Western Governors Call for Adequate Funding for Fire

Posted on Categories Uncategorized

The Western Governors’ Association sent out a news release calling for adequate federal funding for both wildland fire suppression and prevention.

“Denver — On the heels of one of the most costly wildfire seasons on record, Western governors are calling on Congress and the Bush Administration to provide adequate resources in the upcoming budget and beyond to not only fight future fires, but also improve forest health to prevent them.

The Western Governors’ Association is calling for a “funding fix” to ensure fire suppression costs can be covered without taking money away from restoration and fuels reduction – the very programs that help prevent catastrophic wildfires. A letter outlining the governors’ concerns was sent to leaders in Congress and the Administration. It was signed by Govs. Dave Freudenthal ( Wyo.), WGA Chairman; Jon M. Huntsman, Jr. ( Utah), WGA Vice Chairman; and Janet Napolitano ( Ariz.), WGA lead governor for forest health.

“It is clear that we have entered a new age of wildland fires,” the governors said, noting that three of the last six fire seasons have resulted in more than $1 billion in suppression costs. At the same time, funding for the other functions has decreased by over $200 million.

They said to solve the impact of suppression costs on agencies’ budgets, “we must take a reality check” and realize that additional investment is a necessary part of the solution. The governors support full implementation and funding of the National Fire Plan and the 10-year Comprehensive Strategy and Implementation Plan that states, federal agencies and stakeholders developed in 2001 and updated in 2006.”

Investigators report on the Florida I-4 fog/smoke incident

fog-smokeInvestigators have released a report on the Florida January 8 incident that we reported on in which smoke from an escaped prescribed fire may have mixed with fog causing poor visibility on Interstate 4 resulting in five fatalities in vehicle crashes. The report issued by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services says:

“…an unpredictable change in weather caused the prescribed burn to burn erratically which resulted in spot fires.”

Tampa Bay Online has more details:

“TALLAHASSEE – A state investigation has cleared wildlife officials who last month lost control of a prescribed burn that may have contributed to a 70-vehicle pileup on Interstate 4 in Polk County.

The investigation by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services concluded changing weather conditions Jan. 8 caused the 10-acre planned burn to jump firelines and spread to 400 acres. The National Weather Service said smoke from the fire could have combined with fog the next morning to cut visibility on the highway to nearly zero.

Five people died in the predawn pileup and resulting fires, prompting questions about how the fire got out of control and whether the state should have held a controlled burn in the dry season less than a mile from the interstate.

The Florida Highway Patrol is conducting a homicide investigation that also will look at whether smoke from the wildfire played a part in the wrecks.

The report by the Agriculture Department’s law enforcement division states those in charge of the fire followed correct procedures but that an “unpredictable change in weather caused the prescribed burn to burn erratically which resulted in spot fires.”

“There does not appear to be any evidence of criminal violations or gross negligence” by those involved in the burn, investigators concluded in their report.

Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission employees conducting the burn reported that the humidity had dropped sharply about an hour after the fire was set at 10 a.m. and winds picked up, spreading the fire outside the protective earthen barriers.

The National Weather Service confirms there was a drop in humidity at the fire site, but meteorologists said that could have been caused by the fire. As warm air from a fire rises, it forces drier air downward. Drier air aids the spread of fire, especially when rainfall has been sparse for a long period.

Daniel Noah, warning coordination meteorologist with the National Weather Service, said the agency has no way of knowing whether wind speeds around the fire picked up or wind directions changed. However, Noah did not rule out that possibility.”

A preliminary report issued by the Florida Highway Patrol does not even mention the prescribed fire.

Re-seeding over the snow

Reseeding in the snow after a fireI thought this photo of a helicopter re-seeding over snow was interesting. They are working on an area southwest of Reno, Nevada that burned during the Hawkin fire on July 6. Click on the photo to enlarge it.

The photo caption:

“Helicopter pilot John Kelly of El Aero Services of Carson City drops seeds and mulch Monday over the Hawken Fire area. Each load weighs 800 pounds, and he was covering 340 acres with seeds and an additional 165 acres with mulch that should prevent erosion.”

More information from the Reno Gazette Journal:

“Seeds sown Monday across southwest Reno land scorched by the Hawken Fire are expected to bloom in the spring.

“We expect to see some growth. We’re hoping for a good germination,” said Sonya Hem, deputy director of the Nevada Land Conservancy. “We’ve been dropping pure live seed on the snow, sagebrush and bitter brush seeds.”

She said unlike some plants, those seeds need to be on the snow to germinate. The seeds were then covered with mulch to keep them on the ground, she said.

The partnership of Washoe County and the land conservancy is conducting the aerial seeding of 350 acres and aerial mulching of 165 acres of the Hawken area that burned in July.”

Marc Mullenix Memorial Fund

More details are now available about the memorial fund for Marc Mullenix, a Division Chief for Fairmount Fire Protection District near Denver. Marc passed away on January 28.

Here is the complete information from the Fairmount Fire Protection District:

Memorial Services will be held Wednesday, February 6 – 1200 hours

Faith Bible Chapel
6250 Wright Street
Arvada, CO 80004

The ceremony will be followed by a reception at the same location.

Memorial Fund:
Marc Mullenix Life Challenge Foundation
Donations can be made at any Wells Fargo Bank Location

Apparatus staging will begin at 1030 at the Faith Bible Chapel Worship Center. Departments wishing to bring apparatus should contact

Lt. Rick Goodman at 303-435-9411

Those preferring to send flowers, Flowers will be received at:
Fairmount Fire Department
4755 Isabel Street
Golden CO 80403

Retardant use can increase cheatgrass?

Cheat Grass
A year after the Fourth of July fire on Mount Jumbo, a long green line of cheatgrass is visible where fire retardant was dropped. The red slurry retardant allows some exotic weeds to replace native grasslands, according to preliminary results of a study by Salish Kootenai College and the University of Montana. Photo by JED LITTLE

It seems that every few years another issue about the use of aerial fire retardant appears. The latest is that the nitrogen and phosphorous in the retardant produce a condition that encourages cheatgrass, while it has little effect on native grasses.

The photo from the Missoulian apparently shows green strips of cheatgrass growing in the areas where air tankers dropped retardant on on a fire on Mount Jumbo near Missoula on July 4, 2006.

From a story in the Missoulian:
“According to preliminary results, the retardant’s fertilizerlike nutrients significantly increased cheatgrass and tumbleweed mustard, both exotic annual species, at the expense of native perennial grasses on the mountainside.

The invaders benefit from the jolt of nitrogen and phosphorous in the slurry, which native and exotic perennials largely ignore because they are accustomed to nutrient-poor soils.

Cheatgrass and tumbleweed mustard didn’t spread where the fire burned alone, but they exploded in areas that were burned and hit with retardant, the study found.

The two invaders have spread from 51 percent to 88 percent on Mount Jumbo since the retardant was dropped, although two perennial invaders, spotted knapweed and Dalmation toadflax, decreased.

The Fourth of July fire burned about 320 acres and fire retardant was dropped on about 12 acres of Mount Jumbo, where noxious weeds have become widespread over the past 20 years.

The two-year study, which is to be completed next spring, is being conducted by Besaw and Giles Thelan, a research specialist at UM’s plant ecology laboratory.”