The 12,518-acre Canyon Fire on Vandenberg Air Force Base has not spread over the last 24 hours.
However a new fire, named Washington, broke out on Thursday east of the 15,000-foot runway on the base and burned vigorously until it was knocked down by firefighters. As of 1 a.m. Friday it had blackened about 204 acres and is being described by the Air Force as controlled. The preliminary cause is a powerline downed by strong winds. It generated a 0.6-acre spot fire over a mile south of the main blaze.
(Originally published at 1:56 p.m. PDT September 21, 2016)
According to overnight mapping the Canyon Fire on Vandenberg Air Force Base on the southern California coast has burned 12,353 acres, an increase of over 2,000 acres from the previous day’s report. Approximately 1,056 firefighters from Vandenberg AFB, U.S. Forest Service, CAL FIRE, and Santa Barbara County Fire are combating the blaze.
Crews saw very little growth in the fire overnight, due in part to the heavy marine layer and calm winds. This allowed ground teams to further construct and improve containment lines along base boundaries and key rocket launch support facilities. Firefighting aircraft are being used today to assist firefighters ahead of anticipated increases in wind speed, which could gust as high as 30 mph later in the week.
Above: Fatal water render rollover, September 21, 2016. Screenshot from KEYT video.
This morning the rollover of a water tender enroute to the Canyon Fire on Vandenberg Air Force Base resulted in the death of a firefighter. Ventura County Fire Department reported that Fire Engineer Ryan Osler, a passenger in the truck, lost his life in a line of duty vehicle accident while assigned to the fire. The driver of the truck self-extracted and was transported to a local hospital with minor injuries.
The water tender had designations indicating that it was a California Office of Emergency Services apparatus. OES vehicles are often farmed out to local fire departments, such as Ventura County FD.
KYET reported the accident occurred at about 6:20 a.m. on state Route 246 at Purisima Road in Lompoc which is near the fire burning on the military base on the southern California coast.
Unfortunately rollovers of fire vehicles, especially water tenders, happen far too often.
Our sincere condolences go out to the family, coworkers, and friends of Engineer Osler.
The fire has spread to within less than a mile of Space Launch Complex 3 north of the perimeter where the launch of a Saturn V rocket scheduled for September 18 had to be postponed. The fire has also burned very close to Space Launch Complex 8 on the southwest side of the blaze.
The weather on the fire varies greatly due to the proximity to the Pacific Ocean. Where the fire is burning adjacent to Space Launch Complex 8 it is only a few thousand feet from the coast at 400 feet above sea level. The ridge in the interior of the fire is at 1,500 feet. The relative humidity, wind direction, wind speed, and temperature have been very different along the coast, the interior of the fire, and at Lompoc. The minimum humidity ranged from 12 to 30 percent in these areas on Monday. On the west side of the fire, which was the most active area, the wind was variable but mostly from the south during the day, but switched to come out of the north after 9 p.m.
The photo below illustrates the variable weather in the area. While there is fog and high humidity in a low-lying area, the fire hauls ass just beyond.
The weather is difficult to forecast because of the above issues, but on Tuesday firefighters should expect more favorable conditions, with temperatures around 70, RH of 30 to 60 percent, and west winds at 9 mph.
(Originally published at 2:20 p.m. PDT September 19, 2016)
A wildfire burning on Vandenberg Air Force Base on the southern California coast delayed the launch of a satellite. As of very early Monday morning the Canyon Fire was approximately a mile from Launch Complex 3, where an Atlas V rocket was scheduled on Sunday to send a WorldView-4 payload into orbit. The satellite will capture high-resolution images of Earth from space.
“Our procedures require stand-by firefighting crews for every launch to ensure safety of our personnel and facility protection,” said Col. Paul Nosek, Emergency Operations Center commander. “We’ve delayed the launch in order to concentrate our resources on the situation at hand.”
No facilities have been damaged by the fire in the remote canyon between Arguello and Santa Ynez Roads.
According to Col. Paul Nosek, no space launch complexes or critical range assets are in immediate danger.
The fire has been burning since September 17. The cause has not been released. Monday morning it was mapped at 4,528 acres. It has caused power outages in several facilities on the south part of the base. Those buildings are currently operating on generator power. The base’s Civil Engineers will sustain the generators until downed electrical lines can be repaired and commercial power is restored to the facilities.
Firefighters are fighting the fire with air tankers, helicopters, dozers from Santa Barbara County Fire, and personnel from federal, state, and local fire agencies. The aircraft are flying out of Santa Maria and Paso Robles airports.
The photos below are courtesy of Santa Barbara County Fire.