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Specially treated wire mesh could protect power poles from wildfire

Fire Resistant Mesh
Fire Resistant Mesh. Genics photo.

Originally published at 5:49 p.m. MDT March 4, 2021

Wire mesh treated with an intumescent graphite coating may be able to prevent a wooden power pole from being consumed in a wildfire. It could also be effective on a railroad bridge or under the eaves of a house.

When subjected to heat, an intumescent rapidly expands and can fill in the gaps in the wire mesh to form a barrier between the fire and the wood. Before the fire, the mesh allows air flow, preventing a buildup of moisture that could lead to wood damage.

I first learned about the product when seeing a report that NVEnergy installed it last month on 170 power poles as a pilot program in Nevada, looking at it as a way to protect equipment in the event of a wildland fire. The company installed it at either a 6 or 20-foot height, depending on the surrounding vegetation.

In September, 2019 we wrote about a fire resistant paint that was applied by the Idaho National Laboratory on 3,000 power poles. They prioritized poles receiving the paint based on service area, fire risk, and vegetation density. Every pole painted in the latex-based fire retardant paint survived the 2019 Sheep Fire. Even poles that had not been repainted since their initial coat in 2012 and 2013 survived.


Updated at 11:47 a.m. MDT March 5, 2021

A big thank you to Robert Tissell who pointed out in a comment on this article that the TV show “This Old House” showed vents being installed in a home in Paradise, California that use the same process. Vulcan Vents says they are  “manufactured out of high grade aluminum honeycomb and coated with an intumescent coating made by Firefree Coatings. The intumescent coating is designed to quickly swell up and close off when exposed to high heat. The expanded material also acts as an insulator to heat, fire and embers.”

Vulcan Vent
PBS, This Old House.

Two escaped prescribed fires in California

Calvert Fire map
Map showing location of the Calvert Fire March 1, 2021

The spread of an escaped prescribed fire 11 miles south of Big Pine, California was stopped Monday on the east side of Hwy. 395 by firefighters from the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

The plan by the CAL FIRE San Bernardino Unit was to ignite the project at 8 a.m. Monday but a change in wind direction surprised the crews and caused the blaze to escape the project boundary and was declared an escape at 11 a.m.

The new fire named Calvert was mapped at 262 acres by the Fire Integrated Real-Time Intelligence System (FIRIS) operated in a fixed wing aircraft by Orange County Fire Authority. FIRIS has proven to be an incredibly valuable resource for providing real time video intelligence, fire spread projections, and situational awareness during wildfire suppression.

We need about a dozen more FIRIS units.

Calvert Fire
Photo of the Calvert Fire, by AA120, March 1, 2021.

Still another escaped prescribed fire in Southern California:

There is a report that another prescribed fire escaped in California, this time it was Tuesday near Clear Creek Station in the Angeles National Forest. The escape was named Clear Fire.

There were approximately three other wildfires in SoCal Tuesday in Meade Valley and the Perris area.

The article was corrected to indicate that the Calvert Fire was Monday, not Tuesday.

Wildland firefighter organization seeks better pay and benefits

Grassroots Wildland Firefighters hopes to influence federal legislation

Forestry Technician on the North Pole Fire
Forestry Technician on the North Pole Fire, 3/10/2015. Photo by Bill Gabbert.

Wildland firefighters have formed a non-profit 501(c)(4) organization to advocate for better pay, benefits, a National Fire Service, and their own job series within the federal government.

The IRS rules for a 501(c)(4) allow a “social welfare” non-profit group to spend their donated funds to lobby government in order to affect legislation, but they are not allowed to participate in political campaigns on behalf of a candidate for public office.

The name of the all-volunteer group is Grassroots Wildland Firefighters (GRWFF). It was formed in 2019 by active and retired federal wildland firefighters (Forestry Technicians) and continued to grow after a series of articles were published beginning in August, 2020 that called attention to their plight on Wildfire Today, Vice News, and NBC.

Below are excerpts from a news release by the GRWFF.

Kelly Martin, the group’s President and former Fire and Aviation Chief for Yosemite National Park, describes the major issue at hand: “We are at a turning point in the climate change battle, and the demands on federal wildland firefighters at the frontline have become a year-round request. Firefighters are resigning their federal positions for jobs in state, municipal and private industry that provide pay and benefits commensurate with the risks”.

Grassroots Wildland FirefightersIn many places where the government asks firefighters to serve, both in cities and remote duty stations, pay falls woefully short of basic housing and cost of living requirements.

