California power company has a team of six fire coordinators

Randy Lyle is the Fire Program Manager for San Diego Gas and Electric

Randy Lyle, Fire Program Manager
Randy Lyle, Fire Program Manager for SDG&E. Photo: SDG&E.

If a fire flares up anywhere in San Diego or Southern Orange counties, Randy Lyle, the fire program manager for San Diego Gas and Electric, and his team of fire coordinators, will know in real time where it’s breaking out and whether it is burning in proximity to any of the company’s infrastructure.

Lyle was the second fire coordinator hired by SDG&E company to enhance the coordination and partnership with local public safety agencies to better protect communities from wildfires. The fire coordination program was launched in 2004 with one person. Today Randy oversees a team of five fire coordinators – all of whom are veteran firefighters like him.

His team has expertise in a variety of specialties, such as electrical safety, natural gas safety, energy storage safety and fire safety training, fuel treatment, fire planning for projects, and forensic fire investigation.

When Randy joined SDG&E in 2007, he brought with him 32 years of experience in all aspects of wildland fire control, including engine, hand crew, and aerial firefighting, along with expertise in applying fire hazard data and tools to better understand fire risk and fire behavior.

As a CAL FIRE Division Chief, Randy served as the unified incident commander for the Cedar Fire in 2003. That historic fire – ranked as one of the top 5 most destructive wildfires in California history – burned more than 273,000 acres, killed 14 people, including one firefighter, and destroyed more than 2,800 structures.

Recently, we had a conversation with Randy, a San Diego native who loves horses and surfing, about his experience and background and what his team does.

What does it mean to be an SDG&E Fire Coordinator?

Fire coordinators serve as a critical link between fire agencies and SDG&E. They provide situational awareness at times of actual fires to help support emergency response. For example, if a public agency has a request for SDG&E to de-energize a power line near a fire to protect first responders, a fire coordinator will work with our grid operations staff to help coordinate that request.

Fire coordinators also train internal personnel on fire safety and external personnel (first responders) on electrical safety. We are translators of intel into actionable information.

Are fire coordinator positions unique to SDG&E?
Other utilities have similar positions, but their actual duties vary quite a bit from utility to utility.

How did you make the decision to get into this field and when did it all start for you?
I had firemen in my family. I started my fire career with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE), six weeks after graduating high school. Growing up here, I remember watching large fires like the Laguna Fire in 1970 as it made news day after day and I was fascinated by its enormity.

What is your most memorable experience as a firefighter? 
I was the CAL FIRE Unified Incident Commander on the 2003 Cedar Fire for the first three days, then transitioned to a Branch Director for the west wind push when I had two Strike Teams trapped by fire in Harrison Park near Julian. I lost radio contact with them and for about two hours, thought that 40 firefighters had perished. Turned out OK in the end. Radios were rendered inoperable, presumably by heavy, dense smoke and heated air.

What is your busiest season?
Peak season is from about September 1 until we get rains in fall or early winter. Typically, any summer day can be an ‘average bad fire day’. There are a few weeks after strong green-up where there will not be any fires because wildland fuels are not cured well enough to dry.

(From SDG&E)

Intense fire along Interstate 5

Jeff Zimmerman fire southern California
Wildfire along Interstate 5 in Southern California August 3, 2019, 10 miles north of Castaic. Photo by Jeff Zimmerman.

Jeff Zimmerman got this shot of engine crews from Los Angeles County FD arriving at an intensely burning wildfire along Interstate 5 yesterday, August 3. It was on the east side of Interstate 5 in Southern California 10 miles north of Castaic.

Here is what Jeff said about the fire:

With hot dry weather and lower humidity we saw more energy release than previous wildfires last month. 100 acres along Interstate 5 north of Templin Highway burned with good fuel consumption. Increased fire behavior and increased energy release components are predicted through early next week.

Thanks Jeff!

Ramona Air Attack Base hosts a C-130 air tanker

The runway is too short for some large air tankers

(This article was first published at Fire Aviation)

It is unusual to see an air tanker larger than an S-2 at the Ramona Air Attack Base in Southern California, but a C-130Q under contract with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE) was seen at the base yesterday, August 3. Kevin Pack, who took the photo below, said it had been dropping on a fire, possibly the Sage Fire, in San Diego County.

The relatively short runway restricts which types of aircraft can use the facilities at Ramona. When the U.S. Navy built the airport in 1945 to be used as an emergency landing field it was only 4,000 feet long and remained that length well after it was conveyed to the County of San Diego in 1956.

