California: Piute fire

The Piute fire south of Lake Isabella was very active on Tuesday.

Information about the fire from South Zone, at 1800, July 1:

11,514 acres, 11% contained. Extreme conditions led to high rates of spread and torching. This resulted in significant eastward movement in Division X. The fire remained active throughout the Operational Period. Long-range spotting continues to be a dominant factor in fire progression. Growth potential continues to be high.

The map below shows heat, in red, orange, and black, detected by satellites last night, with the red areas being the most recently burned. The yellow lines are the perimeters uploaded by the incident management teams yesterday. Click on the map to see a larger version.

California: Basin fire update, July 2

The Basin Complex near Big Sur continues to spread on the north, east and south sides. Firefighters are requiring a mandatory evacuation on the west side of the fire for both sides of Highway 1 from Partington Ridge Road to 1 mile south of Limekiln State Park effective at 5:00 p.m. Tuesday, July 1, to provide for the safety of residents and firefighters while crews conduct a burning operation that will reinforce containment lines on the south end of the fire.

One place they are conducting firing operations is on the south side along the North Coast Ridge Trail. They are burning along a fireline that will connect the Basin complex to the Indians fire along that trail and the Rodeo Flats trail.

Here is the latest map, showing heat detected by satellites (in black, orange, and red), and the perimeter (in yellow) uploaded by the incident management team. Click on it to see a larger version.

The firing operation on the Indians fire is complete, and official containment is predicted for July 3.

California: Martin Mars on Lime Complex

The Martin Mars air tanker, which holds 7,200 gallons, made 5 drops on the Lime Complex and the Motion fire on Tuesday. It scooped the water out of Lake Shasta. Aerial firefighting in northern California has been very limited for the last 2 days due to poor visibility caused by smoke from the fires.

A total of 8 MAFFS air tankers, C-130’s from the military, are now assigned, working out of McClellan near Sacramento.

Martin Mars Drop
The giant Martin Mars water bomber drops a mixture of gel and water it scooped out of Lake Shasta on the Motion Fire Tuesday evening. Jakob Schiller.

AZ: Firefighter Killed In Private Medical Helicopter Collision

Two medical helicopters collided on Sunday while trying to land at the same hospital, killing six, with one of them being a wildland firefighter that had been working on a fire in Grand Canyon National Park.

From the National Park Service Morning Report:

Firefighter Michael MacDonald was tragically killed in a private medical helicopter collision while being transported from the Grand Canyon to a northern Arizona hospital for a medical condition not directly related to firefighting on Sunday, June 29th. Six people, including MacDonald, were killed in the collision of two medical helicopters near Flagstaff Medical Center.


MacDonald, 26, was a member of the Chief Mountain Hot Shots, an elite Bureau of Indian Affairs-funded Native American firefighting crew based on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation in Browning, Montana. The crew was assigned to the Walla Valley Fire on the North Rim. The Chief Mountain Hot Shot crew will be released from the incident today to travel home.

From the Associated Press:

Two medical helicopters collided Sunday about a half-mile from a northern Arizona hospital, killing six people and critically injuring a nurse, a federal official said. Two emergency workers on the ground were injured after the crash.

One of the helicopters was operated by Air Methods out of Englewood, Colo., and the other was from Classic Helicopters of Woods Cross, Utah. Both aircraft were Bell 407 models, said Ian Gregor, a spokesman with the Federal Aviation Administration.

After the collision, the helicopters crashed in a wooded area east of Flagstaff Medical Center and started a 10-acre brush fire. An explosion on one of the aircraft after the crash injured two emergency workers who arrived with a ground ambulance company. They suffered minor burns, but their injuries were not life-threatening, authorities said.

“Crazy chaos, just lots of twisted metal wrapped up around people,” Capt. Mark Johnson, a spokesman for the Flagstaff Fire Department, said near the crash site.

Three people on the Air Methods aircraft, including the patient, died. On the Classic helicopter, the pilot, paramedic and patient all died. A flight nurse on the Classic helicopter was in critical condition at Flagstaff Medical Center.

“It’s just a very unfortunate tragedy,” said Matt Stein, a program director and lead pilot with Classic Helicopters subsidiary Classic Lifeguard Aeromedical Services in Page, Ariz.

Stein said his company’s crew was landing at Flagstaff Medical Center carrying a patient with a medical emergency from the Grand Canyon’s South Rim.

“We’ve been in business 20 years, and these are the first fatalities we’ve experienced,” Stein said. “They were all heroes. They were out doing a great service for their communities.”

Stein said the pilot for Classic was experienced with more than 10,000 hours of flight time. He added that it’s rare for two medical helicopters to attempt to land at a hospital at the same time.


Preparedness Level 5 and the military

The national Preparedness Level increased to Level 5 today, the highest level. The criteria for this includes

Geographic Areas are experiencing major incidents which have the potential to exhaust all agency fire resources. 80 percent of Type 1 and 2 IMTs and crews are committed, as well as the majority of other national resources.

This means national fire leaders may assess the need for seeking international or military assistance. The National Multiagency Coordinating (MAC) Group gave the geographic MAC groups quotas for the number of Military Crew Advisors (MCAD) and Military Strike Team Leaders (STLM) they they must send to Boise by July 3. They are requesting a total of 26 MCADs and 6 STLMs for 30-33 day assignments. So, one would have to assume they are activating some military hand crews.

N.C.– Eight firefighters struck by lightning


LENOIR, N.C. — Five firefighters are still in a hospital after being struck by lighting while battling a forest fire.

A total of eight firefighters with the North Carolina Forest Service were trying to contain the blaze Saturday, which was sparked by lighting the day before. The strike happened at 4:48 p.m.

Forestry officials believe the lightning bolt hit a tree; the energy radiated underground, where the firefighters were taking a break. They say the sky was clear blue at the time.

“It was totally unexpected. We monitor and try and keep up with the weather and there was no prediction, no threat of imminent danger. Had there been, we would have pulled those firefighters off the mountain,” said Rusty Dellinger, a ranger with the North Carolina Forest Service.

The area was so remote that it took crews an hour and a half to get them down from the mountain and into an ambulance. None of the injuries appear to be life-threatening.

“Most of them were complaining of pain in the lower extremities. Some were complaining of headaches. Some did receive some minor burns,” said Dellinger.

Initially, all eight firefighters were hospitalized. Doctors are treating the remaining five firefighters at Caldwell Memorial Hospital. Four of the eight are inmates who assist the forest service though a work release program. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is investigating what happened.