Clover fire approaches Hwy. 395

As we reported yesterday, the Clover fire on the Sequoia National Forest in California, formerly a fire use fire, is now being suppressed. The problem is, it got up and ran yesterday…. big time.

I wonder if the bean counter regrets their decision to release some of the hot shot crews after working only 10 days so they would not have to pay overtime associated with mandatory days off with pay after working the normal 14 days on an assignment? They had planned to re-order the crews in a few days. Now with 911 new fires in the state all competing for resources, they will be lucky to get any orders filled.

The new policy of having U.S. Forest Service bean counters making strategic decisions like this could result in more Clover fires. Fires that actually cost much more than they would otherwise, while burning private land and putting citizens at a greater risk. This is the new “Accountable Cost Management” process. Who is going to be accountable for the Clover fire decisions?

Here is a map of the Clover fire that shows heat detected by satellites last night. Click on it to see a larger version. The yellow line is the last perimeter provided by the incident management team.

InciWeb out of service–again

InciWeb can be a great place to get current information about ongoing fires. Agencies can post important information there including news, status of the fire, evacuations, maps, and photos. It works very well when there are just a few semi-active fires in the nation. But when you need it most, when there is one huge fire, or many medium-sized fires, the system cannot handle the load and it becomes totally unavailable. When that happens, either the web site will not load at all, or you get a screen like the one above, today, showing that there are no incidents in the system.

The federal and state agencies that manage this system need to ensure that the servers can handle the load when the citizens need it the most.

The Siege of '08

This is a satellite photo of northern California taken just before sunset today, Sunday. I marked the smoke plumes from some of the larger fires with an “X“. Click on it to see a larger version.

In addition to the 602 new fires discovered yesterday in northern California, today they picked up an additional 309 for a 48 hour total of 911 fires, an unsettling number. There are still more fires in southern California, and others will be discovered in both areas over the next couple of days.

We have only seen the beginning of the Siege of ’08 and it will be one for the history books. Comparing it to the Siege of ’87, for one thing, these are occurring at the beginning of the fire season. In 1987 the lightning was in late August allowing only a month or so of burning in the northern areas. This year a season ending rain event is at least 80-90 days away.

There is no way there are enough firefighters to staff all of these fires. Air tankers don’t put out fires–they only slow them down until ground forces can take direct action. But we only have 1/2 as many air tankers as we did in 1987. We do have more type 1 helicopters than 20 years ago though.

The federal agencies are very concerned recently about keeping fire suppression costs as low as possible and they plan to send bean counters out to all of the large fires as part of the “Accountable Cost Management” process. This Siege of ’08 is going to make their heads explode.

And by the way, the Clover “fire used for resource benefits” on the Sequoia National forest which has been burning for 3 weeks (they were not putting it out, just herding it around) this morning was changed to a full suppression fire and they began putting it out. This afternoon it cranked– and crossed the Kern river, crested the Sierras, and is headed toward Hwy. 395.

I’m not positive, but I think in the satellite photo above, the southeastern-most fire is the Clover fire…one of the larger smoke plumes in the photo. This is all they need with 911 new fires in the north half of the state.

602 new fires in Northern California

The Northern California Coordination Center is reporting that there were 602 new fires yesterday. Many of these, they said, are still unstaffed and are in remote areas.

State of California fires
CalFire is providing this information about their fires in northern CA (national forest fires are not included):

Summary of Fires by Unit

Siskiyou Unit: 8 fires reporting minor acreage
Humboldt Unit: 37 fires for approximately 120 acres
Mendicino Unit: 90 fires, 1 to 125 acres
San Mateo-Santa Cruz Unit: 15 fires up to 2 acres in size
Amador-El Dorado Unit: 18 fires
Nevada-Yuba-Placer Unit: 7 fires all less than 1 acre each
Butte Unit: 21 fires for a total of over 60 acres
Tehama-Glen Unit: 34 fires for a total of 550 acres.
Shasta-Trinity Unit: 62 fires up to 50 acres in size.
Sonoma-Lake-Napa Unit: 5 fires with 4 contained.
Lassen-Modoc Unit: 27 fires for a total of 25 acres.
Tuolumne-Calavares Unit: 15 fires for a total of 140 acres.

Gallery fire
(Update: this is now part of the Basin Complex)
Most of the lightning on Friday night and Saturday was north of San Francisco, but the northern part of the Los Padres NF also received their fair share and they have at least two new fires. One is large, the Gallery fire, 1,500 2,000 acres, 3 miles south of Big Sur near the coast. Late yesterday they borrowed some helicopters from the Indians fire.

According to NIFC this morning:

Crews are holding the fire at the North Coast Ridge Road and Highway 1, however both the north and south flanks of the fire remain open. Approximately 75 residences and businesses were evacuated during the night between Partington Ridge and Grimes Canyon.

The map below shows the Gallery fire on the coast south of Big Sur. The red, orange, and black areas are heat detected by satellites last night. The mapped perimeter of the Indians fire is shown in yellow. Click on the map to see a larger version.

Shasta-Trinity NF fires

A fire in the Peanut area of Trinity County, south of Hayfork, CA. Timbre Beck-Murphy/Contributing photogrpaher,

The Record Searchlight newspaper in Redding, California has an update about the lightning-caused fires in the Shasta-Trinity National Forest. Here is an excerpt:

By Constance Dillon, Rob Rogers
Sunday, June 22, 2008

Widespread thunderstorms rolling through the north state late Friday night and Saturday ignited scores of fires ranging in size from less than an acre to hundreds of acres in lightning-torn Trinity County.

The largest concentration of fires is known as the Lime Complex near Limedyke Mountain in the Hayfork Ranger District of the Shasta-Trinity National Forest, forest spokesman Mike Odle said. The Lime Complex in Trinity County includes 30 fires burning more than 1,000 acres, Odle said.

Another large complex of fires is called the Iron Complex in the Big Bar Ranger District near Junction City off Highway 299. Multiple fires are burning 350 acres in the Iron Complex, Odle said.

Some 3,000 lightning strikes spawned 75 fires in the Shasta-Trinity National Forest from Friday night to Saturday afternoon, and fire officials were bracing for more thunderstorms Saturday night, Odle said. Forest Service officials still were assessing the fires’ acreage Saturday afternoon.

Smoke first was reported Friday afternoon in the Hyampom Road area of Trinity County. By 3 a.m. Saturday, Forest Service crews started dispatching fire crews, engines, bulldozers and water tenders.

“We were told to expect 50 to 100 fires,” said Angelo Cattaneo, owner-operator of Cattaneo Trucking, as she stood in front of a row of water trucks and engines outside the Hayfork Ranger District on Saturday.

More than 20 smokejumpers were sent to fires in the more remote regions.

Fire crew leaders radioing the Hayfork Ranger District office with reports of small fires Saturday were interrupted by frantic reports of new flare-ups. “This whole place is on fire,” one Forest Service worker’s voice said over the fire scanner. Another voice cut in: “This place is too tight for my guys to rappel in.”