AAR released for an extreme fire behavior event on the Station fire

The Station fire approaches the safety zone of OCFA's engine strike team in Bib Tujunga Canyon
The Station fire approaches the safety zone of OCFA’s engine strike team in Big Tujunga Canyon. Photo: Orange County Fire Authority

On August 29, 2009 two strike teams of engines were forced to retreat to a safety zone in Big Tujunga Canyon on the Station fire near Los Angeles as a massive convection column collapsed and sent strong winds and a flaming front through the canyon, leading to the loss of about 35 structures and burn injuries to three civilians who had refused to evacuate.

On January 7 the Wildland Fire Lessons Learned Center posted an After Action Review of this event written from the viewpoint of an engine strike team, number 1400C, from the Orange County Fire Authority. The AAR documents the preparation before the fire approached, the safety zone experience, fighting fire and saving structures after they could leave the safety zone, and the treatment and extraction of the burn victims.

The entire document is very worth reading, but below are the lessons learned:

Continue reading “AAR released for an extreme fire behavior event on the Station fire”

Man ordered to pay an additional $11.9 million for starting Catalina Island fire

A contract worker who is accused of accidentally starting a fire on Catalina Island off the coast of Los Angeles has been ordered by a court to pay an additonal $11.9 million in restitution. At an earlier hearing he had been ordered to pay $4 million.

Gary Dennis Hunt was a subcontractor doing some work on a radio tower on the island on May10, 2007 when his cutting torch started a few small fires that he put out. The next day, in spite of extreme fire danger warnings and a prohibition against the use of open flames, he continued to use the torch and started a fire which burned 4,000 acres and caused $20 million in damages to several structures.

Mr. Hunt’s employer is expected to pay the bulk of the restitution through their insurance company.

Here is a video that summarizes the latest developments.

Contribute weather reports to the NWS

The National Weather Service is experimenting with a system that will enable anyone with a Twitter account to submit weather reports from their cell phone or computer. The primary purpose is to collect “storm reports” or “significant weather reports”.

As long as the reports are formatted as prescribed by the NWS, the data, or the individual messages or “Tweets”, will be searchable and available to anyone who visits twitter.com or uses a 3rd party Twitter application on their computer (such as TweetDeck) or on their cell phone (such as TwitDroid, for Android-based smart phones).

To send a Twitter message or “Tweet” with a storm report or a significant weather report, it must be in this format:

#wxreport WW <your location> WW <your signifcant weather report>

The key is to use the searchable “hash tag” of “#wxreport”, then put “WW” both before and after your location, separated by a blank space. And after that goes your weather information.

The location can be an address, lat/long, airport identifier, city/state, or zip code.

If your cell phone has a GPS receiver and your 3rd party Twitter application has the ability to Geotag messages with your lat/long, then it’s even easier, but both your cell phone AND your Twitter account settings have to have geolocation enabled. Here is the format if your message is geotagged:

#wxreport <your signifcant weather report>

Anyone can go to twitter.com and search for #wxreport, even if you don’t have a twitter account.

According to the NWS:

Once an office decides that a posted report is reliable and applicable, it will be added to a Local Storm Report. LSR reports are available both via RSS feed and web pages directly from NWS web sites.

I found a web page for NWS Storm Reports, but even though there is a major winter storm affecting the central part of the United States today, the page contained no reports. Maybe I was looking in the wrong place.

More information about the system can be found HERE.

Google’s new Android weather widget for cell phones

nexus oneGoogle introduced their new new Nexus One cell phone today at a press conference. This is the first phone that is shipping with the new Android 2.1 operating system, which has at least a couple of interesting new features. Every field where you need to enter text is voice enabled. That is, you can either type the information, or you can speak it and the voice recognition system reportedly does a pretty good job of entering what you said .There is no physical keyboard, but there is a virtual one that pops up on the screen when it is needed. So if you need to do a lot of typing on your phone, it is not the phone for you.

The other feature that is now possible with the new version of the operating system is a weather widget. It uses the built-in GPS receiver to determine your location, then displays the weather conditions and forecasts for your area that it collects from Weather.com. But as Google tends to do sometimes, it does it in an innovative way, at least for a cell phone. It will display the temperature and the humidity for the day in a graph, both the past and forecast data. This is available from the home screen, so there is not a lot of clicking involved.

Photo: Gizmodo
Photo: Gizmodo

The phone can get the data from a wireless network or from a cell phone system as long as you have a signal from a tower. While this will never replace having a dedicated fire weather forecaster at your beck and call on a large incident, it could be quite valuable for the firefighter out on the fireline.

The phone is available today from Google, or from T-Mobile for $179 with a contract. In the spring it will be available from Verizon.

The new Android 2.1 operating system that ships with the Nexus One will be pushed out to the existing Motorola Droid owners in a couple of days, making the new weather widget available on those phones as well. I have a Droid and am very satisfied with it. (UPDATE, Jan. 29. The Motorola CEO, Sanjay Jha, who said the new operating system would be pushed out in a couple of days was wrong. As of today it still has not happened, and it may not occur for days, weeks, or months.)

