Wildfire news, July 25, 2008

Stanislaus National Forest: 55 vacant fire positions

According to a story in the Union Democrat, the Stanislaus National Forest in California has 55 vacant permanent wildland fire positions. Here is an excerpt from the article:

The Stanislaus National Forest’s firefighting force has started this season short dozens of positions, even as they face a long fire season which has already strained resources statewide. The forest is down 55 permanent positions and several temporary spots, said Bob Shindelar, deputy fire chief for the Stanislaus National Forest.

It’s a shortage federal firefighting forces are facing statewide and nationally, and stems from problems with agency policy and its ability to retain firefighters, according to a firefighters advocacy group called the Federal Wildland Fire Service Association.

The Stanislaus is seeing the consequences locally, Shindelar said.

The Stanislaus should have 12 engines staffed seven days a week, he said. This year, the forest has 10 engines, only four of which are staffed the entire week. There are also two unstaffed water tenders, which should have firefighters on them full-time.


The Arctic may benefit from wildland fires (?)

There is a lot of information and many different opinions about global warming, it’s causes, and effects. Now there is a school of thought that smoke from massive wildland fires may protect or delay the ice in the Arctic from melting.

ScienceDaily (July 26, 2008) — The Arctic may get some temporary relief from global warming if the annual North American wildfire season intensifies, according to a new study by researchers at the University of Colorado and NOAA. 

Smoke transported to the Arctic from northern forest fires may cool the surface for several weeks to months at a time, according to the most detailed analysis yet of how smoke influences the Arctic climate relative to the amount of snow and ice cover.

“Smoke in the atmosphere temporarily reduces the amount of solar radiation reaching the surface. This transitory effect could partly offset some of the warming caused by the buildup of greenhouse gases and other pollutants,” said Robert Stone, an atmospheric scientist with the university and NOAA Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES) and lead author of the study, which recently appeared in the Journal of Geophysical Research.

The rest of the article is HERE.

Fire on Greek island of Rhodes

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A fire that is now 2,500 acres has been burning on the Greek island of Rhodes for 3 days and has forced the evacuation of 2 mountain villages. The General Secretary submitted requests for additional air tankers from Italy and France, and each country will send two CL-415 air tankers to the Greek island to lend a hand.

Since April, 2007 there has been talk, and recommendations have been made by the the European Union’s Directorate for Civil Protection, to establish a system by which the EU would create a “Rapid Reaction Force” and would coordinate or control some firefighting resources to make it easier to share them across boundaries in any of the 27 member states within the EU. Not everyone is for this, saying the distances are too great and it would be difficult to maintain fire preparedness in all areas if resources were very mobile across boundaries.

Wildfire News, July 24, 2008

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A fairly new wildland fire modeling program, FSPro, is being used on most of the large fires these days. HERE is an article about it in New West.

Firefighter arson

On July 19 we wrote about the recently fired firefighter in Hawaii that was suspected of starting several wildland fires in Hawaii. Kenton Leong was fired in March after trying to get fellow firefighters to provide a urine sample for the fire department’s random drug tests. While his test came out clean, sources tell KITV that Leong was fired for trying to get others to take the test for him. He has now confessed to starting at least two fires.

Aerial firefighting from National Guard helicopter pilot point of view

There is an article on a National Guard web site about what it is like to be a National Guard helicopter pilot from Alabama and suddenly find yourself hauling buckets of water over fires in steep, mountainous terrain… very different from flying passengers at near sea level in Alabama.

“We’ve had to push the envelope with our aircraft due to the altitudes, temperatures and weight we’re dealing with here,” he said. “We don’t normally have to push this hard when we’re supporting missions [in Alabama], which mostly consist of passenger transport. The training we got when we arrived at Mather Field prepared us for this mission, and we’ve done it safely every time.”

Limited blogging this week.

On a side note….. we’re on the road for several days, and blog posting will be a little less intensive than usual.

Thanks, Dick, for the tip about FSPro.

New Heli-Claw transports mulch

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The Missoula Technology and Development Center (MTDC) has invented a mechanical “claw” that when attached to the end of a 100′ long line under a helicopter can transport 2,000 pounds of straw. Helicopters often haul straw in cargo nets to remote locations when doing rehab work on burned areas. It can be somewhat labor intensive to load the bales into the nets, disconnect an empty net and reconnect a full one. The “heliclaw” can be opened and closed by the pilot, making it possible to hover over a pile of loose straw, close the claw, fly to the area to be reahabed, then open the claw and unload the straw where it is needed.

The MTDC wrote all this up in a report, of course. You will need this to enter the site: Username: t-d, Password: t-d. The user name and password is wildely available on the Internet; don’t ask me why they require it.

They also produced a video of the heli-claw in action. The first 5-6 minutes is quite boring, just showing a helicopter flying in circles with the heli-claw attached. Towards the end they show it picking up and transporting straw. The same username and password applies.

Thanks, Dick, for the tip.

Same fire, different headlines

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I did a Google search for news about wildand fires, and found these two results, one right after the other, about the same fire near Quincy, Washington:

Brush fire subsides in central Washington
Seattle Times, United States – 3 hours ago
Five state teams, each with 15 firefighters and five pieces of equipment, were being deployed this morning and officials hoped the fire would be contained

Brush fire spreads in central Washington
TheNewsTribune.com, WA – 3 hours ago
State firefighters were mobilized late Tuesday to help about 100 area firefighters after the flames had burned across 5000 acres, local officials said.

Somebody once said:

Don’t believe anything you read, and only half of what you see.