FEMA – After a fire your flood risk goes up

wildfire risk of flooding

In some cases a severe wildfire can leave the ground charred, barren, and  unable to absorb water. That means even light rain can potentially turn into a financially devastating flash flood or mudflow. Watch the video below to learn more about the importance of flood insurance.

Power company evaluating multiple failures on transmission towers as causes of large wildfires

jumper cable high voltage electrical transmission tower
File photo of a jumper cable on a high voltage electrical transmission tower.

Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) told a judge on November 29 that it is investigating whether there is a systemic problem with a piece of hardware on their high voltage electrical transmission towers that can start wildfires, the San Francisco Chronicle reported. Investigators with PG&E and the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection are looking at the possible failure of jumper cables on towers near the points of origin of two huge recent fires, the 2017 Camp Fire at Paradise, California and the Kincade Fire that started near the Geysers north of Santa Rosa October 23, 2019.

The Chronicle reported that “PG&E is also seeking more generally to determine whether there may be jumper cables that may be susceptible to failure for any reason in PG&E’s system,” the company told U.S. District Judge William Alsup.

It has been determined that PG&E equipment started the Camp Fire, but officially the cause of the Kincade fire is still under investigation.

On October 24 PG&E filed a required preliminary report with the California Public Utilities Commission that stated “at approximately (9:20 p.m.) on Oct. 23, PG&E became aware of a Transmission level outage on the Geysers No. 9 Lakeville 230kV line when the line relayed and did not reclose. At approximately (7:30 a.m.) on Oct. 24, a responding PG&E Troubleman patrolling the Geysers No. 9 Lakeville 230 kV line observed that CalFire had taped off the area around the base of transmission tower 001/006. On site CalFire personnel brought to the Troubleman’s attention what appeared to be a broken jumper on the same tower.”

Jumper cables are used on high voltage lines to route the wires around the metal tower so the electricity is not conducted into the structure. If a piece of hardware that supports the jumpers fails, the jumper wire breaks, or if it comes in contact with the steel tower, massive arcing will occur sending sparks and molten metal flying, which can ignite anything on the ground that is flammable.

The video below shows the ignition of the Kincade Fire on October 23 as seen in near infrared from a camera at Barham near Geyserville, California. Keep your eye on the bright light on the horizon left of center. It disappears at about 21:19:55 and 15 seconds later the fire can be seen growing rapidly.

Who has your back?

Football players and Vets help each other — maybe the program can be adapted for firefighters

Merging vets and players
Merging Vets & Players photo.

With the suicide rate of wildland firefighters being described as “astronomical” according to information developed by Nelda St. Clair of the Bureau of Land Management in 2017, we need to be situationally aware of any proven or innovative programs that can help mitigate the issues that lead firefighters to think that’s the only option they have.

Today I learned about a program designed to merge former professional football players with veterans of the military. The goal is to give them a new team to tackle the transition together. Called Merging Vets & Players, or MVP, it shows them they are NOT alone.

Fox Sports analyst Jay Glazer and Nate Boyer, retired NFL player and former Green Beret, created MVP in 2015 to address this important challenge.

So far MVP is active in four cities where once a week the former football players and military veterans meet for one hour and 45 minutes in gyms.

Here is how it is described:

The program starts with a 30-minute workout with a warrior to their left and right to get that familiar “burn” going again in them.

The magic of the MVP begins right after with The Huddle, an hour and fifteen minutes of peer-on-peer support, a group of badasses building up fellow badasses. It reminds us of our strength, even when it doesn’t seem clear.

Merging Vets & Players
Merging Vets & Players photo.

The Huddle is where they share their challenges in transition and offer each other support and resources. MVP coaches our vets and athletes to be PROUD OF THEIR SCARS, and to use what they experienced on the battlefield or football field to EMPOWER them through the transition. We don’t run from mental health challenges, we tackle it as a team.

Too many combat vets and former professional athletes think they are alone, MVP is here to show you’re not alone. Whether it’s combat camouflage or a sports jersey, our MVP members help each other find a new identity, — find greatness again — after the uniform comes off.

Wildland firefighters have some things in common with vets and professional football players. Wildland firefighters are tactical athletes, they are members of a team, they depend on each other for success and safety, what they do can be extremely mentally and physically difficult, they are often away from their friends and families, and there are times of the year when they suddenly transition to a much different life style away from their “team”.

Maybe the MVP program could be modified, merging vets with current or transitioned firefighters. Or, it could be just firefighters.

Take a look at the two-minute video that Fox aired on Thanksgiving before the football games.

I’d love to see a group of firefighters doing the “WHO’S GOT MY BACK” call and response.

Learn more about MVP at their website and Instagram.


Help is available for those feeling really depressed or suicidal.

Video shows photographer’s withdrawal while covering Cave Fire

FirePhotoGirl's dash cam video fire
Screenshot from FirePhotoGirl’s dash cam video before she turned around on Painted Cave Road. Used with her permission.

While reporting on the Cave Fire near Santa Barbara, California a fire photographer encountered a little more wildfire activity than she expected.

