Report Released on 2007 Southern California Fires

2003 Fires, Lessons LearnedThe Lessons Learned Center organized a group of five people to analyze the fires in the fall of 2007 in Southern California to determine the potential for lessons learned. They just released their 44-page report. It is very interesting reading.

The five-person team consisted of Dan Frazee, Phoenix, AZ Fire Department, Dennis Baldridge, U.S. Forest Service, Kevin Pfister, BridgerTeton National Forest, Dave Christenson, Wildland Fire Lessons Learned Center, and Jim Hollingsworth, Cal Fire.

Pay and Retention Issues for U.S. Forest Service in Calif.

The Associated Press is picking up on the pay and retention issues the U.S. Forest Service and other agencies are facing in California. The USFS is losing a great many experienced firefighters to CalFire and other fire departments in the state who pay much higher salaries than the federal agencies.

From the San Diego Union-Tribune:

“WASHINGTON – A top federal official acknowledged Tuesday that the U.S. Forest Service is losing federal firefighters in California to state and county departments that pay more.

But Agriculture Department Undersecretary Mark Rey, who directs U.S. forest policy, told concerned lawmakers he’s still evaluating how much of a problem that is. “On the one hand you hate to lose trained people. On the other hand they’re still fighting fires under a unified command system,” Rey told a hearing of the House Appropriations Interior subcommittee. “They’re going to be on the fire line along with the federal firefighters.”

Lawmakers convinced there is a problem ordered the Forest Service to come up with a plan by Feb. 1 to increase recruitment and retention for Southern California forests. That deadline has passed but the agency is working on it, officials said.”

Firefighter, Nearly Electrocuted: ‘I Should Be Dead’

firefighter near electrocutionFrom a story on TampaBayOnline:

“Jimmy Branca doesn’t know exactly what saved his life: his Chevy truck, a safety device on the powerline up above, or maybe God.

But he recalls his first thought after a getting struck by an electric line yesterday: “Thank God I didn’t get killed and I get to go home and see my wife and kids.”

Branca and another firefighter were outside their trucks Monday, assessing a wildfire on northwest Josephine Road. Two poles were on fire, and they were about to make a decision on whether to put them out.

That’s when both utility Glades Electric poles snapped, and the power lines fell.

“One pole landed not far from me,” Branca said. “The wire hit me, and took me to the ground.”
Branca, 47, is a burly Navy ex-corpsman who has been working in emergency services since 1979. He
pointed to an abrasion on his left elbow.

So how is it that Branca is alive today?

The wire, he said, caught in the space between the driver’s side mirror and the door of his white three-quarter ton command vehicle. He thinks that created enough tension to trip the breaker on the power line. In a fraction of a second, the wire de-energized.

“I should be dead right now,” Branca said.”

Year-round Fire Season in North Carolina?

Tom Collins of the North Carolina Department of Emergency Management says that the drought could result in a year-round fire season, according to an article in the News Observer.

“The epidemic of hundreds of wildfires in every corner of the state served as a warning that drought could expand the spring and fall fire seasons into one long year of risk, emergency officials said Monday.

“Right now, we could have a fire season year-round,” said Tom Collins, eastern branch manager for the N.C. Division of Emergency Management.

Normally, the spring season doesn’t begin until March. But in a single weekend, 10,100 acres — more than half the acreage normally torched in an an entire year — were burned.

“We probably had fires in every county in the state,” Collins said. “I’ve seen days in the western part of the state where we just had fires everywhere, but this time it was statewide.

“It just had to be drought-related.”

Propelled by strong winds, more than 300 wildfires flared across the state Sunday. By Monday, the winds had died, but several small fires and three larger blazes were still burning, state fire officials said. The last major fires, each about 2,000 acres, were in Halifax, Tyrrell and Camden counties.”


Senator John Kyl: Forest Service or Fire Service?

Senator John Kyl, a Republican from Arizona, in an article on his web site criticizes the President’s proposed budget for 2009 which reduces the funds allocated for fuel treatments.

“With almost 48 percent of the proposed budget going toward fire fighting, the Forest Service might be more appropriately called the “Fire Service.”

I believe funding for fighting fires must be complemented by adequate funding for preventing them. Proactive management of our forests not only is the best tool in combating wildfires, it is critical to restoring forest health and improving habitats for diverse species.

Typically, there are two complimentary methods of treatment: mechanical thinning of brush and smaller diameter trees, and prescribed burning. These treatments open up forests so they are less susceptible to “hot” crown fires. More importantly, reducing competition for soil nutrients, water, and sunlight immediately enhances the health of the trees, allowing them to grow bigger and fend off diseases and deadly insects like bark beetles.”