A day in the life of Yellowstone’s Antelope fire

“Bogo999” assmebled hundreds of still images from the Mount Washburn web camera in Yellowstone National Park and put together this time-lapse video of the Antelope fire burning in the northeast section of the park.

The first two minutes are during the night and not much is happening, so click Play, then go get a Moosehead or Fat Tire (click here and scroll down), then when you come back much of the video will have loaded and you can jump forward past the 2:00 mark to find something more interesting.

The video starts at 11:00 p.m. Sept. 18 and goes until Sept. 19 at 11:00 p.m. local time.

Compared to the video and the images we posted of the fire taken on September 21 and 23, it appears in the image below (taken after sunset at 7:25 p.m. on Sept. 28) that the fire as crossed the Yellowstone River on the east side and is burning very nicely tonight. The camera is pointing northeast. Here is a link to the latest map on the Yellowstone site, dated September 21.

Antelope fire

A few days ago I checked the cam and the fire was burning pretty hot on the near side of the drainage and the convection column was leaning across the canyon. I was wondering if any spot fires would take hold over there and apparently they did. It looks like it’s going to add some significant acreage, weather permitting.  The weather forecast for the fire area for Sept. 29-30 calls for high temps in the low 70’s, RH around 20%, and slight breezes out of the northwest and then south. There’s no chance of rain until October 4 when the forecast predicts a 26% chance. Winds will be moderate until the 4th, when they will be at 14 mph out of the southwest, with gusts up to 20.

Any guesses on the date of the Fire Season Ending Event in Yellowstone?

Wildfire cartoons

Managing wildfires and public lands can be a serious business, so it was a little surprising when we ran across these cartoons having forest fires as the theme. It is unusual to say the least to see wildfire issues depicted in a cartoonish style with bright, primary colors. But it is refreshing, and perhaps long overdue as a tactic to start a dialog and to attract the attention of readers who might not otherwise be engaged.

These two cartoons were drawn by Sam Wallace and are published with his generous permission. Mr. Wallace has a web site where you can see examples of his illustrations, some of which also appear at the Longmont, Colorado Times Call.

The cartoon above refers to the Fourmile fire that started on September 6 just west of Boulder that burned 6,181 acres and 169 structures. We covered the fire, but were unaware of any controversy over noise from the aircraft. There may have been some grumbling from Longmont (map), but no doubt the residents in the Boulder area were pleased to see the air tankers and helicopters working on the fire. (UPDATE: We checked with Mr. Wallace and he said that over the last few years there have been a lot of complaints about aircraft noise at the Longmont Vance Brand Municipal Airport, but the air tankers working the Fourmile fire did not use the airport. He said “Who in their right mind would complain about planes fighting fires.”)

The cartoon below of course refers to the issue of pine beetles, which have affected millions of acres in the western U.S. and Canada. This is another topic that we have covered extensively, most recently in an article in which we wrote, “forests that have been affected by mountain pine beetles are less likely to burn as intensely as green forests”. However, if you completely remove beetle-killed trees, the forest will burn less intensely than if the fuel was not removed. This is not practical across millions of acres, and it would interfere with natural processes, but should be considered in an urban-interface zone.

And, thank you, Sam Wallace, for the cartoons!

BYU researchers hope to fine-tune wildfire behavior models

BYU fire research
Professor Thomas Fletcher and his students study fire behavior at BYU.

A chemical Engineering professor at Brigham Young University said the fire behavior model currently being used to predict the spread of wildfires “doesn’t have a lot of physics in it” and “it’s not as good as it could be”. Wildland firefighters have been using the Behave and BehavePlus fire modeling systems for decades.

Using grants from the U.S. Forest Service and the National Science Foundation, Thomas Fletcher expects to add several components to the existing models.

Here are some excerpts from an article on the BYU web site:

Most recently, Fletcher published an article in the International Journal of Wildland Fire detailing how a leaf can burn even with up to 50 percent of its moisture present. This previously unknown fact has serious ramifications for existing models, which often mistakenly factor in the additional time it takes for a leaf’s moisture to evaporate.

