WhoopUp fire update July 21, 2011

Whoopup fire progression map July 20 2011

UPDATE at 9:30 p.m. MT, July 21, 2011:

The WhoopUp fire started four days ago on July 17, and late today the incident management team for the first time made a good quality, fairly current, map available to the public. It can be found on InciWeb and clearly shows the controlled and uncontrolled portions of the fire perimeter as of 8:00 a.m. today. It is a great map, but maps like this could have been made available to the public two or three days ago. A Geographic Information System (GIS) specialist can make one of these in a couple of hours after someone flies around the fire with a GPS receiver.

Providing this important information to the public that is affected by the fire is an important responsibility of the fire managers. Ideally, the Situation Unit on a fire would collect the fire perimeter data late in the afternoon near the end of the burning period and the updated map would be available later that night or no later than 7:00 a.m. the next morning. And if the fire team is fully staffed, they could even do this twice a day if the fire is moving rapidly.

InciWeb is the place these maps should be posted, since we have been trained for years that it is the default place, the one common source, for information about large wildfires and other incidents across the United States.  Posting photographs and maps on Flickr and other obscure commercial and government agency sites, like some fires have done over the last month, does not serve the public. And it leads to questions and confusion about copyrights for documents and photos that are in the public domain. Government photos have appeared on Flickr with a copyright warning — for photos that should be in the public domain.

But getting back to the updated information on InciWeb… The new adjusted size is 8,884 acres, down 1,116 acres from the 10,000-acre figure that was on InciWeb around noon today. The acreage figure includes both fires, WhoopUp and Barell. The new map, with data current as of 8:00 a.m. today, shows no completed fireline on the Barrel fire, which is 4 miles south of the WhoopUp fire. Since the main WhoopUp fire appears to be approximately 80-90% contained, the Team was going to shift some resources to the Barrel fire, so maybe they made significant progress on that fire today, making use of the two heavy air tankers and the three heavy helicopters.

In looking at the new map, the Barrel fire appears to be approximately 1,500 acres. The map also shows a fire that is new to me, about a mile northwest of the Barrel fire, perhaps 30-60 acres in size.

Since the Incident Management Team is now beginning to provide some current information to the public on InciWeb, we will cut back on the production of our cobbled-together maps. While they have been fairly accurate, using the best satellite data available, they can’t compare to one made when you have access to a helicopter and a GIS specialist.


UPDATE at 1:42 p.m. MT, July 21, 2011: According to updated information at InciWeb, the official size of the two fires combined, WhoopUp and Barrell, is now 10,000 acres, an increase of 2,629 acres over the size that was announced this morning. Smoke can be smelled in Hot Springs, SD.


7:21 a.m. MT, July 21, 2011. We will update this article as needed today.

Evacuations were lifted Wednesday at 2:00 p.m. for the WhoopUp fire, which straddles the border between Wyoming and South Dakota seven miles southeast of Newcastle, Wyoming. The strong winds that were forecast for Wednesday did not materialize, at least at the Red Mountain weather station southeast of the fire. The Barrel fire four miles south of the WhoopUp fire, the result of two fires burning together, is being managed with the WhoopUp fire and has been active over the last 24 hours. It will be the main focus of firefighters on Thursday, Steve Till, a spokesperson for the fire told us.


  • Acres: 7,371, which includes both the WhoopUp and Barrel fires, an increase of 1,827 acres.
  • Containment: 40%, down from 60% yesterday.
  • Helicopters: 3 Type 1 (heavy), and 1 Type 3 (light)
  • Air tankers available: 2
  • Personnel (as of late on Wednesday): 527, an increase of 277 compared to Tuesday (according to the National Incident Management Situation Report). Some demobilization has started.

The weather forecast for the fire area on Thursday predicts 90 degrees, winds out of the southwest and west at 8-14 with gusts up to 16-18, relative humidity of 17%, and 0-12% chance of precipitation.

