Earth Day is a quiet fire day – except for coastal North Carolina

On April 22, 2023, Earth Day 2023,  the largest fire of national note is burning in North Carolina.

For April 21, the most recent update of the national portal for the Geographic Area Coordination Centers – because it’s not quite busy enough for weekend staffing – there are three GACCs at Preparedness Level 2 – Eastern, Southern, and Southwest – while the rest of the country is at PL 1.  And a scan of national-level fire hazards doesn’t show any Red Flag Warnings or Watches for the day.

For the prior week, national initial attack activity in the National Sit Report was considered light at 1,075 fires, with 50 large fires reported and 50 contained. Fire names ranged from a label only an agency can love (AR-BUP-000924 in the Buffalo National River)  to a menagerie of animals – Swine, Third Goat, Antelope Flats, Wolf Creek, Otter Creek, Kingfisher Hollow – to the uniquely local – Natural Bridge (named for the actual Natural Bridge in Kentucky), Muzzle Loader Club (perhaps the local shooting range in Oklahoma?), Jimmys Water Hole in New Jersey and Shinhollow in New York, and Tinaja in southern Arizona (translated from the Spanish as “large earthenware jar”).

The Fire Weather Outlook for Earth Day was minimal except for southwest Arizona. The Day 2 Fire Weather Outlook for today noted that “Elevated conditions are likely near the international border in the Lower Colorado River Basin, as 15 mph sustained southwesterly surface winds overlap with 15 percent RH for a few hours around afternoon peak heating. Elevated highlights were added since fuels should be marginally receptive to fire spread.” Looking ahead, the only fire hazard of note in the fire weather outlook is for the New Mexico-Texas-Mexico area on Tuesday-Wednesday, April 25-26.

All this being duly noted, one can be certain that residents near the Great Lakes Fire will agree that this fire (also called the Great Lake Fire) likely holds claim to being Earth Day’s fire of note in the U.S. Named for a singular Great Lake, with other lakes around it, in the Croatan National Forest), the fire quadrupled in size in 24 hours, from 7000 to an estimated 30,000+ acres, with a national Southern Area fire management team being assigned.

As noted yesterday in our partner site,, the VIIRS satellite data offered space-based mapping of  yesterday’s growth that was confirmed in the map available today from the Risk Management Assistance Dashboard … compared to yesterday’s rapid spread, the majority of recent heat signatures are to the north, where the fire is burning into and between past fuel treatments. The fire has definitely outgrown the 21,000 acre footprint of 2012’s Dad Fire.

Great Lake Fire Croatan NF NC 2023-04-22

Additional mapping is being shared by Joseph Elfelt …

And current info arrives from a variety of Twitter posts with the handle of #GreatLakeFire (no plural) …

A recent tweet equated the fire’s size to the acreage of DisneyWorld, which, in case you were curious, was forecast to have average crowds for Earth Day according to the Magic Guides Crowd Calendar.

There is no current estimate for how many firefighters are working the Great Lake(s) Fire, though it’s certainly increasing. Yesterday’s census for the Southern Area had some 1200 resources assigned in the overall GACC area.

Northeast News: the value of Rx burns, a closed turnpike, drone warnings — and a firefighter dies

April’s dry weeks bring spring fires in the East and Northeast, followed, we hope, by the showers and flowers of the proverb. And this seems to be the case this month throughout the Northeast, with fires continuing but conditions beginning to moderate as winds diminish, humidity rises and ephemeral spring flowers burst through the dry leaves.

With April in New Jersey being dry and windy enough for numerous Red Flag Warnings this past week, it’s heartening to read a report this week on “How Prescribed Burns Kept Southern Ocean Safe In Recent Wildfire.” Patch reporter Veronica Flesher  wrote that “Thanks to recent prescribed burns at Warren Grove, the latest fire [Log Swamp Fire] was kept under control, according to state officials.” Younger and dense pine stands provided volatile fuels, with fire activity moderating when it moved into recent prescribed burns. Flesher quotes New Jersey Forest Fire Service Assistant Division Firewarden Bill Love, who explains that “April is peak wildfire season in New Jersey. ‘This is essentially our Super Bowl.”

NJ Forest Fire Service firefighters Log Swamp Fire 20130416
New Jersey Forest Fire Service firefighters patrol the line on the Log Swamp Fire. Photo: NJ Forest Fire Service.

The New Jersey Forest Fire Service reported the fire was contained at 1,607 acres on April 16. Love noted that while the latest fires are contained, they are “still smoldering as of Tuesday and will not be entirely out until considerable rainfall occurs.”

Another New Jersey fire of note, the Kanouse Fire, burned 1000 acres in northern New Jersey, leading to evacuations — of five homes and 100 some animals from the Echo Lake Stables. Embers were reported to have started fires half-a-mile across Echo Lake, with the fire staffed by multiple agencies working long stressful days.

Though fire danger has been high to very high statewide in recent days, fire restrictions have been lifted in two of the three statewide zones as today’s calmer winds reduce fire hazard.