“Once a fire gets going, it doesn’t matter if you have wet leaves or bone-dry plants,” Fletcher said. “A big enough fire can ignite the leaves even though there still may be some moisture in the vegetation.”

Over the years, Fletcher and his team have focused on improving three aspects of fire models: the impact of moisture on fires, how wind affects flame and how flame spreads through shrubs.

“The model the fire boss usually runs on his laptop doesn’t have a lot of physics in it,” Fletcher said. “It runs fast and predicts something, but it’s not as good as it can be. We’re trying to improve that model so he can better understand where the fire is, where it’s going, which houses can be saved and where he can safely place firefighters.”

David Weise, supervisory research forester at the USDA Forest Service lab in Riverside, Calif., said Fletcher’s team complements others across the country working to improve the fire models.

“Tom’s fundamental work is providing us with information that can be used in our next generation of models,” Weise said. “The live fuels he’s working on are something we’ve found is important for us to look at, because our current models are dominated by dead fuels.”

Three articles written by Fletcher have been published in the International Journal of Wildland Fire, an official publication of the International Association of Wildland Fire.

CalFire sends engines into Mexico to fight fire

Border 11 fire
Border 11 fire. CalFire photo.

The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection yesterday sent fire engines through the Tecate point of entry into Mexico to help Mexican firefighters, or bomberos, fight a vegetation fire that had crossed the U.S./Mexican border. About 500 acres burned in Mexico, but air tankers, helitankers, and engines held the fire to only 6 acres in the Bell Valley area on the U.S. side of the border. By late in the afternoon on Sunday firefighters had stopped the spread of the fire.

Border 11 fire
Border 11 fire. CalFire photo.

A strike team of engines from the Cleveland National Forest also responded to the fire, named Border 11, but there is no report of them crossing the border.

A red flag warning is in effect for the Los Angeles and Ventura areas through Monday. The weather forecast for today for Potrero near the Border 11 fire calls for a high temperature of 97, relative humidity of 16%, and east winds of 15 mph gusting to 24.

Below is a copy of the Tweets sent out by CalFire in San Diego County on Saturday and Sunday. It was screen-captured at about 9 a.m. PT on Sept. 27.

Continue reading “CalFire sends engines into Mexico to fight fire”

Firefighter dies on brush fire in Virginia

Hal Clark
Hal Clark, photo from www.easternshorefire.com

We are saddened to report another firefighter fatality, this time at a brush fire on the Eastern Shore of Virginia. William Harold “Hal” Clark collapsed while working on a fire in New Church, Virginia off Route 13 on September 24. He was transported to a hospital in Salisbury, MD where he was pronounced dead. An Autopsy is planned to determine the exact cause of death.

Mr. Clark was president and life-time member of the Atlantic Volunteer Fire and Rescue Company. Their Facebook page is HERE.

A funeral service with full firefighter honors will be held Friday, October 1 at 2 p.m. at Union Baptist Church in Chincoteague, VA. Interment will be held at the John W. Taylor Cemetery in Temperanceville, VA. Friends are invited to call Thursday, from 7-9 p.m. at Union Baptist Church in Chincoteague.


Our sincere condolences go out to the family and friends of Hal Clark.

Firefighter killed on wildfire in Ohio

From Firefighter Close Calls


The Secret List FireFighter Close Calls

Reports are that Firefighter Ryan Seitz, 27 of the McArthur FD (Ohio) was operating on or near an apparatus that had a pressurized tank of some kind. The 2nd Firefighter injured, as reported earlier with non life threatening injuries has since been released from the hospital.

Initial reports are that FF Seitz was killed when pressure inside a water tank built up, for an unknown reason, to the extent that it blew up. The remnants of that reportedly struck FF Seitz and killed him in the Line of Duty. Firefighter Seitz joined the MFD in August of 2010, was not married, has no children but is survived by his parents. R.I.P.

In all, over a dozen fire companies from Ross, Vinton, Hocking and Pickaway counties all operated at the fires including the one above, where the Firefighter was killed in the Line of Duty.
Updates to follow.



The Secret List 9-24-10 / 2156 Hours

Our sincere condolences go out to Mr. Seitz’s family and co-workers.