The red dots on the map above represent heat detected on the Fishhawk Fire by a satellite at 2:12 p.m. MDT September 4, 2019. It is uncertain if they indicate actual surface spread of the fire toward the southwest, or if the heat was detected in an intense convection column in the atmosphere above the fire.
The smoke in the upper atmosphere was blowing off to the east, but perhaps lower level local winds, an up-canyon breeze, could have pushed the smoke and the fire to the south. During the fixed wing mapping flight at 8:19 p.m. on September 3 there was intense fire activity on the south edge of the fire.
(To see all articles on Wildfire Today about the Fishhawk Fire, including the most recent, click here.)
The Fishhawk Fire is 38 miles west of Cody, Wyoming, six miles east of the east entrance to Yellowstone National Park.
Scroll down to see more maps and information.
(UPDATED at 1:42 p.m. MDT September 4, 2019)
A mapping flight Tuesday night found that the Fishhawk Fire 38 miles west of Cody, Wyoming spread up to about one-quarter mile in all directions Tuesday except on the east side where it has reached a steep hog-back ridge 10,000 to 11,000 feet above sea level.
A Type 2 Incident Management Team will in-brief Wednesday prior to assuming command of the fire.
The resources assigned to the fire as of Tuesday evening included no hand crews, 3 engines, and 3 helicopters for a total of 29 personnel.
The 4,581-acre fire so far is confined to a north-south drainage that has a similar high elevation ridge on the west side. The fire is not being fully suppressed, so it is possible that firefighters are expecting the 10,000-foot ridges with light fuels to contain the perimeter on the east and west sides.
About 3.5 miles to the north is a highly-traveled highway, 14/16/20, leading from Cody to the east entrance of Yellowstone National Park. If it crosses the highway it would be burning on primarily south-facing slopes which would normally be very conducive to additional fire spread. However it would most likely be burning in the footprint of the 2008 Gunbarrel Fire that burned at least 67,000 acres. The light vegetation in the fire scar would present less resistance to control. Like the Fishhawk Fire, the Gunbarrel Fire was not suppressed. On August 15, 2008 the Shoshone National Forest had a plan for the maximum manageable area to cover 416,000 acres.
“The winds are just howling,” Clint Dawson said Wednesday, describing the wind’s rate around the Gunbarrel Fire.
Dawson is the zone fire manager for Shoshone National Forest.
In the valley — in the vicinity of the newly-relocated Gunbarrel Fire camp at Buffalo Bill State Park — the wind was gusting to 40-60 mph in the early afternoon on Wednesday. The new incident command camp is just above the reservoir west of Cody.
An aircraft flying over the fire Wednesday reported winds reaching 115 mph at 11,000 feet, Dawson said.
The fire was spotting on the east side of 12,000-foot high Trout Peak, according to an incident report.
On Monday we posted a list of fatalities on wildland fires. After combing through the 800+ posts on Wildfire Today during 2008, on Tuesday, December 30, we listed the top stories for January-April. Today we’ll cover May-August, and on January 1, September-December.
Posted below are excerpts from the articles. To read the entire articles, click on the links.
May 10 California: Schwarzenegger’s fire preparedness
The California governor seems to be concerned about the wildfire potential this summer. In a press conference he was talking about the fire hazards around his home:
“I was not aware of it until an expert from the fire department told me that, ‘This is terrible. This is a fire hazard all around your house — you are living in the middle of it, get rid of this grass, get rid of these shrubs or you are going to be in trouble.’
He issued a lengthy Executive Order that detailed numerous policies that will affect CalFire this year. Here are some of the highlights:Staff additional fire crews, fire engines, helitack crews, fire bulldozers, equipment and aviation resources as warranted based on fire threat conditions.
May 12 “Wildland Firefighter” demobilizes
Wildland Firefightermagazine just announced in it’s May issue that it is ceasing publication. It will no longer exist as a stand-alone publication dedicated to wildland fire. In a publisher’s note, Jeff Berend, the Vice President and Publisher said:
“Beginning in June, we will be merging Wildland Firefighter into a new Wildland/Urban Interface (WUI) section in FireRescue magazine…..
But from a business perspective, we simply have not been able to grow the readership or advertising beyond that loyal core. At the same time, publishing costs have risen at unprecedented levels.”
Wildland Firefighter and FireRescue are both published by Elsevier Public Safety. Wildland Firefighter became the “official publication of the International Association of Fire Chiefs” a couple of years ago after the IAFC severed their relationship with Fire Chief magazine.
May 28 Increased risk of bladder cancer for firefighters
It seems like there are more and more chronic diseases that firefighters are predisposed to get. Now you can add bladder cancer to the list.
ScienceDaily (May 15, 2008) — A new study presented at the Annual Scientific Meeting of the American Urological Association (AUA) suggests that firefighters may be at an increased risk of developing transitional cell carcinoma (TCC, or bladder cancer) and should be considered for routine annual screening. Currently, no guidelines exist for regular TCC screening.