Today’s date also marks 60 years since New Jersey’s “Black Saturday” on April 20, 1963, when 30-50 mph winds, humidity in the low 20s and temperatures in the low 80s fanned the rapid spread of 31 major fires that burned 190,000 acres, destroyed or damaged 400 structures, and led to the evacuation of 2500 residents.


Meanwhile, in Pennsylvania, after a week with the entire state in High fire danger, the southern and central zones are in High fire danger and the rest of the state is Moderate.

This past weekend, the 4000-acre Crystal Lake Fire east of Mountain Top led to the closure of 20 miles of the Pennsylvania Turnpike between the Poconos and Wyoming Valley interchanges, as reported by Lehigh Valley Live.

Also during the weekend, a drone-airspace intrusion on the Peter’s Mountain Fire in Dauphin County was reported on the web page of WGAL-TV.  “Local law enforcement approached the person flying the drone and told them to leave and they did,” he said. The post also reminded would-be offenders that interfering with firefighting operations on public lands, per the Federal Aviation Administration, “can carry a 12-month prison term and drone pilots who interfere with wildfire suppression could also receive a fine of more than $37,000.” The incident remains under investigation.


Today, the bullseye for the Hot-Dry-Windy Index is focused on the Illinois-Indiana border, with areas supporting fire spread edging east into Pennsylvania and to the south and southwest. The HDWI analysis and forecast for a point in southwest Pennsylvania predicts two days above the 75th percentile, then a quick drop.

The Day 2 forecast for Friday also shows the flow of drier, windier air …

But the moderating effects of spring are appearing. The Northeast is shading toward yellow and green in the National 7-Day Significant Fire Potential maps for the Eastern GACC is shows little to no fire risk by Sunday, April 24.


During the fire bust in northern New Jersey, as reported in the West Milford Messenger, Twitter and Facebook, a Sussex Borough Fire Department firefighter, Tony Duivenvoorde, died at home Wednesday night after responding to two calls as well as providing support for a six-acre Mount Salem Road fire in Wantage.

“The New Jersey Forest Fire Service extends its condolences to the family of Sussex Township firefighter Tony Duivenvoorde, who died at home Wednesday night,” the fire service stated  on Twitter.

On Thursday, Sussex Fire & EMS posted on Facebook, “Tony responded to 2 calls yesterday morning and later passed away at his home.”

Robert Holowach, president of the Sussex Borough Council, said on Facebook, “Tony served our community for decades as a member of the Sussex Fire Department. I had the privilege of working alongside him many times over the years. He was indeed a dedicated servant and an absolutely terrific gentleman.

“Please keep Tony and his family as well as the members of the Sussex Fire Department in your thoughts.”

National Firefighter Registry opens for profession-wide cancer monitoring

The National Firefighter Registry (NFR) officially opens its enrollment portal today after a few months in pre-launch testing and years of preparation by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). Wildland and structural firefighters who register and share their exposure histories at will help support the NFR’s goal of understanding and reducing cancer in firefighters.

The registry seeks comprehensive participation and notes four objectives that firefighters will support by enrolling:

      • “Help protect your brothers and sisters in the fire service from developing cancer
      • “Help lessen the impact of cancer on firefighters’ families and friends
      • “Pave the way for new health and safety measures to keep the next generation of firefighters safe
      • “Improve understanding of cancer risk among minority, female, and volunteer firefighters, as well as groups like wildland firefighters”

To develop comprehensive and ongoing  analyses of risks and illnesses, the NFR  encourages participation by all firefighters, structural and wildland, and all statuses — volunteer, on-call, seasonal, full-time, retired, disabled, with or without a cancer diagnosis.

While the images on the registry often focus on structural firefighters, the associated links include background health and cancer information for wildland firefighters and a web page focused on outdoor workers and smoke.

National Firefighter Registry

Bill Gabbert wrote many articles in Wildfire Today covering the genesis and progress toward the National Firefighter Registry (also referred to as the “cancer registry”). One article shared Kathleen Navarro’s “A Brief Look” at cancer and health risks for wildland firefighters, which notes an estimated 8-43% increased chance of lung cancer and a 16-30% increased risk of heart disease mortality among wildland firefighters. Gabbert died of cancer in January.

For agencies and organizations seeking to support enrollment, a communications portal offers a range of print and social media messages.

One suggestion when registering: gather up your experience records first. I completed the first three registration stages (the “profile” stage) in around 10 minutes and then took a break to collect some notes on seasons of service and types and amount of exposure. A registrant can step aside from the profile stage of the portal and continue later, but once you enter details of your fire experience in the “experience” stage of registration, you aren’t able to edit it.

Recording an accurate representation of work and fire experience is a core component of the registry, which seeks to create a database of fire experience, firefighter’s risk exposure and long-term health effects. This has proven a challenge for researchers examining the higher prevalence of cancer occurrence among firefighters.

