Air tanker crashes in Colorado

From Myfoxcolorado:

A firefighting plane battling one of many lightning-caused fires in northwestern Colorado crashed Wednesday, injuring the pilot.

The single-engine air tanker went down at 3 p.m. about 20 miles northwest of Meeker, or 170 miles northwest of Denver.

Bureau of Land Management spokesman David Boyd said the pilot was conscious and able to move. He was flown by helicopter to a hospital in Grand Junction. The pilot’s name was not released.

The cause of the crash was under investigation, Boyd said. The pilot was working on a small blaze called the Flat Bush fire that was reported Wednesday morning and was burning in pinyon-juniper and sage on BLM land.

It was one of more than 30 lightning-caused fires in northwestern Colorado, the BLM said. Most were estimated at less than an acre in size. There have been no reports of damage to the 30 gas wells in the area.

The largest is the 27,000-acre Mayberry fire on BLM and private land about 30 miles northwest of Craig. More than 75 firefighters had contained about 50 percent of the blaze, the agency said. The Prong fire, about 20 miles northwest of Craig, jumped containment lines Tuesday night and grew to 5,150 acres.

Firefighters stopped its growth and were working to secure fire lines Wednesday afternoon, the BLM said.

The Lone fire, burning on BLM and private land about 15 miles north of Elk Springs in Moffat County, was about 75 percent contained. It charred 950 acres.

Crews from Maybell, Meeker, Moffat County, the Colorado State Forest Service, the BLM, the U.S. Forest Service, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Park Service were working together to manage the fires.

Wednesday’s crash was the second wreck of a firefighting plane in Colorado this year.

In April, firefighting pilot Gert Marais of Fort Benton, Mont., was killed when his single-engine plane crashed after dumping fire-retardant slurry on a wildfire in a remote part of Fort Carson. Marais worked for a Sterling company that supplies aerial firefighting services to the state Forest Service.

Wildfire news, August 27, 2008

Salvage logging, yes or no?

There is quite a debate going on in the comments section in response to an opinion piece on which quotes sections of an article on “Science Daily”, titled “Salvage Logging, Replanting Increased Biscuit Fire Severity”. Some people are questioning the “science” behind the “Science Daily” article.

The graduate student who authored the Science Daily article was quoted as saying, contrary to conventional wisdom:

Typical fuel treatments such as thinning do not have much effect on fire risk in young forests, Thompson said. There are ongoing experiments within the Biscuit Fire region to test the effectiveness of fuel breaks for slowing the spread of severe fires. 

From the piece:

According to an article published on June 12, 2007, in Science Daily, salvage logging may not be the best activity to protect our forests. A study conducted by the Oregon State University Department of Forest Science examined the effects of salvage logging in Oregon forests after fires. The study reported that in the past, forest managers assumed that removing dead trees would reduce fuel loads and planting conifers could hasten the return of fire-resistant forests. 

What the analysis in this study revealed is that, “after accounting for the effects of topography, Silver Fire severity and other environmental variables, the Biscuit Fire severity was higher where they had done salvage logging and planting.”

Thanks to Bob for the tip.

Steve Arno receives award from SAF

Steve Arno, retired from the Forest Service’s Rocky Mountain Research Station in Missoula and author of five books, is the pre-eminent wildfire ecology expert in the Northern Rockies, according to the Society of American Foresters. They are giving him one of seven Barrington-Moore Memorial awards this year for accomplishments in wildfire ecology and biological research.

Here is an excerpt from an article in the Missoulian:

Arno and other foresters say they’re making progress in educating the West’s burgeoning human population about fire’s benefits, but it’s a never-ending task as the number of newcomers continues to grown. 

“Ever since Earth Day in 1970, there’s been this back to the land movement and a lot of people saying, ‘Every tree is sacred’ and ‘I want it natural,’ ” he said.

“They have this pristine idea of what nature is, but it’s all based on the erroneous belief that nature doesn’t need managing. They really have no idea of what natural is. We’re winning more and more people over to the idea of managed forests, but it’s like baling out a boat that’s taking on water – you have to keep at it.”

