Impressive fire whirl in Australia

fire whirl
A still image from the video below of a fire whirl in New South Wales, Australia, February, 2019.

This video, below, of extreme fire behavior was posted by Shane Fitzsimmons, the Commissioner of the New South Wales Rural Fire Service in Australia. It shows a fire whirl, sometimes incorrectly called a fire tornado. Fire tornados exist, but they are much, much larger and can last for up to an hour or so and average 100 to 1,000 feet in diameter with rotational velocities up to 90 MPH.

Man sentenced to 12 years for starting Cranston Fire

The blaze destroyed five homes and burned 13,000 acres near Idyllwild, California in July, 2008

Cranston and Ribbon Fires
The view of the Cranston and Ribbon Fires, from High Point at 3:29 p.m. PDT July 26, 2018.

On Thursday a judge sentenced a man to 12 years and four months in prison for intentionally starting the Cranston Fire near Idyllwild, California on July 25, 2018. Brandon McGlover pleaded guilty to two felony counts of burning a structure or forest land. Judge Kelly Hansen also ordered him to pay restitution to the victims.

The fire destroyed five homes and burned 13,000 acres.

Brandon McGlover
Brandon McGlover, Photo: Riverside County Sheriff’s Department

Mr. McGlover was arrested the same day the fire started after witnesses saw him start multiple fires. One of the witnesses followed him and provided a description of the vehicle to law enforcement.

He was originally charged with 15 felonies, on allegations that he also set eight other fires two days before he ignited the Cranston fire. Prosecutors and the judge allowed him to plead guilty to two charges and then sentenced him to the maximum allowed, 12 years and four months in prison.

Cranston Fire
The Cranston Fire July 26, 2018. Photo by Jeff Zimmerman.

Wallangarra bushfire burns over 100,000 acres in NSW

It is burning in both Queensland and New South Wales, Australia

Wallangarra bushfire NSW Australia
A bushfire in New South Wales and Queensland is near Wallangarra, Tenterfield, Stanthorpe, and Jennings. NSW RFS photo.

A very large bushfire has burned at least 43,800ha (108,232 acres) in Queensland and New South Wales in Australia. Smoke from the fire is affecting Wallangarra, Tenterfield, Stanthorpe, and Jennings.

At 8:55 a.m. local time on February 19 the New South Wales Rural Fire Service reported that the fire continues to burn west of the Bruxner Highway in the Girraween, Bald Rock, Boonoo areas.

Most activity overnight was on the southwest side of the fire near Sunnyside, on the northwestern side of the fire in Girraween National Park (Queensland), north of Wallangarra, and on the southeast side near the Bruxner Highway.

During the night crews conducted backburning operations which increased the fire activity and the production of smoke. This smoke is likely to settle around the areas of Tenterfield, Jennings, Wallangarra and Stanthorpe (QLD), but will begin to clear late Tuesday morning.

Wallangarra Fire map
Satellite photo of the Wallangarra Fire burning in Queensland and New South Wales. The red dots indicate heat. NASA photo.

Arson suspect had been under surveillance before arrest for starting Clayton Fire

CAL FIRE officers attached a GPS tracking device to the suspect’s car

Clayton fire Firefighters from CAL FIRE attempt to save a structure on the Clayton Fire. Photo by Mike Forster.

Lake County residents who were under evacuation orders while the Clayton Fire was still burning were surprised when County Sheriff Brian Martin and CAL FIRE Chief Ken Pimlott announced that a suspect had been arrested for starting that fire and 15 others. The Chief disclosed the information during a public meeting about the fire on August 15, 2016, two days after it started. The blaze eventually destroyed 300 structures in Lower Lake, California and burned more than 3,900 acres. Damin Anthony Pashilk was charged with 20 felonies. Bail was set at $5 million.

Damin Pashilk Damin Anthony Pashilk. Photo: Lake County Sheriff’s Office.

In a preliminary hearing that began last week it was revealed that CAL FIRE law enforcement officers had Mr. Pashilk, previously convicted of arson, under surveillance for more than a year. He was followed by multiple officers with the aid of a GPS tracking device attached to Mr. Pashilk’s car. At times they were miles behind his car but were able to follow him as they observed his location on a real-time map.

The details of the surveillance discussed during the hearing as reported by Elizabeth Larson of the  the Lake County News read like a detective novel. Below is an excerpt from the article:

On Aug. 13, 2016, [CAL FIRE Forester Damon] Denman – like [CAL FIRE Battalion Chief John] Schnaidt – was conducting mobile surveillance of Pashilk, both following him in his vehicle and using the data from the GPS tracker that had been reinstalled on the Chrysler the previous day.

