Physical fitness test for wildland firefighters used in Alberta, Canada

This video shows the physical fitness test, WFX-FIT, used to evaluate wildland firefighters in Alberta, Canada.

The Pack Test version of the Work Capacity Test and the Step Test used by the Federal agencies in the United States basically measure how fast you can walk and how low you can keep your pulse rate, respectively. The Step Test was replaced by the Work Capacity Test.

The WFX-FIT used in some areas of Canada, which first saw widespread use in 2012, is described as “a valid job-related physical performance standard used to determine whether an individual possesses the physical capabilities necessary to meet the rigorous demands encountered while fighting wildland fires.” Here is a link to more information about the test.

Your thoughts on the WFX-FIT test?

Wildfire in Northwest Canada above the arctic circle burns well over 100,000 acres

President Trump offered assistance to Russia with their wildfires in the Siberian arctic

Map location Inuvik Fire Northwest Canada
Map showing the location of the Inuvik Fire in Northwest Canada, according to satellite data collected at 10:49 a.m. MDT August 1, 2019.

A wildfire in Canada’s Northwest Territories arctic has burned about 45,000 hectares (112,000 acres) according to the last size estimate by the Northwest Territories Environment and Natural Resources agency. Our very unofficial estimate based on satellite data collected Thursday morning showed that it has increased to approximately 60,000 hectares (150,000 acres).

The fire is burning along the Mackenzie River about 47 miles (77 kilometers) east of Tsiigehtchiceast. Presently there is no threat to that community, officials said. (see map above)

This is happening north of the Arctic Circle, at 67.3 north latitude. The Arctic Circle, which defines the southern boundary of the Arctic, is at 66.5 north latitude. Alaska has also had fires this summer in the Arctic and Russia has had many in the extreme northern latitudes.

According to NPR President Trump discussed the fire situation in Russia with Vladimir Putin:

President Trump spoke with President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday and offered U.S. help in fighting widespread forest fires raging in parts of Siberia, according to a Kremlin account of the call.

Putin, in response, expressed his “sincere gratitude” to Trump and said that if necessary, he will accept the offer, the Kremlin said on its website.

Explosive peat moss

Peat Moss Flame
Screenshot from the video below.

In at least one location in Alberta, Canada the peat moss is so dry it can turn to dust when disturbed, and in the presence of sufficient heat and oxygen is damn near explosive.

It’s a good example of the Fire Triangle: Heat + Fuel + Oxygen = Fire

Video courtesy of @whitecourtunitcrew

Thanks and a tip of the hat go out to Tom. Typos or errors, report them HERE.

Controversy over sending U.S. crews to Canada

A guest post by:

Frank Carroll

A firestorm of a different sort erupted over the weekend when the Canadians asked for help from US Forest Service Hotshot crews. Of course, the Canadians are our 51st state for all intents and purposes and so we will help them any way we can. It’s kind of like Israel; they call and we go and vice versa.

In this case, there is a problem. It turns out the Canadians have rules about who can enter their country and among those who can’t are anyone with a previous Driving While Intoxicated conviction. That’s a problem for most Hotshot crews.

Just like the Marine Corps, our firefighters are rough and tough, no shrinking violets. They are adventurous souls and not afraid of challenges. They learn the hard way and the lessons stick. Many fire crews have more than one crew member with a DWI conviction in the dim past. Canada has made it known that those crew members are not welcome.

Well, that’s a big problem for our organized crews. Unlike individual firefighters with no loyalty to a cohesive group of people who train, eat, sleep, and work together, Hotshots build and maintain crew cohesion and crew integrity by being a team with a capital “T.” Nobody messes with crew cohesion and no crew leader would allow that to happen. The good of the whole crew comes before the good of any single crew member.

Unless we’re taking about an assignment to Canada. It’s something that happens once in a lifetime, if at all, and it’s a big deal. Many Americans never get to travel outside the country. Fewer still get a chance to go somewhere as professionals and practice their trade with their counterparts. So, it’s exciting to go to Canada to fight fire. It’s rewarding, personally and professionally, and there’s money in it for our people and savings for the firefighting budget. Canada pays our regular wages and overtime and so on, and our local units don’t have to pay a dime: It’s a win-win.

One large contingent of Hotshot crews in the West has pushed back on the Administratively Determined (AD) Operations Officer at Boise, home of the National Interagency Fire Center and the person who decides who goes. “Our crews didn’t go (two years ago) if they couldn’t take the whole crew, especially if they had leadership that couldn’t go. I think it’s dumb, they either want our help or they don’t,” said one senior official.

Sure, we can find some fill-ins to bring the crew up to strength, but we can’t find anyone to replace the crew cohesion, crew integrity, and crew leadership that will be missing if that crew accepts the assignment without some of their best people. And we can’t repair the damage to crew morale.

One crew has simply decided not to accept Canadian assignments. It’s either all of them or none of them. For the Wyoming Hotshots, crew cohesion and the morale of every member is critically important to crew function. Other crews are sending pieces of their crews, leaving good people behind and filling in with people with untested qualifications, and who are unknown to the rest of the crew.

The Canadians have a process to waive the rule and allow our people to come as the integrated professionals they are. Forest Service leadership should sit down with the Canadians and require them to waive the DWI rule for Hotshot crews. Let’s get that fixed so we help with all hands.

