30 suspicious fires in Downeast Maine

From WCSH6.com:

PEMBROKE, Maine (NEWS CENTER) — The Maine Forest Service says so far in 2010 close to 30 suspicious wildfires have broken out in Downeast Maine and all of them appear to have been started intentionally.

Four fires broke out in parts of Pembroke and Perry earlier this week. Others have appeared in the towns of Robbinston and Charlotte. On Monday afternoon, one fire broke out off the Ox Cove Road and set fire to six acres of land.

Officials say while a number of the fires have popped up in the vicinity of homes, area firefighters have been able to contain and extinguish them quickly. Forest ranger Courtney Hammond says the location of many of these fires is a sign enough that humans are involved.

Halifax government being sued for wildfire tactics

Halifax fire
The fire near Halifax, April 30, 2009. CBC photo.

In Canada, the Halifax Regional Municipality and the Halifax regional fire department are being sued because of decisions that were made on an April 30, 2009 wildfire. Insurance companies that paid out millions of dollars to the owners of eight luxury homes that were destroyed and the ten that were damaged have filed 18 lawsuits against the government agencies. Wildfire Today covered the fire HERE.

CBC News has more details about the litigation; here is an excerpt:

The insurance companies, that filed the suits on behalf of the homeowners, allege the city was negligent in how it fought the massive blaze. The fire started in a campfire pit on the west bank of McIntosh Run, north of Roaches Pond in Spryfield.

It quickly spread through the woods to Purcells Cove Road destroying eight luxury homes.

The first fire was spotted on the evening of April 29. By 8 p.m., the fire was under control, though not out. The water-bombing from above stopped and crews from the Department of Natural Resources and the Halifax fire service left for the night.

The following morning a crew was back at the scene monitoring hotspots. At 11 a.m., they decided it was safe to leave to take a lunch break. They returned to their station on nearby Herring Cove Road and planned to return to the scene later that afternoon.

But, by the time they returned, it was too late because the winds fanned a new fire that quickly spread causing havoc for several hours.

The insurance companies hired their own investigator and in the lawsuit they allege the fire department should never have left those hotspots unattended.

They also claim that once the fire spread, firefighters did not establish an effective command, that there were delays in calling in more firefighters. They also claim that firefighters went to the wrong spots and they took too long to call in helicopters from the province, all allowing the fire to destroy and damage their clients’ homes.

Halifax fire spokesman Dave Meldrum said Wednesday that the department “vehemently” denies the allegations contained in the lawsuits, and continues to “vigourously defend” the actions of the firefighters on that day.

“We’re concerned with all the allegations. We think that they’re wrong, and they’re incorrect, and we will defend them in court,” Meldrum said. “That day was a tragic circumstance. Our firefighters put themselves on the line, they worked long hours, they trained hard hours, to protect life and to protect property.”

Last month, CBC News obtained internal documents from the Halifax regional fire service that found the wildfire might have been prevented if fire crews hadn’t been delayed in returning to the scene.

An email, obtained by CBC News through a freedom of information request, says that staffing protocols may have delayed firefighters in the critical minutes before the fire flared out of control on April 30, 2009.

“I understand that the crew had to arrange for a cover and that may have delayed their return to the scene of the original fire,” Fire Chief Bill Mosher said in the email written on May 19, 2009 — two weeks after the fire.

“A cover” means the Herring Cove firefighters had to ask firefighters from other areas to come mind their station while they were away. This delay meant the crew didn’t get back to the woods before the fire flared again.

Minnesota: 36 arson fires near Fond du Lac

Mark Wurdeman DNR
Mark Wurdeman, an investigator for the Minn. DNR, looks for the cause, origin, and evidence at a fire along Brevator Road this week. Photo: Bob King, Duluth News

Two or three nights each week arson fires are being set along roadways on and near the Fond duLac Reservation in Minnesota. About 36 fires have been set, according to Mark Wurdeman, wildfire investigator for the Depoartment of Natural Resources. The BIA is offering a reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person responsible. The fires so far have been suppressed by firefighters before they have become large or burned any structures.

U.S. and Australia sign emergency management agreement.