This can be particularly challenging with wildland firefighters serving on seasonal assignments (and with seasonal exposure to many varieties and quantities of smoke and other potential fireline-related carcinogens). The registry includes questions that may assist in determining wildland smoke exposure, including a firefighter’s role in fire — such as hand crew, engine crew, aviation, etc.; firefighter or fire manager; and the duration and type of fires (wildfire vs. prescribed) that a firefighter responded to on average, by the specific positions held. The experience questionnaire includes most varieties of fire experience, including wildland-urban interface as compared to wildfires. The experience and personal demographic sections may take from 20-30 minutes to complete, longer if you’d had a variety of positions and fire experience in your career.

National Firefighter Registry - Stage 3 profile completed.
National Firefighter Registry – the Profile stages completed. Take a break and gather your exposure history before tackling the Experience Questionnaire.

The document below shares a step-by-step process. Note that the consent is in-depth, in part to ensure participants that their shared information will be kept confidential. Survey questions include general health and demographic questions, including a history of tobacco or alcohol use and workplace but non-fire exposure to potential carcinogens.

Once a firefighter is registered, an anonymized tracking system in state cancer registries will link a cancer diagnosis (if one occurs) to the last four digits of a social security number, which will then correlate the diagnosis with the NFR data that includes the firefighter’s experience and exposure. In some cases, NIOSH may connect with a registered firefighter to seek voluntary participation in additional research.

Earlier, warmer spring ramps up Eastern Area fire season

The Jimmy’s Waterhole Fire in New Jersey was declared 100% contained on Thursday by the New Jersey Department of Forestry, having burned some 3900 acres, nearly half the state’s annual average in two days.

This and other regional fires prompts a visit to the Eastern Area Fire Environment Outlook to explore the conditions that led to the late April fire bust. On Friday’s Morning Briefing, the Eastern Area Coordination Center had nearly 40 percent of reporting units in Very High to Extreme Fire Danger, with the largest fires in New Jersey, Missouri, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Rhode Island. In the past week, the region recorded 349 fires for 12,600 acres.

While spring is often active in the east — as forest fuels dry out between winter snow and rains and prior to green up —  the last week was drier throughout the Northeast and Midwest, as well as in the Great Plains and Southwest. Look south and you can spot the focused and incredible “purple” deluge in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and to the north there’s an unusual heart-shaped moisture pattern in Michigan.

7-Day Percent of Normal Precipitation through April 14, 2023.

Spring in much of the East and Midwest was also warmer than normal

U.S. temperature Anomaly for April 1-14, 2023.
U.S. temperature Anomaly for April 1-14, 2023.

… resulting in a 10-20 day earlier start to spring in the South and East, per the National Phenology Network. At least one location in New Jersey was tracked at 27 days early.

National Phenology Map
Spring is 10-20 days early, as seen in the National Phenology Network map for April 15, 2023.

Fire activity in the region has been moving northeast toward Maine with the bubble of heat, including a fire point seemingly in the Atlantic — though a closer look at the Fire Weather Dashboard (with fire points activated) places the the fire on Martha’s Vineyard.

Fire Weather Dashboard, focused on the Northeast, for April 15, 2023.
Fire Weather Dashboard, focused on the Northeast, for April 15, 2023.

Soon, though, the spring fire season will be taking a hiatus, with green up, increasing humidity and even fog on the way. By Monday, moisture is expected in the East, with most predictive service areas transitioning to “Little or no risk.”

Firefighter procession in West Virginia; murder and arson charges filed

A procession today carried the body of Cody J. Mullens from the Medical Examiner’s Office in Charleston to Summersville. The West Virginia Department of Forestry employee died April 13 during firefighting operations in the Tucker Hollow area of Powellton.

A felony murder charge and four counts of felony arson were filed by the Fayette County Sheriff on April 14 against David Bass, 39, of Kimberly, who was being held in the Southern Regional Jail.

A joint investigation by the West Virginia Fire Marshall’s Office, the Department of Forestry, and the Fayette County Sheriff determined that the cause of the fire, reported April 12, was arson.

A tree fell on Mullens during the second day of firefighting operations. He was extricated by rescue teams and died from injuries. This is reported to be the first line of duty death in the history of the West Virginia Department of Forestry.

Tucker Hollow area, West Virginia, where Cody Mullens died while fighting a wildfire.
Tucker Hollow area, West Virginia, where Cody Mullens died while fighting a wildfire.

West Virginia firefighter killed by falling tree

A West Virginia Department of Forestry employee, Cody J. Mullens, 28, was killed by a falling tree while fighting a wildfire on April 13 near Montgomery, West Virginia.

The firefighter’s death was announced by West Virginia governor Jim Justice, who said he and his wife were “heartbroken by the tragic news of losing one of our own. Our state foresters are some of the most dedicated workers in our state, putting their lives on the line to protect our communities from wildfires, and we owe them all, especially Cody, an enormous debt of gratitude.”

Mullens was from Mt. Hope, Fayette County. West Virginia Public Broadcasting reported that he was part of a response unit working a brush fire along Route 61 in Armstrong Creek, around 30 miles southeast of Charleston.

West Virginia has statewide burn restrictions in effect and is midway through their typical wildfire season.