Wildfire news, April 27, 2009

Update on Myrtle Beach Highway 31 fire

The estimated size of the fire has been reduced to 19,500 acres due to more accurate mapping.  It is 90 percent contained and the primary activity now is mopping up and improving lines.  Crews continue to report encounters with bears, snakes and other wildlife which may been displaced by the fire.

Another description of one of the two burnovers has now come out, courtesy of the AP.  Here is an excerpt:

Wayne Springs and Terry Cook tried to outrun a South Carolina wildfire as it started ripping through forests and homes near the coast. The two state forestry technicians survived by huddling in portable fire shelters, and four days later they were still stomping out the blaze.

“I was nervous going back, but I didn’t want to leave everybody else,” Springs, 43, said Sunday. “I’ve never seen anything like this and I hope I never do again.”

In all, the wildfire that started Wednesday has burned more than 30 square miles and demolished more than 70 homes. Officials said it remained 85 percent contained Sunday but worried an expected wind shift Monday could threaten other houses. Nobody has been injured.

Springs and Cook were hours into battling the wildfire near North Myrtle Beach when their tractor got stuck on a fire break. They were waiting for a tow when the winds changed, pushing a 150-foot wall of flames at them.

“You knew it was coming for you, and that is a bad feeling,” said Springs, of Lake City. “We were scared, but we stayed calm.”

Each took cover in a fire shelter — which looks like a massive piece of aluminum foil — and hunkered in a small ditch filled with water as the fire roared over them. For several minutes they were surrounded by the sounds of popping wood and the whoosh of flames.

“It wasn’t long, but it felt like forever,” said Cook, 43, of Florence County.

Contractor warned about brush piles that started Summit fire

CalFire twice warned a contractor who was burning brush piles, which a month later escaped and started the Summit fire in the Santa Cruz Mountains south of San Francisco last May.  Two of the piles were left smoldering, causing 4,270 acres and 132 structures to burn.

The contractor responsible for clearing the five-acre parcel and burning the piles, Channing Parker Verden, 50, of Los Gatos, California has been arrested and booked into Santa Clara County Jail on $250,000 bail.  The standard bail for the crime he is accused of is $60,000.  He remains in custody.

HERE is a great progression map of the fire….the best progression map I have ever seen.

Deep fire

The Deep fire in Big Cypress National Preserve in south Florida has burned 22,000 acres and is 20 percent contained.  Active fire, heavy smoke, and suppression actions continue to require that a major east-west highway across the state, Interstate 75 also known as Alligator Alley, be closed intermittently.

The Southern Area Incident Management Team with Incident Commander Quesinberry assumed command of the fire on Sunday. More information is at the National Park Service site.

Nepal: 18 die in wildfires

At least 13 army personnel and 5 locals were killed in Ramechhap in central Nepal on Thursday while trying to suppress wildfires.  More than 178,000 acres of forest in 13 districts have burned in Nepal during the current strong wind and drought conditions.

The Department of Forests has directed all district forest offices to start bringing the fires under control by coordinating with the district administration, Nepal Army, Nepal police and the locals.

That sounds easy.  Just direct that the fires be put out.

Sleep Deprivation Hazards

From The Latest:

Numerous health and medical sources indicate that sleep deprivation must be considered among the threats to the well-being, safety, and security of Emergency Services Sector (ESS) personnel.  Sleep-loss-related fatigue degrades performance, productivity, and safety, as well as health and fitness.

Medical and performance specialists generally agree that adequate daily sleep is needed for individuals to function optimally, maintain good health, and avoid the risks resulting from an altered state of awareness. The potential decrements in the performance of duties and the cumulative adverse health effects to personnel are considerable and warrant the attention of the leaders, owners, and operators of ESS departments and agencies.

According to an article seen in the March 2009 National Institute of Justice (NIJ) Journal (Issue No. 262), a researcher in the Washington State University Sleep and Performance Research Center wrote that there are actions ESS leaders can implement to mitigate the undesirable consequences of sleep deprivation among emergency responders.

The EMR-ISAC summarizes five beneficial activities as follows:

  • Review policies that affect overtime, moonlighting, and the number of consecutive hours a person can work.
  • Ensure the policies keep shift rotation to a minimum and give personnel adequate rest time.
  • Assess the level of fatigue personnel experience, the quality of their sleep, and how tired they are while on the job.
  • Create a culture in which employees receive adequate information about the importance of good sleep habits, the risks of sleep deprivation, and strategies for managing the hazards.
  • Encourage personnel to remain physically fit, get enough exercise, maintain a healthy body weight, eat nutritious meals, and stop smoking.

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