"Wildland Firefighter" demobilizes

Wildland Firefighter magazine just announced in it’s May issue that it is ceasing publication. It will no longer exist as a stand-alone publication dedicated to wildland fire. In a publisher’s note, Jeff Berend, the Vice President and Publisher said:

Beginning in June, we will be merging Wildland Firefighter into a new Wildland/Urban Interface (WUI) section in FireRescue magazine…..
But from a business perspective, we simply have not been able to grow the readership or advertising beyond that loyal core. At the same time, publishing costs have risen at unprecedented levels.

Wildland Firefighter and FireRescue are both published by Elsevier Public Safety.

This leaves Wildfire magazine, an “official publication of the International Association of Wildland Fire” as the only remaining magazine-type publication dedicated solely to wildland fire. The IAWF also publishes, through CSIRO Publishing, the International Journal of Wildland Fire, a professional journal containing peer-reviewed papers on the subject of wildland fire.

In the interest of full-disclosure, for the last 3 years I have been the Executive Director of the IAWF. Since January I have been helping the Board of Directors find a replacement so I can concentrate on other pursuits.

Private firefighting companies in southern California

There are at least two private companies in southern California that offer protection from wildland fires. From a story in the North County Times:

FALLBROOK —- The emerging business of private firefighting just got another competitor in North County.

Based in Fallbrook, Fire-Pro USA opened for business in April, said founder Don Green. That’s just a few months after the debut of another private firefighter, Pacific Fire Guard.

Fire-Pro differs from traditional firefighting by putting more stress on prevention and preparation, Green said. Public fire agencies use what he calls “the Ben Franklin model,” of waiting until a fire occurs and then dousing it with water.

Green, a veteran of firefighting, founded the company with partner David Wilterding last fall. Its services start at $519 per property per year. Fire-Pro will examine a customer’s fire risk, treat the property with a fire retardant and, in the event of an approaching fire, apply a heat-absorbing gel, Green said.

“That buys us time,” Green said of the fire retardant, which is clear and can be applied to surrounding brush as well as to the home. “We can spray this long-term fire retardant, and it literally makes their brush and wildland area a fire barrier.”

The fire retardant is not toxic to animals who eat the treated vegetation, Green said.

Pacific Fire Guard’s services cost $1,800 per year, according to a Feb. 9 story in the North County Times. The company also uses a heat-absorbing gel substance on property, and its firefighters will stay on the property until the fire threat has passed.

Nick Schuler, a Cal Fire spokesman, said homeowners who use such private firefighting companies still need to create a “defensible space” by clearing brush around their property for 100 feet.

“Cal Fire supports any homeowner who’s doing things to help reduce their fire risk,” Schuler said. “This does not replace defensive space, it does not replace good clearance and it doesn’t replace the need for having a protection plan for you and your family.”

Green said skepticism is understandable because Fire-Pro is so new. The company will have to prove its mettle by actually saving homes, he said.

The company may soon get that chance.

On Friday, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger issued an executive order ordering the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, or Cal Fire, to “immediately mobilize” its resources.

“This year’s fire season has already begun,” Schwarzenegger said in a Friday press release announcing the executive order.

Dry weather throughout the state in the last two months has heightened the risk of fire, Schwarzenegger said in the press release. In Southern California, dead and dying trees infested with bark beetles add to the fire risk, he said.

Trees stressed or injured by a lack of water are known to be susceptible to bark beetle infestation.

HERE is a link to a video of one of the companies applying a long term fire retardant to some property.

Yellowstone, 20 years after the fires

KTVQ television in Billings, Montana did a story on the changes in Yellowstone National Park in the 20 years since the huge fires of 1988. At the site there is a link to a video. Below is the transcript:

Yellowstone Park: 20 years of recovery

Posted: May 12, 2008 08:23 AM

Updated: May 12, 2008 11:30 AM

During the summer of 1988, devastating wildfires scorched more than one third of Yellowstone National Park.

The catch phrase in Yellowstone this summer is “Come and see for yourself”.

So that’s exactly what we did as we joined the park’s vegetation expert on a guided tour to get an update on how the park is doing 20 years after the fires.

Driving along the narrow, winding roads of Yellowstone is like visiting the world’s largest Christmas tree farm. Yellowstone National Park vegetation expert Roy Renkin rode shotgun, and we learned more about lodge pole pines that we ever wanted to.

“The trees that you see out here were trees that were born when the cones in the lodge pole pines burn.’ Renkin said, “The fire burned through, and the heat melted the resin on the cones, the scales opened up and the seeds came out.”

But the story of the lodge pole pine is what dominates the Yellowstone landscape these days.

“All these trees out here are roughly the same age…they’re 20 years old.” said Renkin about the forest which was planted by the fires of 1988.

During, and after the 1988 fire storm, many people thought it would take the park hundreds of years to recover. Wyoming Senator Alan Simpson even predicted it would take a 1,000 years.

But just two decades later, Yellowstone may have never looked better.

“People can see for themselves that it’s well on its way of becoming what it was before it burned, but it will take quite a long time to get there,” said Renkin.

