Toaster heaven

For the past few weeks I have been using a new toaster. I know what you’re thinking…. WHAT? a toaster? Yeah…. a deluxe new toaster that is light years ahead in design and technology compared to any other toaster I have seen.

It’s a Breville Diecast 2-Slice Smart Toaster and is not just a simple mechanical device with heating elements. It has a brain. When you plug it in, or hit any button after it has gone to “sleep”, circles around all five buttons begin to glow a light blue color.

Put a slice of bread in one of the slots and push the Toast/Cancel button, and the blue circle around that button turns to red, while a motor gently lowers the bread into the toaster. At that time a row of lights above the browning control illuminate and one at a time each light in the row turns off, counting down like an animated bar graph, until they are all off. Then a motor gently raises your toast and you’ll hear a faint beep. The beep is so faint that there is no danger of waking your significant other if you have to get up and toast your bagel while they still snoozing.

If you are curious about the progress of your toast, or worried it might be over done, you can press the “Lift & Look” button while it is toasting. The motor will raise the toast for a few seconds then lower it again, continuing the rest of the interrupted toasting cycle.

If your toast is not quite brown enough at the end of the cycle, you can press the “A Bit More” button. This will automatically lower the bread carriage for additional toasting time.

Do you find that your toaster burns the outside of your bagel while the inside is just right? This toaster has a special system for bagels. You place the inside of the bagel facing the middle of the toaster and press the “Bagel” button. The toaster will activate additional heat to the center heating elements cooking both sides evenly.

There is even a “Defrost” button which adjusts the toasting cycle to account for frozen bread or bagels.

I love the labels for the buttons….”A Bit More“, and “Lift & Look“. None of those stupid international symbols that no one understands. Just plain, simple, common-sense, English, something that is in short supply too often these days.

And the innovate design does not stop at the toaster itself. The electrical plug is unique, having a hole through which you can insert your finger to make it easier when removing the plug from a wall socket.

This toaster is not cheap, but ya gotta pay for quality. The 2-slice model is $129 and a 4-slice model will set you back $179 at

OK. Now back to wildland fire.

Fire in NC continues to grow

The fire in North Carolina has jumped the lines again and is now 28,985 acres, or 45 square miles. It has the potential to grow to at least 50,000 acres and has forced the evacuation of 70 homes according to the NC Division of Forest Resources. About half the fire is burning on the Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge and about half is on private land in Hyde, Tyrrell and Washington counties.

One of the challenges for the firefighters is the peat-filled soil which can be up to 8 feet deep. It is very difficult to put in a fireline when the combustible fuel goes that far below the surface of the earth. They are using 23 tractor plows which are sometimes building fire lines up to 40-feet wide, but the fire finds a way to burn across the lines.

Yesterday they had one large air tanker assigned to the fire. The InciWeb page on the fire is not updated very frequently.

Here is a map of the fire showing heat detected by satellites, updated this afternoon, 6/6/2008. Click on it to see a larger version.

Fire in NC doubles in size again

The fire in rural NC doubled in size–it’s now 20,500 acres, according to the local media. But InciWeb is reporting it to be 13,180. Either is a pretty good sized fire for NC. Here is a map that shows heat detected by satellites. Click on it to see a larger version.


A wildfire that started on a wildlife refuge in rural eastern North Carolina and burned into privately owned rural land doubled in size as it sent smoke and ash as far away as the Outer Banks and neighboring Virginia.

The fire consumed more than 20,500 acres, or just over 32 square miles, of forest and fields at Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge. About half the fire was burning on the refuge and about half was on private land Hyde, Tyrrell and Washington counties, officials said.

No injuries were reported and no structures had burned, said North Carolina Forest Service spokesman Brian Haines.

The fire started from lightning Sunday at the wildlife refuge and gradually spread during the week because of dry conditions and flammable peat soil.

Evacuation orders were issued Thursday for homes in parts of Tyrrell County and for a Hyde County subdivision because there was no way out if the fire reached it, officials said. Authorities asked 39 homeowners around Lake Phelps to leave on Wednesday.

Earlier Thursday, smoke and ash filled the air in the town of Manteo, about 45 miles east of the fire, as well as in Chesapeake, Va., some 75 miles north of the refuge, officials said.