He had started following the Chrysler as it traveled north on Highway 29 toward Lower Lake just after 4:30 p.m. Denman estimated he was about two to three miles behind the Chrysler when he saw the icon for the vehicle on the GPS tracker signal that it had turned onto Clayton Creek Road’s north entrance a few minutes before 5 p.m. and driven in about a quarter mile before turning around, returning to Highway 29 and continuing north.

Shortly after the Chrysler left, Denman turned onto Clayton Creek Road and drove about 1,000 feet. As he came around a corner he saw a fire on the lefthand side – or the east side – of the road, approximately 15 feet in diameter, burning in thigh high grass.

“It was burning aggressively,” Denman said, explaining that he pulled over and reported it to 911. Schnaidt pulled up behind him and marked the edges of the fire [with four very large metal washers].

Firefighters get new tool for predicting wildfire danger

Hot-Dry-Windy Index

HDW index CF34 Fire wildfire weather Colorado
Hot-Dry-Windy Index for the area of the CR34 Fire in southeast Colorado February 13, 2019.

The Hot-Dry-Windy Index (HDW) is a new weather prediction tool that predicts weather conditions which can affect the spread of wildfires.

It is described as being very simple and only considers the atmospheric factors of heat, moisture, and wind. To be more precise, it is a multiplication of the maximum wind speed and maximum vapor pressure deficit (VPD) in the lowest 50 or so millibars in the atmosphere.

On a website bearing the logos of the U.S. Forest Service, Michigan State University, and St. Cloud State University, you can click on the map to display the HDW for any area in the contiguous United States. Then the displayed chart shows the index for the preceding 10 days and the forecast for the next 7 days. For the current and following days you will see results of the Global Ensemble Forecast System (GEFS), which is a weather forecast model made up of 21 separate forecasts, one control (in red) and twenty perturbations. The reasoning for showing 21 different forecasts is to quantify the amount of uncertainty in a forecast by generating an ensemble of multiple forecasts, each minutely different, or perturbed, from the original observations.

The HDW only only uses weather information – fuels and topography are not considered by HDW at all. If the fuels are wet or have a high live or dead moisture content it will not be reflected in the data.

Another thing to keep in mind is that the rating which is shown on the percentile gradient compares the HDW to the average for that date, from 1979 to 2012, at that location on a 0.5-degree long/lat grid spacing, rather than to a year-long average.

Yesterday, February 13, the CR34 fire in southeast Colorado burned 3,800 acres. Judging from the way the smoke column was laying over it was pretty windy.

CR34 Fire in southeast Colorado
The CR34 Fire in southeast Colorado 10 miles south of Springfield, Wednesday afternoon February 13, 2019. Baca County Sheriff’s Office photo.

At the top of this page is the HDW prediction for yesterday at the location of the CR34 Fire, showing the predicted index for February 13 above the 95th percentile for that date.

The actual HDW below is centered on the most active day on the Pagami Creek Fire which was managed, rather than suppressed, for 25 days, until it ran 16 miles on September 12, 2011 eventually consuming over 92,000 acres of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness in Minnesota. Eight USFS employees were caught out in front of the fire in canoes, with some of them having to deploy fire shelters. Like for the CR34 Fire, the HDW was well above the 95th percentile for the date.

HDW index for Pagami Creek Fire Sept. 12, 2011

Pagami Creek fire 9-11-2011
Pagami Creek fire September 11, 2011. Photo: Superior National Forest
Pagami fire, Lake Polly 9-12-11 Hans Martin USGS
Pagami fire, Lake Polly, 9-12-2011. Photo: Hans Martin, USGS.

Last year a paper was published about the Hot-Dry-Index, written by Jessica M. McDonald, Alan F. Srock, and Joseph J. Charney.

Tingha, New South Wales isolated as fire closes roads and burns homes

Tingha Fire map bushfire new south wales
The red dots near Tingha, New South Wales represent heat detected by a satellite. NASA image.

Winds in Australia that have changed directions several times in recent days have been pushing a large bushfire in multiple directions. The Tingha Fire that started Sunday in New South Wales has burned around the community of Tingha closing roads in and out of the community. The blaze is between Inverell and Guyra.

NSW Rural Fire Service Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons said firefighters indicate “numerous properties” including homes, sheds and other outbuildings were damaged or destroyed Wednesday afternoon.

ABC Australia reported that a 40-year old woman was charged with allowing her trash fire to escape, which ignited what has developed into a 30,600-acre (12,400 ha) wildfire.

The Rural Fire Service said winds on Thursday are expected to push the fire closer to Gilgai. Other areas threatened include Old Mill, Stannifer, Guyra Road east of Tingha, and the Howell Road area. But weather conditions on Thursday should be more favorable for firefighters.

On the map below, Tingha is in the center — where two major roads intersect.