Southern California fire destroys two homes

A wind-driven wildfire in rural Ventura County, California burned 170 acres and at least two homes Monday evening 50 miles northwest of Los Angeles. It began as a mobile home fire and quickly spread uphill into the vegetation requiring the evacuation of about 84 homes, affecting some 200 people. Just after midnight Tuesday morning the residents were allowed back into their homes after 400 firefighters from Ventura County, L.A. County, Santa Barbara, Santa Paula and Fillmore slowed the spread of the fire which. By 6 a.m. Tuesday it was 80 percent contained.

KTLA has a video report.

Wildfire briefing, March 27, 2013

25,000 acres burned in Mexican wildfires

According to the Latin American Herald Tribune, about 25,000 acres burned last week in the Huasteca Potosina region in the north-central Mexican state of San Luis Potosi. Two people were identified as suspects for starting a fire near the town of Lagunillas. One person died in one of the fires, which have been fought by 600 firefighters.

USFS says naturally occurring asbestos was not a problem on the Chips Fire

The U.S. Forest Service conducted extensive tests of naturally occurring asbestos on the Chips Fire that burned over 75,000 acres on the Plumas/Lassen National Forest last August. The results indicated that firefighters were not exposed to dangerous levels of asbestos particles and confirmed that there is no need to wear high-efficiency particulate air respirators in the area. During suppression activities a Safety Officer, worried that dust might contain asbestos, had raised the issue of firefighter safety in areas where fireline was being constructed by crews and dozers.

Victims of Colorado’s Lower North Fork Fire have filed 95 claims against the government

At least 95 claims have been filed against government agencies in Colorado following the Lower North Fork Fire, a state-run prescribed fire that escaped March 26, 2012, killed three local residents at their homes and burned 27 structures. An article in the Denver Post quotes a local resident who said two previous prescribed fires in the area also escaped or reignited before the state ignited the Lower North Fork project.

Volunteer firefighter charged with arson

Nathaniel Ridgway Schmidt, a former volunteer firefighter with the Timber Cove Fire Protection District in Sonoma County, California, has been charged with setting five fires in Sonoma and San Mateo Counties.

One of the cases occurred on a prescribed fire when Mr. Schmidt was tasked with patrolling a section of fireline. Here is an excerpt from the San Francisco Chronicle:

…A half-hour later, Schmidt yelled that the fire was out of control, but investigators determined he had set a new quarter-acre blaze, [District Attorney Steve] Wagstaffe said. He said authorities believe Schmidt, who has no prior criminal record, set the fires “for excitement.”

The San Mateo County fire happened eight days after the first two of four fires allegedly set by Schmidt in Sonoma County. Prosecutors there charged Schmidt with four felony counts of arson and five misdemeanor counts of falsely reporting emergencies, including a car going over a cliff.


Thanks go out to Dick, Chuck, and Kelly.

John Maclean and a panel of firefighters talk about the Esperanza Fire

John Maclean's Esperanza presentation

At the Rustic Theater in Idyllwild, California on March 8, not far from where the Esperanza Fire killed the five-member crew of U.S. Forest Service engine 57, John N. Maclean talked about his new book, The Esperanza Fire: Arson, Murder, and the Agony of Engine 57. A video recording of the presentation is on the C-SPAN web site. It is an hour and 21 minutes long, but if you are interested in the fire, it will be worth your while.

The video, which can’t be embedded here, includes Mr. Maclean’s talk which is followed by a brief statement from Norm Walker, a former Division Chief on the San Bernardino National Forest, who discussed the three investigations of the fire and how they all fit together, and didn’t in some ways. Then there is a period for questions from the audience, all of which generated very interesting answers from Mr. Maclean and a panel of firefighters who were on the fire.

If you are put off by the first speaker’s remarks, jump to 3:40 when Mr. Maclean’s presentation begins.

Mr. Maclean allowed us to publish an excerpt from his book in January.


Thanks go out to Kelly

LA County to conduct major earthquake exercise

LA County OESThe Los Angeles County Office of Emergency Management will be hosting a major functional exercise to respond to a simulated magnitude 7.8 earthquake, Thursday March 21.

The exercise will feature the California Integrated Seismic Network’s Earthquake Early Warning Demonstration System and the participation of 53 City emergency operations centers, American Red Cross, Emergency Network Los Angeles, Southern California Edison and County departments (Chief Executive Office, Community & Senior Services, Coroner, Fire, Health, Human Resources, Internal Services, Mental Health, Public Health, Public Social Services, Public Works and Sheriff). These departments and organizations will be communicating and coordinating various types of resource and commodity requests by utilizing the Operational Area Response and Recovery System in response to a simulated magnitude 7.8 earthquake that impact the entire LACOA.

A functional exercise is a training event that is designed to test and evaluate selected emergency functions and the interaction of various levels of government, response organizations, volunteer groups, and industry in a simulated environment. This type of exercise usually involves key decision makers, the local emergency operations center and representatives from response and support organizations. Field response units are not normally activated and deployed during a functional exercise.

Agencies object to CAL FIRE’s draft vegetation treatment plan

At least two agencies have filed criticisms of a draft Environmental Impact Report developed by California’s Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. The plan for the California Statewide Vegetation Treatment Program determines how vegetation would be managed to lower the risk of catastrophic wildfires on 38 million acres of state responsibility land. After it is approved, individual thinning, herbicide, or prescribed fire projects would not have to obtain separate approvals under the California Environmental Quality Act.

Below is an excerpt from an editorial in the LA Times:

…For all its length, though, the report is disturbingly vague about what the state proposes to do and where. Many wildfire experts say the study is outdated on the science of fire ecology and treats very different natural landscapes as though they were the same. The state’s Department of Fish and Wildlife responded to the report with serious criticisms, saying among other things that the plan could cause substantial environmental damage. A letter from the National Park Service is downright scathing, slamming the report for numerous inaccuracies, accusing Cal Fire of ignoring important scientific studies and openly questioning whether the plan even meets the legal requirements for this type of EIR.

“If implemented, the proposed program would cause significant, irreversible and unmitigable environmental impacts to natural resources in the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area on a large scale, while producing few if any of the fire safety benefits stated as goals of the program. As such, it would represent a very poor use of public funds,” wrote Robert S. Taylor Jr., a fire specialist with the Park Service. “I strongly recommend that Cal Fire withdraw the current proposal and produce a new one based on best available science.”


As fast as a freight train with a broken throttle

The American Red Cross of Los Angeles — I guess their heart is in the right place. They produced a video that tries to impress upon viewers the speed at which a vegetation fire spreads. They convinced an Inspector with the Los Angeles County Fire Department to say “…a wildfire can come at you like a freight train with a broken throttle.” Then they pump propane through a pipe with holes in it and ignite the escaping gas, while Red Cross volunteers try to outrun the flames coming out of the pipe. I’m not sure that this has anything in common with a vegetation fire, but what the hell.

Be warned, at 1:40 the sound volume triples.