Government studies from the National Library of Medicine reveal that federal firefighters face a multitude of health risks, with an up to 30% increased risk of cardiovascular disease and a risk of lung cancer exceeding that of the general population by as much as 43%. The ever-increasing duration and intensity of fire seasons have also led to devastating mental health statistics, which show a 30 times higher suicide rate among firefighters in comparison to the general public.

GRWFF spokesperson Riva Duncan sums it up, “In short, the pay and benefits are not commensurate with the risk, and the risk has increased fire season after fire season. The 2021 fire season is here, and nothing has changed. Grassroots Wildland Firefighters aims to do what the boots on the ground have always done in the absence of a solution, we offer one. With the input of firefighters across the country, we’ve developed a legislative proposal that aims to stem the tide of federal firefighters leaving our ranks and to create pay and benefits parity with state, municipal and private firefighting organizations. We’re working with members of congress who prioritize environmental and first responder issues to fine-tune the language, and we hope to have a sponsor and introduction soon.”

Forecasters predict enhanced wildfire conditions in the southwest through June

Normal conditions expected for the West Coast and the Northern Rockies during the same time frame

wildland fire potential outlook forecast

The maps in the March 1 National Significant Wildland Fire Potential Outlook issued by the Predictive Services section at the National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC) are nearly the same as the maps for the same months distributed on February 1. It took me a long time to see a couple of minor differences in the ones produced 28 days ago. The outlook predicts wildfire potential will be higher than normal in the Southern Plains through June, 2021. This will include portions of Texas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Kansas. Arizona and New Mexico will have enhanced fire activity April through June, according to the forecast.

The entire southwest one-quarter of the United States is currently experiencing either abnormally dry, severe, extreme, or exceptional drought.

The data from NIFC shown here represents the cumulative forecasts of the ten Geographic Area Predictive Services Units and the National Predictive Services Unit.

Below:

  • An excerpt from the NIFC narrative report for the next several months;
  • More of NIFC’s monthly graphical outlooks;
  • NOAA’s three-month temperature and precipitation forecasts;
  • Drought Monitor;
  • Keetch-Byram Drought Index.

“Below normal precipitation was observed across much of US with the driest areas in the southern California, the southern Great Basin, and western and southern Arizona. Additionally, parts of the Plains had well below average precipitation with wide expanses of snow-free areas. Much of the western snowpack is near to above normal, but notable below normal locations include the Sierra and Southwest. Record setting cold temperatures developed across the central US during the first half of February leading widespread snow cover. Due to these cold temperatures, much of the US experienced well below normal temperatures for February except the Great Basin, California, the Southwest, and Florida.

“A weather pattern consistent with La Niña will likely continue through spring across the US. Drought conditions are expected to continue for much of California, the Great Basin, and the Southwest into summer with drying expected to increase across portions of the Plains and Florida. Drought conditions across the southern half of the Intermountain West and southern High Plains are likely to intensify.

“Climate outlooks show normal to below normal significant fire potential is likely for large portions of the Southeast, Ohio Valley, Appalachians, and into the Mid-Atlantic through March. However, significant fire potential will increase across Florida and parts of the central Gulf Coast in April with above normal significant fire potential anticipated in May and June.

“Above normal significant fire potential is expected during spring across the Southwest and southern Plains due to background drought and forecast drier and warmer than normal conditions. Lower to mid elevations in the Southwest are favored to have above normal significant fire potential beginning in March and April. Most of the southern Plains are forecast to have an active spring fire season before green-up. By May, much of the Southwest and portions of the southern Great Basin are likely to have above normal significant fire potential with all the Southwest geographic area and most of southern Colorado forecast to have above normal significant fire potential in June.”


wildland fire potential outlook forecast

wildland fire potential outlook forecast

wildland fire potential outlook forecast
Continue reading “Forecasters predict enhanced wildfire conditions in the southwest through June”

Update — Wildfire southeast of Winslow, Arizona mapped at 461 acres

Updated at 6:28 p.m. MST March 2, 2021

Little Fire SE of Winslow, AZ
Little Fire SE of Winslow, AZ March 1, 2021. AZ State Forestry photo

The “Little Fire” six miles southeast of Winslow, Arizona was mapped Monday at 461 acres. Much of the additional growth can be attributed to a burnout operation along two miles of the Little Colorado River, which incidentally, removed invasive salt cedar near the river.

Little Fire SE of Winslow, AZ
Little Fire SE of Winslow, AZ March 1, 2021. AZ State Forestry photo

The cause is still listed as human, but no ignition source has been released.