Today the United States and Australia signed a Memorandum of Understanding to strengthen emergency management cooperation between the two countries.

Here are the principle points of the agreement. The two governments will:

  • Share information on each government’s emergency management frameworks and lessons learned from recent natural disasters;
  • Exchange public awareness mechanisms on preparedness for natural disasters;
  • Coordinate professional development activities for emergency managers;
  • Build partnerships between the emergency management agencies of the two countries, including through the exchange of technical experts and specialists; and
  • Streamline processes for emergency management authorities in both countries in order to establish arrangements for the exchange of personnel in response to emergencies.

The news release from the U.S. Dept. of Homeland Security.

via @fdnntv

Testing a MAFFS 2

Testing a MAFFS wildland firefighting unit
(Click for a larger photo) Air Force Reserve C-130 Hercules loadmasters fire the Modular Airborne Firefighting System II unit April 22 during the 302nd Airlift Wing's annual MAFFS wet fire test at Peterson Air Force Base, Colo. The wing test fired the new "MAFFS II" system in preparation for the U.S. Forest Service's MAFFS certification week April 25-May 1 in Greenville, S.C. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Stephen J. Collier)

The Modular Airborne Firefighting System (MAFFS) air tanker aircraft and crews are in South Carolina this week for training and recertification. The photo above shows the new generation of MAFFS, the MAFFS 2, being tested. It discharges the water or retardant out the side paratroop door rather than out the rear ramp.

Prescribed fires and air drops planned for Gulf oil slick

Oil spill April 26
A satellite shot, taken Monday, of the oil slick off the coast of Louisiana.

UPDATE at 9:35 MT, April 28

The Coast Guard will conduct a test burn today between 11 and 12 CT. The test will involve setting fire to some of the thickest oil in an area encircled by a 500-foot fireproof boom.

Four conditions have to be met for the oil burning operation:

  1. The layer of oil on the surface must be at least 2 mm thick; if there is not enough, it will not sustain a fire;
  2. The ignition device must be hot enough and must last long enough to keep the fire going;
  3. The oil to water ratio must be between 20% and 50%;
  4. The wind has to cooperate; too strong a wind is not acceptable.

Petty Officer Steve Lehmann of the Coast Guard said:

It’s not something we do very often, so we want to make sure we do it right. You need to herd it up and group it a certain way, and then there’s the whole lighting of it.

This will be a small step towards dealing with the oil slick that is the size of the state of Delaware.

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No doubt you have heard about the blown-up oil well in the Gulf of Mexico that is pouring 42,000 gallons of oil a day into the water. The Coast Guard is using tactics that would be (sort of) familiar to wildland firefighters.

1. They are planning to use prescribed fires to burn off some of the oil. The Coast Guard of course does not use the term “prescribed fire”, but they are considering corralling some of the oil in fire-proof booms, and then setting it on fire. In spite of the nasty stuff that will go up in the smoke, they figure this will be better than trying to clean up the oil after it hits the beaches. This could begin as early as Wednesday, and would only be done during the day.

C-130 oil dispersant2. They are already using five aircraft to drop dispersants onto the oil slick, including helicopters, and two C-130A’s, which are operated by Marine Spill Response Corporation, an organization funded by the big oil companies for cleaning up oil spills. The C-130A’s can carry 5,000 gallons of dispersant to the oil spill, which is a 35-minute flight from Stennis International Airport near Bay St. Louis, Mississippi. When the aircraft arrive at the spill, they drop the dispersant at 150 mph and 75 feet above the ocean.  The C-130A’s are flying nine flights a day to the spill from Stennis.

Below is a video about the dispersant flights. Click on the button in the lower-right corner to see it full-screen.

For you Incident Command System geeks, the incident is being run under a Unified Command, shared by the Coast Guard and the Minerals Management Service. The Coast Guard Incident Commander is Rear Adm. Mary Landry.   As the lease operator of the drilling rig, the BP oil company is responsible for the spill.

After being dragged kicking and screaming into the ICS community in the early 1990’s, the Coast Guard now frequently hosts ICS traning and exercises, often taught by private contractors.