Fire season outlook for Washington

The Wenatchee World web site has an interesting story about the outlook for fire activity in north central Washington state this year.

Officials say other than a late start to the season, there are no strong indicators for predicting this year’s season.

“We’re always going to have a fire season. And it’s always going to depend on how receptive (fuels) are to ignition, and then, do we get ignition,” said Bobbie Scopa, fire management officer for the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forests.

Scopa said the season will partly depend on June rains, although lots of rain can mean high grasses, which dry out quickly in hot weather and allow for a fast-spreading fire. Mostly, she said, it will depend on the number of fires started by lightning storms, escaped campfires or vehicles and equipment without spark arresters.

Scopa said snowpack may help determine when the fire season will start but isn’t always an indicator of the severity of the season. She pointed to 2005, one of the driest winters on record, when North Central Washington saw little fire activity. That was followed by 2006, when a winter with heavy snowpack melted into a summer with the 175,000-acre Tripod Fire — the largest wildfire in the region’s history.

“It’s pretty tough to make too big a prediction,” she said.

However, Rick Ochoa, a meteorologist working at NICC in Boise, said:

“…the cooler spring weather and heavy snowpack do mean that overall there’s a slimmer chance that the Northwest will have numerous large fires.”

Ochoa further goes out on a limb to predict:

“…the Northwest will see 473 fires, burning 17,873 acres by the end of June. That’s compared with an average for June 30 of 605 fires burning 24,508 acres.”

Holy crap! I wonder where he pulled those numbers out of? I have never seen a prediction like that. Personally, I like the statements attributed to FMO Bobbie Scopa a lot better.

As I have said in other posts, I am convinced that the severity of the fire season is mostly determined by the weather during the fire season, and less so by the amount of precipitation during the winter.

More information is at the Wenachee World web site.

Get Your Smokey On

This morning an updated Smokey Bear campaign launched, featuring a new round of television, radio, print, outdoor, and Web ads. The ads were created pro bono, by Draftfcb, the same advertising agency that has been creating the advertising for Smokey Bear since 1944. Here’s a new 30 second video that has Smokey on a mountain bike:

They added a new twist this time. Some of the ads ask that young adults step in and intervene if others act carelessly. The voice of Sam Elliot encourages audiences to “Get Your Smokey On”. And Smokey asks that you prevent “wildfires”, not “forest fires”. I think that change was made a few years ago.

A second series of ads produced by the Walt Disney Company is also launching this week featuring characters from the film Sleeping Beauty.

The Smokey Bear website has also been redesigned.

UPDATE: Due to a controversy, the video campaign was cancelled. More info.

UC Davis begins Aviation Safety Certificate program

The University of California at Davis is beginning a program to certify those involved in emergency response aviation. It appears that the curriculum is designed for individuals who manage aviation, and not necessarily pilots. They will cater to:

“aviation safety officers, emergency services pilots, forest firefighter aviators, border patrol aviators, medical-air transport personnel, law enforcement, homeland security officers and anyone involved in the field of emergency response aviation.”

The program consists of six courses, offered between October, 2008, and February, 2009:

• Aircraft Health Management
• Communications: Program Management
• Communications: Operations Management
• Aviation Leadership
• Human Factors and Operational Risk Management
• Safety Program Management

The certificate program focuses on:

“monitoring aircraft health, developing effective communication strategies, and instituting the principles of safe aviation operations”.

The courses will be held at the U. S. Forest Service training facility at McClellan Park, Sacramento, CA. UC Davis brags that the facility has

“high-tech resources and equipment, including a 10-megawatt nuclear reactor.”

I always prefer to conduct training at a classroom that has access to a nuclear reactor too.

More information can be found HERE.

Receive Wildfire Today on Twitter

The first 140 characters of our blog posts are now being distributed by Twitter. You can receive them by instant message, as a text message on your cell phone, or on your Twitter web page . Our twitter name is: wildfiretoday

We just started this, so there may be a few bugs to work out. We’ll have to concentrate on putting the most important information in the first 140 characters. In most cases, you’ll have to come here to read the whole story since obviously we can’t tell you everything in 140 characters.

The Twitter web site is rather pathetic, so if you want to know more about it, check out the Wikipedia entry for Twitter. But here’s a quote from the Twitter site:

The New York Times calls Twitter “one of the fastest-growing phenomena on the Internet.” TIME Magazine says, “Twitter is on its way to becoming the next killer app,” and Newsweek noted that “Suddenly, it seems as though all the world’s a-twitter.”

Terry Barton released from prison

Terry Barton, convicted of starting the 138,000 acre Hayman fire in 2003, was released from prison this morning. She started the fire while she worked as a Fire Prevention Technician on the Pike National Forest in Colorado.

The fire burned 133 homes and forced 8,000 people to evacuate, including the judge who presided over one of the proceedings related to the case. She served six years in a federal prison in Fort Worth, Texas.

Wildfire Today covered other aspects of this story HERE.

The picture is from 2002 when she appeared in court, courtesy of the Denver Post.

Helicopter bucket drops used on Universal Studios fire

No doubt you heard about the huge fire at Universal Studios near Los Angeles today. The equivalent of two city blocks were on fire at the same time.

It burned furiously for hours. Early on, they had some water pressure problems, so they had engines drafting from a lake and even used some helicopters for water drops. Here is a still image captured from a video:

HERE is a link to the video on CNN.

The fire was adjacent to several acres of vegetation, and for a while they were worried about having a brush fire and a huge structure fire at the same time. It developed a convection column, not unlike a vegetation fire.

Still photos courtesy of ABC7 and LA Times.