747 air tanker soon under contract?

Evergreen submitted their contract proposal to the U.S. Forest Service today and James Baynes, the Supertanker Sales Manager, told us that they expect a contract to be awarded “shortly”. The 747 “Supertanker” can carry 20,000 gallons of retardant, about seven times more than a typical large air tanker. Like other air tankers, it will not put out any fires by itself, but it’s another tool in the firefighter’s tool box, at a time when we need more.

New feature– chat about fire in "Lively"

Google just introduced a new program called Lively. It is a 3-D chat room that uses avatars, much like Second Life but not as complicated. We have created a room in Lively called Wildfire Today (who would have guessed!) which you can enter and chat with others by clicking on the icon on the left side of this page.

It is an experiment and we’ll see how it develops. It can be a place for real time communication among those interested in fire, especially wildland fire. We can discuss fires that are currently burning, wildland fire issues, ask questions, tell war stories, or just shoot the breeze.

HERE is an article that gives more information about Lively. You will need Windows XP or Vista to run it, and the application to download is about 10 MB.

Body found in burned house in Butte County, CA

A burned body was found in the remains of a house that burned in the BTU (or Butte County) complex in an evacuated section of Concow, California. According to a press release issued by the Butte County Sheriff’s office, a deputy sheriff found the body at 10 a.m. on Friday while doing a search of the structures that had burned. The house had been the residence of someone named in a missing person report. The Sheriffs office said 40 homes were destroyed in the neighborhood where the body was found. An autopsy will be conducted this weekend to attempt to identify the body using DNA or fingerprints.

Wildfire Today reported on Tuesday that up to 50 homes had burned in the community of Concow when the BTU fire complex burned through the community which is east of Paradise.

CNN is reporting that if it turns out that this person died as a result of the wildland fire, it would be the first person killed in the recent California fires. That is not accurate. Wildfire Today had the story on July 3 about 63-year-old volunteer firefighter Robert Roland who collapsed while battling a blaze in Mendocino County and died hours later at the Ukiah Valley Medical Center.

BTU Complex: still causing evacuations

The BTU (or Butte County) Complex east of Chico and adjacent to Paradise is still actively burning and creating the need for more evacuations. Two additional “immediate threat evacuation” notices were issued this morning for some areas within Paradise. The fire is 48,800 acres and is 50% contained.

Wildfire Today just received a report from someone in Paradise who said the area is socked in with smoke allowing very little use of aircraft, but he did see one air tanker working the area this morning. For the last few days, the fire has been pushed by a north component wind, but he said now there is south wind, which is slowing the spread on the south side. A nighttime inversion lifted late last the night allowing some increased fire activity. The fire still has not crossed the river just east of Paradise.

Here is a map from the CalFire web site updated yesterday. Click on it or the link to see a larger version.

Thanks to Joel for the tip.

InciWeb is working–for now

InciWeb, when it is working, is great. Theoretically, it is One Place where you can go to get information about going fires. It is easy to upload data to the site, and it can take some of the workload off agencies if they don’t have to maintain their own fire-specific web sites.

But when there are many fires burning, or there are one or two that generate a lot of interest, the web site can’t handle the load and chokes, not working at all. When the need for it is the greatest, it is most likely to fail.

After being out of service off and on for several days, it started working recently. Not all of the fires have started using it again, since they have not been able to upload their information to the site on a consistent basis for days. But not all fires use InciWeb even when it works, for example, the BTU (or Butte County) complex does not use it.

There are several ways you can sort the data. Here is an example of fires in California in descending order by size.

Basin fire burns around Tassajara

The Basin fire, east of Big Sur, made huge runs yesterday, burning completely around the Zen Center at Tassajara. It is now 108,026 acres and is 41% contained, adding about 18,000 acres over the last 24 hours.

East side:
The fire ran to the east for two to five miles leaving Tassajara and the road into it enveloped by fire. The Tassajara folks posted this information on their blog Sitting With Fire last night.

So far, so good

The fire has passed through Tassajara and is making it’s way down the creek. Everyone who has stayed is safe and very tired. They plan to spend the night maintaining a watch for embers falling from the hills above.

They report that the Tassajara grounds are an island of green in a sea of black. A testament to the recently installed sprinkler system and the twice daily irrigation of the site.

The fire approached quickly from three sides shortly after 1pm and passed over Tassajara mercifully fast. The crew were able to move around outside the safe space and keep the sprinkler system working.

Several small buildings were lost: the Bird House, the compost shed, the wood shed and the pool bathroom. The radio-phone and half of the lower garden were also destroyed.

Clarification 9:00pm: The front of the fire has passed Tassajara and was burning the meadow below the lower barn early this evening. There appears to be no fuel left to burn in the valley. The remaining danger is from embers falling down the hillsides. This danger may persist for days and diminishes as time passes.

The eastern side of the fire is now approaching the indirect dozer lines that have been in place over a week. A very rough estimate is that there are over 20 miles of this line that must be defended on the north and east sides. East of Tassajara the fire last night was two to three miles from the line. Farther north it varies from 1/2 mile to four.

With the shortage of resources in the state and on this fire, I hope the Incident Management Team has what they need in order to fire out and hold this line.

North side:
The firing along the dozer line continues to progress to the east and has made it one mile east of Big Pines campsite. With the intense burning yesterday, this was the one bright spot–the firing is going well and the line held.

South side:
We reported yesterday that the fire had crossed the fire line on the Rodeo Flats Trail near the Indians fire. This line had not been fired out yet, and now it has burned two miles beyond to the south, burning along the Indians fire. On InciWeb, which is working off and on now. they are calling it a “spot fire”, but it is at least 700 acres. If they had stopped it as planned on the trail, this would have wrapped up the south side. Now they will have to fall back to secondary lines, some of which have been prepared, and others are only planned.

The fire in this area is now going to take a major effort to corral. I wonder if a shortage of resources, extreme fire behavior, or something else caused the fire to not be stopped on the fire line as planned.

The map below was produced late yesterday.

The weather forecast for Jamesburg, east of the fire:

Today: Mostly sunny, with a high near 89. Southwest wind between 5 and 8 mph. Relative humidity 15%.

Tonight: Partly cloudy, with a low around 63. West southwest wind 5 to 8 mph becoming south southeast. RH 55%.

Saturday: Mostly sunny, with a high near 92. South southeast wind around 7 mph becoming west. RH 28%.