Australia: NSW fatality

The New South Wales National Parks and Wildlife Service has released information about a firefighter fatality. Bryce Laut died while fighting a fire in Kumbatine National Park near Kempsey. According to a release from the agency, he was killed when a ” burnt-out tree fell directly onto Bryce”.

Here is an excerpt from an article in the Macleay Argus:

The National Parks and Wildlife officer from Port Macquarie was fighting a fire, suspected of being deliberately lit, in the Kumbatine National Park, about 26km south-west of Kempsey.


He was killed instantly about 6pm on Sunday when a tree fell on him as he was assisting a back burning operation in the remote national park.

The national park covers 13,000ha and is a protected area. Following the death, police have warned arsonists they face 14 years in jail if convicted of deliberately lighting a fire.

Police were conducting inquiries into the man’s death with a report to be prepared for the NSW Coroner’s office. Specialist investigators are expected to examine the cause of the bushfire.

Our condolences to the family and coworkers of Mr. Laut.


Extra-large Air Tanker news

NASA studies the DC-10 and 747 air tankers

(From the Victorville Daily Press)

The firefighting DC-10 Supertanker, based at Southern California Logistics Airport, is being studied by NASA in what could pave the way for the plane’s first federal contracts.

The jet’s owner, 10 Tanker Air Carrier, has been trying for some time to get a contract with the U.S. Forest Service that would allow the agency to fight fires on federal land, managing partner Rick Hatton said. The Forest Service approached NASA for help in determining the best use for the plane.

“They came to see us in Victorville with six or seven people last month,” Hatton said. “We briefed them on the plane and how effective it’s been for the state of California and how effective it could be for the federal agencies.”

NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base, about 30 miles northwest of Victorville, will be studying the supertanker to determine its “safe flight envelope.” The team will then recommend operational use regimes, policies and procedures for the aircraft.

The NASA team has spent the past few days in Miami, Hatton said, using an advanced DC-10 flight simulator to perform some preliminary tests.

“We hope to get the NASA team on the DC-10 in a fire environment,” Hatton said, so the company can show NASA what the plane can do.

If not, he said they’ll do mock drops with water in a remote place over the desert, hopefully within the next few weeks.

“The entire team is very excited about helping the Forest Service with this effort,” said Mark Dickerson, project manager for Dryden. “It is a bit different from our typical research projects, but we all enjoy being able to help find new tools to fight wildfires.”

NASA is also studying a Boeing 747 owned by Evergreen International Aviation.

Hatton said his company has hope that the final report will be done in the next few months.

Contract extended for DC-10 Air Tanker

Though the DC-10’s Supertanker’s contract with Cal Fire would have ended Oct. 15, 10 Tanker Air Carrier managing partner Rick Hatton said it’s been extended through the end of October. Santa Ana winds picking up and the dangerously dry conditions are rattling some nerves.

“It’s been a weird season,” Hatton said. “It was very busy early in the summer. We flew more mission in June and July than all of ‘07. But it’s been quiet for August and September. Now there’s this huge fear that all hell could break lose.”

The tanker was used to fight the Porter Ranch fire that engulfed parts of Los Angeles two weeks ago, but the plane has been grounded for the past few days. Last year, during its first year under contract with Cal Fire, the tanker flew 106 missions in fighting more than a dozen large wildfires.

Hatton said a recently completed second DC-10 is ready to come on line soon, with plans to get contracts in place for next year’s fire season.

Wildfire news, October 27, 2008

Remembering the crew of Engine 57

Last weekend our thoughts were for the crew of Engine 57 that died on the Esperanza fire two years ago on October 26, 2006.

From the IAWF Wildland Fire Events Calendar:

Five U.S. Forest Service wildland firefighters were entrapped and died on the Esperanza fire near Cabazon, California on October 26, 2006. Killed were engine Capt. Mark Loutzenhiser, 44, of Idyllwild; engine operator Jess McLean, 27, of Beaumont; assistant engine operator Jason McKay, 27, of Phelan; and firefighter Daniel Hoover-Najera, 20, of San Jacinto. A fifth firefighter Pablo Cerda, 23, of Fountain Valley, who was injured along with the other four, passed away on October 31. 

The five firefighters comprised the crew of a wildland engine, Engine 57, from the San Bernardino National Forest. They were assigned to a state managed fire approximately 60 miles east of Los Angeles and were entrapped while protecting a structure.

The final report is at the Lessons Learned Center.

The Press Enterprise has an article about the fire.

Nevada: Peterson fire


Aerial attacks will resume and federal firefighters will arrive this morning to battle the 1,000-acre wildfire north of Cold Springs after it neared U.S. 395 Sunday night. 

