 acres on the Navajo Nation in the Bowl Canyon area.

*Missoula smokejumpers got checked out on a new Eurocopter (now Airbus Helicopters) EC135 helicopter on Tuesday.

*On Tuesday five fires were intentionally set in vegetation in Oakland, California about two miles from where the Tunnel Fire began, which in 1991 killed 25 people (23 civilians, 1 police officer, and 1 firefighter), injured 150, and destroyed 2,449 single-family dwellings and 437 apartment and condominium units.

*An off duty firefighter employed by the city of Arcadia, California is missing in the Los Padres National Forest in southern California.

*California will give $10 million of the $48 million of the “fire fees” they have collected to counties and organizations who intend to use the funds for fire prevention and mitigation projects.

*Evaluations of how agencies in San Diego County handled the rash of wildfires in mid-May determined that communications was major issue; that and the need for a third helicopter, but the $5 million request for the helicopter was not approved.

*Three cities in the Austin, Texas area plan to install a network of wildfire detection cameras to add to the one purchased last year by West Lake Hills.

*Squirrels may be to blame for some patchy reproduction of lodgepole pines following the 1988 wildfires in Yellowstone National Park.

*An unfortunate raven started a wildfire 25 kilometers northeast of Yellowknife in the Northwest Territories of Canada when it contacted electrical wires; we will add this to our Animal Arson series, although it may have been a case of suicide arson.

*Dan Glickman and Harris Sherman, two former very high-ranking appointees in the Department of Agriculture, wrote an opinion piece for the New York Times supporting the bill that would allow the Forest Service to draw money from federal disaster funds when firefighting costs reach 70 percent of the 10-year average.
Thanks and a hat tip go out to Doug

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Wyoming: 200 firefighters participate in wildland fire training

WYOFIRE training

Wyoming State Forestry hosted their annual wildland fire training again this year at Camp Guernsey Joint Training Center, in Guernsey, Wyoming. They cleverly call it WYOFIRE, which comes from “Wyoming Fire Incident Readiness Exercise”. The objectives are to train and qualify wildland firefighters in Incident Command System positions and to provide the opportunity for firefighters to familiarize themselves with the processes of reporting to incidents, actions while at incidents, and how to properly demobilize.

This year there were about 200 registered for the May 16 through 18 event. We visited on May 17 and observed live fire training by personnel from Rochford FD (South Dakota), Camp Guernsey FD (Wyoming), and Big Laramie Valley VFD (Woming).

All of the photos were taken by Bill Gabbert for Wildfire Today.

WYOFIRE training

WYOFIRE training

National Guard Blackhawk helicopter crews trained, dropping water from buckets.

WYOFIRE training

Drafting water out of a lake.

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Report released on USFS engine rollover in Wyoming

Engine 492, front

The U.S. Forest Service has released a report on the August 8, 2013 rollover of Engine 492 southwest of Newcastle, Wyoming. In August we provided some information from the 72-hour report.

Below is an excerpt from the summary — you can read the entire report HERE.

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“On Thursday, August 8, 2013 Medicine Bow-Routt National Forest and Thunder Basin National Grasslands Engine 492, a 2013 KME Type 4 engine was involved in a rollover accident along Wyoming State Highway 450. The accident occurred around noon, as Engine 492 was responding to the Osage Fire, in mutual aid assistance to Weston County, Wyoming. The accident occurred near mile marker 40, or approximately 10 miles east of the Thunder Basin Work Center.

The engine left the highway, veered slightly to the right side of the road hitting a paved apron to a side gate, with the driver seeking to decelerate and regain control of the engine. The engine returned to the road, with the engine brakes being heavily applied, then redirected back to the highway, which resulted in crossing the center line and going to the opposite road edge. Engine 492 rolled over a few times before coming to rest on its wheels (up-right).

