Illegal immigrants set signal fire, burn 800+ acres

Cowboy fire
The Cowboy fire east of San Diego. Photo: Nick Schuler, Cal Fire Battalion Chief

UPDATE: Sept. 4 @ 9:10 a.m. MT

This morning’s update shows that the fire has burned 874 acres and is 65% contained. The fire was not active last night and firefighters expect full containment on Sunday.

Authorities said two illegal immigrants who crossed the US/Mexico border east of San Diego became lost and set a signal fire on Thursday. They used a cell phone to call Mexico’s emergency dispatch system and told them that they had been lost for two days, were dehydrated and they were going to set a signal fire so rescuers could find them. The remains of a campfire were found, but there was no sign of the immigrants.

The resulting fire, named the Cowboy fire, as of 5:30 p.m. today had burned 822 acres of brush between Campo and Potrero and was 42% contained.

San Diego Gas and Electric’s new Sikorsky S-64F Aircrane helitanker, purchased primarily to install electrical transmission towers on a new power line they are building, was used on the fire. It is known as helitanker 729 when fighting fire, or “Sunbird” when working on the powerline.

Follow-up on the IAFC and their federal grants

On April 30, 2010, we wrote a lengthy and well-researched article about the uncanny success the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC) has enjoyed in receiving very large grants from the U. S. Forest Service and the Department of Homeland Security for issues related to wildland fire. This surprised us, since a very small percentage of the IAFC’s efforts are devoted to wildland fire. Today we wrote a follow-up to the article, and posted it below. The original complete article is HERE.

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For the past several months we have been hearing that the IAFC is extremely upset about the fact that the information in the article has been revealed. They are blindly throwing around accusations that various organizations leaked this data.

Just to set the record straight, we heard from one person that the IAFC had recently received one federal grant for several hundred thousand dollars for a wildland fire related issue. That’s all. And it turned out that the actual amount of the grant was far larger than we were told. All of the rest of the information came from the publicly available web sites listed above, plus spokespersons for the USFS and the IAFC. Every source, other than the original limited, vague, and partially correct original bit of information, is detailed and linked to in the article above. We did not file a Freedom of Information Act request with the U. S. Forest Service, nor did we see any of the results from the multiple FOIA’s that were filed with the USFS.

The fact that the IAFC is so hyper-sensitive about the information in our article becoming public, raises the question of — why are they so sensitive? To borrow a line from the Queen in Shakespeare’s Hamlet, “The lady doth protest too much, methinks.”

If the IAFC has a totally clear conscience, the best advice would be transparency, rather than angrily accusing innocent bystanders of providing the information that is publicly available on the Internet.

The U.S. Forest Service could use the same advice. Why did it take Freedom of Information Act requests for them to provide some of the information about which organizations they are giving our taxpayer dollars to?

NFPA vows to become more involved in wildfire

Tom Jaeger NFPA
Tom Jaeger, new chair of NFPA's board of directors. Photo: Glenwood Jackson

The National Fire Protection Association recently elected a new chair of their board of Directors, Tom Jaeger, 67, who has spent his career in the health care industry. In an interview posted on the NFPA site, Mr. Jaeger said he envisions the organization becoming more involved in wildfire.

Also, a goal we established last year is to get more involved with the issue of wildfires. It’s an area that NFPA has rallied behind, but we also recognize that we need to get more involved. NFPA’s done a very good job at getting its name out there in relation to wildland fire issues, especially through the Firewise program, and it’s something we can do even more of through public education. I come from the technical side of NFPA, and I’m learning every day about the organization’s array of education efforts.

Landowners sue state of Alaska for vegetation that burned in 2009 fire

rex creek railbelt fire complex
The Rex Creek fire on August 4, 2009, part of the Railbelt Complex in Alaska. Photo: ADF

According to an article at newsminer.com, four landowners are demanding that the state of Alaska give them at least $100,000 each because some vegetation burned on their property during the 636,224-acre Railbelt Complex southwest of Nenana in 2009.

The landowners claim in the lawsuit that fire managers failed to adequately mopup the fire following some rains, and the fire later flared up, burning vegetation on their property which decreased the value. The lawsuit says firefighters lit a backfire on their property in order to stop the fire’s spread.

This brings to mind Montana Congressman Denny Rehberg’s lawsuit against the Billings Fire Department over the loss of trees and ground cover on his property during an 1,100-acre fire in 2008.

The 747 Supertanker made it’s first drop on an actual fire in North America on the Railbelt Complex.

Here is an article on Wildfire Today containing a video of an aerially-ignited firing operation on the Railbelt Complex.

Wildfire potential for September through December, 2010

The National Interagency Fire Center has released their outlook for wildfire potential for September through December, 2010.

According to their Predictive Services section, the primary factors influencing the outlook are:

• Tropical Moisture: Above normal rainfall due to an anticipated active storm pattern will likely lead to lower fire potential across the southeastern states in September.

• Drought: Areas of long-term dryness stretching from northeast Texas to the Mid-Atlantic States will lead to above normal fire potential during the fall fire season.

• Offshore Winds: Anticipated offshore winds in southern California combined with dry conditions will produce elevated fire potential into the fall.

Click on the images to see larger versions wildfire potential

wildfire potential

More information

Golfer shoots out of rough, starts fire

golf course fire
Photo: Shady Canyon Golf Club.

The Orange County Fire Authority in California is saying that a 12-acre fire on Saturday was ignited when a golfer, whose ball was in the rough, struck a rock with his club, causing sparks which started the fire. It took hand crews, helicopters, and 150 firefighters to put out the fire at the Shady Canyon Golf Club.

Apparently it is not uncommon for golf clubs to generate sparks, according to posters on the Sand Trap forum.

Should we close golf courses during periods of high fire danger?  (kidding…. I’m sure that would go over really well!)

golf course fire
Photo: Shady Canyon Golf Club