Arno has been busy since he retired from the Forest Service’s Rocky Mountain Research Station in Missoula. His books include ” Flames in Our Forest” and “Mimicking Nature’s Fire,” which looked at the historic role of wildfires in Western forests and how to restore the natural role of fire.

Thanks to Dick for the tip.

Gunbarrel fire

Pushed by strong winds yesterday the fire grew by a couple of thousand acres and 100 people yesterday as Paul Broyles’ Type 1 incident management team assumed command and ramped up to handle the increased fire activity. They had to move the incident command post to accommodate the additional personnel, never a fun thing to do, relocating to Buffalo Bill State Park nine miles west of Cody, Wyoming on Highway 14-16-20.

The strategy of the fire has changed from Fire Use to Confine/Contain. Yesterday firefighters completed a burnout above the Elephant Head Lodge, while today they expect to be busy defending homes in the upper portions of the Jim Mountain, Jim Creek, and Big Creek areas, as well as cabins and lodges on the fire’s west end, in the Libby Creek area. The fire has now consumed 57,384 acres.


Firefighters apply foam and install sprinklers at Goff Creek Lodge, August 26. Photo by Michael Johnson.

Professor’s body found in burned Idaho home

Wildfire Today covered this yesterday, but now the body has been identified as that of Mary Ellen Ryder.

Mike Quinno watched the Oregon Trail Fire race through a quarter-mile of dry grass toward his house on Sweetwater Drive in seconds. 

He stood on his deck Monday night, set back a few feet from the rim of the steep ridge that dropped into the grass and sagebrush flats. Fire burns fastest when it burns uphill. When the wind-driven blaze reached the bottom of the ridge, the flames exploded.

“The fire flew up over my head,” Quinno said.

A dozen houses along the rim to the north, Pete Ryder was watching “Monday Night Football” with his wife, Mary Ellen, when he saw smoke in his backyard at 3594 Immigrant Pass Court. When he went outside to check, his backyard erupted in flames so sudden and intense he couldn’t get back inside.

In seconds, flames surrounded his home, forcing Ryder to the end of his driveway. His wife was nowhere to be seen.

“When I got to the front of the house and didn’t see her, I didn’t think she got out.”

Mary Ellen Ryder was the one fatality in a fire that destroyed nine homes in the Oregon Trail Heights subdivision and another in the adjacent Columbia Village in Southeast Boise. It also damaged nine other homes on the Bench.

The speed of the fire, the fierce winds and the location, landscaping and construction of the houses helped make it one of Boise’s worst fires ever.

The fire did not catch Boise firefighters unprepared.

They had pre-planned how to fight a fire in the area, said Dennis Doan, Boise fire chief. They arrived at Sweetwater Drive within two minutes of the first call. By then, two houses were ablaze.

From the minute they caugh
t on fire, it was only seconds until the next house,” Doan said. “The flames were laying sideways all the way across the street with multiple houses on fire.”

Firefighters risked their lives to “draw a line” between the burning houses and the rest of the more than 1,000 homes in the subdivisions near Columbia Village, he said.

The rest of the story is HERE.
Photo courtesy of Idaho Statesman

Fire in the heart of Redding

A vegetation fire in Redding, California burned 130 acres and caused evacuations near the Sacramento River.

North winds gusting up to 30 mph pushed the flames near homes, apartments, condominiums, and an elementary school where classes were in session.

Helicopter pilot spots arsonist

A helicopter pilot dropping water on a wildland blaze Friday in the Mendocino National Forest in northern California spotted a man in camouflage clothing starting a fire. 

The helicopter immediately suspended firefighting operations and called law enforcement officers to the scene, who were already nearby getting ready to conduct marijuana eradication operations.

U.S. Forest Service rangers and Mendocino County sheriff’s deputies located the man close to the origin of the fire and took him into custody on suspicion of arson.

He was identified as a resident of Mexico, but not named in a forest service press release.