Four 20-member crews, one from the Tahoe Basin and three from the Nevada Division of Forestry, were to arrive at 8 a.m. to fight the Peterson Ridge Fire, which started about 1:30 p.m. in Crystal Canyon. No structures were threatened or injuries reported.

Firefighters stopped the blaze from reaching U.S. 395 just before 7 p.m. and held it on the west side of the freeway. Traffic was not affected, officials said.

About 150 firefighters were battling the fast-moving blaze fanned by 15 mph winds that grew from 5 acres to about 200 acres in about two hours, from a staging area at the California Department of Agriculture station near the state line.

SCBA, revolutionary new design

Firegeezer has the scoop on a revolutionary redesign of the air tank for a self-contained breathing apparatus. In the International Association of Firefighters’ design being tested, the weight has been reduced from 30 pounds to 8, and it is only 1.5 inches thick.

Wildfire news, October 26, 2008

California: Ventura County, evacuate or stay?

Ventura County Fire Department in southern California is implementing a procedure they call “Leave Early or Stay and Defend (LEOSAD)”. Many jurisdictions are adopting a similar program. In some areas it is called “Shelter in Place”, or as Wildfire Today reported concerning a Montana program, here and here, “Prepare, Stay, and Defend”.

This is the way it is described by the Ventura County FD:

The first part requires every property owner within the Wildland Urban Interface zone to adequately prepare their property against the threat of a wildfire. This includes weed abatement, the use of fire-resistant building materials and the use of fire-safe landscaping. Many aspects of this portion of the strategy are already required or recommended. The big change in the program comes in the second phase.

After homeowners have made the necessary preparations to their property, we are asking every homeowner to carefully consider their personal answer to the question: Should I leave early, or stay and defend my property?

Their “Wildfire Action Plan” can be downloaded here.

New Jersey: update on Salders Ditch fire

The fire, at 1,950 acres and 70% containment, has not grown for a couple of days but it is still producing a lot of smoke due to the peat soils. On Friday the smoke caused the closure of several schools. Some rain on Saturday eased the problem for a while, but until they can get massive quantities of water pumped into the peat, the next inversion may again result in closed highways and schools. Rain, unless in hurricane-induced quantities, will not put it out.

An article in the Press of Atlantic City says the Wharton State Forest, where the fire is located, does not yet have, what is called in most areas, a fire management plan. This plan, when completed, could allow for prescribed fires which would manage the fuels, making large dangerous wildfires less likely. Some other state owned lands in New Jersey are treated with prescribed fires on a regular, rotating basis.

California: Red Flag Warning

The Red Flag Warning in southern California continues through 8 p.m. Sunday. This is caused by a weak Santa Ana wind that is preventing the normal diurnal (or daily) sea breeze from bringing in cool, moist air–instead, replacing it with hot, very dry air. In some areas, single-digit relative humidities are predicted through Monday.

Here is the forecast for Riverside, California covering the period Sunday morning at 9:00 a.m., to Tuesday morning at 8:00 a.m. It shows, top to bottom, temperature, wind speed and direction, and relative humidity. Click on it to see a larger version.

Italian police department's Lamborghini

On May 14 Wildfire Today told you about the Corvettes that the Dubai fire department is using to get to fires at eye-popping speeds.

Now we hear that the police in Lazio, Italy have a 560-horsepower Lamborghini Gallardo that will chase speeders at 203 mph. The 5.2 liter V10 engine propels it from 0-60 in 3.5 seconds. The car is outfitted with the usual police equipment, as well as a refrigerated cooler for transporting donor organs, and a heart defibrillator behind the passenger seat.

Ok Dubai FD…. your move.

Wildfire news, October 24, 2008

Ohio: Canton firefighters to get bulletproof vests

For a while we worked in an area where we frequently responded to wildland fires in an urban-interface area with a high crime rate. Part of the standard fire dispatch for that area included a law enforcement officer along with the fire apparatus. We never had any serious problems, but we worried about leaving our engines unattended.

But the Canton, Ohio firefighters feel they need bulletproof Kevlar vests and requested them during the last round of contract negotiations. Their paramedics have had problems before and have already been wearing them on some calls.

A draft standard operating procedure for the Canton firefighters says the body armor should be worn when responding to shootings, stabbings, altercations, domestic violence, assaults, and anytime there is a potential for violence.

About $100,000 worth of the vests which cost $800 each will arrive in a couple of months.

More information is available at


New Jersey: Salders Ditch fire

The fire that started Tuesday 10 miles southeast of the Philadelphia suburbs has now burned 1,950 acres and is 50% contained. Some areas within the fire are swampy and contain peat which can be several feet deep, requiring massive amounts of water to put out. Smoke will be a problem for quite a while, possibly requiring additional closures of a major highway, Route 206.

A video about the fire on the site included this image of a clever fire danger sign on the back of a vehicle. We assume the arrow is magnetic and can be easily moved.