Very strong winds predicted for Black Hills

Wind gusts up to 60 in the forecast

Weather forecast-Black Hills
Weather forecast for the Pactola Lake area of the central Black Hills in South Dakota, created at 1:30 p.m. MST, February 6, 2016. Click to enlarge.

The National Weather Forecast has issued a High Wind Warning for the Black Hills in Wyoming and South Dakota for this weekend. From 11 p.m. CST Saturday until 8 p.m. CST on Sunday forecasters expect northwest winds of 25 to 35 mph with gusts up to 60.

wind forecast 2-7-2016 black hills
Updated graphic forecast added at 8:20 a.m. MST, February 7, 2016.

In the Central Black Hills area near Pactola Lake, elevation 4,797, the temperature on Sunday will max out at about 33 degrees with a minimum humidity of 39 percent. The winds there on Sunday will be northwest from 28 to 38 mph with gusts from 40 to 53 mph.

At Rapid City, 3,600 feet, it will be warmer on Sunday — 37 degrees — with an RH of 37 percent and wind gusts up to 64 mph.

We can’t find a fire weather forecast, but have heard nothing about a Red Flag Warning.

Pyrocumulus over a pile burn

Sundance pile burn pyrocumulus Dave Porter

Dave Porter of the Black Hills National Forest captured this image of a pyrocumulus cloud January 6 over a pile burning project southeast of Sundance, Wyoming.

A pyrocumulus over a pile burn is rare.

From Wikipedia:

A pyrocumulus cloud is produced by the intense heating of the air from the surface. The intense heat induces convection, which causes the air mass to rise to a point of stability, usually in the presence of moisture. Phenomena such as volcanic eruptions, forest fires, and occasionally industrial activities can induce formation of this cloud.

An article posted earlier today about the bushfire in Western Australia had a photo showing a pyrocumulus cloud over the fire.

Photo of Alder Fire used frequently in articles about wildfire

Alder Fire in Yellowstone National Park
Alder Fire in Yellowstone National Park, August 19, 2015. NPS photo. (click to enlarge)

We happened to run across this photo of the Alder Fire in Yellowstone National Park when following up on a lead about how climate change may have influenced weather in 2014. After a few minutes of research we discovered that it was taken August 19, 2013 by fire personnel at Yellowstone National Park when they were monitoring the Alder Fire. It was burning at the same time two other fires were active in the park, the Alum and Druid Fires.

As we reported then, the Alder Fire was on a peninsula at the south end of Yellowstone Lake and eventually burned 4,240 acres. A lightning fire that was discovered on August 14, it was hemmed in by water on three sides and by a recently burned area to the south.

There are two reasons we are running the picture now — our Google research found that it has been used at least 228 times to illustrate various articles in the last two years; and, the picture is fascinating. The way the smoke is laying down on the lower-right side is very interesting, and a little mesmerizing, staying mostly below the tops of the trees. That smoke is apparently being sucked in to the area where the the intensity is greater and convection is developing, carrying the smoke vertically.

Below is another photo of the Alder Fire that we used in our 2013 article about the fires.

Alder Fire in Yellowstone National Park
Alder Fire in Yellowstone National Park, August 16, 2015. NPS photo.

Station Fire burns homes and at least 7,000 acres near Casper, Wyoming

Cole Creek Fire
Station Fire near Evansville, WY, Oct. 11, 2015. Photo by MyWyomingAdventure

The Station Fire has burned approximately 16 homes and 9,000 acres just east of Casper, Wyoming in the community of Evansville. It started in a landfill on the north edge of town Saturday afternoon during a strong wind event, laid down overnight, but took off again Sunday afternoon. At 3:15 p.m. Monday, Wyoming State Forester Bill Crapster said the fire had been mapped at 7,000 Monday morning, but strong winds later in the day caused it to continue spreading and he estimated it had grown to about 9,000 acres.

Mr. Crapster said 536 homes are under evacuation orders affecting 1,350 residents. Two large air tankers assisted the ground-based firefighters. The MD-87 and BAe-146 were reloading at Rocky Mountain Metropolitan Airport (JeffCo) 219 miles southeast of the fire.

He confirmed the name of the fire is Station, in spite of media reports calling it the Cole Creek Fire.