At the time of the accident all three members of Engine 492 were wearing their seatbelts. Use of seatbelts and the integrity of the engine cab are likely the principal reasons for the survivability of this accident. All three crew members were hurt in the accident and the Type 4 engine was a total loss. Two of the crew members were transported by ambulance to Newcastle, Wyoming and the third member was transported by ambulance to the high school practice field in Wright, Wyoming where he was transferred to, and then transported by helicopter to the hospital in Casper, Wyoming. The two crewmembers that were transported to Newcastle, Wyoming were released later the same day. However, the injuries sustained by the third member resulted in a longer stay in Casper and release from the hospital on Saturday, August 10th…”

Engine 492, left side Engine 492, wide

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Report released on escaped prescribed fire at Devils Tower

 

Devils Tower escaped prescribed fire

Map, showing the approximate location of the planned prescribed fire at Devils Tower (300 acres in white) and the 56 acres (in red) that escaped beyond the planned perimeter. Image from Google Earth. Perimeters by Wildfire Today. (click to enlarge)

Yesterday after Wildfire Today made inquiries about reports that may have been completed regarding the escaped prescribed fire on May 8, 2013 at Devils Tower National Monument in Wyoming, the National Park Service released the official review of the incident.

The NPS ignited the 300-acre unit on May 7, 2013. Several spot fires occurred outside the planned perimeter that were contained the first day. But during mopup at 12:50 p.m. on May 8 fire became established again at one of the spot fire locations on the southwest side of the project. At that time the cooperating U.S. Forest Service resources present the day before had been released. Some of the remaining firefighters were concentrating on the previous day’s spot fires at another location, but most of the firefighters were attending an After Action Review of a non-injury tipover of a Utility Task Vehicle (UTV) that occurred the day before. The 56 acres burning outside the burn unit were mostly stopped at the Monument boundary, but a few acres crossed over onto private land leased by Wyoming state Senator Ogden Driskill, but no structures were damaged.

Devils Tower Rx fire, May 8, 2013

Devils Tower Rx fire, May 7, 2013. NPS photo.

In the interest of full disclosure, Devils Tower was one of the seven National Parks for which I was the Area Fire Management Officer, from 1998 until 2003.

The review pointed out several times that one of the primary issues related to the escape was that in computing the fine dead fuel moisture, it was assumed that the fire would be shaded by the smoke column. However, some of the area was not shaded, and for two hours each day on May 7 and 8, at those locations the fine dead fuel moisture dropped below the 4 to 10 percent allowed in the prescription, down to 3 percent.

Other than how the weather affected the fuel moisture, the review barely mentioned the weather conditions and the forecast. Two spot weather forecasts were issued before the escape — one at 7:57 a.m. MDT on May 7 and another at 9:29 a.m. on May 8, the day of the escape. For May 8, both forecasts predicted fairly strong northeast winds, of 7 to 15 mph and 8 to 14 mph.

The Remote Automatic Weather Station at Devils Tower is very close to the location of the prescribed fire, in a low-lying area partially sheltered by trees from winds from all directions (see map above). Northwest, north, and northeast winds are additionally partially blocked by higher ground and the Devils Tower itself. Below are the weather observations from the weather station between 17:23 on May 7 through 17:23 on May 8. They show mild sustained wind speeds, with gusts around mid-day to late afternoon on May 8 of 13 to 22 mph. If the weather station was in a more exposed location the recorded speeds would have been higher.

Devils Tower weather, May 7 and 8, 2013

Devils Tower weather, May 7 and 8, 2013

The NPS committed four people to the facilitated learning analysis of the non-injury slow tip over of the UTV, and three to the review of the escaped prescribed fire.

UTV  at Devils Tower

Photo from the FLA for the UTV tip over, that presumably shows a UTV in the approximate location of the accident. NPS photo.

We initially covered the prescribed in 2013 fire HERE and HERE.

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Wyoming man billed $6.3 million for causing wildfire

Horsethief Canyon Fire and bike race

Bicycle racers ride past the Horsethief Canyon fire. Photo by David Cernicek

The U.S. Forest Service has billed a 77-year old Wyoming man $6.3 million for causing the Horsethief Canyon Fire that burned 3,373 acres five miles south of Jackson, Wyoming in September, 2012.

Using a Freedom of Information Act Request, the Associated Press obtained a copy of the bill that was sent to James G. Anderson Jr. A breakdown of the charges included $3.6 million for the USFS, $2 million for the Bureau of Land Management, $54,000 for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, $154,000 for the National Park Service, and $252,000 for the state of Wyoming and Teton County. The total suppression costs of the fire was about $9 million.

Investigators determined the fire started from a rusted-out barrel Mr. Anderson was using to burn debris at his son’s home.

