Scooping air tanker crashes in Texas Lake, pilot rescued

The single engine air tanker was refilling at Lake Livingston

7:27 p.m. CDT August 9, 2022

Map, August 9, 2022 helicopter crash
Map, August 9, 2022 helicopter crash in Lake Livingston, Texas.

This article was first published at Fire Aviation.

Tuesday afternoon, August 9, a single engine air tanker working on a wildfire in southeast Texas crashed in Lake Livingston. The pilot was quickly rescued, taken to shore, and treated.

The accident was announced by the Texas Forest Service’s Lone Star State Incident Management Team which said the agency was assisting with wildfires in the Corrigan area.

The incident occurred at about 5 p.m. CDT. Lake Livingston is 25 miles southwest of Corrigan and 55 miles northeast of Houston.

The Air Tractor 802 Fire Boss is amphibious. It has floats and can skim across the surface of a lake to refill its water tank, then fly to the fire and assist firefighters by dropping water. The Texas Forest Service does not own any air tankers, they issue contracts to private companies.

When we hear more about the condition of the pilot we will update this article. An 802 Fire Boss usually only has one person on board.

File photo of an Air Tractor 802 Fire Boss operated by Conair. Not necessarily the aircraft involved in the incident.
File photo of an Air Tractor 802 Fire Boss. Not the aircraft involved in the incident.

There have been two other incidents in the last seven days involving Air Tractor 802 Fire Boss air tankers.

On August 3 a Fire Boss suffered an engine failure and made a forced landing while working on a fire in British Columbia. The pilot survived.

Two days later on August 5 a Fire Boss crashed and sank in the Gulf of Elefsina while working on a fire near Nea Peramos in Greece. It occurred about 12 miles west of Athens as the air tanker was scooping water. Both crew members were rescued.

There have been three recent fatal helicopter crashes related to wildfires.

On July 16, 2022 a Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office Bell UH-1H Huey helicopter crashed northeast of Albuquerque, New Mexico, killing all four on board. It had been assisting with a wildfire, providing bucket drops and other air logistics needs to fire crews on the ground.

A Boeing CH-47D helicopter crashed into the Salmon River July 20, 2022 while working on the Moose Fire in Idaho, firefighters swam across the river to extract and care for the two pilots. Unfortunately, both of the pilots died from their injuries.

On June 26, 2022 a Bell UH-1B operated by Northern Pioneer Helicopters out of Big Lake, Alaska was attempting to assist firefighters by hauling equipment to the Clear Fire by a 125-foot long line. It was maneuvering at the Clear Airport 53 miles southwest of Fairbanks about 140 feet above the ground to have the end of the long line connected to the cargo. A loud noise was heard and the helicopter fell to the ground, killing the pilot, the only person on board.

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

Save communities by thinning forests or hardening structures?

Moose Fire August 2, 2022 in Montana
The result of aerial ignition on the Moose Fire August 2, 2022 in Idaho. By Mike McMillan for the USFS.

Bloomberg Law has an interesting article by Bobby Magill about efforts to reduce the wildfire threat to homes. It discusses and compares forest thinning vs. hardening structures. Here are excerpts, but read the entire article.


Congress is spending billions to save communities from Western megafires by thinning large swaths of forests even as scientists say climate change-driven drought and heat are too extreme for it to work.

The money would be better spent thinning woods closest to homes and shoring up houses against embers raining down from firestorms, according to academics, former agency officials, and others who study wildfires.

“If our goal is to keep homes and communities from burning, the experts are telling us to focus from the home outwards. First, harden the home so it is less likely to ignite,” said Beverly Law, an emeritus professor of forestry at Oregon State University.

Megafires are sustained by drought and heat, and “no amount of thinning treatment will prevent such fires from occurring,” she said.

[…]

No Scientific Consensus
As the federal government focuses on forest thinning, no scientific consensus exists that removing vegetation, especially at a landscape-scale, will save communities in the paths of firestorms amid the West’s historic 23-year drought.

The science is clear that “there isn’t a great connection between home loss and these fuel treatments,” though they sometimes help firefighters gain a foothold on some fires, Cheng said.

Randy Moore, the Forest Service chief, said the agency is confident that as homes are built deeper and deeper into the woods, its research shows that removing “overstocked” trees is the best way to protect them.

“We know where we do nothing, or where we do a little, we’re seeing the evidence out on the landscape,” Moore said, referring to recent megafires. “We feel compelled to do something.”

Forest Service lookout one of four killed during McKinney Fire in Northern California

Kathy Shoopman
Kathy Shoopman. USFS photo.

The US Forest Service has announced that one of the four people killed in the McKinney Fire in Northern California was Kathy Shoopman, a long-time FS employee. The agency said she died in her home in the community of Klamath River as a result of the fire on July 29, the day the fire erupted.

Ms. Shoopman started her career as a lookout at Baldy Mountain Lookout, west of Happy Camp, in 1974. Since then, she has staffed Lake Mountain Lookout, and most recently Buckhorn Lookout, a post she has held since 1993. She lived in the community of Klamath River for nearly five decades and was a talented artist, gardener, and a devout animal lover.

All four victims lived in Klamath River, which was ordered to evacuate on July 29 as the fire spread rapidly. It has now burned more than 60,000 acres. Ms. Shoopman was the first victim to have been positively identified.

Our sincere condolences go out to Ms. Shoopman’s family, friends, and co-workers.

Six Rivers Lightning Complex grows to 8,920 acres

Two firefighter crew carrier vehicles destroyed

Updated 8:36 a.m. PDT August 9, 2022

Six Rivers Lightning Complex fires Willow Creek
Willow Creek downtown during the Six Rivers Lightning Complex of fires, Aug. 7, 2022. InciWeb.

The wildfires in the Six Rivers Lightning Complex grew incrementally Monday, bringing the total acres burned up to about 8,900 acres when it was mapped at 9:00 Monday night. (See map below)

“Given the full-suppression tactics on this fire, crews will continue to fight fire aggressively in order to keep fire as small as possible,” the incident management team wrote in a Monday evening update. “Personnel are working to find areas to fight fire directly while continuing to provide community defense for Willow Creek, Seely Mcintosh, Salyer Heights, and other areas along the Trinity River.”

Map of the Six Rivers Lightning Complex fires
Map of the Six Rivers Lightning Complex. The red shaded areas were the perimeters at 9 p.m. August 8, 2022. The white lines were the perimeters about 24 hours previously. The red dots represent heat detected by a satellite at 4:10 a.m. Aug. 9, 2022.

KCRA News reports that two firefighter crew carrier vehicles were destroyed by the fire. Dave Whitt, Chief of the Shingle Springs Band of Miwok Indians Tribal Fire, said “We had almost a million dollars worth of fire apparatus lost but nobody’s hurt, everybody’s safe.”

Two crew carriers burned in Six Rivers Lightning Complex Fire
Two crew carriers burned in the Six Rivers Lightning Complex Fire, Aug. 8, 2022

With the destruction of the vehicles, 15 of the firefighters lost all of the personal gear they brought to the fire except what they were carrying at the time. Gone were sleeping bags, tents, extra tools, clothing, and personal items. Without their gear they were unable to set up tents and camp overnight like the other firefighters, so the Red Cross helped out by treating them like evacuees, providing a place to sleep when they were off duty.

Chief Whitt told Wildfire Today that he expects the US Forest Service compensation/claims process to replace the fire trucks and firefighting equipment. The tribe may assist the firefighters to replace their personal belongings, he said, but was not sure.

Resources assigned to the fire include 14 Type 1 Crews, 8 Type 2 Crews, 11 ST (strike teams) Type 3 Crews, 12 Dozers, 4 Chippers, 11 ST Type 6 Engines, 4 ST Dozers, 11 Type 3 Engines, 7 Water Tender Support, and 2 Feller Bunchers for a total of 525 personnel.

The weather forecast continues to predict moderate and normal conditions.

Evacuations are in effect. For current information go to Humboldt County Office of Emergency Services (https://humboldtgov.org/2383/Current-Emergencies) or Trinity County Office of Emergency Services (https://www.trinitycounty.org/OES). Evacuation zones can be found at https://community.zonehaven.com/.


6:02 p.m. PDT August 8, 2022

Six Rivers Lightning Complex map
Map looking north from the south end of the Six Rivers Lightning Complex. The red shaded areas were the perimeters at 8:26 p.m. Aug. 7. The white lines were the perimeters about 24 hours before. The red dots represent heat detected by a satellite at 2:12 p.m. Aug. 8, 2022.

The incident management team that assumed command of the Six Rivers Lightning Complex at 6 a.m. Sunday August 7 said on Monday, “This is a full suppression fire. Firefighters will aggressively fight fire whenever it is safe to do so.”

Among their objectives, they intend to keep the fire west of Lone Pine, south of Horse Linto Creek, east of Brannan Ridge, and north of Ammon Ridge.

Humboldt County has issued additional evacuation orders. The current information is at the county’s website.