WhoopUp fire map
Map showing heat detected by satellites on the Whoopup and Barrel fires at 3:00 a.m. MT, July 21 2011. The red areas represent active burning, while the black and yellow areas indicate heat detected within the last 12 or 24 hours respectively. The brown cross-hatched area is the fire perimeter provided by the incident management team at 10:00 p.m. July 19, 2011. MODIS/Bill Gabbert
WhoopUp Fire
Firefighters burn out from a wet line on the WhoopUp fire, July 19, 2011. Photo: Frank Carroll, USFS
WhoopUp Fire
WhoopUp Fire. Unknown date. Photo by Shelia French.

The Rapid City Journal has an excellent gallery of photos of the fire and also a few taken at the air tanker base at Rapid City Regional Airport. The caption on THIS picture is, unfortunately wrong, and should read: “I’ll be glad when they get that busted hose fixed. It’s getting old filling the air tankers with these damn buckets!”

More maps:


Whoopup fire progression map July 20 2011
Whoopup fire progression map, July 20, 2011, by Black Hills National Forest

The map below, produced July 19, 2011, shows the history of other fires in the area of the WhoopUp fire.

whoopup map fire history

Author: Bill Gabbert

After working full time in wildland fire for 33 years, he continues to learn, and strives to be a Student of Fire. Google+

9 thoughts on “WhoopUp fire update July 21, 2011”

  1. My husband was on the WhoopUp fire until this morning. He called and said he was being moved to a fire about 20 miles south of WhoopUp. Does anyone have any info on this? Name?

    1. The only active fire south of the WhoopUp fire is the Barrel fire, which is 4 miles from the south edge of the WhoopUp fire. It’s being managed with the WhoopUp — by the same IMTeam.

  2. Those guys aren’t filling the tanker with buckets. They’re fetching buckets of prop wash like the pilot told them to do.

  3. Thank You so much for this website. As it is helping me, back here in West Michigan, keep up on the situation. I have 3 relatives now living in Newcastle & nearby Ranch of the WhoopUp Fire.

  4. Nice photo by Ms. French of the truck putting down a foam line with fire fighters walking well out in the grass keeping a sharp lookout for anything that might have gone over.

    I noticed in another photo the firefighter was looking away from the main fire for spots. I’m guessing they were burning off this section. It’s great to see the job being done the way it should be.

    Keep up the good work!

  5. The use of social media (new media) is a challenge to many Incident Management Teams (IMTs) in providing timely info to the public.

    Inciweb is ONE tool, but frequently “crashes” whenever there is a high demand.

    PIOs and ICs are being taught to use circular loops of info to inform the public on incident status (ie. cross-posting on MANY sites that loop and have repetitive feed back).

    The PIOs and ICs are being taught how to communicate to various audiences …. While at the same time, barriers in “new” communication are being levied on them from the folks in DC.

    EVERY “inciweb” post has either a contact phone number or email address that ANYONE can contact for additional info. MANY folks would rather prefer to visit twitter, Facebook, (or trusted websites such as wildfiretoday.com) etc.. for updated info.

    It’s a balance of info… and the WO hasn’t caught up yet recognizing/allowing the info sharing… even THOUGH the ICs and PIOs have.


  6. Ken-

    You are right about InciWeb crashing when more people visit the site than it is designed to support. It went down several times last month when the Wallow fire was burning in Arizona. The site works fine until a lot of people are affected by a fire, arguably the time when it is MOST important that it should be working well.

    So there are at least two choices for categories of sites to which information officers can post fire information. InciWeb, which crashes under heavy use, or other sites which fewer people will be able to find.

    Here’s an idea: the agencies whose logos appear on InciWeb (NPS, USFS, USFWS, BLM, NASF, USFA, NOAA, DOI, and BIA) could increase the capacity of the site.

    Two examples of InciWeb being down:
    1. June 12, 2011
    2. July 21, 2008

  7. I just wanted to point out that todAy this fire behaved fairly well, but the previous days have been VERY rough. The witching hour on the Barrel Fire has been from 5pm thru 10pm. We’ve seen strong lines crossed, and the box canyons have been very difficult lay line in. Because of this, getting accurate data to the public in the evening has been impossible on some days. Major burnout operations began today and hopefully wrapping up tomorrow. At that point the unburned box canyons should be isolated from the fireline. (07/22/2011 9pm)

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