Burnout operation on Horsethief Fire

Burnout operation on Horsethief Canyon Fire, September 12, 2012. Credit: Horsethief Canyon Fire.

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Fires in Yellowstone

(UPDATE at 12:30 p.m. MDT, August 19, 2013)

Alum Fire

Alum Fire, August 17, 2013. NPS photo. (click to enlarge)

Of the three significant active fires in Yellowstone National Park, the 6,150-acre Alum Fire northwest of Fishing Bridge is by far the largest and appears to have the most potential. It was discovered August 14 and did not do much until strong winds on Saturday caused it to grow to over 3,000 acres. The fire is within a mile of the Grand Loop Road north of Fishing Bridge. There is the potential for temporary closures of the road between Canyon Village and Fishing Bridge Junction. The latest road status information is available 24-hours a day by calling 307-344-2117.

Map of Alum Fire

Map of Alum Fire by NPS, August 18, 2013. The original version of this map can be found HERE. (click to enlarge)

The park reports that help is on the way:

Additional firefighters and engines arrived on Sunday and more are expected today and later in the week as fire mangers focus on protection of the road corridor, the boardwalk in Mud Volcano, and the nearby power line. As a precaution, structure protection efforts are already underway in Fishing Bridge, Lake Village, and Bridge Bay should the fire advance toward those areas in coming days. While area evacuations are not imminent, preparations are underway to assist residents and visitors in leaving the Fishing Bridge, Lake Village, and Bridge Bay area in the unlikely event that an evacuation is necessary in the coming days.

The 2,000-acre Alder Fire on a peninsula in the south end of Yellowstone Lake is constrained by water on three sides and a recent fire footprint on the other. The Druid Fire near Lamar Valley in the northeast section of the park has burned 75 acres.

The park sent out a Tweet Monday afternoon saying:

All roads leading into & through Yellowstone & all visitor services are OPEN. The Alum Fire is not a threat to visitors or residents.

Occasionally the fires can be seen from the two Mt. Washburn web cams, but sometimes drift smoke from fires outside the park degrade the visibility.

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(UPDATE at 11:30 a.m. MDT, August 18, 2013)

Map of Alum Fire at 11 p.m. MDT, August 18, 2013

Map of Alum Fire in Yellowstone National Park, showing heat detected by a satellite at 11 p.m. MDT, August 18, 2013 (click to enlarge)

The Alum Fire has grown to 3,000 acres, the Alder Fire has burned 900 acres, and the Druid Fire is 60 acres. Below is an update Saturday morning from Yellowstone National Park:

“Alum Fire: This lightning caused fire was discovered Wednesday morning, August 14, burning in the backcountry west of Mud Volcano near Alum Creek. The fire had remained fairly quiet for several days and had grown only to 3 acres as of Saturday morning. However, as critical fire weather conditions developed early Saturday afternoon the fire sprang to life. Extreme fire behavior was observed including short periods where the fire advanced through the crowns of the mature lodgepole pine forest. The fire advanced at least six miles to the east-northeast in the span of a few hours. The head of the fire is within a mile of the Grand Loop Road near Mud Volcano. The Alum Fire is now estimated at 3,000 acres. Additional firefighting resources are on their way to the park to assist with protection of the road corridor, the boardwalk in the Mud Volcano, and the nearby power line. There is the potential for temporary closures of the road between Canyon Village and Fishing Bridge Junction.

Alder Fire: This fire on a peninsula at the south end of Yellowstone Lake experienced significant fire activity again Saturday, doubling in size from 450 acres to an estimated 900 acres as it burned in heavy timber and produced a tall smoke column visible all around the lake. The fire is hemmed in by water on three sides and by a recently burned area to the south. Several backcountry campsites on The Promontory have been temporarily closed. This fire was discovered on August 14th and was caused by lightning.

Druid Fire: Gusty winds, low humidity and hot temperatures resulted in active fire behavior on the Druid Fire Saturday, which is burning in a steep heavily timbered bowl in the backcountry high above the Northeast Entrance Road on Druid Peak. The fire grew from 30 to 60 acres on Saturday, and at times some smoke and flames were visible from along the road.”

Alum Fire in Yellowstone National Park

Alum Fire in Yellowstone National Park as seen through a dirty lens and drift smoke; Mt. Washburn web cam at 11:24 a.m. MDT, August 18, 2013

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