The Elephant Butte Fire, reported Monday afternoon west of Evergreen, Colorado has prompted the evacuation of about 1,000 homes, according to the Jefferson County Sheriff Department. The evacuation orders are expected to remain in effect through Monday night.
The fire is burning on steep terrain two miles northwest of Evergreen Lake. It is being suppressed by firefighters from several departments, three large air tankers, three helicopters, single engine air tankers, and the Tatanka and Pike Hotshot crews. Firefighters had to withdraw from the fire around 7 p.m. due to lighting, but planned to reengage.
At about 8 p.m. MDT the state’s multi-mission aircraft mapped the Elephant Butte Fire at 48 acres.
At 6:30 p.m. there were no reports of injuries or burned structures.
It is unusual for a large fire to have more than two words in the fire’s name, not counting the word “fire”. And it is not common for a fire name to be a multi-word phrase. Fire agency employees whose jobs entail completing forms or maintaining records get grumpy when they have to write or type over and over, a long fire name or one that may lead to misspelling.
A fire 17 miles southeast of Albuquerque, New Mexico on the Cibola National Forest is named “Ojo de los Caso Fire”. Since it was reported on July 8 the blaze has burned 180 acres of timber, brush, and grass.
The names for many fires are derived from a nearby landmark. I asked the Fire Information Officer Andrea Chavez how the fire was named and what it means in English:
Depending on the map you look at, there are various colloquial names for a spring in Cañon de Chilili near the origin of this fire, including “ojo la casa” and “ojo los caso”. Therefore, firefighters initially on scene dubbed the fire Ojo de los Casos
Ojo de los Casos colloquially translates to Spring of the Cause. However, it is possible this name was derived from an older nomenclature, Ojo de Casa (House Spring), which has been found on older maps of the area.
On Wildfire Today we rarely regurgitate containment percentages that are put out by Incident Commanders, because the numbers are unreliable. I have seen too many large fires that had miles of cold fireline that officially had zero or 10 percent containment. Too often this number appears to be grabbed out of the air with no effort to be accurate. Other times it can be a conscious effort to deceive. An incident commander may think that by publicizing a low containment number, it can be easier to hang on to resources, or to rank higher in priority among fires that are competing for scarce resources. They may also think it makes it easier to justify maintaining evacuations. Other incident commanders actually base the containment on the portion of the perimeter where the spread has been stopped by a fireline.
The status of a wildfire suppression action signifying that a control line has been completed around the fire, and any associated spot fires, which can reasonably be expected to stop the fire’s spread.
The incident management team on the Ojo de los Casos Fire posted on InciWeb July 11 that the fire was 10 percent contained. They also described on InciWeb what containment means to them:
Percent containment is based off the actual amount of containment line that is safe enough to leave unattended without worries of heat, embers or hot spots flaring up and having potential to cross that line allowing additional growth of the fire.
I asked Ms Chavez where they got their definition. She said:
Our incident commander and operations personnel elaborated on [the NWCG] definition to provide more detail based on their many years of experience and training.
Complete “containment” is the ultimate goal for the fire management team in command of fire suppression activities.
The ultimate goal of firefighters is to put out a fire, or “declare it out”. The step before that is control. And before that, containment.
Controlled — The completion of control line around a fire, any spot fires therefrom, and any interior islands to be saved; burned out any unburned area adjacent to the fire side of the control lines; and cool down all hotspots that are immediate threats to the control line, until the lines can reasonably be expected to hold under the foreseeable conditions.
The Incident Commander and the operations personnel on the Ojo de los Casos Fire are conflating Contain and Control.
In my mind, Contain is to have a good, solid fire line without a great deal of residual heat near the line. It would still require patrol and mopup but the spread has been stopped at that location. That leaves open the unlikely chance that the fire can cross that section of line if something unexpected happens.
Control is the next step — mopup is complete near the fire line, burning out is complete, snags have been dealt with. At 100 percent control the Incident Commander and the Operations Section Chief are staking their reputation on their assessments that the fire will not spread beyond the established firelines.
When a fire is “Out”, there is no combustion occurring.
The spread of the Numbers Fire south of Carson City, Nevada slowed Wednesday, but a mapping flight at 8 p.m. MDT July 8 determined that it added an additional 1,025 acres to bring the total up to 18,321.
Information from the Incident Management Team Thursday, July 9:
“Great Basin Team 4, a Type 2 Incident Management Team, assumed command of the Numbers Fire this morning.
“[Thursday], crews are being flown to the upper ridgeline of the Pine Nut Mountains to limit fire spread over the ridge to the east and into Smith Valley. Right now, this is the area of greatest concern for additional fire growth. Helicopters will support these crews by dropping water from buckets and delivering supplies.
“Additional firefighting resources will continue to secure and patrol existing firelines and respond to any adjacent fire activity. In some areas, where containment is certain, crews and equipment will begin to repair suppression actions. This includes rehabilitation of ground moved by dozers to create fireline.”
(Revised at 8:10 a.m. MDT July 8, 2020)
The Numbers Fire 17 miles south of Carson City, Nevada burned 17,296 acres during the first 24 hours after being reported at 9:01 p.m. MDT July 6, 2020. A mapping flight at 8 p.m. July 7 showed that it had burned into the 2,323-acre Monarch Fire that started June 26, 2020.
