In a comment on the earlier post about the Hot-Dry-Windy Index (HDW), Brian Potter, a research meteorologist with the U.S. Forest Service, offered to provide some preliminary results looking at how HDW performed during the 2017 Chetco Bar Fire in Oregon, as well as how the Haines index performed during that fire.
The HDW is a new tool developed for firefighters to predict weather conditions which can affect the spread of wildfires. It is described as being very simple and only considers the atmospheric factors of heat, moisture, and wind.
Mr. Potter has provided three figures showing the weather indices computed from the National Weather Service’s NAM model analyses. Because they use a different model from the HDW website, he does not have historic percentile values for HDW, but they are illustrative, nonetheless. These are preliminary data and have not been through peer review or evaluation.
Here is a graph of HDW values compared to growth on the Chetco Bar Fire:
Here are the Haines Index values for the mid-elevation version of the Index:
And the high elevation version of the Haines Index:
Mr. Potter said he has some thoughts about the graphs, but is interested in hearing what others take away from them.
The Chetco Bar Fire in southwest Oregon started July 12, 2017 and burned over 191,000 acres.
Above: The Chetco Bar Fire on July 13, 2017, day two, as seen from a helicopter during the Type 3 Incident Commander’s first recon flight.
Originally published at 10:47 a.m. MDT October 2, 2017.
In mid-August when the Chetco Bar Fire in southwest Oregon quadrupled in size during a four-day period from 22,042 to 97,758 acres, some began wondering, in comments on this site and other venues, why the U.S. Forest Service did not suppress it soon after it was reported by a commercial airline pilot at 2:42 p.m. July 12.
Since it started the fire has burned 191,090 acres and cost taxpayers almost $61 million.
The USFS has released a high tech timeline presentation that highlights some of the decisions and events that occurred during the course of the fire. It is embedded at the bottom of this article. Some of the interactive map features may not work — if that is the case, you can view it the USFS website.
The fire started from a lightning strike during a storm on June 24 and 25 and was spotted by the airline pilot 17 days later. The timeline does not mention if infrared flights or any other detection methods were used that possibly could have resulted in an initial attack on the fire soon after it started rather than more than two weeks later.
A fixed wing Air Attack ship was dispatched after the airliner pilot’s report. Air Attack recommended dispatching a Single Engine Air Tanker (SEAT), a helicopter for water bucket support, and inserting rappellers. At that time the fire had burned about half an acre.
The first four firefighters rappelled into the area an hour and 32 minutes after the first report. Three helicopters dropped 17,280 gallons of water on the fire that afternoon and evening until after 9 p.m., but no air tankers worked the fire until a SEAT made two drops on the second day, July 13. While the helicopters dropped water, the four firefighters built a helispot. At the end of the first day Air Attack reported the fire was holding at three-quarters of an acre.
On day two a second load of four rappellers was sent to the fire. Below is an excerpt from the USFS timeline, and following that, the high-tech timeline:
“[On day two, July 13, the second load of four rappellers] were given a briefing, then loaded in the helicopter at 9 a.m. to fly the 20 minutes to the fire location. From the air, the fire appeared to have grown to about 10 acres overnight, with a few areas of isolated smoke columns. The crew noted the steep ground, the old burn scar and the fact the fire was burning mid-slope. They could see a lot of rollout (burning debris rolling below the main fire). Due to the remoteness of the area and the steep topography, the crew requested a few more orbits around the fire to gather more intelligence from the high vantage point.
“Upon landing, their perspective changed. “The ground was really, really steep. We know views from the air can be deceiving, but we couldn’t see the fire or the smoke from the helispot. I originally thought the trees below the helispot were reproduction from an old fire, but then I realized the slope was so steep I was only seeing the tree tops. They were actually 200 foot tall, 4-foot DBH (diameter at breast height) trees,” said a senior firefighter on the second load of rappellers.
“One rappeller began scouting for an escape route along the ridge to the north of the helispot, and found extremely dense vegetation with manzanita, tan oak and madrone, along with dead and downed logs. The ground was covered with madrone leaves that were slick – combined with the steep terrain, it made staying upright a challenge.