During Frank Carrol’s 31-year career with the U.S. Forest Service, he served as a hotshot squad boss, assistant fire management officer, strategic planner, public affairs officer, and command staff officer on national fire teams. Currently he is a Managing Partner at
Professional Forest Management, LLC.

Village in Ontario with no road access being evacuated

The military is flying them out from a small airport nearby

Ontario firefighting aircraft
Water-scooping air tankers and helicopters are being used across the province of Ontario. Photo by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry.

(UPDATED at 2:56 p.m. CDT July 8, 2019)

The Chief and Council in Pikangikum, Ontario have ordered a full evacuation for the community due to a wildfire that has spread to within three kilometers of the town. All residents must register at the Pikangikum High School starting Tuesday at 7:00 am. .

The EOC is organizing flights, boats and a variety of evacuation methods. Residents will be evacuated to Red Lake initially and then marshalled to communities from there. Self-evacuees must also register in order to be put on the manifest and be supported.

Until Monday afternoon, evacuation was only recommended for elders, pregnant women, and anyone with respiratory issues.

The full evacuation will include thousands of residents.

(Originally published at 9:53 a.m. CDT July 8, 2019)

For the second time in just over a month a village in Northwest Ontario is being evacuated due to smoke from wildfires.

Pikangikum First Nation, with a population of several thousand, is in a remote area 87 k (54 miles) north of Red Lake with no road access except in the winter. Around the first of June residents vulnerable to smoke, including elders, pregnant women, and anyone with respiratory issues were flown out. The military landed a C-130 on the nearby 3,700-foot dirt runway north of the village to evacuate about 300 people.

Wildfires northwest Ontario
Map showing wildfires in northwest Ontario detected by a satellite as late as 3:32 a.m. CDT July 8, 2019.

With some of the residents having been back home for only a few weeks another fire, just 5 kilometers (3 miles) west of the community is forcing a repeat of the same scenario. For now, a lake separates the villagers from the fire, but not from the smoke. Officials are discouraging residents from self-evacuating by boat, saying it is not safe to do so.

The fire threatening Pikangikum is named Red Lake 39 and so far has burned over 40,000 hectares (99,000 acres). The fire is being managed by an incident management team as part of a larger cluster of fires. The team is looking for aerial ignition opportunities to tie the fire into natural boundaries. Sprinklers are being set up to protect structures.

That fire and several others in the area were very active Sunday and Sunday night, all of them running about  11 kilometers (7 miles) to the northeast (the red areas on the map above).

The Red Lake 23 Fire south of the community of Keewaywin has burned 71,993 (178,000 acres).

The Red Lake 40 Fire near Nungesser Lake has been mapped at 23,737 hectares (59,000 acres). It is 37 k (23 miles) northeast of Red Lake.

Wildfire activity increases in Manitoba and Ontario

The Red 023 Fire near Sandy Lake in Ontario made a 20 kilometer run Monday afternoon and night

wildfires Manitoba Ontario June 2 2019
Map showing the locations of wildfires in Eastern Manitoba and northwest Ontario at 4:33 a.m. CDT July 2, 2019.

Wildfire activity in Canada has spread from British Columbia and Alberta, east to the provinces of Manitoba and Ontario. In the last several days about a dozen fires have grown much larger in Eastern Manitoba and Northwestern Ontario. Winds out of the west Monday afternoon and night forced some of blazes to grow substantially to the east and northeast.

The largest in the area is in Northwestern Ontario, the Red 023 Fire that started June 15. As illustrated in the map below, between 2:42 p.m. July 1 and 4:33 a.m. CDT July 2 the fire ran east for about 20 kilometers (13 miles). Early Tuesday morning it was 4 miles south of Sandy Lake and six miles southwest of the community of Keewaywin.

The Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry’s latest estimate of the size of the Red 023 Fire was 37,390 Ha (92,392 acres). After the major run, our very, very unofficial estimate using satellite data estimates that it has grown to at least 54,000 Ha (130,000 acres).

Map Red 023 fire Keewaywin Ontario Sandy Lake
Map showing heat on the Red 023 Fire detected by a satellite as late as 4:33 a.m. CDT July 2, 2019. The red areas burned between 2:42 p.m. July 1 and 4:33 a.m. CDT July2.

There are three large fires in Ontario northwest of Trout Lake that all started June 30. (See the map at the top of the article) The sizes were reported by the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry on July 1, 2019:

  • Red 038 Fire, 1,100 Ha (2,700 a)
  • Red 039 Fire, 10,000 Ha (24,700 a)
  • Red 040 Fire, 2,832 Ha (7,100 a)

Two of the larger fires in Manitoba are the NE 020 Fire and the NE 019 Fire, east of Lake Winnipeg and southeast of Playgreen Lake, both reported in mid-June. Their reported sizes are 11,000 Ha (27,000 acres) and 9,000 Ha  (22,000 acres), respectively.

The weather forecast for the Pikangikum, Ontario area through Saturday calls for temperatures in the mid to high 70s F, partly cloudy or sunny, winds generally out of the west during the day at 5 to 12 mph, and very little chance of rain.

The map below shows the forecast for the distribution of wildfire smoke from the fires in Alaska, Manitoba, and Ontario at 7 p.m. CDT July 3, 2019.

Smoke Forecast wildfires Canada
Forecast for the distribution of wildfire smoke at 7 p.m. CDT July 3, 2019, produced July 2 by the Canadian government. The forecast only includes the area within the black border.