Smoke From Escaped Rx Fire and/or Fog Contribute to 3 Deaths & 50-Car Pileup


According to reports, smoke from an escaped prescribed fire combined with fog contributed to a 50-car pileup and three deaths on Interstate 4 in Florida between Orlando and Tampa. ABC Action News reported yesterday, January 8:

“POLK COUNTY– Crews are working to put out an oversized brush fire in Polk County.

Officials with the Division of Forestry say they issued a 50 acre prescribed burn today in the area of Old Grade Road and I-4.

They believe the wind may have led the fire to grow by an extra 200 acres.

They say no homes are being threatened at this time.

There are concerns that if the fire burns overnight, drivers may face smoky conditions by Wednesday morning.”

Then today ABC Action News further reports in a story about the incident:

“A mixture of fog and smoke from a controlled burn near Old Grade Road created extremely hazardous conditions early this morning.

The burn was supposed to cover only 50 acres, but got out of hand late yesterday and grew to more than 300 acres.

More information from MyFox Tampa Bay:

“POLK CITY – Smoke and fog are causing a surreal scene in Polk County that’s forced the closure of a stretch of Interstate 4, and contributed to a massive pile-up.

All lanes of I-4 are closed between the Polk Parkway and U.S. 27. That’s roughly from Polk City to the Osceola County line.

The lingering smoke combined with the morning fog has brought visibility down to near zero, and deputies say at least 50 vehicles are involved in the massive wreck, and 20 of those are semi-trucks. Several vehicles caught fire, though most of the blazes seemed to be out by 8:30 a.m., judging by the diminishing amount of black smoke rising from the scene.

At least three people are dead, and several more motorists are trapped and waiting for emergency crews.

Those who are unhurt are being asked to stay in their cars for their own safely and the safety of rescue workers.

Yesterday’s brush fire began as a controlled burn, but it jumped a firebreak and eventually grew to 250 acres before being contained.”


According to TheLedger.com a Division of Forestry dozer was burned in the fire yesterday.

Wildland Fire Scholarships


The International Association of Wildland Fire just sent out this announcement:

“In 2008 the International Association of Wildland Fire (IAWF) will be again awarding two graduate-level scholarships each valued at $2,500USD to Master of Science (M.Sc.) or Ph.D. students studying wildland fire or wildland fire-related topics. These scholarships are not intended for Masters of Forestry degrees in wildland fire or for non-thesis graduate programs.

One of the two scholarships will be awarded to a student from the United States or Canada, and the other will be awarded to an individual from outside of these two countries. The application period will open January 15 and close March 31, 2008. Award winners will be announced the following May.

For more information, including how to apply, see the web site”

Women in Fire, 24 Hours of Sunlight


Kelly Homstad has organized a team of three female wildland firefighters who will compete in a 24 hour endurance race, “24 Hours of Sunlight“. It will include hiking and skiing or snowshoeing up and down a mountain for the entire 24 hour period. It will take place at Sunlight Mountain Resort near Glenwood Springs Colorado February 23-24, 2008. They are looking for sponsors to subsidize some of the costs faced by their team members including the registration fee ($125 per racer), and also food, water and incidental expenses on race day.

Here is How Kelly describes the team:

“We are three gals with a passion for fire! I’m a Fire and Fuels Specialist, in Montrose, Colorado. I’ve been in fire for 5 years. The team captain, Faith Gall, is an Engine Foreman in Rifle, Colorado, going on 11 years in fire. Last, but definitely not least, is Jenna Beckerman, who is on the Craig Hotshots, in Craig, Colorado. Jenna has been in fire for 4 years. We believe this race will be a fun and challenging way to stay fit for next fire season.”

You can contact Kelly at karky_20@yahoo.com

Allstate Insurance: $315-335 million in So. Calif. Fire Losses


According to CNNMoney.com

“Allstate Corp. said late Tuesday it has received more than 7,000 claims from the Southern California wildfires in October, resulting in roughly $315 million to $335 million in wildfire-related catastrophe losses to be recorded in fourth quarter.”

I wonder if this will motivate the insurance companies to work with homeowners to make their property more resistant to wildland fires?

Federally funded wildfire sprinklers?


If you live in St. Louis or Lake counties in Minnesota, you could be eligible to submit an application for grant assistance to install or upgrade a wildfire sprinkler system. According to the Timberjay newspaper:

“Both counties will be seeking federal funding through FEMA to help pay the cost of installing sprinkler systems for homeowners, especially for those in areas identified as at high risk for wildfire.”

Should the federal government be buying sprinklers to be installed on private land?

2007 – Second Costliest Fire Season on Record

According to the Associated Press, 2007 was the second costliest season ever.

 

“BOISE, Idaho — Wildfires scorched an area four times the size of Yellowstone National Park and destroyed more than 5,200 buildings in 2007, one of the nation’s worst fire seasons despite a record amount of retardant dropped by aircraft.

The Boise-based National Interagency Fire Center reported nearly 14,000 square miles burned and the federal government spent more than $1.8 billion fighting wildfires, making it the second costliest season on record.

Even though fire managers used 22.4 million gallons of fire retardant – nearly triple the 10-year average – the area burned in 2007 trails only 2006 when fire consumed 15,500 square miles.

The number of buildings burned in 2007 ranks second since current counting methods began in 1999, trailing the 5,700 buildings destroyed in 2003, the fire center reported.”

 

The emphasis in the story on the use of retardant is interesting. This will only reinforce the impression in the public that air tankers are the answer to keeping fires small, while the truth is, large wind-driven fires are not suppressed by air tankers.

(Photo by Bill Gabbert)