May 29 Montana: two firefighters struck by lightning
Two firefighters working on a prescribed fire on the Flathead National Forest were struck by lightning Thursday. They were on on the Tally Lake Ranger District when lighting struck some trees near where they were working. The firefighters, a 25-year old woman and a 29-year old man are members of a Hot Shot crew. Both were both transported to hospitals, the woman by helicopter and the man by ambulance. They are listed in stable condition.
May 30 San Diego Grand jury issues scathing report about fire preparedness
The Grand Jury of San Diego County investigated the response to the Witch Creek and Guejito fires of last fall that burned 368,340 acres, destroyed 2,653 structures, and claimed the lives of 10 citizens . They just issued their report and it pulls no punches.
June 2 Terry Barton released from prison
Terry Barton, convicted of starting the 138,000 acre Hayman fire in 2003, was released from prison this morning. She started the fire while she worked as a Fire Prevention Technician on the Pike National Forest in Colorado.
The fire burned 133 homes and forced 8,000 people to evacuate, including the judge who presided over one of the proceedings related to the case. She served six years in a federal prison in Fort Worth, Texas.
The picture is from 2002 when she appeared in court, courtesy of the Denver Post.
June 3 Fire season outlook for Washington
The Wenatchee World web site has an interesting story about the outlook for fire activity in north central Washington state this year.
Officials say other than a late start to the season, there are no strong indicators for predicting this year’s season.
“We’re always going to have a fire season. And it’s always going to depend on how receptive (fuels) are to ignition, and then, do we get ignition,” said Bobbie Scopa, fire management officer for the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forests.
Scopa said the season will partly depend on June rains, although lots of rain can mean high grasses, which dry o ut quickly in hot weather and allow for a fast-spreading fire. Mostly, she said, it will depend on the number of fires started by lightning storms, escaped campfires or vehicles and equipment without spark arresters.
Scopa said snowpack may help determine when the fire season will start but isn’t always an indicator of the severity of the season. She pointed to 2005, one of the driest winters on record, when North Central Washington saw little fire activity. That was followed by 2006, when a winter with heavy snowpack melted into a summer with the 175,000-acre Tripod Fire — the largest wildfire in the region’s history.
“It’s pretty tough to make too big a prediction,” she said.
However, Rick Ochoa, a meteorologist working at NICC in Boise, said:
“…the cooler spring weather and heavy snowpack do mean that overall there’s a slimmer chance that the Northwest will have numerous large fires.”
Ochoa further goes out on a limb to predict:
“…the Northwest will see 473 fires, burning 17,873 acres by the end of June. That’s compared with an average for June 30 of 605 fires burning 24,508 acres.”
UPDATE, December 29, 2008 For the 12-year period, 1985-2006, in the Northwest Geographic Area, there were an average of 6,774 fires per year for a total average acreage of 627,884. The average size of the fires was 93 acres.
In 2008, through October 7, there were 3,927 fires for a total acreage of 289,853. The average size of the fires was 73 acres.
June 4 Fire in North Carolina makes 5-mile run
The Evans Road fire in North Carolina last night jumped containment lines and “made a 5-mile run” according to the NC Division of Forest Resources. The fire which tripled in size yesterday has now burned 10,000 acres in Hyde and Washington counties, and has spread onto the Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge.
UPDATE, December 29, 2008 The fire eventually burned over 40,000 acres. The last update on Inciweb on August 5 showed that it was 90% contained at 40,704 acres.
June 11 Ophir Fire 2 miles south of Oroville, California, 1,600 acres, 21 residences and 28 outbuildings lost. The spread of this fire has been stopped for now.
The photo of the Ophir fire below is courtesy of the Enterprise-Record.
June 12 California: Staffing shortages in USFS
An excerpt from a lengthy article in the Press-Enterprise:
By BEN GOAD Washington Bureau
Roughly a third of California’s fleet of federal fire engines is currently unavailable due to staffing shortages, according to figures supplied by a group that represents U.S. Forest Service crews.
Statewide, only 186 of the agency’s 276 engines were ready to respond to fires as of Friday, according to a report created by fire officials and released by the Federal Wildland Fire Service Association.
June 14 California: Indians and Humbolt fires
On Wednesday a U.S. Forest Service engine from the Los Padres NF was burned over while they were attacking a spot fire on the Indians fire. From a news release by the USFS:
Narrative: At approximately 1615 hours while supporting a firing operation, Engine-71 was involved in a localized fire blow-up. A cyclonic fire wind event caused four members of Engine-71 to be overcome by the fire. The crew was suppressing spot fires near the roads edge when they experienced extreme fire and wind behavior.
Winds were estimated to be 60 – 70 mph. Limbs from large oak trees were blown out of trees and small, golf ball size rocks, were thrown into the air. The radiant heat caused the burns to the fire fighters. Initially, the firefighters were treated at the ICP medical unit, two were sent to a local hospital for further treatment and the most serious burn victim was flown to Valley Burn Center in Santa Clara. A fourth firefighter did not initially seek treatment. After further consideration, the 4th firefighter chose to see a physician. The three firefighters have been referred to the Fresno Burn Center for further examination.