T-Mobile does not have great coverage in the rural areas where most vegetation fires occur, but Verizon’s coverage is much better, making the Droid or the Nexus One when it is available from Verizon pretty good choices for wildland firefighters. HERE is a map on which you can choose a cell phone provider and “select layer to display” to compare coverage levels.

There is another weather application that is available now on Android phones that will collect data from the nearest weather station even if it is a RAWS station. Or at least once after I installed it today I saw that it displayed weather from a RAWS station, but later it got it from a conventional station. Maybe it just gets the latest data within a certain radius of your specified location, but unlike the new widget described above, it does not use your phone’s GPS to determine your location. The program can also display radar and satellite maps. It is called “Weather by Michael Bachman” and is free. It gets the weather data from the Weather Underground site.

UPDATE: April 6, 2010

Today we wrote an updated article about the Android 2.1 News and Weather widget, including how to set up within it a wildfire news tab.

Top wildland fire stories of 2009-with poll

In the United States, at least, 2009 was less busy than your average year, in terms of the number of fires and the total acres burned. In the lower 49 states, 2,720,903 acres burned, which is the lowest number since 2004.

But it was a fairly busy year for wildland fire news. We have put together some of the stories we consider to be the most newsworthy. They are listed here, and below you will have a chance to vote on the ones that you consider to be the top stories. This list does not include the line of duty deaths which we reported earlier, except in the case of the Andrew Palmer fatality investigation report which exposed a great many issues affecting firefighter safety, and survival following an accident.

Feb. 8: Black Saturday fires kill 173 people in Australia
https://wildfiretoday.com/2009/02/07/at-least-14-killed-in-australian-fires/

Mar. 7: Raymond Lee Oyler convicted and sentenced to death for Esperanza fire deaths
https://wildfiretoday.com/2009/03/07/oyler-convicted-for-esperanza-fire-deaths/

Apr. 20: Series of 5 articles on wildfire in L. A. Times wins Pulitzer Prize
https://wildfiretoday.com/2009/04/20/series-of-articles-on-wildfires-wins-pulitzer-prize/

Apr. 23: 76 homes burn in North Myrtle Beach, SC fire
https://wildfiretoday.com/2009/04/23/south-carolina-fire-burns-dozens-of-homes/

May 6: Jesusita fire near Santa Barbara; 4 FF entrapments; 77 homes burn.
https://wildfiretoday.com/2009/05/11/jesusita-fire-burn-over-preliminary-report/

Jun. 27: San Diego Gas and Electric agrees to pay $686 million to insurance companies that paid claims to their customers for the 2007 Witch Creek, Guejito and Rice Canyon fires.
https://wildfiretoday.com/2009/06/27/power-company-agrees-to-pay-686-million-for-fires/

Jul. 19: Dozens of firefighters are sickened by Norovirus at Redrock and Trailer 1 fires north of Reno.
https://wildfiretoday.com/2009/07/30/lessons-learned-from-the-redrock-trailer1-fire-norovirus-incident/

Aug. 22: Eight members of the Klamath Hot Shots were injured when thier crew carrier was involved in a crash on Highway 99 in northern California.
https://wildfiretoday.com/2009/09/01/lessons-learned-from-klamath-hot-shots-vehicle-rollover/

Aug. 26: The 90-acre Big Meadow prescribed fire in Yosemite National Park escapes and eventually burns 7,418 acres.
https://wildfiretoday.com/2009/08/27/escaped-prescribed-fire-in-yosemite-np/

Aug. 26: The Station fire started near Los Angeles, eventually burning 160,000 acres. A controversy erupted over accusations that the US Forest Service used less than aggressive tactics on day two of the fire, causing it to become larger than it would have if more resources had been assigned.
https://wildfiretoday.com/2009/12/21/l-a-times-documents-delays-in-the-use-of-aircraft-on-the-station-fire/

Nov. 3: Andrew Palmer fatality report released; many issues identified related to emergency medical care and transportation.

https://wildfiretoday.com/2009/11/03/findings-from-the-andrew-palmer-safety-investigation/

November 8: David Monington pleads guilty to forging wildland fire training certificates.
https://wildfiretoday.com/2009/11/08/david-monington-pleads-guilty-to-forging-fire-training-certificates/

Dec. 3: USDA Inspector General finds no misconduct in Esperanza fire deaths
https://wildfiretoday.com/2009/12/03/usda-inspector-general-finds-no-misconduct-in-esperanza-fire-deaths/

(no specific date) Very Large Air Tankers play a significant role in fire suppression in California, and possibly Australia.
747: https://wildfiretoday.com/?s=747
Martin Mars: https://wildfiretoday.com/?s=%22martin+mars%22
DC-10: https://wildfiretoday.com/?s=dc-10

And now YOU have a chance to select the stories that you consider to be the most significant.  Choose FOUR from the list below.

Choose four of the wildfire stories you consider the most significant of 2009.

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