Investigators used GPS tracking device to nab firefighter-arsonist

Zane Wallace Peterson
Zane Wallace Peterson

Investigators used GPS tracking devices to gather evidence about a former firefighter who is accused of setting several wildfires in California, including the Clover Fire that killed one resident, burned 8,073 acres, and destroyed 60 homes.

Zane Wallace has been charged with over 200 arson-related counts, including 60 for arson to occupied structures. The fires occurred in September and October of 2013 in Shasta County.

According to information uncovered by the Redding Searchlight, investigators interviewed Mr. Wallace the day after the Clover Fire started, and later placed the tracking devices on two of his vehicles, which were later recorded at the location of some of the fires that started after the GPS devices were in place.

The U.S. Forest Service confirmed that Mr. Peterson was a former employee on the Mendocino National Forest. He worked as a firefighter (Forestry Technician) and fire engine operator from May 15, 2005 until October 22, 2012.


Thanks and a hat tip go out to Dick

Wildfire briefing, September 12, 2013

Live streaming of memorial service for Token Adams

The memorial service for Token Adams, the firefighter who was killed in an apparent ATV accident while scouting a fire in New Mexico, will begin at 10 a.m. MDT today, Thursday, at KRQE and also KOBT.

Inmate firefighter truck rolls over in Arizona

An Arizona Department of Corrections crew carrier transporting a wildland fire crew rolled over Wednesday afternoon on State Route 79 near Florence, Arizona. Several inmates and one corrections officer were injured, but none of the injuries were considered life-threatening. It is unclear what caused the accident but authorities are looking for a newer white Chevrolet Tahoe or Suburban that may have been involved. The older male driver of the SUV is believed to have left the scene traveling south.

Deceased person found in Clover Fire in Northern California

On September 10, 2013 during the late evening hours, the Shasta County Sheriff’s Office located a deceased person inside the Clover Fire perimeter on Coal Pit Road in the community of Igo, California while conducting a welfare check. Next of kin was notified and the person has been identified as Brian Stanley Henry, 56. We send out our sincere condolences to the family of Mr. Henry.

Survey says voters have strong connection to national forests

A recent survey of voters commissioned by the National Forest Foundation concluded that they have a strong personal connection to National Forests. These connections are so strong that four in five voters polled said despite federal budget problems, funding to safeguard National Forests should not be cut. Seventy-two percent of voters surveyed would support additional funding to maintain and restore National Forest lands even if it meant a small tax increase.

Such supporters include groups that are traditionally more tax sensitive: 63 percent of seniors and 56 percent of conservatives said they would support additional funding even if it meant a small tax increase.
wildfire serious problem
Forty-four percent (44%) of voters see uncontrollable wildfires as a serious problem. Just under half (44%) of U.S. voters say “uncontrollable wildfires that destroy property and forests” “is a serious problem, facing the nation” – with one-in-four calling it an “extremely” or “very” serious problem. This is the highest proportion to register this view since 2007. Concerns about this issue are drastically different by region, with 67% of voters in the West saying wildfires are an extremely or very serious problem and two-thirds deeming them to be at least somewhat serious.

Distribution of federal disaster aid to states

Elected representatives of some of the states that received the most federal disaster aid for wildfires, crop insurance, and storm damage, voted against federal aid for victims of superstorm Sandy.

Thief hit fire stations while firefighters fought wildfire

While crews in Walnut Creek were out fighting the Morgan Fire east of Berkeley, California Sunday night, a thief broke into Fire Station No. 7 and rummaged through lockers, desks and gym bags making off with money, an iPad, two firefighters’ wedding bands, and a watch. A second firehouse was also targeted, but a sleeping firefighter scared away the thief.

Since then, firefighters say they’ve received endless food donations, hundreds of dollars in gift cards, and offers from multiple jewelry stores to replace the stolen rings.

Tanker 131 certified

T 131 taxiing
T 131 taxiing. Photo by Dan Megna.

Coulson’s Air Tanker 131, a converted C-130Q, has been fully certified by the FAA, the Interagency AirTanker Board, and the U.S. Forest Service. The 3,500-gallon aircraft was carded on Tuesday and the pilot check rides occurred Wednesday. It should be ready to drop retardant on fires today, Thursday.

Conair begins flight testing their BAe Avro RJ85 air tanker 

Conair RJ85 first flight
Conair’s BAe Avro RJ85 first flight. BAE Systems photo.

Conair Group of Abbotsford, British Columbia has started flight testing their BAe Avro RJ85, identified as Tanker 160, which is being converted from a jet-powered airliner into an air tanker. The RJ85 is a derivative of the BAe-146, but with improved engines. The 146 first flew in 1981 while the RJ85 was first delivered in 1993. Conair is the largest air tanker operator in the world with a fleet of around 50 fixed-wing special mission aircraft, including Convair 580s, Conair Firecats, Douglas DC-6s, and Lockheed Electra air tankers.

Tanker 160 first flight
Conair’s Tanker 160, a BAe Avro RJ85 after first flight, August 21, 2013. Photo by Coastal Pacific Aviation.

The aircraft still has to be certified by the FAA, the Interagency AirTanker Board, and the U.S. Forest Service before it can be used on federal fires in the United States, a process which could take days, weeks, or months.

More information about the BAe conversion projects going on at four different companies.

Fire department packs up Granite Mountain Hotshots memorial fence

From The Daily Courier:

The chain-link fence in front of Prescott’s Fire Station 7 stood bare Tuesday morning for the first time since soon after 19 Granite Mountain Hotshots died in the line of duty more than two months ago.