Map Cole Creek Fire
Map showing heat detected by a satellite over the Station Fire up through 11:36 a.m., October 12, 2015. The dots represent heat, but most of the vegetation is grass which can burn and then cool off before the next satellite overflight.

Two helicopters are working the fire, a Type 1 and a Type 3, in addition to 50 to 60 engines, Mr. Crapster said.

While returning from a motorcycle trip to the national parks in northwest Wyoming Saturday evening, we happened to stop overnight in Evansville at a hotel 1.8 miles southeast of the burning landfill. As the sun was setting we watched the fire which was burning vigorously in the landfill and had spread a bit beyond it. Sunday morning as we left at 8 a.m. we did not notice any smoke there at all.

But the wind in the area Saturday night and Sunday morning was very, very strong, steady at 30 mph at least, with much stronger gusts. I was worried about the wind Saturday night blowing over my 600-pound bike in the hotel parking lot. When I checked in, the desk clerk noticed my attire, asked if I was on a motorcycle, and said that because of the wind I could park it near the front door … which I did. Thankfully it was still upright Sunday morning. As I departed the area on Interstate 25 heading east and then south there was an electronic sign over the Interstate warning of winds gusting to 55 mph, and said light trailers should not attempt travel. It was a battle on the motorcycle trying to stay in only one lane as I was rudely pushed around by the very, very strong wind.

The RAWS weather station at Fales Rock west of Casper recorded a wind gust Sunday morning of 61 mph with sustained winds above 30 mph between 8 a.m. and 2 p.m. By afternoon the relative humidity dropped to 10 percent.

At 3:10 p.m. on Monday the Fales Rock station showed 69 degrees, RH of 13 percent, and a southwest wind of 16 mph gusting to 27.

The weather forecast for the fire area calls for southwest winds decreasing Monday night to 17 mph with gusts to 24, an overnight RH of 42 percent and a low temperature of 44 degrees. Tuesday should bring 73 degrees, winds out of the southwest at 13 gusting around 20, and an RH of 14 percent.

UPDATE  December 22, 2015: The Star Tribune has more information about how the fire started and how the initial attempts by landfill personnel to suppress the fire were not successful. The correct name of the fire is Station, not Cole Creek.

A fire that destroyed 14 homes in rural Evansville began after smoldering debris from a grinder at the Casper landfill ignited a woodchip pile at the facility, a state report concluded.

High winds the following day spread the embers to the surrounding prairie, sparking the Cole Creek Fire, which burned over 10,000 acres and temporarily displaced more than 1,000 people in October.

Landfill workers tried twice to extinguish the smoldering debris from the grinder, first with water extinguishers and later by stomping on them, according to the report, which was produced by the Wyoming Department of Fire Prevention and Electrical Safety.

The debris was pushed back into the woodchip pile after the second attempt by employees who believed the debris was no longer burning. However, the debris was still smoldering and ignited wood in the brush pile. Firefighters responded and kept watch overnight but lost control of the fire the following afternoon.

The report, which the Star-Tribune obtained Monday using a public records request, concludes the fire was an accident. The document does not address whether any workers at the landfill acted negligently….

$2.9 million settlement reached for 2012 fire near Jackson, Wyoming

Horsethief Canyon Fire and bike race
Bicycle racers ride past the Horsethief Canyon fire. The fire started September 8, 2012. Photo by David Cernicek

An insurance company and the man who started the Horsethief Canyon Fire south of Jackson, Wyoming have agreed to pay a total of $2.9 million in restitution. The fire started when James G. Anderson Jr., 79, was burning debris in a rusted barrel. Embers that fell through holes in the barrel on September 8, 2012 ignited the fire that burned 3,373 acres.

In November 2013, the U.S. Forest Service sent a bill to Mr. Anderson for $6.3 million to repay costs incurred by the USFS, Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Park Service, the state of Wyoming, and Teton County. The USFS said the suppression costs totaled about $9 million.

The settlement stipulates that Mr. Anderson will be responsible for $425,000. Insurance companies State Farm and Mountain West Farm Bureau will pick up the rest, according to the U.S. attorney’s office for Wyoming.

Map of Horsethief Fire
Map of Horsethief Canyon Fire, 8:38 p.m. MT, September 13, 2012. Google/MODIS. (Click to enlarge)

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.