The U.S. Forest Service distributed this photo on Twitter September 17 that shows at least 90 Oregon Army National Guard Soldiers during a firefighting training exercise at the Oregon Department of Public Safety Standards and Training in Salem, Oregon, August 28, 2017.
Nearly 125 Citizen-Soldiers from the 41st Infantry Brigade Combat Team volunteered to join the second iteration of personnel, also known as NG-2, activated by Governor Kate Brown to assist with wildfires across the state of Oregon. The Oregon National Guard is currently assigned to three fires in central and southern Oregon; the Whitewater, High Cascades Complex, and Chetco Bar fires. (Photo by Sgt. 1st Class April Davis, Oregon Military Department Public Affairs)
Above: Satellite photo from August 27, 2017 showing smoke created by fires in the Northwestern United States, including Chetco Bar, Liberty, Rice Ridge, and Jolly Mountain Fires. The red dots on the map represent heat detected by the satellite on August 28.
(Originally published at 9:55 a.m. MDT August 28, 2017)
The Chetco Bar Fire in Southwest Oregon has not been growing as quickly in recent days as it did earlier when it quadrupled in size over four days and crossed the 100,000-acre threshold. The most recent mapping puts it at almost 108,000 acres. The area is under a Red Flag Warning on through Tuesday for gusty southwest winds and low humidities which could result in increased burning intensity and rapid fire growth.
The 4,400-acre Jolly Mountain Fire in Central Washington is near a Red Flag Warning area. Fire officials’ expectations for Monday:
Southern and western flanks of the fire will become active with uphill crown runs both on the east and west sides of West Fork drainage. SE flank will continue to back downslope. Fire will become increasingly active as it spreads to the south, where it loses its downslope effect and in more exposed to general winds. Fire likely to cross Sasse Ridge to the west.
The 12,800-acre Liberty Fire has been burning northeast of Missoula, Montana since July 15 while the Rice Ridge Fire, not far away, has spread over 27,800 acres since it started two weeks later. Hot, dry weather on Monday could cause both blazes to become more active.
Above: Firefighters on structure protection duty set up a sprinkler system on the Chetco Bar Fire in Southwest Oregon. Undated photo on Inciweb.
(Originally published at 9:03 a.m. PDT August 24, 2017)
The wildfires in Southwest Oregon and Northwest California continue to grow at a fairly steady pace, with occasional large expansions during wind events.
The Chetco Bar Fire five miles northeast of Brookings, Oregon was mapped very early Thursday morning at 102,333 acres, moving past the 100,000-acre threshold into “megafire” territory. But it is still one-fifth the size of the Biscuit Fire that covered almost half a million acres in the same general area in 2002.
The map of the Chetco Bar Fire shows that while it continues to spread along much of the perimeter that growth has slowed since it quadrupled in size over a four-day period, August 18 to 22. It added 2,389 acres on Wednesday through minimal flanking, backing, and creeping fire behavior due to cooler temperatures and higher humidities.
More fighters have poured in to the Brookings, Oregon area which is five miles southwest of the fire. Over 1,100 personnel are now working on the blaze, including 21 hand crews, 118 engines, and 8 helicopters. The incident management teams report that 25 structures have burned.
Three teams are assigned to the Chetco Bar Fire: Livingston’s Type 1 team, Greer’s Type 2 team, and Houseman’s National Incident Management Organization (NIMO) team. (The NIMO folks need to come up with a better name for their teams.)
The fires in Northwest California do not receive much press coverage since they are in remote, sparsely populated areas. The largest is the Eclipse Complex of five fires 10 miles north of Happy Camp which has burned 40,500 acres. It is also known as “CA-KNF-006098 Complex”. On Wednesday the inversion that had been moderating fire behavior lifted over one of the five fires, the Prescott Fire, which became active and burned towards the Oak Fire. This produced a large smoke column that caused ash fall along the Hwy 96 corridor and throughout the Happy Camp area.
In other wildfire news, the Secretaries of the Interior and Agriculture are visiting Missoula and the Lolo Peak Fire today (August 24), accompanied by the USFS National Fire Director, Shawna Legarza.