Another "Blue Ribbon Task Force" Makes Recommendations in California

concrete Homes sign
A sign installed in Harbison Canyon within the footprint of the 2003 Cedar Fire east of San Diego. The fire burned 273,246 acres and 2,232 homes. Photo by Bill Gabbert, 2004.

The second Blue Ribbon Commission Task Force in California since the fires of 2003 presented its report yesterday about how to deal with large wildland fires in the state. The recommendations include more engines, more aircraft, more firefighters, fire safe construction, and better systems for real time communications and intelligence. Many of these were in the report following the 2003 fires but were not implemented because of the state’s fiscal problems.

Click here to download the 106-page report (788 KB).

Here is how the LA Times began their story on the report:

Three months after massive brush fires burned hundreds of homes across Southern California, a blue-ribbon task force on Friday made dozens of recommendations aimed at improving the response to large-scale blazes.

But many of the proposed measures are similar to those made after the devastating wildfires of 2003 — and many of those were never implemented because there was no money available.

And because the state is in a fiscal crisis, it remains unclear whether the new recommendations will fare any better. Several reports over the last decade have said California needs to increase the number of firefighting aircraft as well as boost the number of firefighters.

UPDATE: January 18, 2018. The links above no longer work, but found a copy of a 2004 Blue Ribbon Report about the 2003 fires. It is a huge 21 MB file.

NWCG and U.S. Fire Administration Announce Wildland Fire Training Crosswalk for Structural Firefighters

From a press release issued yesterday by the U.S. Fire Administration:

“Emmitsburg, MD- Today, the U.S. Fire Administration in cooperation with the National Wildfire Coordinating Group, announced a new aid to help local and rural firefighters identify training equivalencies and needs for effectively fighting wildfires that threaten residential areas. The Skills Crosswalk identifies critical wildland firefighting skills that structural firefighters need to be safe and effective when making an initial attack on a wildland fire in their jurisdiction, or when working with state and federal wildland firefighter agencies.

“Our nation’s firefighters already have the necessary skills for fighting fires in all structures in a community,” said U.S. Fire Administrator Greg Cade. “Structural training does not however always address the critical wildland fire suppression techniques which differ from structural firefighting techniques. The new Skills Crosswalk highlights the differences in order for structural firefighters to be able to address wildland fire suppression challenges.”

According to the U.S. Census Bureau 2006 report, in every area of the nation rural development is expanding into wildland areas. Since the 1980’s, the rural population has more than doubled, with 140 million people now living in rural areas. As a result, rural and volunteer firefighters increasingly manage fire in the Wildland/Urban Interface.

The new Skills Crosswalk provides a performance-based methodology and a learning resource guide for qualified structural firefighters to develop wildland firefighting knowledge and skills in a focused and time-efficient format. This methodology will assist structural firefighters with wildland skills in working more safely and effectively on initial and extended attack operations and enhance cooperative firefighting efforts with neighboring jurisdictions and federal wildland firefighters.

For more information, visit the Wildfire section of the U.S. Fire Administration’s Web site.”

A big thank you to Greg Greenhoe for the tip on this.

"One Foot in the Black" Benefits Wildland Firefighter Foundation

One Foot In The BlackKurt Kamm, “after studying fire science and spending three years with L.A. County Fire Department and CalFire crews”, has written a book about wildland firefighters. “One Foot in the Black” is available on the Wildland Firefighter Foundation (WFF) web site. The proceeds from the book go to the WFF. I have not read the book, but the WFF is a wonderful organization that assists wildland firefighters and their families when they have experienced a serious line of duty injury or death. If you have read the book, leave a comment.

Here is an excerpt from a review of the book.

“After the gig ends, Greg drives south to Malibu, daring to survive the notorious four week training camp required to join a fire-suppression unit with the LA County Fire Department. Life in the academy is brutal, but it is here that Greg begins to discover the family he never had: fellow trainee Luis Zambrano, who dreams of a better life for his wife and newly born child; Hector Wells, a rootless Native American with years of service as a firefighter; and Capt. Tom Bratton, a gruff yet kindhearted superior who takes a liking to Greg, offering home-cooked meals and sage advice. An unpredictable wildfire in the middle of the dry season, raging over the hills north of Los Angeles, gives Greg plenty of firsthand experience but tests his resolve and dedication to the profession.”

Fire Weather Forecaster Featured in Article

thunderhead cloud
South Dakota thunderhead. Photo by Bill Gabbert.

It’s not often that you see any news or articles about fire weather forecasters. We have come to depend on them and we probably take them for granted, so it is refreshing to see them receive a little publicity. Here is an excerpt from a ScrippsNews article about Richard Thompson, from Oxnard, California.

“But a lot of it also involves forecasting that relies as much on hunches and knowledge of local weather patterns as on science.

“The conditions can be pretty primitive out there,” said Thompson, who works out of the National Weather Service office in Oxnard, “but it can also be very rewarding work.”

Unlike the forecasts he produces behind a desk in Oxnard, Thompson’s field work generates almost instant feedback from firefighters. “If your forecasts are accurate or bad, they’ll let you know about them right away,” he said.

Gary Montgomery, a rangeland management specialist in Los Padres National Forest, uses forecasts by incident meteorologists to decide where to send firefighters and equipment during wildfires.”

 

Man Charged for Starting Catalina Island Fire

The Long Beach, California Press-Telegram has information about the fire on the island off the California coast last May which burned several structures, including one home:

“An Indiana man has been charged for allegedly starting the Santa Catalina Island fire in May, authorities said Tuesday.

Gary Dennis Hunt, 49, was charged with two felony counts in his arrest warrant: one for recklessly causing a fire to an inhabited structure and one for recklessly causing a fire to a structure or forest. Three Catalina Island addresses were listed in the counts.

According to the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office, Hunt was a subcontractor working on the island. Despite posted signs about extreme fire danger and prohibition of open flames, he allegedly used an open-flame torch on May 10 to cut the cables on the island’s radio tower, Ambrose said.

That allegedly started the fire, which burned 4,750 acres and cost $5 million to fight.”

Alabaugh Fire to be Part of 2008 Refresher Training

Every spring the national wildland fire agencies produce and distribute a standardized training package designed to meet the requirements for 8 hours of refresher training for wildland firefighters. The training usually includes a description of unique incidents or near-misses that occurred in the previous season. This year the training will feature an entrapment of two firefighters on the Alabaugh fire in July of last year. On the fire, which started 5 miles southeast of Hot Springs, South Dakota, the firefighters escaped serious injuries by sharing one fire shelter.

In addition to the photo with this post, the photo in the header at the top of this page is of the Alabaugh fire. In December the producers of the refresher training shot some video interviews at the houses that you can see in the header photo.
(Photo of Alabaugh fire by Bill Gabbert)