A Type 2 Incident Management Team, Great Basin Team 4, is organizing the efforts of 11 hand crews, 38 fire engines, and 9 helicopters, for a total of 450 personnel. The fire behavior is described as extreme and threatens 350 residences.
Wednesday afternoon firefighters on the Numbers Fire can expect sunny skies with no chance of rain, temperature around 80, relative humidity of 10 percent, and wind out of the northwest at 12 to 17 mph gusting to 25 — conditions similar to Tuesday.
Wednesday morning fire officials said evacuations had been lifted for Pine View Estates, Bodie Flat, Out our Way Area, Blue Bird, and Lena Way.
The two photos below were taken from the same camera at Ridge Tahoe. The first is from 2:40 p.m. June 7, and the second, 7:08 a.m. June 8.
Officials from the Tonto National Forest confirmed that a helicopter crashed today while working on the Polles Fire in central Arizona. The only person on board was the pilot, who was deceased. He was identified in a press conference as Bryan Boatman, 37, with Airwest Helicopters out of Glendale, Arizona. He leaves behind a wife and 8-year-old child.
The Chief of the Pine-Strawberry Fire District said the pilot’s wife arrived at the Payson Airport as the body was being retrieved from the accident scene.
The helicopter crashed north of the main fire in a remote area only accessible on foot or by helicopter while transporting supplies for hand crews. After the crash was reported to the fire’s Incident Commander at 12:22 p.m. Tuesday, a Sergeant with Sheriff’s office was transported to the scene via short haul, suspended on a rope under a helicopter. He began the process of the investigation and removing the pilot’s remains.
A Federal Aviation Administration spokesman said the UH-1H helicopter went down about 10 miles west of Payson.
A Temporary Flight Restriction (TFR) has been issued at the Payson airport due to the crash, Airport Coordinator Dennis Dueker said. All flights in the area will be grounded until the TFR is lifted.
As of Monday night the Polles Fire had burned 580 acres 11 miles west of Payson, Arizona.
The Southwest Area Type 1 Incident Management Team (IMT) #2 led by John Pierson was scheduled to assume command of the fire July 6 at 6 a.m.
Six hotshot crews and three other hand crews are working in conditions described by the incident management team as extreme. They have been working shifts late into the evening for the last few nights, spiked out in remote locations relying on helicopters to fly in their food, drinking water, and supplies.
The IMT said there are no current threats from the fire to the communities of Pine-Strawberry or Payson.
The fire started July 3 from lightning. It is only accessible by helicopter.
Our sincere condolences go out to the family and friends of the pilot, and the firefighters that were working on the Polles Fire.
Thanks and tips of the hat go out to Tom, Eric, and Kelly. Typos or errors, report them HERE.
On Tuesday afternoon the Numbers fire six miles southeast of Minden, Nevada spread an additional two miles to the east, pushed by strong winds. Our very unofficial estimate based on satellite data is that by 4 p.m. Tuesday it had burned approximately 12,000 acres.
Residents directed to evacuate from the Numbers Fire are being directed to motels, rather than more conventional evacuation centers such as fairgrounds or sports facilities, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The fire has burned 7,500 acres 17 miles south of Carson City, Nevada and 6 miles southeast of Minden. The area is described as the Pine Nuts, in the Pine View area of Gardnerville.
Fire officials said one “structure” has burned in addition to 10 outbuildings.
Tow ALERT Wildfire cameras have good views of the fire, Ridge Tahoe and Bald Mountain. The fire appears to be close to the latter camera.
Thanks and a tip of the hat go out to Dan. Typos or errors, report them HERE.
At a 9 a.m. press briefing today a spokesperson for the Los Angeles County Fire Department said an updated size estimate of the Soledad Fire east of Santa Clarita is 1,300 acres but the number could grow a little, they said. The priority, as usual, is of course to put in a control line around the fire. The briefing did not include information about what the fire was doing, for example spreading rapidly or slowly, or if the spread had been stopped. Thus, it is probably safe to assume that the agency expects little additional spread of the fire.
This will be our final update on the fire unless the situation changes.
(UPDATED at 5:20 a.m. PDT July 6, 2020)
Caltrans announced at 10:46 Sunday night that SR-14 which had been closed due to the Soledad Fire east of Santa Clarita has been partially opened. All lanes southbound are open and the two left northbound lanes are open. (At 11:15 a.m. July 6 the lane closures were the same)
There has been no update on the size of the fire since officials said at 8:20 p.m. Sunday it was 1,100 acres.
(Originally published at 9:12 p.m. PDT July 5, 2020)
The Soledad Fire spread quickly near Highway 14 and Agua Dulce Canyon Road east of Santa Clarita, California after it was reported at 3:28 p.m. PDT July 5. Helicopters and about half a dozen or so air tankers assisted firefighters until dark, after which night flying helicopters will likely continue to drop water. Some of the air tankers were reloading with retardant at Mojave Air and Space Port 40 miles to the northwest.
Evacuations are under way near Agua Dulce Road and Soledad Canyon Road. Highway 14 is closed in both directions.
The 400 firefighters on the incident are under unified command with Los Angeles County and the U.S. Forest Service.
At 8:20 p.m. Sunday fire officials estimated the size at 1,100 acres. During the first few hours strong winds of 20-30 mph were pushing the fire, but later decreased in speed.
The Soledad Fire has been burning south of Highway 14 but threatens to cross the highway.