FirePhotoGirl is very active in coverage of fires and other emergency incidents, shooting footage for Southern California media as well as her twitter account, @FirePhotoGirl.

On November 25 just before midnight she was on the Cave Fire driving her vehicle down Painted Cave Road when she made what looks like a good decision to turn around. She described it like this when posting the dash cam video on YouTube:

Painted Cave – I was trying to go down and had to turn around. If you cant tell it was a little too warm. Do not try this or put yourself in harms way. This was very dangerous.

(Click here to see all articles on the Cave Fire, including the most recent)

The Cave Fire burned 4,330 acres northwest of Santa Barbara until rain and in the higher elevations, snow, stopped the spread November 27, 2019.

New real time mapping system used on Cave Fire

Fire Integrated Real-Time Intelligence System (FIRIS)
An example of an output from the Fire Integrated Real-Time Intelligence System (FIRIS) used on the Cave Fire near Santa Barbara, CA November 26, 2019. The dots with arrows represent weather stations. Inciweb.

A new real time wildfire mapping system was used on the Cave Fire near Santa Barbara, California this week.

In September the Orange County Fire Authority began a 150-day pilot program to use and evaluate the Fire Integrated Real-Time Intelligence System (FIRIS). The program got off the ground thanks to funding secured in the 2019-2020 California state budget by Assemblywoman Cottie Petrie-Norris (D-Laguna Beach).

The system utilizes a fixed-wing aircraft equipped with infrared and radar sensors that can see through smoke. The plane provides real-time fire perimeter mapping and live high definition video to support supercomputer-based wildfire predictive spread modeling.

(Click here to see all articles on the Cave Fire, including the most recent)

FIRIS fire wildfire mapping real time
Screenshot of aircraft featured in the FIRIS B-Roll video.

A supercomputer at the University of California San Diego runs WIFIRE spread projections based on fire perimeter data collected by the aircraft. The output estimates where the fire will be in the next six hours. The fire spread model adjusts for successful fire suppression actions by firefighters on the ground and in the air. This intel allows for more timely and accurate decision making for resource allocation and evacuations.

flight path N4717V fire mapping
The flight path of N4717V, a Turbo Commander 690, also known as “AC90”. It was orbiting over the Cave Fire at 12,400 feet on November 26, 2019. Flightaware map.
AC90 mapping aircraft wildfire
The FIRIS aircraft, shown as “AC90”, was over the Cave Fire along with two S-2T air tankers, at 7:52 a.m. November 26, 2019. Flightradar24

If I am correctly interpreting the WIFIRE product at the top of this article the system predicted that the Cave Fire would grow from 4,994 to 8,880 acres over a 90-minute period beginning at 10:56 a.m. on November 26, 2019. Spot fires were predicted more than a mile ahead. However, decreasing winds that day slowed the spread. A weather station in San Marcos Pass about three miles northwest of the fire recorded sustained wind speeds from 1 to 5 mph between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. Rain beginning at 2 a.m. November 27 stopped  the spread at 4,330 acres.

Weather San Marcos Pass
Weather at San Marcos Pass, November 26-27, 2019.

The video below is “B-Roll”, that is, unedited footage of the FIRIS system. The first 6.5 minutes are simply images of aircraft, but after that you will be able to look over the shoulder of the imagery technician as he observes infrared imagery of a fire, manually interprets the heat signatures, then traces the fire perimeter on the screen. That perimeter could then be electronically sent to the super computer in San Diego County which would run a fire spread model to predict what the fire will do in the next six hours.

Our attempts to obtain more information about FIRIS from personnel on the Cave Fire that used the system were not successful.

Rain aids containment of Cave Fire

Evacuees could be back in their homes by the end of the day Wednesday

map Cave Fire November 26 2019
Map of the Cave Fire, November 26, 2019. Produced by the incident management team. Notations in blue by Wildfire Today.

10:01 a.m. PST November 27, 2019

The predicted rain that would stop the spread of the Cave Fire near Santa Barbara arrived at 2 a.m. Wednesday, four hours after it was expected, but by 9 a.m. had accumulated 0.87 inch in the weather station in San Marcos Pass. An additional 1.3″ through Thursday night is in the forecast.

Mike Eliason, an Information Officer for Santa Barbara County Fire Department, said Wednesday morning that there is a slight chance of snow in the higher elevations of the fire. The lowest edge of the fire at Santa Barbara is at 300 feet, but the ridge near the north side rises to 3,500 feet.

(Click here to see all articles on the Cave Fire, including the most recent)

Plans to repopulate evacuated areas are under evaluation. Mr. Eliason said everyone should be back in their homes by the end of the day on Wednesday.

The latest mapping puts the fire at 4,330 acres. There are still residual smokes visible and Highway 154, with fire on both sides, remains closed. Demobilization of firefighters will begin today.

Well over 90 percent of the fire is on land managed by the Los Padres National Forest, but the suppression was carried out by a unified command also representing Santa Barbara County and CAL FIRE.

Rainbow Cave Fire
Rainbow over the Cave Fire near Painted Cave Road Wednesday morning. Mike Eliason photo for SBCFD.