West Range Fire near Buffalo, Wyoming

West Range Fire

West Range Fire along Highway 16 west of Buffalo, Wyoming, November 9, 2014. Photo by Jessica Reicks.

On Saturday November 8 the West Range Fire started five miles west of Buffalo, Wyoming, and eventually burned 1,170 acres near Highway 16 west of town, occasionally closing down the highway.

The occurrence of the fire late in the season made finding aerial resources very difficult. A helicopter was brought in from Fort Collins, Colorado, (271 air miles away) and dropped 65 loads of water on the blaze before strong winds grounded the ship. There is a report that fire crews constructed 12 miles of fireline on Saturday and Sunday.

Resources were brought in from seven counties, two Johnson County fire districts, and four state and federal agencies. Firefighters used sprinkler systems to protect two structures in the area as the fire came within about 50 feet of the houses.

Map West Range Fire

Snow moved in virtually putting out the fire and by Monday morning most of the firefighters had been demobilized.

Below is an excerpt from an article in the Buffalo Bulletin.

…This was one fire everyone in town could watch from their front porch. People were digging around the closet to find those old binoculars so they could keep an eye on what was happening.

The fire started Saturday morning, and during the night those of us who wake up at odd hours to visit the commode could look out the window and see the flames burning down the sides of the mountain toward town. You “sound sleepers” missed quite a show.

Only in Wyoming can wildfire crews work in short sleeves one day and then learn they are snowed in and can’t go home the next morning.

Monday morning, they declared the fire was 95 percent contained. The Bench Sitters wondered who they sent out in that blizzard to find the 5 percent that was still burning.

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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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