Wildfire news, July 24, 2011

Air Tanker 494 reloading

Eagle fire

The Eagle fire on the Los Coyotes Indian Reservation and the Anza Borrego Desert State Park in northern San Diego County has grown to 11,000 acres. The fire grew by only a few hundred acres today due in part to overcast skies and a relative humidity between 51% and 60%, recorded at the Ranchita RAWS weather station 3.5 miles south of the fire.

National Guard helicopters are assisting with crew shuttles, inserting over 100 firefighters into the remote area west of Borrego Springs, California. Assigned to the fire are 1,120 personnel, 63 engines, 74 hand crews, 19 helicopters, and 8 dozers. Sunday evening the fire was 40% contained.

Eagle fire map
Map showing heat detected by satellites on the Eagle fire at 3:06 p.m. PT, July 24, 2011. MODIS

A Borrego Springs resident posted a few photos of the fire.

Something for your trivia file: the 600,000-acre Anza Borrego Desert State Park is the largest state park in California; and after New York’s Adirondack Park it’s the second largest state park in the contiguous 48 states.

Injured hiker starts signal fire

A 35-year old man hiking near Buckeye, Arizona injured his leg, and becoming dehydrated, set a signal fire hoping someone would find him. Here is an excerpt from KPHO:

The man’s fire was initially spotted by a local farmer who called for help. When deputies arrived they heard the injured hiker calling for help. Firefighters were able to get the man out by foot and to a waiting helicopter that took him to a nearby hospital in Goodyear.

The Buckeye Valley Fire Department was able to put out the brush fire, quickly keeping it to a small area. However, because of the remote area they are keeping an eye on it to make sure it is completely out.

Firefighters said they never recommend starting a fire, but in this case it worked out for the best.

“You got to take what he had. If he did not have a phone or any other way to make contact with anybody and he got to the point where he could not make it out of here himself, yes I would say he did the right thing we found him and got him out,” said Preston Hundley, of the Buckeye Valley Fire Dept.

Single engine air tankers in Arkansas

Air Tanker 494 reloading
A Single Engine Air Tanker is reloaded with water at the Hot Springs Municipal Airport on July 23, 2011. Credit: Arkansas Forestry Commission

The Arkansas Forestry Commission is bringing on two single engine air tankers a week earlier than previously planned due to the heat and a recent drought.

“Arkansas is in drought conditions and fuels are dry, especially across the south half of the state,” said Don McBride, Assistant State Forester-Protection. “Areas in the state have not received any significant rainfall for a couple of months. With the dry conditions and 100 degree temperatures, conditions are very dangerous for our firefighters. We need to do anything possible to slow these wildfires and cool them down to help suppression crews.”

Firefighters discover historic cabin

Lion historic cabin
Historic cabin found on the Lion fire

Firefighters on the Lion fire in California’s Sequoia National Forest discovered an historic cabin Saturday. Here is a news release from the USFS:

Historic Cabin Discovered on Lion Wildfire

SEQUOIA NATIONAL FOREST Helicopter crew members spotted an old cabin in the forest’s wilderness while completing aerial ignitions yesterday.

Crew members halted ignitions and ensured that the cabin was protected from the fire. This cabin was undocumented by forest officials, so this is a special find for the forest.

“It’s exciting to have discovered an historic structure that we were unaware of in this fire response,” said Priscilla Summers, Western Divide District Ranger. “Efforts are underway by forest staff to determine how this cabin fits into the historical story of the area. The forest thanks the firefighters who saw this cabin and made the efforts to protect it from the fire.”

Please visit http://inciweb.org/incident/2400/ for information about the Lion Wildfire.

WhoopUp fire 100% contained

The 10,675-acre WhoopUp fire straddling the Wyoming/South Dakota border is 100% contained as of 7:00 p.m. July 24. Transfer of command to a local Type III organization will take place Monday, July 25th at 7:00 pm.

“I am extremely proud of the work done on the Whoopup Fire,” said Deputy Incident Commander Jay Esperance. “To get to 100 percent containment without injuries or structural loss is due to the hard work achieved by all incident personnel.”
An account of an epic rescue

If you have ever wondered what it’s like to be struck by lighting, check out an article at trib.com about how numerous people were struck by lightning last year on a mountain in Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming. Three groups of climbers, for a total of 17 people, had to be rescued when an unexpected storm moved in. The article is very interesting; here is an excerpt:


…People often ask Walker what it feels like to be struck by lightning. The closest he can come to describing it is the way your foot goes uncomfortably numb when it falls asleep.

Walker and his party found themselves suddenly in a storm of snow and sleet. Climbing last to a ledge, he couldn’t see his group. When he arrived, he felt the sting of electricity on the left side of his body and head. “It felt like I touched an electric wire,” he said.

The group pushed its gear away as it began to hum. The scent of burned clothing and flesh wafted in the air.

The air buzzed, and then the lightning would hit.

“I was wondering which of these strikes was going to be the one to do us in,” Walker said.

Walker didn’t feel the burns. He noticed at one point he couldn’t feel his right leg at all. It wouldn’t be until he’d been brought to the lower saddle and his boot taken off that he’d seen the sock blown apart and his wounded foot.

Smith wouldn’t find out where she was burned, either, until hours after the first strike when she was in the hospital, her clothes finally removed so she could see.

The big blasts, three or four that hit her, seared her entire body, paralyzing it with pain.


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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.

6 thoughts on “Wildfire news, July 24, 2011”

  1. As I look at the resource numbers i.e 19 helicopters, I wonder if eliminating the DC-10 contract and packing-up the airbase was significant in any way? The cost per gallon for delivering fire retardant to this fire is probably four times that of one DC-10. Pay me now or pay me later.

    1. Johnny – as an Air Attack and an OPS Chief, give me some helicopters any day over a DC-10 or any other VLATs under most – but not all – circumstances. More site-specific drops, shorter turn-around time and greater accuracy = more cost efficiency and operational control at the on-the-ground level.
      Just one OPS guy’s opinion!

  2. Hearing some bad stories from firefighters (Hotshots) on the Eagle Fire in regards to firefighter safety and support.

    Hopefully those problems will be FIXED tomorrow.

      1. Sorry for the delated reply:

        Primarily aerial support issues related to lack of food and water support to crews (fed and state) while spiking out AND congested airspace issues AND lack of helitack staffing helispots.

        With 23 helicopters assigned, I don’t think it should take over 18 hrs to get drinking water delivered to the line… but that could just be me.

        1. Despite all our experience on large fires and other events sometimes getting everthing in place, at the right time, to make the logistics work can be a huge task. As a former helibase manager I would at times be told to set up for a major logistics mission and have nothing show up. Or else at the end of the day with aircraft hours and daylight running out, with out warning have huge amounts of things show up with an need to get it out NOW.


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