Evidence found on the man indicated he was associated with marijuana cultivation in the area. He admitted starting the fires, but said others were with him.

The Island Fire charred about 50 acres, and was brought under containment at 6 p.m. Saturday.

Officials are conducting an investigation into the fire, and looking for others who may have been working with the man arrested Friday.

Body found in Southern California brush fire

After firefighters suppressed a 4-acre fire near Malibu last night, they noticed a vehicle in the fire and upon further investigation, found a dead body inside. Detectives were sent to investigate the circumstances of the man’s death.

About a half-hour later a fire broke out at the same location that consumed about a quarter-acre of brush before being doused by city and county firefighters.

Wildfire news, August 26, 2008

Callabasas, Calif: Classic urban interface fire

It only burned 30 acres, but when firefighters stopped this fire near Mailbu Creek State Park in southern California this afternoon, it had structures on the perimeter and an island of them in the center. The reports we have seen do not mention any homes being destroyed. This is amazing. From looking at the photo below, a lot of credit should go to the firefighters who had urban interface almost everywhere on this fire, and the homeowners who must have had good clearance as well.

Between 225 and 250 firefighters worked on the fire, along with 5 water dropping helicopters.

East Slide Rock Ridge fire, northeast Nevada

This fire started on August 8 and was managed as a Fire Use fire until August 23 when it was declared a suppression fire and Paul Summerfelt’s Type 1 incident management team assumed command. Monday morning it was 18,250 acres but it made a huge run later in the day. Pushed by strong winds in front of a cold front it grew by over 9,000 20,000 acres and is now mapped at 28,000 38,600 acres. It burned towards the northeast and crossed the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest boundary in three places onto private land. It has now approached to within 2 miles of the Idaho border.

Gunbarrel fire

Paul Broyle’s Type 1 Incident Management Team will assume command from the Fire Use Management Team on Wednesday. This fire which is between Yellowstone National Park and Cody, Wyoming is now 55,471 acres. It is 24 miles (east/west) by 10 miles (north/south). HERE is a link to a map of the fire.

From the incident management team at 8:00 a.m. MT this morning:

Firefighters are anticipating Red Flag conditions today. The warning was extended by the National Weather Service until 6:00 pm today for high winds. Strong dry winds predicted today, coupled with continued warm and dry conditions, are expected to increase fire growth on the northeast side of the fire today. Structure protection is in place for residences and firefighters expect to be busy defending homes in upper portions of the Jim Mountain, Jim Creek, and Big Creek areas; and cabins and lodges on the fire’s west end in the general area of Libby Creek. 

Yesterday the fire made advances in the Goff Creek and Gunbarrel Creek drainages where structure protection is in place. Due to the potential for the fire to spread towards Elephant Head Lodge, the lodge was placed under an evacuation advisory. The fire also grew on the east side, spotting onto the east side of Trout Creek.

An update from the incident management team at 11:30 a.m. MT this morning:

Currently wind on the Gunbarrel fire is blowing at sustained speeds of 15-20 mph, with gusts to 30-40 mph. A cold front is passing over the northwest corner of Wyoming this morning. 

The wind is causing the fire to spread very readily. Spot fires thrown ahead of the fire front are among the most challenging consequences of the strong wind.

The fire is very active in its northeast corner, in Trout Creek. Managers believe it is likely this edge of the fire may move a few miles today. There is also significant fire activity in the head of Big Creek. Last night the fire was most active in Libby Creek; this area is more sheltered from upper level winds than the fire’s east end, but still is expected to be challenging today.

Firefighters are working in each of the areas where fire is close to homes. They include Elephant Head Lodge, Star Hill Ranch, Jim Mountain, Mooncrest Ranch, and others.

The wind currently is too strong for fixed wing air tankers to fly, and too strong for all but the two largest helicopters. An aerial observer is having a turbulent day today but so far still is able to fly safely.

The red flag warning for strong wind remains in effect until 6 p.m. this evening.