In an effort to move forward from the June 30 Yarnell Hill wildfire tragedy, the Prescott Fire Department called for the removal this week of the thousands of items that materialized on the fence in the days and weeks after the Hotshots’ deaths.

Several dozen firefighters from around the area were on hand at the Sixth Street station to work with about 30 volunteers in taking down and packing up the curtain of interwoven flags, T-shirts, signs, and photos that had shrouded the fire station.

California: Clover Fire southwest of Redding

(UPDATE at 2:39 p.m. PDT, September 12, 2013)

There has not been much change on the Clover fire southwest of Redding, California. The satellite has not detected any large areas of heat for a couple of days, but the reported size, at 7,993 acres Wednesday night, increased by about 900 acres. This may be a result of firefighters burning out vegetation to construct control lines. The Incident Commander claims 50 65 percent containment.

Fire and law enforcement officials have developed a repopulation plan, with expectations of allowing residents back into the area between September 12 and 14.

This will be our last update of the Clover Fire unless there is a major change in the status of the incident.


(UPDATE at 4:43 PDT, September 11, 2013)

On September 10, 2013 during the late evening hours, the Shasta County Sheriff’s Office located a deceased person inside the Clover Fire perimeter on Coal Pit Road in the community of Igo, California while conducting a welfare check. Next of kin was notified and the person has been identified as Brian Stanley Henry, 56. We send out our sincere condolences to the family of Mr. Henry.

Firefighters continued to work throughout Tuesday night and into Wednesday strengthening controls lines and mopping up hot spots around the fire perimeter. A Damage Inspection Team will continue to assess the properties today in the affected communities. Evacuations are still in effect.

CAL FIRE reports that the fire has burned 7,012 acres, is being fought by 1,346 personnel, and is 40 percent contained. The fire destroyed 30 residences and 50 outbuildings, and damaged an additional 30 residences.


(UPDATED at 8:02 a.m. PDT, September 10, 2013)

CAL FIRE reports that the Clover fire 6 miles southwest of the outskirts of Redding, California has destroyed 80 structures and damaged an additional 30. It continues to move toward the southwest. In less than 24 hours it has blackened 7,400 acres and has required the evacuation of the Happy Valley, Igo, and Cottonwood areas. The incident commander is calling it 40 percent contained.

A map of the fire is below shows heat detected by a satellite. If the fire is burning in light vegetation in some areas, such as grass, the fire may cool in those areas before the next pass of the satellite, resulting in no large areas of heat being detected at that time. This may account for the gaps shown in the heat map. Or, the firefighters may be burning out vegetation ahead of the fire.

Map of the Clover Fire  3:55 a.m. PDT September 10, 2013
Map of the Clover Fire. The red squares indicate heat detected by a satellite at 3:55 a.m. PDT September 10, 2013. The yellow squares were from 2:14 p.m. September 9. (click to enlarge)

CAL FIRE’s Team 5, a Type 1 Incident Management Team, is scheduled to assume command of the fire at 3 p.m. Tuesday.

Resources assigned to the fire include 1,129 personnel, 107 engines, 36 hand crews, 6 air tankers, and 18 water tenders.


Overnight the wind slowed considerably and the relative humidity increased, allowing firefighters to make some progress. The forecast for the fire area for Tuesday calls for 101 degrees, a relative humidity of 13 percent, clear skies, and north winds of 6 mph changing to come out of the south after noon at about the same speed.


Residents have been advised to evacuate from the following areas:

  • Clear Creek Road and Cloverdale Road
  • Everything southwest to Gas Point Road and Small Farms and Marsha Way
  • Gas Point Road and Happy Valley Road
  • Small Farms track south to Black Pine Road
  • Cloverdale from Clear Creek to Oak
  • Oak to Palm

(UPDATED at 5:05 p.m. MDT, September 9, 2013)

Map of Clover Fire
Map of Clover Fire. The red squares represent heat detected by a satellite at 2:14 p.m. PDT, September 9, 2013 (click to enlarge)

The fire placed a large order for additional resources, including over a dozen strike teams of engines (five engines per strike team) and five strike teams of hand crews (two crews per strike team).

You can listen to some of the radio traffic here.


(Originally published at 4 p.m. PDT, September 9, 2013)

A fire that has only been burning for about three hours has already blackened approximately 1,500 2,200 acres in northern California and is causing evacuations. The Clover Fire was reported at 12:32 p.m. PDT today, Monday, and has spread to about 2 miles south of Igo, 6 miles southwest of the outskirts of Redding, and 10 miles west of Anderson (see the above map).

The fire started south of Clear Creek Road and east of Gas Point Road, but by 3:30 p.m. Monday had crossed Gas Point Road.

Evacuations are occurring in the following areas: Small Farms Rd., Clear Creek Rd., Cloverdale Rd. southwest to Gas Point Rd., Cloverdale Rd. from Clear Creek Rd. to Oak, Oak to Palm, Small Farm Track south to Black Pine Rd.

The two DC-10 Very Large Air Tankers had been ordered for the Morgan Fire east of San Francisco, but shortly after they arrived at that fire they were diverted to this new Clover Fire.


Strong winds and low relative humidities are challenging firefighters. The weather station at the Redding Airport 11 miles east of the fire Monday afternoon recorded 17 mph north and northwest winds gusting at 27 to 30 mph along with a relative humidity of 7 percent. The temperature at the airport reached 15 degrees. The forecast for the fire area for the next two days is slightly more favorable, calling for temperatures in the mid to high 90s, winds at 3 to 6 mph (north on Tuesday and south on Wednesday), humidities of 14 to 22 percent, virtually no chance of rain, and little if any cloud cover.