The fire is in a remote area of northwest California in the Six Rivers National Forest between Redding and Eureka.

The team reported that last year’s snow event left a lot of trees dead and down on the ground. If ignited, it can result in fire behavior that is more substantial than what would usually be anticipated this time of year.

Six Rivers Lightning Complex map
Map of the Six Rivers Lightning Complex. The red shaded areas were the perimeters at 8:26 p.m. Aug. 7. The white lines were the perimeters about 24 hours before. The red dots represent heat detected by a satellite at 2:12 p.m. Aug. 8, 2022.

Continue reading “Six Rivers Lightning Complex grows to 8,920 acres”

Researchers find that nearly half of lightning down strikes in California occur with little or no rain

Researchers studied the climatology of dry lightning in California

Dry Lightning, California
(B) Total number of dry lightning flashes across three elevation zones (<1000 m, 1000–2000 m, >2000 m) within the domain for each month between 1987–2020. Text indicates the area of each elevation zone, and inset map shows the geographic distribution of the elevation zones and major mountain ranges. (D) The three elevation zones for each month (bars). Dashed lines in (D) indicate the dry lightning fraction averaged across all months for each zone. Blue dashes in (D) represent the dry lightning fraction computed from all months and elevation zones. (From the paper)

A group of six researchers who studied the occurrence and characteristics of cloud to ground lightning in Central and Northern California found that nearly half, 46 percent, was dry, accompanied by less than 0.1 inch of precipitation.

Of course dry lightning is the bane of land managers and is much more likely to ignite a wildfire than a wet thunderstorm. And on the occasions when there are thousands of down strikes, it can overwhelm the capacity to suppress what can be hundreds of fires.

The six scientists used daily gridded lightning and precipitation observations (1987–2020) in combination with atmospheric reanalyses, to characterize the climatology of dry lightning and the associated meteorological conditions during the warm season (May–October) when wildfire risk is highest.

The paper the group produced is available as open source: “Meteorological and geographical factors associated with dry lightning in central and northern California.”

Daniel Swain, a prolific user of Twitter, used the platform today to highlight some of the group’s findings. In the tweet below, click on “read reply” to see more discussion and illustrations.

The six researchers who participated in the project were Dmitri A. Kalashnikov, John T. Abatzoglou, Nicholas J. Nauslar, Daniel L. Swain, Danielle Touma, and Deepti Singh.

Firefighters are scouting for potential control lines on the Cedar Creek Fire in Western Oregon

11:20 a.m. PDT August 7, 2022

Cedar Creek Fire, mapped at 3:07 a.m. PDT Aug. 7, 2022
Cedar Creek Fire, looking east at 3:07 a.m. PDT Aug. 7, 2022

The Cedar Creek Fire on the Willamette National Forest in Western Oregon was very active when it was mapped by a fixed wing aircraft at about 10 p.m. Saturday, and also during a satellite overflight at 3 a.m. Sunday. Spot fires were observed 800 feet ahead of the main fire.

It has burned 1,822 acres since it started from a lightning strike August 1, one of 20 to 30 fires ignited by lightning that night. Most of it is burning on a plateau with a steep slope on the south side. The blaze is north of Highway 58, 14 air miles east of Oakridge, and 2 miles west of Waldo Lake.

Cedar Creek Fire, mapped at 3:07 a.m. PDT Aug. 7, 2022
Cedar Creek Fire, mapped at 3:07 a.m. PDT Aug. 7, 2022.

A Type 1 incident management team assumed command on August 5. Since then the team has been scouting for opportunities to safely engage the fire.

Currently there are no evacuations in effect.

Update at 11:57 a.m. PDT August 9 2022.
It turns out that there is a major error in the National Interagency Fire Center fire history database. In the map below we created using their data, the polygon shown as the 68,000-acre 1991 Warner Creek Fire is completely in error and does not exist at that scale or at that location. The polygon that was not identified in the NIFC database that we labeled as “Unknown fire name in the 1990s”, is actually the 8,900-acre Warner Creek Fire of 1991. We regret the error. This is not the first time we have seen gross errors in the NIFC fire history database, especially for Oregon, and causes us to question ever using it again.

Fire history near the Cedar Creek Fire

The 1996 Charlton Fire which burned 9,000 acres is 3 miles to the northeast on the north side of Waldo Lake.

Cedar Creek Fire Oregon 11 a.m. August 6, 2022
Cedar Creek Fire looking north at 11 a.m. August 6, 2022. InciWeb photo.

In the video below recorded Sunday morning, Operations Section Chief Kyle Cannon describes the current situation.