Wildfire news, March 13, 2009

Sen. Carper selected to co-chair fire caucus

Senator Tom Carper (D-Del.) has been named to one of the co-chair positions on the Congressional Fire Services Caucus, filling the position vacated by Vice President Joe Biden. During a speech at the Delaware Fire school, Carper said:

I am proud to have the opportunity to continue Delaware’s long tradition of leadership on fire issues in Washington. I have always enjoyed working with and for the men and women in Delaware who serve their neighbors and their communities as firefighters. I look forward to deepen that relationship in the coming years as a co-chair of the Congressional Fire Services Caucus.

Others serving as co-chairs are Sens. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.), Susan Collins (R-Maine) John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Congressmen Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), Jo Ann Emerson (R-Mo.), Rob Andrews (D-N.J.) and Peter King (R-N.Y.).

Fighting fire on slopes of volcano in Guatemala

Untrained firefighters suppressing a fire on the slopes of Volcano Santo Tomas in Guatemala.

From The Guatemala Times:

Guatemala, Sololá- Urgent help is needed to fight the wildfire that began a month ago on the slopes of Volcano Santo Tomas in Xejuyup, Nahualá, Sololá, 3.5 hours drive from Guatemala City, still has not been brought under control. 35,550 residents in 19 communities have been going through more than two weeks of emergency with no drinking water available.

The fire on the slope of the volcano began February 10 and is approximately 6 to 10 hours away from the surrounding communities. Local authorities have been alarmed but little has been done to help. The communities have been organizing themselves, 1,500 untrained firefighters, into groups to make rounds to control the fire.

To date the fire has destroyed an estimated 2,965 acres of forest and habitats of species and individuals on this coffee-growing highland. The National System for Prevention and Control of Forest (Sipecif) sent out 75 people to monitor the situation but so far has been unable to control the fire. Appeals have been made to the Governor of Sololá, authorities in Santa Catarina Nahualá and Ixtahuacán, and the central government.

“The Guatemalan government coordinated with the Mexican government to send two helicopters to conduct an evaluation, but nothing has been done to control the fire,” says Axtup. “Our community firefighters walk six hours on foot to the place of the fire incidents. Without the right tools and expertise, it’s almost impossible to do it all by ourselves.”

Juniper fire on Ocala National Forest grows to 3,500 acres

Brush engines on Forest Road 65 working on the Juniper fire near Juniper Springs. Photo: Doug Engle, Ocala.com

The Juniper fire, near Juniper Sprins on the Ocala National Forest in Florida, started on March 10 and has now burned 3,500 acres and is 15% contained. The fire started from an escaped campfire and tripled in size during the last 24 hours. Three people were issued mandatory appearance citations for allowing their campfire to escape. The area has not received any rain for at least 22 days.

Shortly after the fire started, the Blue Type 1 Incident Management Team from the southeast geographical area was ordered, but that order was cancelled on March 11.

Fire season predictions

New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson says it will be a tough fire season because much of his state has received little to no precipitation since the first of the year. The dry conditions have contributed to 38,610 acres burned since January 1. State fire leaders told the Governor Thursday during a briefing that the weather conditions and predictions are dire.

Esperanza fire penalty hearing

The penalty hearing, which is expected to last 2 weeks, continued on Thursday with Chief Bradley Harris from CalFire reconstructing the movements of some of the victims, the crew of USFS Engine 57 that died in the fire set intentionally by Raymond Oyler, convicted of murder and setting the fire.

Harris said, for instance, that Daniel Hoover-Najera ran for “well over 30 seconds” before he succumbed to the flames.

Several relatives of the deceased firefighters testified about their loved ones and the impacts on their personal lives since their loss.

From the Press-Enterprise:

On Thursday, Riverside County Superior Court Judge W. Charles Morgan ordered jail personnel to make sure Oyler was getting his prescribed medication. Defense attorney Mark McDonald said his client had not been receiving the medicine recently because Oyler arrived back at the jail from the courthouse after the dispensary had been issued.

A court-appointed psychologist this week said Oyler was competent to stand for the penalty phase of his trial.

During the week, Oyler displayed twitching movements at the counsel table. He also muttered to himself, sometimes asked his attorneys whispered questions, and at other times appeared heavy-lidded and on the verge of sleep.

McDonald said his client received his medication on Wednesday night and seemed to be faring better on Thursday. Oyler takes anti-depressant and anti-tremor medications, among others.

The hearing will resume on Monday.

Global Temperature

The global average temperature in 2008 was the coolest in 10 years, but it was still the ninth warmest year since continuous instrumental records were started in 1880. Those who deny that global warming exists don’t realize the debate ended 10 years ago.

Petition signers opposed prescribed burning because of “beautification of our natural lands”

A District Ranger and a Fire Management Officer from the Cherokee National Forest in eastern Tennessee held a public meeting about their planned prescribed burns, but only two members of the public showed up.

However, Danny Price, a field representative for U.S. Rep. Phil Rowe was there and presented a petition signed by 123 citizens opposed to prescribed fire, which said:

“We, the undersigned, are opposed to the prescribed and control burning of U.S. Forest Service property … Due to strong south winds, the burning would affect elderly people, as well as close proximity to dwelling houses, churches, the home for children, the Oaks Family Conference Center and Campground, schools, small game, trees that young animals are born in, not to mention the beautification of our natural lands.”

In spite of the low attendance, the DR and the FMO put on a full-blown presentation about the merits of prescribed burning.

The Greeneville Sun has more details.

Thanks Dick

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