California: Indians and Humbolt fires

Indians Fire
On Wednesday a U.S. Forest Service engine from the Los Padres NF was burned over while they were attacking a spot fire. The wind shifted, they were cut off, and three firefighters suffered burn injuries. According to a release from the USFS:

Two received minor burns to their ears; one sustained burns to his ears and serious burns to his hands and was transported to a hospital for further treatment.

All of the firefighters were treated and released at a burn center.

The fire is burning in the Los Padres National Forest in the Ventana Wilderness west of Fort Hunter Liggett and King City. It has been extremely active for the last two days–plume dominated with multiple columns, and has burned 24,818 acres. Some of those acres were very close to the incident command post.

The map shows heat detected by satellites last night in red. The yellow line is the fire perimeter as reported by the Incident Management Team on the fire, showing that the fire has doubled in size since the last perimeter was uploaded. Click on the maps to see larger versions.

Humboldt Fire
This fire is burning near Chico, California and has consumed 22,996 acres and 66 residences. Evacuations for Paradise, Butte Valley and Butte Creek Canyon are in effect, displacing 9,000 residents; 2,877 firefighters and 406 engines are assigned.

The map below shows the fire perimeter as reported by the Incident Management Team at 1800 on June 12.

Launch of GLAST

I was impressed by this extraordinary picture of a Delta II rocket carrying the Gamma-ray Large Area Space Telescope (GLAST) being launched at Cape Canaveral. Click on it to see a larger version.

Lessons learned from the 1991 Oakland fire

SFGate has an interesting story about lessons that were learned from the 1991 fire in Oakland that claimed the lives of 25 people and burned 3,000 homes. Here’s a very brief excerpt:

“We don’t ever want to happen what happened in ’91 and it showed today,” Battalion Chief Lorenzo Frediani said Thursday afternoon as he returned from the scene of a 2-acre grass and brush fire, near the epicenter of the 1991 blaze, that took crews about 90 minutes to contain.


“Fighting a building fire and a natural wildfire is the difference between writing a newspaper article and writing a novel,” Frediani said.

NC Evans Road; massive burnout planned

Firefighters on the 40,000 acre Evans Road fire in eastern North Carolina are planning a massive burnout operation on Friday or as soon as the weather permits. They want to remove the unburned fuel between the east side of the fire and N.C. 94 by burning it under controlled conditions, rather than waiting for the main fire to burn through the area. This two-day project and other burnouts will add at least another 10,000-20,000 acres to the fire. They had hoped to do this on Thursday but heavy smoke prevented aircraft from flying.

The map below shows the fire perimeter in yellow as mapped by fire personnel, and heat detected by satellites early Thursday morning in red, orange, and black. Click on the map to see a larger version.

California: Staffing shortages in USFS

An excerpt from a lengthy article in the Press-Enterprise:

Washington Bureau

Roughly a third of California’s fleet of federal fire engines is currently unavailable due to staffing shortages, according to figures supplied by a group that represents U.S. Forest Service crews.

Statewide, only 186 of the agency’s 276 engines were ready to respond to fires as of Friday, according to a report created by fire officials and released by the Federal Wildland Fire Service Association.

The number of available engines fluctuates daily as staffing levels vary slightly, said Casey Judd, the group’s business manager.

Thirty-two percent of federal engines were not staffed Friday, underscoring the magnitude of a firefighter retention problem that the agency’s top officials have downplayed, Judd said.

“There’s nobody to go to these fires,” he said. “As a result, fires that should be put out will grow in size, intensity and, ultimately, cost.”

Federal fire officials said they are moving quickly to put several dozen more engines into service in the state by late June. Meanwhile, they said, the agency is ready for the approaching fire season.