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 Firehouse.com. 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 www.commondreams.org. Click HERE to read the rest of the article.

Coal dust fire burns child

An 8-year-old boy suffered burns on his foot when he walked into an area of Golden Hills park in Colorado Springs, CO that was covered in coal dust. The dust, left over from coal mining operations about 80 years earlier, was on fire, smoldering, and it melted the boy’s plastic shoe and gave him second degree burns. If the boy had not “discovered” the fire, it would have spread into nearby vegetation. The cause of the fire was unknown.


The temperature of the coal dust was 800 degrees. An engineer with the Colorado Division of Reclamation said the dust must have been dumped on the surface, and it was not a deep-seated underground coal seam burning. Crews put out the fire, installed fences, and planned to put dirt over the dust and revegetate the area.

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.