Alabaugh fire staff ride planned

Alabaugh fire
Alabaugh fire. Photo by Bill Gabbert

The Alabaugh Fire burned 10,324 acres and dozens of structures near Hot Springs, SD in July of 2007. During suppression operations, two firefighters were entrapped and they deployed inside one fire shelter.

There will be staff rides featuring this fire on April 8, 9, and 10 at Hot Springs. One interesting thing about the staff ride is that it will serve as the required 8-hour annual fire refresher.

Large fire in hawaii

From the Honolulu Advertiser:

HILO, Hawai’i — A brush fire that started Saturday under suspicious circumstances in the Mana Road area of the Big Island has burned an estimated 2,600 acres, and federal, state and county fire crews are working to contain the blaze.

Big Island Deputy Fire Chief Glen Honda said four helicopters were dumping water on the fire in an inaccessible area on the slopes of Mauna Kea today, with fire officials are focusing efforts this afternoon on protecting a single cabin in the isolated area.

A total of 35 firefighters and four helicopters are battling the blaze, which was first reported as two separate brushfires at 2:10 p.m. Saturday in Hakalau near Mana Road.

The fires later merged with one another to form a single 20-acre blaze, and grew to burn about 600 acres by Sunday evening. Most or all of the pasture land involved is state Department of Hawaiian Home Lands, Honda said.

Crews used bulldozers to cut fire breaks and conducted backburning along Mana Road to contain the fire and keep it from moving makai, but the fire continued to grow. It is burning mauka of Mana Road this afternoon.

County fire crews were working with a crew from the Pohakuloa training Area and staff from the state Division of Forestry and Wildlife to try to contain the blaze, Honda said.

Trial date changed for Ellreese Daniels

30-mile fire memorial
30-mile fire memorial

Ellreese Daniels is facing criminal charges for his involvement in the fatal Thirty-Mile Fire. His trial date has been changed from April 14 to May 5. Here is more information about the trial from the Wenatchee World:

SPOKANE — A federal judge presiding over the case of Ellreese Daniels on Friday put off making a decision on whether the jury should be allowed to visit the site of the Thirtymile Fire north of Winthrop where four firefighters died in 2001.

Daniels is charged with four counts of involuntary manslaughter for failing to order his firefighters to a safe area as flames advanced toward him and his crew on July 10, 2001. He is also charged with seven counts of making false statements to investigators.

Daniels’ lawyer wants the jury to see the site because pictures and videos do not provide enough detail for the jury to judge if Daniels was negligent in not getting his crew to a safe spot.

“To deny the jurors the ability to view the scene will significantly impair Mr. Daniels’ right to present the defense of his case,” Daniels’ lawyer wrote in a recent motion.

Prosecutors say the site is so well documented that there’s no need for the jury to see in person the place where 10 firefighters survived the fire in a wide spot on a road, while four died in their fire shelters on a rocky slope above.

The judge did not say when he will decide if the jury should visit the site, said prosecutor Tom Hopkins.

The judge did push back the trial date from April 14 to May 5.
The International Association of Wildland Fire conducted a survey of over 3,300 firefighters about the repercussions of a firefighter facing criminal charges following an accident on a fire. HERE is a summary of their findings.

Fire season outlook for Black Hills

The Rapid City Journal has an article by Steve Miller that pretty well summarizes the wildland fire situation in South Dakota and the Black Hills. Here is an excerpt.

“According to (Joe) Lowe (coordinator of the South Dakota Wildland Fire Suppression Division), state fire meteorologist Randall Benson said the data indicate a fire season this year that could approach that of 2000, when more than a quarter-million acres burned in the state. That year included the 83,500-acre Jasper Fire.

This year, Lowe said he will recommend contracting for at least three single engine air tankers, commonly called SEATs.

He said the division this summer will have only one heavy helicopter available from the South Dakota National Guard. That is down from as many as four heavy helicopters from the Guard in past years, Lowe said. “We’ve depended heavily on the National Guard for type 1 helicopters,” he said. “That’s no longer the case because of deployments.”

(Todd) Pechota (fire-management officer for the Black Hills National Forest) said the Black Hills National Forest will have the same amount of resources as it did last year, with one light helicopter, capable of carrying about 150 gallons of water; one heavy helicopter that can carry up to 1,000 gallons; 18 fire engines; three 10-member hand crews; the interagency Tatanka Hot Shot crew; and two bulldozers.
[….]
A government report earlier this month said Forest Service air tankers used to fight Western wildfires are potentially vulnerable to accidents. The agency owns 26 aircraft and leases 771 aircraft for firefighting. The Forest Service will require stricter inspections and maintenance on its leased aircraft.

Lowe said he didn’t know if it will become more difficult to get additional air tankers here. But, he said, “Anytime that we lose any of the tools out of the wildland fire toolbox in extreme fire conditions, that puts a strain on things.”

He also said it could become more difficult to hire the SEATs planes in the future. Pilots are finding it more lucrative to go back to crop-spraying operations, Lowe said.

He said his division’s budget has been maintained. The division currently has 17 fire engines, two hand crews and a batch of equipment that includes eight command trailers, a mobile kitchen and a mobile supply cache.

Lowe said the average fire season nationally has grown by 78 days over the past 15 years.

Teenagers arrested for starting fire near Julian, CA

From the San Diego Union:

JULIAN – Two Julian teenagers, accused of starting the 850-acre Angel fire that destroyed one house and a large part of an Episcopal church retreat, will appear in court later this month for a preliminary hearing on felony charges of recklessly starting a fire.

If convicted, Francisco Javier Abarca, 19, and Mario J.W. DeLuca, 18, both of Julian, could also be held liable for the $3 million cost of fighting the September fire, officials say.

The blaze, caused by an illegal campfire, forced the evacuation of hundreds in the mountain town on Sept. 15. Seventeen buildings were destroyed at Camp Stevens, which was purchased in 1952 jointly by the Episcopal Dioceses of Los Angeles and San Diego.

Abarca and DeLuca are charged with a form of arson that does not require prosecutors to prove they intended to burn forest or buildings. If convicted, the teens face a maximum of three years in prison.

The arrests of Abarca and DeLuca in January were not publicized by authorities.