Air Tanker 134 C-130 Ramona
Air Tanker 134, a C-130Q, parked at Ramona Air Attack Base August 3 2019. Photo by K. E. Pack Photography.

CAL FIRE established an Air Attack Base there in 1957 and the U.S. Forest Service followed three years later.

The runway was lengthened in 2002 to 5,001 feet but it is difficult for some large air tankers and impossible for very large air tankers to work at the base. CAL FIRE has allowed BAe-146 air tankers under their CAL FIRE contracts to use the runway, but currently the Forest Service prohibits their large air tankers from using the airport.

Air Tanker 134 C-130 Ramona
Air Tanker 134, a C-130Q, was still parked at Ramona Air Attack Base at 7:53 a.m. PDT August 4, 2019. HPWREN photo.

CAL FIRE bases two S-2 air tankers and an Air Tactical Group Supervisor at the airport, and the Forest Service bases a helicopter there.

The S-2s can carry up to 1,200 gallons of retardant. In 2016 another Coulson C-130, T-131, completed 520 sorties averaging 3,404 gallons per drop. A BAe-146 has a capacity of 3,000 gallons.

The C-130Q at Ramona on Saturday was Coulson’s Tanker 134, the fourth C-130 the company has converted. Its first drop on a fire was around November 1, 2018 while on a contract in Australia. It had just finished being reconfigured as an air tanker after being rescued from storage in Tucson and had not yet been painted.

t-134 c-130Q
Air tanker 134 on the sortie when it was making its first live drop on a fire in Australia, around November 1 , 2018.

CAL FIRE is using Tanker 134 to train their pilots who are transitioning from the S-2 air tankers to the seven HC-130Hs the agency has acquired after the U.S. Forest Service lost interest in the aircraft which were previously operated by the U.S. Coast Guard.

Man pleads guilty of starting Klamathon Fire

The fire burned 38,008 acres in California and Oregon

Map Klamathon Fire
Map of the Klamathon Fire, July 7, 2018.

From KTVL:

The man accused of starting the fatal Klamathon Fire in July of 2018 pleaded guilty to all counts Thursday morning in a Siskiyou County courtroom.

John Colin Eagle Skoda, 32, was arrested on August 20, 2018, after a joint investigation between CAL FIRE and the Siskiyou County District Attorney’s Office.

According to Siskiyou County District Attorney Kirk Andrus Skoda was camping when the fire began.

“He lit a fire in a fire ring and the wind took it. He tried to stomp it out and when that didn’t work he called authorities,” Andrus said.

The Klamathon Fire started July 5, 2018, and burned on both sides of Interstate 5 in Northern California and spread across the border into Oregon eventually blackening 38,008 acres . One man was killed, Hornbrook resident John Bermel, 72, who died in his home as the fire swept over the structure.

Firefighter Brandon Feller suffered severe burns when his engine was burned over.

The 2018 Woolsey Fire set back the reintroduction of an endangered frog

Three of the four reintroduction sites for the largest native frog in the western U.S. were wiped out by debris flows after the wildfire

Articles on Wildfire Today tagged “Woolsey Fire”.

Smoke from Milepost 97 Fire spreads in Southern Oregon and Northern California

(UPDATED at 3:56 p.m. PDT July 27, 2019)

Below is an updated forecast for the distribution of smoke from the Milepost 97 Fire in Southwest Oregon. One difference from the previous version further down in this article is that not only is it proceeding further south approaching the San Francisco Bay Area, but some of the smoke will be spreading into southern Idaho. The forecast is for 6 p.m. PDT July 27, 2019.

forecast distribution of wildfire smoke
The forecast for the distribution of wildfire smoke at 6 p.m. PDT July 27, 2019. Click to enlarge.

(Originally published at 7:15 a.m. PDT July 27, 2019)

smoke air quality Milepost 97 fire Oregon California
Map from Purple Air showing air quality at locations in Southern Oregon and Northern California. Cities and states identified in black by Wildfire Today.

Smoke from the 8,878-acre Milepost 97 fire near Canyonville, Oregon is affecting the air quality in Southern Oregon and Northern California.

Some of the cities in Oregon affected are Grants Pass, Medford, and Ashland. And in California, Yreka, Weed, Mt. Shasta, and Redding.

Click here for more information about the Milepost 97 Fire near Canyonville, Oregon.

smoke air quality Milepost 97 fire Oregon California
California and Southern Oregon air quality at 6 a.m. PDT July 27, 2019, by AirNow.
smoke air quality Milepost 97 fire Oregon California
Forecast for the distribution of smoke from wildfires at 10 a.m. PDT July 27, 2019.