Body found in burned house at Boise wildfire

Authorities say a badly burned body was discovered by firefighters inside one of the homes damaged or destroyed by a wildfire that swept through a neighborhood on the city’s southeast side.

Boise Police Spokeswoman Lynn Hightower says fire crews found the body early Tuesday while combing through one of the 9 homes destroyed by the blaze. Hightower said it’s too soon to tell whether the body is that of a woman from the middle-class neighborhood reported missing by relatives as the blaze spread from a vacant field of sage brush up the ridge to the line of homes.

No other residents were injured in the fires, but 17 police officers and at least one firefighter were treated for various injuries at local hospitals.

Hightower says the fire is under control and that residents from the more than 50 homes evacuated Monday night are now being allowed to return.

Strong winds push a wildfire as it burns a house in Boise.

The above is from the Seattle Times

Here is more about the fire, from the Idaho Press, before the body was found in the burned house.

A wildfire fanned by 50 mph winds burned a swath through a Southeast Boise neighborhood Monday evening, destroying 10 homes and damaging nine others.

Authorities evacuated more than four dozen homes in Boise’s Columbia Village area and residents were not expected to be allowed to return overnight. Seven Boise police officers were hospitalized for treatment of smoke inhalation. Officials said a firefighter also suffered a hand laceration. No other injuries were reported late Monday.

Boise police and fire investigators have reported a woman missing from one of the homes destroyed by fire Monday evening on Immigrant Pass Court. No further information on the missing woman was available.

Boise Fire Chief Dennis Doan said the blaze started as a brush fire on Amity Road during a red flag warning, indicating high winds and high heat make conditions ripe for wildfires.

Flames spread up a ridge and initially ignited six homes before jumping a street to burn several more, Doan said. The blaze spread from roof to roof, ignited trees and shrubbery and burned vehicles parked near the homes.

Fire officials issued a general alarm, calling in all Boise fire personnel. Meridian, Kuna, North Ada County and other area firefighters assisted. As of about 11:15 p.m., 41 fire crews were on the scene. Meridian Police, Ada County Sheriff’s deputies and Idaho State Police assisted Boise Police by taking calls throughout the city.

“In 20 years this is the biggest subdivision fire we’ve had,” Doan said. “The winds were just incredible. The firefighters did an amazing job of putting themselves and their hoses between the houses.”

Dispatchers said the fire was reported at 7 p.m.

“We still have an active fire, but we feel we have it contained,” Doan said late Monday night. “We’re trying to get some hot spots out now. This will take all night and into tomorrow.”

Wildfire news, August 25, 2008

Russian troops’ scorched earth tactics

The Russian army that is “withdrawing” from Georgia is setting fires as they depart.

The withdrawal of the Russian forces is being accompanied by heavy environmental damage all around the country. Areas flown or driven over by Russian troops are being set on fire. As a result, several acres of forest are burning in Borjomi Gorge, as is a kilometres-long stretch of wheat across the Shida Kartli region. On August 24 two explosions took place. Arms and shells the Russians took away from Georgian military bases exploded in Tskhinvali and a gas transport train suddenly caught fire along the Gori-Khashuri sector of the Georgian Central Railway. The police have been unable to say what caused the fire, but according to one version, splinters of the land mines detonated on the military base beside the railway reached the train and when hitting the oil caused the fire. 

Fire in Japan causes evacuations

It is not often that you hear about wildland fires in Japan.

TOKYO, Aug. 25 (Xinhua) — The municipal government of Imabari on Monday ordered the evacuation of 50 households as a wildfire spread as close as 150 meters to their homes, said reports from Matsuyama, capital of Ehime Prefecture. 

The conflagration, which broke out in the mountainous area Sunday afternoon, had destroyed some 75 hectares (175 acres) of forest by 11 a.m. (0200 GMT) Monday, said local authorities, adding that there were no immediate reports of casualties or damage to properties.

Firefighters, along with 10 helicopters from the Self-Defense Forces and those from neighboring prefectures, have been fighting the fire since it was reported to the local fire department Sunday evening.