Wildfire news, May 20, 2009

Groups seek to ban prescribed fire in Ohio

The Buckeye Forest Council, the Ohio Environmental Council, and the Ohio Sierra Club are recommending that prescribed fires in Ohio be banned. This is due in part to a prescribed fire by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources that escaped in April, 2008 and burned six additional acres.  They are also pointing to a prescribed fire last month, covered by Wildfire Today, that had to be abandoned because an arsonist set two other fires nearby that threatened houses.  All three fires burned together, blackening 2,800 acres. A volunteer firefighter, Michael W. Thompson, 22, of Stout, Ohio was arrested for starting those fires, the largest to occur in the Shawnee State Forest in the last 20 years

From the Columbus Dispatch:

“They don’t appear to be able to control fires when they set them,” said David Maywhoor, director of the Buckeye Forest Council, whose group opposes controlled burns in state forests.

Natural Resources stands by its policy and plans seven controlled burns this fall across 3,100 acres in four state forests, including the Shawnee.

It has lighted [sic] more than 500 controlled burns in the past decade. The state and private agencies burn more than 30,000 acres a year.

The state says the fires reduce dead wood and leaves that could otherwise fuel wildfires, as well as help state foresters protect old-growth oak trees.

Fire, researchers say, has indirectly protected the ecological system in North America for centuries. American Indians burned land used for hunting and gathering. In the 17th century, when Europeans settled in North America, forests and woodlands were burned to create farmland.

Nevertheless, the Portsmouth Air Agency, which works for the Ohio EPA, found that state forestry officials had violated an open burning permit when fire spread outside the boundaries of a 193-acre burn on April 8, 2008.

The Ohio EPA could fine the Department of Natural Resources.

The Forest Council, the Ohio Environmental Council and the Ohio Sierra Club say they want Strickland to ban controlled burns.

[Gov. Ted] Strickland won’t back a ban, spokeswoman Amanda Wurst said.

Though the Ohio EPA hasn’t decided what to do about the 2008 fire, spokeswoman Erin Strouse said the agency is “generally satisfied” with the way Natural Resources handles controlled burns.

What’s next? Are they going to ban books in Ohio?  And to think, a long time ago I was a member of the Sierra Club until they adopted extremist policies like trying to ban all logging on national forests. And now they want to ban prescribed fire?  The Sierra Club is becoming irrelevant.

Thanks, Zachary

New tool for forecasting Alaska fires

Alaska Center for Climate Assessment & Policy

As you can see from the map above, a lot of acres of vegetation has burned in Alaska since 1950. The University of Alaska’s Center for Climate Assessment and Policy is developing a new tool to forecast how many acres will burn. As they say on their web site, the calculations are:

…based on a gradient boosting model that takes advantage of strong linkages between teleconnection indices, weather, and fire in Alaska.

Here is their forecast for this summer, based on a prediction made in April:

Alaska Center for Climate Assessment & Policy

Man survives helicopter crash, loses home to fire

Michael Brown, right, still recovering from his injuries, speaks at a press conference on September 4, 2008

Michael Brown was one of the four survivors of the August 5 helicopter crash on the Iron 44 fire on the Shasta-Trinity National Forest in northern California in which nine firefighters and air crew members were killed.  On Saturday he was in Boise attending the Wildland Firefighter Foundation’s “Family Weekend” when he received word that his home in Rogue River, Oregon burned, destroying nearly everything inside. Because he lived in a rural area he was not able to afford fire insurance on the house.

Mr. Brown worked for Grayback Forestry.  The helicopter that crashed was carrying 10 Grayback employees, 7 of whom died in the crash. The company has set up a donation fund to assist Mr. Brown and his family in recovering from the loss of their home and possessions.

Mike Brown Recovery Fund

Account #110024

Southern Oregon Federal Credit Union

PO Box 1358

Grant’s Pass OR 97528

From the AP account:

Michael Brown remains in physical therapy and counseling for the trauma suffered in August. He and Grayback’s two other survivors from the crash plan to continue firefighting, said Jesse Kiene of Grayback.

“He’s a grown man, so he can make that decision,” said Brown’s mother, Carol McFadden. “I’d rather see him delivering mail or something.”

The fourth survivor of the crash is Bill Coultas of Cave Juntions, who was the helicopter’s co-pilot. He suffered severe burns and said he’s at least nine months from flying again.

Marine pleads guilty of starting Juliett II fire

A Marine based at Camp Pendleton north of San Diego was sentenced to a year in the brig after pleading guilty to starting a fire on the base on October 13 last year. Wildfire Today covered the fire HERE.

Lance Corporal Nason Lamb said he was horsing around with two other marines when he picked up a clump of grass, lit it on fire and threw it to the ground.

An excerpt from the North County Times:

“I tried to stamp it out, but it wouldn’t go out,” Lamb said during the opening of his one-day court-martial where he pleaded guilty to reckless endangerment and setting fire to U.S. property. “It just got out of hand.”

The fire occurred on a hot, humid and windy day, prompting fears of another major wildfire such as the destructive blazes that ravaged North County in 2003 and 2007. Hundreds of firefighters and firefighting aircraft were called in and more than 2,000 people were evacuated from their homes.

Before he was handed the jail term, a bad conduct discharge, reduction in rank to private and forfeiture of $933 a month from his pay, Lamb tearfully apologized and pleaded for a chance to stay in the Marine Corps.

“I’m more than sorry,” he said. “I just want people to understand that I’m not a bad person and that I own up to my mistakes.”

That contention was rejected by the lead prosecutor, Capt. Damian Richard, who pointed out that Lamb lied twice to investigators who were searching for the cause of the fire and didn’t own up to what he had done until two Marines with him said he started the blaze.

“It’s too little too late to finally decide to accept responsibilities for his actions,” Richard told the judge, Col. Joseph Lisiecki. “He lied twice about it and he threw away his cigarettes and lighter to deflect blame.

“Lance Corporal Lamb is unfit to be a Marine,” Richard concluded. “He’s a risk, he’s a threat and he displayed that.”

The fire Lamb started was one of two blazes that burned on the base that October day. A fire dubbed Juliett I for the training area in which it started was fully ablaze from still unknown causes when Lamb started the second fire authorities called Juliett II. The two fires merged that evening and it would take four more days before it was fully extinguished.

Two Fallbrook residents testified how the first evening of the fire threatened their homes and livelihood.

Organic fruit and vegetable producer Andrea Peterson was forced to evacuate when the flames came perilously close to her home and surrounding orchards and vegetable fields. She said she sustained about $100,000 in losses from a destroyed greenhouse, above-ground irrigation piping, most of her vegetable crop and fruit trees.

“There was an enormous amount of damage,” she said, adding she still may lose her business. “It was a huge clean-up job.”

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