Originally published at 12:20 p.m. MST February 28, 2021

Little Fire, Feb. 27 2021 Winslow Arizona
Little Fire, Feb. 27, 2021. Photo by Joseph City FD.

The “Little Fire” that started Saturday six miles southeast of Winslow has burned at least 100 acres, the Arizona Department of Forestry and Fire Management said in a Sunday morning update. Firefighters from Winslow, Joseph City, and the ADFFM stopped the spread Saturday night but winds are predicted to increase Sunday afternoon out of the north at 16 to 22 mph. The temperature will be in the low 40s.

Map Little Fire
Map showing the location of the Little Fire in Arizona, Feb. 27, 2021.

The Little Fire started on tribal property and moved onto state protected land, burning through salt cedar near the Little Colorado River. Smoke has been visible from Interstate 40 near mile markers 261-263.

Investigators determined the blaze is human-caused, but the ignition source is unknown.

Little Fire, Feb. 27 2021 Winslow Arizona
Little Fire, Feb. 27, 2021. Photo by Joseph City FD.
Little Fire, Feb. 27 2021 Winslow Arizona
Little Fire, Feb. 27, 2021. Photo by Jeff Zimmerman.
Little Fire, Feb. 27 2021 Winslow Arizona
Little Fire, Feb. 27, 2021. Photo by Joseph City FD.

Thanks and a tip of the hat go out to Jeff.

Updated: South Africa wildfire grows to more than 33,000 acres

13,600 hectares

Updated at 5:01 p.m. ET (United States) Feb. 27, 2021

South Africa Fire, Feb. 26, 2021
South Africa Fire, Feb. 26, 2021. Satellite photo. The red dots represent heat. NASA.

Over the last week the fire in the Western Cape of South Africa has grown to about 13,600 hectares (33,606 acres) as it now spreads into steep terrain that is difficult for firefighters to work in safely.

The fire is just southeast of Stellenbosch,  3.5 km southwest of Franschhoek, and 20 to 24 km east of Cape Town.

There is no additional information about the two firefighters that were injured except that their injuries were described as serious and at last report they are still in the hospital.

Map of a wildfire in South Africa Fire, Feb. 28, 2021. The large red area represents heat at the fire detected by NASA satellites.

From The South African:

[Fire officials] warned that soaring temperatures reaching into the high 30s, accompanied by strong winds expected [Sunday] afternoon, mean that firefighters have their work cut out for them today.

Cape Winelands District Municipality’s Fire Services spokesperson Jo Ann Otto said on Saturday evening that the fire in the valley below Jongkershoek is proving challenging to combat.

“The teams reported repeated flare-ups that were difficult to bring under control due to the hot weather.  The firefighters, ground crews, and vehicles will focus their attention on managing this fire during the relative cool of the night.  Active firefighting activities and management of flare-ups a will continue throughout the night,” she said.

South Africa Fire, February 26, 2021
South Africa Fire, February 26, 2021. Image by Wictory za.

Originally published at 4:55 p.m. ET (United States) Feb. 27, 2021

Fire South Africa Jonkershoek Valley Stellenbosch
Fire in South Africa, in the Jonkershoek Valley in Stellenbosch. Stellenbosch Municipality photo.

Two firefighters that were injured while working on a wildfire in South Africa have been transported to a hospital.

Over the last five days the fire has burned more than 8,000 hectares (19,000 acres) in the Jonkershoek Valley, 10km southeast of Stellenbosch.

Fire South Africa Jonkershoek Valley Stellenbosch
Fire in South Africa, in the Jonkershoek Valley in Stellenbosch. TOKARAestae photo.

“Further planning today includes the deployment of aerial resources to water bomb the higher peaks and hot spots,” said Jo-Anne Otto from the Cape Winelands District Municipality on February 27. “The dense smoke and high winds make flying very dangerous, which means that water bombing can only be implemented when there is good visibility and little wind.”

Stellenbosch Mayor Gesie van Deventer said,’’ Aerial support is deployed when visibility and winds allow for this.”

Four helicopters and two single engine air tankers have been dropping water or retardant when conditions permit.

Fire South Africa Jonkershoek Valley Stellenbosch
Fire in South Africa, in the Jonkershoek Valley in Stellenbosch. Stellenbosch Municipality photo.
Fire South Africa Jonkershoek Valley Stellenbosch
Fire in South Africa, in the Jonkershoek Valley in Stellenbosch.A day crew was relieved by two overnight crews. Photo credit- VWS Wildfire.

Working On Fire South Africa

Thanks and a tip of the hat go out to Don.