The fire could last two months or more unless the area gets substantial rainfall, said Tony Spencer of Hyde County Emergency Management.


Photo courtesy of


NFPA Releases Annual On-Duty Deaths Report

“While the number of on-duty deaths for America’s fire service in 2007 did not see a dramatic change, the number of wildland firefighter deaths dropped by almost two-thirds.

Experts say a new set of tactics — based on safety — may be the reason for the decline.

Jim Smalley, manager of the NFPA Wildland Fire Protection Division, believes that the reduction stems from a major change in tactics following recent fires that took the lives of multiple firefighters.

Citing the 2006 Esperanza Fire that claimed four firefighters and the Thirty-Mile fire in 2001 that killed four, he said there has been a reduction in night firefighting operations.

“Night firefighting is very infrequent now” Smalley said. “They have gone from doctrinal principles and they do what’s right and do what’s safest while effectively doing their jobs.”

Smalley believes that other changes over the last five years, including the reduction on the deployment from 21 days to 14 days, advances in firefighter hydration and the overall length of the work day, are advancing the firefighter safety measures.


While 2007 saw the second highest number of structural firefighter deaths in 10 years, the number of wildland deaths was the lowest in 10 years, with only three. The average had been 10.

The NFPA Report Shows:

* Of the 102 fatalities in 2007, 53 were volunteers, 42 career and five were employees of the federal or state land management agencies. One was a contractor to the land management agencies and served on an industrial fire brigade.
* Fire ground actions 35 percent
* Responding and returning to alarms, 29 percent
* Training deaths, 13 percent with seven percent being non-fire emergencies.
* Sixteen percent of deaths were categorized as “other on-duty.” Those include 11 that occurred during station duties, two during community event preparations, one returning from a prescribed burn, one while preparing for a parade and one while flagging a fire line at a construction project. “

The above is from To read the entire article click here.

Fire in North Carolina makes 5-mile run

A fire in North Carolina last night jumped containment lines and “made a 5-mile run” according to the NC Division of Forest Resources. The fire which tripled in size yesterday has now burned 10,000 acres in Hyde and Washington counties, and has spread onto the Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge.

The map below shows the smoke plumes and heat detected by satellites.

Congressman pays for forest fire–finally

“WASHINGTON, DC – June 4 – For more than four years, a prominent Republican congressman refused to pay charges assessed by the U.S. Forest Service for a fire he set which burned out of control, according to agency records released today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). Political intervention repeatedly delayed both billing and collecting from U.S. Representative Henry Brown (R-South Carolina), including a delinquent payment demand that was retracted this March, only to be re-issued in April with more than $1,000 in penalties waived.

“Due to political meddling, the Forest Service has spent well more than $100,000 in staff time to collect less than $5,000 from Congressman Brown,” stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch. “Representative Brown got more than kid glove treatment in this case; he was handled with asbestos mitts by a Forest Service petrified of its political bosses.”

The original incident was back on March 5, 2004, when Rep. Brown set a prescribed burn on his property on a day in which a “Red Flag Alert” was issued due to high winds. The fire quickly burned more than 200 acres of Brown’s land and crossed over into the Francis Marion National Forest, burning another 20 acres there. The Forest Service needed a helicopter, three fire engines and a bulldozer to bring the fire under control. A Forest Service review of the fire found that Brown was negligent:

“Mr. Brown was not adequately prepared to detect, or adequately equipped to suppress, the escaped fire on 5 March 2004 with only two men, a bucket of water, and no means of delivery of that water to the escaped fire.”

Agency policy requires collection of all costs of fire suppression, but U.S. Department of Agriculture Undersecretary Mark Rey blocked that assessment after meeting with Rep. Brown. In fact, the agency did not even issue a criminal notice of violation (a $250 fine) for six months and did so only after Forest Service law enforcement agents filed a whistleblower complaint that was publicized by PEER. Brown paid that fine, after the ticket was hand delivered to his Capitol office in September 2004.

At that time, Undersecretary Rey directed the Forest Service to re-examine its civil collection practices before proceeding any further against Rep. Brown. Following that ordered review, on January 28, 2005 the Forest Service sent Rep. Brown a bill for $4747.18 but the congressman refused to pay.”

The above is from Click HERE to read the rest of the article.