Strong winds in Texas, at times over 50 mph, have contributed to the spread of many fires. The state has put half the counties, 152 of them, under a burn ban. They have Chinook and Blackhawk helicopters on standby.
Here is a flashlight that produces enough heat to start a fire, at least in paper and plastic. I wonder if it would be practical for burning out or backfiring in light fuels if you ran out of fusees or drip torch fuel? It costs about $300 and the battery only lasts 15 minutes, so maybe I just answered my own question. The website for the flashlight, WickedLasers, has received so many hits it is down, but it may be up later.
Some familiar names in wildland fire in the United States assisted the Kingdom of Bhutan January 25-27 by providing advice about the use of the Incident Command System in dealing with wildland fires, landslides, and floods. Professor Ronald Wakimoto from the University of Montana, Deanne Shulman, the first female smokejumper in the U.S., and Alissa Roeder, the Superintendent of the Pike Hot Shots, (all left to right in the photo) were part of the delegation that helped put on the workshop.
In case you are not familiar with the Kingdom of Bhutan (I had to look it up), it is a landlocked country sandwiched between India and China and is one of the most isolated and least developed nations in the world.
You may have heard of Glenn Beck. He appears on CNN Headline News and also has a nationally-syndicated radio show. I rarely agree with anything he says, but I just found out that on his October 22 radio show, while the Witch Creek, Harris, and other fires were burning in southern California, he said:
“I think there is a handful of people who hate America. Unfortunately for them, a lot of them are losing their homes in a forest fire today.”
Both fires started in eastern San Diego county and were pushed by strong Santa Ana winds into the outskirts of San Diego. In the Harris and Witch Creek fires, a total of 1,246 homes burned, 7 people were killed, and a CalFire engine crew was entrapped and seriously burned.
Beck contradicted himself several times, but his rationale is that since California is predominantly a Democratic state, and since he believes that Democrats “hate America”, that the homes of people who hate America were burning. Of course Beck is an idiot, but to say this while over 1,000 homes are burning and 500,000 residents are being evacuated is the height of irresponsibility, insensitivity, and stupidity.
According to Media Matters, Beck has also said
“it took me about a year to start hating the 9-11 victims’ families” and referred to Hurricane Katrina survivors as “scumbags”
(photo is of the Harris Fire burning on Mount San Miguel east of San Diego, October 23, 2007; from Wikipedia)
There is an excellent article by Richard Manning about some of the issues we are currently facing in wildland fire. Manning interviewed two well-known figures in the Northern Rockies area, George Weldon, Deputy Director for Fire and Aviation for the USFS in the Northern Rockies Region, and Orville Daniels, retired Forest Supervisor of the Lolo National Forest.
These two men show remarkable insight and candor in describing fire management strategy… what works and what doesn’t. Weldon is quoted as saying:
“[The Ahorn] was a fire we went after very aggressively,” Weldon says. “We put in a couple loads of smoke jumpers, a hotshot crew, aviation assets. We spent a lot of money on that fire. We exposed a lot of folks. We crashed a helicopter. We had a shelter deployment on that fire. Despite all that, we influenced that fire very minimally, and we spent $18 million trying.”
Weldon goes on to say:
“I think it is disrespectful to tell people we are going to protect their structures when we don’t have the capability,” he says. “What’s different is that the environment we are living in and working in is going to demand that we look at it differently. I don’t think we have a choice.”
A big thanks to Dick Mangan for the tip on this article.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the U.S. Forest Service have reached a settlement which modifies some of the “serious violations” that OSHA found after the Oct. 26, 2006 fire in which the five members of San Bernardino National Forest Engine 57 were killed during a burn over.
According to the Press-Enterprise:
“Under the settlement, two of the six violations were withdrawn and the four others were amended, said Jason Kirchner, public affairs specialist for the Pacific Southwest Region of the Forest Service.
Kirchner said the main issue for fire officials was that OSHA initially viewed some firefighting guidelines as safety rules that had been broken.
“We felt it was an incorrect assessment,” Kirchner said. “They were not intended to be unbreakable rules. They are tools to help evaluate the situation and make decisions.”
Kirchner said the remaining four serious violations have been addressed in the Esperanza Accident Review Board Action Plan that was devised by the Forest Service.
The serious violations showed the fire agency did not “furnish places and conditions of employment that were free from recognized hazards that were causing or likely to cause death or serious physical harm …”
It noted that instructions from the branch director were either “poorly communicated, or misunderstood” by firefighters. Firefighters were not equipped with maps to familiarize themselves with the area and terrain. The report also noted that the firefighters were ordered to provide structure protection and ended up directly in the path of the strong winds and fire, resulting in the fatal burnover of their fire engine.”
The crew of Engine 57: Capt. Mark Loutzenhiser, 43, of Idyllwild; Jess McLean, 27, of Beaumont; Jason McKay, 27, of Apple Valley; Daniel Hoover-Najera, 20, of San Jacinto; and Pablo Cerda, 23, of Fountain Valley.
(photo is from the official USFS/CalFire Factual Report)
UPDATE November 12, 2013: