Fire news roundup, September 23, 2010

Firefighter unlikely to be charged for starting Fourmile fire

The District Attorney for Boulder County, Colorado, announced Wednesday that their office will not file charges against the volunteer firefighter whose debris burning fire escaped and started the Fourmile fire that burned 169 structures and 6,400 acres earlier this month.

George Fairer told investigators he burned debris on September 2, and that he applied water and stirred the ashes that day and the following day. The Fourmile fire began on September 6.

Ecologist says climate change will increase the number of fires

From the HJNews:

Utah experienced fewer wildfires than usual this summer, but the number of blazes will likely increase over time as a result of climate change, according to a local expert.

Michael Jenkins, Utah State University associate professor of disturbance/wildfire ecology, says there is good evidence that rising temperatures will boost the available fire “fuel load” by killing trees, particularly conifers. In addition, heat and low humidity are conducive to blazes.

“Given that the climate is warming, fuels are drying and it’s stressing plants,” Jenkins explained. “I think that has been reflected in the number of acres burned per year over the last 10 or maybe 20 years.”

Jenkins also pointed to intensive firefighting practices that suppress blazes quickly, but boost the “fuel load” by sparing vegetation that would have burned. As a result, when fires do get out of control, they find plenty of shrubs, grasses and trees to feed them.

You can monitor the Antelope fire in Yellowstone

One of the two live web cams on Mt. Washburn in Yellowstone National Park has an excellent view of the 2,800-acre Antelope fire in the northeast area of the park. Here is a screen grab of an image from the cam taken at 11:49 a.m. today. The fire at that time was not very active; earlier in the morning the camera was shrouded in fog. More information about the fire can be found on InciWeb.

Antelope fire Yellowstone National Park

The image below was taken by the cam on September 21.

Antelope fire Yellowstone National Park

Home owners thank “Bulldozer Man” for saving their houses

The Unified Fire Authority is giving a dozer operator and his D-9 Cat from the nearby landfill credit for saving 32 homes that were threatened by the Machine Gun fire. The fire started during .50-caliber machine gun target practice at a National Guard base near Herriman, Utah.

This gives us an excuse to post this photo of an air tanker working on the fire. Am I the only one that is not fond of the paint job on Tanker 48? Here is a Google search link to a few more photos of the air tanker.

air tanker on Machine Gun fire near Herriman Utah
Photo by David Cise

Minimal hero-worship of firefighters

Michael Wolcott writing about the Schultz fire near Flagstaff for Writers on the Range has some interesting thoughts. Here is an excerpt.

My own response was intense curiosity. I wasn’t worried about “destruction” of the San Francisco Peaks: About the only thing that could destroy the mountain is the same thing that created it — a volcanic eruption. As for the threat to Flagstaff’s neighborhoods, I’m glad nobody’s home got burned. But houses built on the forest edge are obviously at risk. The people who choose to live in them are presumably aware of this, and so take their chances. And, having worked on wildland fire crews, my fund of hero-worship for the firefighters was minimal. It’s just a job. Most firefighters will tell you that they are in it because the money is good and because they like the “juice.” Like the rest of us, firefighters are fascinated by fire.

Can the entire New York Fire Department stop an enormous wildfire?

Pam Slater-Price and Howard Windsor, writing for SignOnSanDiego, say no. Here is an excerpt from an article about preparing for wildfires:

Some critics believe only a blank check can solve our fire problem. Yet fire losses still occur because there are times when fire conditions exceed all reasonable capabilities. To be blunt, you could put the entire New York City Fire Department in front an enormous wildfire and the wildfire would still win.

It is interesting that of all the fire organizations the authors could choose from, they picked New York City, a department not best known for their wildfire prowess, although they probably handle structure fires very well. Here is a photo we posted in an article on September 8 about a fire on Staten Island:

Staten Island fire
You gotta love that full turnout gear on a vegetation fire. Photo: FDNY

Insurance company sent engines to protect homes at Fourmile fire

The Chubb insurance company, which specializes in policies for high-valued homes, dispatched fire engines to the Fourmile fire near Boulder, Colorado earlier this month. Due to a memorandum of understanding they signed with Boulder County earlier this year, the company was able to send engines directly to their policy holders’ homes after obtaining clearance through the Incident Command Post.

Customers of the company that have homes valued in excess of $1 million are eligible to sign up for the free service that will send privately owned fire engines to their homes if threatened by a wildfire. Chubb contracts with Wildfire Defense Systems out of Red Lodge, Montana, which provides crews for emergency fuel mitigation, zone sprinkler system setup, fuel break preparation and fire blocking gel application.

WDS owns Type 3, 4, and 6 wildland engines that are outfitted and inspected per Federal Best Value standards. According to their web site they also have access to a “network of established and qualified engine companies operating under WDS supervision”. Currently these services are offered to qualified policy holders in 13 western states.

The Fourmile fire, which destroyed 169 homes and caused an estimated $217 million in damages, was the first wildfire in Colorado at which insurance company engines worked alongside government-paid fire resources. The company was not completely successful at the fire, since of the 13 customer homes affected, 10 survived but 3 burned.

We have written about these services provided by Chubb previously, HERE and HERE. And, we have no association with them or WDS.

Text $10 to help 12 firefighters who lost their homes in Fourmile fire

Fourmile fire satellite photo
Some of the homes that burned in the Fourmile fire. Photo: Google Earth

A donation fund has been established for the twelve volunteer firefighters who lost their homes in the recent Fourmile fire near Boulder, Colorado. The funds raised will also assist the fire departments that lost their fire stations.

It is very easy to donate $10 to the fund. On your cell phone, text the word “fire” to 27722, and $10 will be added to your phone bill. After you send the text, you will receive a text asking you to confirm your $10 donation to mGive4BoulderFire.

We believe this is a very legitimate fund since it is has been established by the Boulder County Firefighters Association and is endorsed by Boulder County and the Colorado State Fire Chiefs’ Association (CSFCA).

Here is how the fund is described by Boulder County:

The mGive Foundation has set up a mobile donation platform to benefit the BCFFA. This fund will go directly to benefit the firefighters who lost their homes, and the fire departments who lost stations while battling the Fourmile Canyon Fire. Text FIRE to 27722 to donate $10 directly to this cause.

“We’re deeply saddened by the loss of homes and the impact the fire has had on local residents,” says Dan Eamon, President of the Boulder County Firefighters Association. Eamon, who has also been working in the Incident Command Post since the early hours of the fire expressed particular concern for “…our fellow firefighter friends who lost their homes”. “I know this fund will help these firefighters and their families who are have experienced a compounded loss”.

Media inquiries may be directed to: Bre Zigich, mGive, Phone: +1 303.531.5505 x28, Email:

Update of Fourmile fire near Boulder, Sept. 10

UPDATE @ 10:20 a.m., Friday, Sept. 10

A few minutes ago someone posted an update at the InciWeb site for the Fourmile fire. It is the best update we have seen from the various incident management teams in the last four days. Here is an excerpt:

General Information/Announcements:

Thomas’ Great Basin Type 1 Incident Management Team took command of the fire at 6 p.m. last evening. Efforts are focused on coordinating with local agencies and the community to safely suppress the fire while ensuring the safety of the firefighters and general public, and to protect all structures within and adjacent to the fire. Firefighters spent a windy night extinguishing flare-ups near homes in the Sunshine Canyon area. Despite winds speeds in excess of 30 mph, the fire did not damage any homes or breach constructed fire lines. Gusty winds are expected again this afternoon.


Boulder County Sheriff’s Office announced that they will begin allowing residents access to some homes beginning at 9 am today. More information is available at www., or by calling 720-564-2935.

Evacuations: Several subdivisions remain evacuated and road closures are in still effect. For a complete list of the areas affected visit www.

Today’s Activity:

Firefighters will continue to construct control lines especially in the Boulder Heights area and to patrol and reinforce existing control lines throughout the fire area. Firefighters and equipment will be staged in several areas to provide quick response to fire spread or new spots that may result from forecasted gusty winds. Aircraft are available to support firefighting needs on the ground.


Posted at 9:54 a.m, Friday, Sept. 10

Someone sent us an email asking for an updated map of the fire. With the red flag warning and the winds predicted for Thursday night, a lot of people in the Boulder area, including those living in the city, have been concerned about the potential for the fire to spread. The warnings and the re-evacuations have people on edge.

The most current map we can find, after scouring several web sites, is one posted by Boulder County, and it is dated September 9 at 11:45 a.m. The maps of the fire at the official web page for the fire at InciWeb are out of date and/or terrible. And when we checked at 9:54 a.m on Friday, the InciWeb page had not been updated in the last 13 hours. It is a shame that the three Incident Management Teams that have managed this fire have not established, after four days, a one-stop internet location where concerned residents can get the information they need.

The USFS infrared mapping aircraft, N149Z, flew the fire at 2:20 a.m on Friday. The fire perimeter information from that flight has not been posted, as far as we can tell.

Beginning today, we will be working on a time-consuming project, and will not be able to post much additional information about the fire. Hopefully, these sites will have all the information you need:


Boulder County Office of Emergency Management

Boulder County Twitter site

Update and map of Fourmile fire near Boulder, Sept. 9

UPDATE @ 11:20 a.m., Sept. 9

Boulder County is reporting this morning that their latest count shows that 169 residences and 3 outbuildings have been destroyed, and 25 structures have been damaged by the Fourmile fire near Boulder. So far they have surveyed about 80% of the burned area.

The Fourmile fire’s InciWeb page has not been updated in the last 18 hours. A Type 2 incident management team has been on site for a couple of days, and a Type 1 team has arrived. Maybe they still need more personnel. Information that is available to the public about this fire is scarce, and the little there is, is scattered on various sites, leading to questions about the accuracy and timeliness of the information.


First post today @ 9:00 a.m., Sept. 9

It is still rather difficult to get much detailed information about the Fourmile fire west of Boulder, Colorado. From an abbreviated version of the Incident Status Summary (ICS-209) issued last evening, we know that the revised size is now listed as 6,363 acres and the incident management team is calling it 10% contained. It goes on to say that 136 primary structures have been identified as burned so far, along with another 4 outbuildings. Even though burned structures are still being counted, the Fourmile fire has become the most destructive in Colorado history. The 2002 Hayman fire, started by a U.S. Forest Service Fire Prevention Technician, burned 133 homes.

Liz has created a map showing the locations of burned structures on the Fourmile fire, current as of 8 p.m. on September 8. The original map is HERE. Keep in mind that the data about burned structures is not yet complete and may be inaccurate at this early stage. Click on the map to see a larger version.


The Incident Status Summary report lists only two injuries, a broken finger and an eye laceration. Additional information on the report includes:

Observed Fire Behavior: Single tree torching with creeping in Douglas-fir, Ponderosa pine and grass.

Planned Actions: Starting direct control lines. 2 Fire Management Modules will begin a detailed damage assessment in conjunction with Boulder County Sheriff’s Office.

The perimeter map below is current as of 7:32 p.m. Sept. 8. Click on it to see a larger version.

map of fourmile fire near Boulder

InciWeb, which should be the ultimate source of public information for the fire has not been updated in the last 16 hours. The Boulder Office of Emergency Management has the most current information about closures, evacuations, and burned structures.

Thursday at 6:00 p.m., three and a half days after the fire started, a Type 1 incident management team, the highest-qualified category of teams, will assume command, taking over from a Type 2 team. The Type 1 team was ordered sometime before 8:00 a.m. on Tuesday. The new Incident Commander will be Jim Thomas along with his Great Basin team. According to their web site, Mr. Thomas’ team has not been on an assignment since the Gunbarrel Fire near Cody, Wyoming in 2008, but 2009 was a really slow year for wildland fires, and many firefighters and teams got few if any assignments to large campaign fires.

Great Basin Team
The Great Basin National Incident Management Team, at the 2008 Iron Complex fire, when the Incident Commander was Paul Broyles. The photo was taken at a Buddist Temple.