Even before the 1988 fires were finally snowed out, park naturalists, biologists and fire scientists were busy collecting samples and data on what they had just witnessed.

Yellowstone National Park Chief of Public Affairs, Al Nash, told the news station, “This was not just a big fire season. This was an extraordinary fire season”.

Ironically the fire storm of 1988 taught us more about forest health and fire behavior than any previous event.

“We were a little short sighted in predicting or forecasting what the park wag going to be like forever more” explained Renkin.

The story of Yellowstone’s recovery is the message park officials are quick to share.

“If the anniversary prompts people to come and investigate those changes, you know, that’s another great reason to come to Yellowstone” says Nash.

Shortly after Yellowstone National Park was established in 1872, it was referred to as “The best idea American ever had”. That’s still the case but you have to see it, smell it, and feel it to believe it.

In September there will be a conference in Jackson, Wyoming on the topic.

Michigan: Prescribed fire in Flat River State Game Area

Mlive.com has an interesting article about a prescribed fire in Montcalm County conducted by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. Here is an excerpt:

A wall of flames swept across dried grasslands in southern Montcalm County on a recent weekday, sending skyward a column of smoke visible for several miles.


Winds from the northwest fanned the April 29 blaze, which charred 60 acres in the Flat River State Game Area before dying out.

There were no evacuations or live TV coverage like we saw April 25-26 when an 1,100-acre forest fire near Grayling forced the closing of part of Int. 75. The cause of the Grayling fire remains undetermined.

Not so with the Greenville-area fire. Guys dressed in yellow suits started this fire with a mix of diesel fuel and unleaded gasoline and a handy propane lighter. This particular fire was a controlled burn, staged by the state Department of Natural Resources with assistance from certified firefighters.

It is not unlike what’s taking place now in Texas, Virginia, Colorado and Wisconsin. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service this year will use fire to improve wildlife habitat on more than 400,000 acres.

Anyone interested in creating better habitat for legions of endangered plants, insects and animals should be grateful for such burns. Like a good soaking spring rain, fire has a way of bringing new life to tired land.

The fire near Greenville targeted a tiny pocket of the 10,000-acre Flat River State Game Area, but long-term benefits extend beyond the still-blackened earth. Once used for farming, the land has been overrun with invasive plants, such as spotted knapweed, autumn olive and Chinese elm.

“We’re trying to convert it to oak Savannah,” said Steve Cross, a DNR fire management specialist based in Cadillac who served as fire boss this day. “Fire is an important tool to get us there.”

Are you a deer or turkey hunter? Perhaps a butterfly fanatic? Or is your passion Michigan native wildflowers? If you value any of the above, then you should be fired up about fire.

They all live within the oak savannas of southwest Michigan. The land is sandy and dry and tree growth sparse. What does thrive, however, are native grasses and wildflowers, including little blue stem, coreopsis and wild lupine.

Photos courtesty of Mlive.com


California: Schwarzenegger's fire preparedness

The California governor seems to be concerned about the wildfire potential this summer. In a press conference he was talking about the fire hazards around his home:

“I was not aware of it until an expert from the fire department told me that, ‘This is terrible. This is a fire hazard all around your house — you are living in the middle of it, get rid of this grass, get rid of these shrubs or you are going to be in trouble.’

He issued a lengthy Executive Order that detailed numerous policies that will affect CalFire this year. Here are some of the highlights:

Staff additional fire crews, fire engines, helitack crews, fire bulldozers, equipment and aviation resources as warranted based on fire threat conditions.

Assign a crew of four firefighters to selected CAL FIRE fire engines as warranted based on fire threat conditions.

Provide for immediate availability and utilization of the Supertanker aircraft.

IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that the California National Guard prepare its aviation assets, and pre-position ground support equipment, as appropriate for immediate response to major wildfires and report to OES weekly on the status of all aircraft.

IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that CAL FIRE shall provide educational information to homeowners on defensible space and California Building and Fire Codes ignition-resistant building materials, and shall develop training for defensible space inspection and building ignitability in consultation with the Department of Insurance, OES, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that CAL FIRE shall conduct vigorous defensible space inspections, and shall impose fines and/or liens pursuant to applicable authority if necessary.

IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that to assist landowners to meet their 100-foot defensible space requirements to reduce hazardous vegetation and landscaping, CALFIRE, in consultation with the California Biomass/Biofuel Collaborative, may enter into contracts, agreements, and arrangements for the chipping, hauling, burning, or other methods of disposal of hazardous vegetation removed by landowners as required by Public Resources Code section 4291 and Government Code section 51182.

1,470 piece tool set

Need a tool kit for your fire apparatus? Sears will sell you a 1,470 piece set for $8,599.90 (click on the photo to see it a little larger)

If you have been staring at the photo for more than 45 seconds, you probably already have too many tools. Put DOWN the credit card and back away!

I wonder how long it took to set up the tools for the photograph?

“Frank… that 1/4″ drive, 3/16″ socket needs to be moved back about 1/32” inch. NO, the 3/16″ socket, you ninny!”