Update on the Santa Barbara Jesusita fire

Photo: Lisa Slavid, 8:45 p.m. PT, May 5

From a press conference that just finished at 7:30 a.m. PT, featuring Chief Tom Franklin, of Santa Barbara County FD.

  • The winds last night were not as strong as expected, so the spread of the fire was limited.
  • The current size is 196 acres.  Earlier estimates of 420 acres were hampered by the smoke obscuring portions of the perimeter.
  • Three helicopters worked the fire last night using night vision equipment. Five helicopters will be working the fire today.
  • The spread of the fire has been slowed by the high live fuel moisture and the moderate relative humidity. But a high live/dead ratio in the area is a factor that accelerates the rate of spread.
  • Winds late this afternoon are expected to be 30 mph with gusts up to 40 to 55.
  • At least 1,200 homes have been evacuated.
  • The fire is about 1/2 mile away from homes.
  • It is between the old Tea and Gap fires.
  • Containment is at 0%.

BTU Complex: 50 homes burn in Concow

At least 50 homes burned Tuesday in the city of Concow, California as the BTU (or Butte) Lightning Complex swept through communities 20 miles east of Chico. The entire east half of the city of Paradise, a city of 26,000, is under evacuation orders, and some areas of Magalia have also been evacuated.

If the weather forecast is accurate, Paradise and Magalia are under a severe threat from the fire. Firefighters hope to stop the fire at the West Branch of the Feather River just east of the city.

This is the third time in the last few weeks that Paradise has had a bulls eye painted on it by fires heading in their direction.

HERE is a link to a very interesting map of the fire in the area made by the newspaper in Chico, the Chico Enterprise Record. This is an amazing use of Google Maps. You might call it groundbreaking. There is a ton of information there—I hope the data is accurate. Click on the icons on the map to get details.

Record high temperatures as high as 115 in the valley on Tuesday contributed to the extreme fire behavior. Foothill temperatures were expected to be in the 90s on Tuesday.

The Weather forecast for Paradisc, CA: (note that the maximum relative humidities at night only go up to 30% and 26%)

Tuesday night: Areas of smoke. Clear, with a low around 79. Northeast wind between 10 and 15 mph, with gusts as high as 18 mph. RH 30%.

Wednesday: Areas of smoke. Sunny and hot, with a high near 110. North northwest wind between 5 and 10 mph. RH 10%.

Wednesday Night: Areas of smoke. Clear, with a low around 77. North wind between 7 and 13 mph. RH 26%

Thursday: Areas of smoke. Sunny and hot, with a high near 108. Northeast wind 6 to 8 mph becoming west. RH 11%.

California: Two dozer rollovers

Two dozer operators rolled their dozers on Tuesday. One was wearing a seat belt and one was not.

A private contractor assigned to the Cold fire in Plumas County suffered a fractured skull, a dislocated shoulder and injuries to one ear when the bulldozer he was operating rolled over, said Dave Olson, a fire information officer for the Canyon Complex of fires on Plumas National Forest.

The employee of Oilar Agricultural Services, based in MacArthur, was flown to Enloe Medical Facility in Chico, where he was in stable condition Wednesday with no life-threatening injuries, Olson said.

In Siskiyou County, a contract operator was digging a fire line between the Alps Complex fire and the Ironside fire when his bulldozer rolled 80 feet down an embankment, said Alexis West, a fire information officer on the complex of fires burning on Shasta-Trinity National Forest.

The operator was wearing a seat belt, which probably saved his life, West said. He was taken to a Redding hospital, where he was treated for arm and shoulder injuries.

He was conscious and alert in Mercy Medical Center on Wednesday morning, West said.

From the Sacramento Bee

California: Summit fire progression map

I just finished teaching a Situation Unit Leader S-346 class. Much of the class is about maps. The next time I teach it in September, I’ll use this fire progression map produced by the Mercury News as an example of what can be done. It includes some interesting facts about the fire that most official firefighter-made maps would not have, but it’s a great product for public consumption.

According to the map, within the first 16 hours the fire spread at least 5 miles and burned 3,376 acres.

Click on it to see a larger version.

Summit fire progression map

 

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.