June 16 Engine burnover near Lincoln, California
Another engine burnover–this time it was two Placer County Fire Department brush engines on the Nicolaus fire near Lincoln, CA on June 11. Here is an excerpt from CalFire’s “24-hour report” recently released:
….Approximately seven minutes into the fire, E70 (IC) reported that units were being burned over. Appropriate EMS was requested.
The volunteer firefighter from BR 75 sought refuge on the leeward side of the apparatus. The fire intensity continued to increase and he retreated to safety, crossing a barbed wire fence, into a stubble field immediately to the east of the dirt road. He was met by apparatus and personnel from Lincoln Fire Department and escorted to ambulance personnel.
The CAL FIRE Firefighters from BR 73 tried to seek refuge in the cab, but were quickly overrun. They retreated through the flame front to the west, into the burn. Both of the firefighters walked north through the burn and exited where E70 was parked on Nicolaus Road.
All firefighters were treated and transported to UC Davis Medical Center. The volunteer firefighter from BR 75 received burns to the nose, was treated and released. The firefighters from BR 73 remain in the Burn Unit in stable condition with burns to the face and hands. They are expected to remain at UC Davis Medical Center for 7 to 10 days.
June 19 Firefighters’ dirty drinking water, and “shift food”
Water bottles are filthy Researchers found loads of nasty stuff in the water bottles and drinking systems of firefighters. They tested the bottles or systems of 15 firefighters and found that several of them had high concentrations of molds and yeasts. Legionella-like bacteria, which causes Legionnaires’ disease, were detected in one water bottle and in one drinking tube.
June 21 National Geographic article about wildland fire
On May 16 Wildfire Today gave you a heads up about an article on wildland fire that would appear in the July issue of National Geographic. It should be arriving in mailboxes right now, but their web site has on online version of the article and some amazing pictures of fires. No one takes pictures like the NG photographers, and they did not disappoint this time. Here is an example (click on it to see a larger version):
Photographer Mark Thiessen took most, if not all, of the photos–some of which can be found HERE. The online version of the article is here. It’s lengthy, on ten web pages.
Be sure to read the interview with Thiessen about how he got the photos. One thing that helped….he has a red card and has shot photos of fires for 10 years.
June 21 From the reports I have seen, there are at least 300-400 fires that were started by the lightning that moved across the northern part of California from west to east during the last 24 hours. As this is written, lightning is still occurring in northeastern California.
Most of the fires are very small, their growth muted for a while by the overcast skies that brought the thunderstorms. But as the skies clear, smoke from a few large ones northwest of Redding and west of Ukiah is becoming visible in satellite photos. Only a small percentage of the fires are staffed and many new ones are being discovered every hour.
This situation is going to become dire unless the northern half of the state receives a great deal of rain in the next day or two. The weather forecast for the next several days at Redding shows temps in the low to mid 90’s, moderate winds, minimum RH’s in the high teens, and very little chance of rain.
It is starting to look like it could become another summer like the “Siege of 1987” when lightning in late August started 1,600 fires in northern California and southern Oregon that burned 650,000 acres. Some of the fires burned into October.
UPDATE, December 29, 2008 The 25,000 lightning strikes in northern California on June 20-21 started over 1,700 fires and as of July 4 had burned 520,831 acres.
The smoke generated by the fires in California had a profound effect on residents in the northern part of the state for weeks. It also affected other portions of the country. Here is an example of a map showing smoke dispersal on July 3. The red dots are heat sources detected by satellites.
June 23 Fire near Big Sur closed coast highway
The Gallery fire, now part of the Basin Complex burning south of Big Sur in California, is now reported to be 2,000 acres. Judging from the satellite map below it is at least that big. The coast highway, Highway 1, had been closed by the fire. Now it is closed by a landslide.
The Indians fire, also shown on the map, is 56,044 acres. Yesterday firefighters did some burning out and according to a spokesperson “We had a really good day today”. The heat shown on the map may be their burnout operations. It looks like there is a chance that Bill Molumby and his team may even catch this fire and it won’t be another Los Padres wilderness fire that burns all summer.
UPDATE, December 29 The Indians fire eventually burned 76,554 acres after a large burnout operation along the Arroyo Seco river on the north side stopped the spread. The Basin Complex, which consumed 162,818 acres, burned into the Indians fire.
June 23 Clover fire, while still a WFU
I came across a map, above, of the Clover fire on the Sequoia National Forest, while it was still a Wildland Fire Use (WFU) fire on June 18. On the north and west sides, it was mostly hemmed in by previous fires that burned 2-4 years previously. On the east and southeast sides was an old 64-year old burn, and there was no fire history on the southwest side. The black line east of the fire is the Kern River.
Yesterday the fire crossed the Kern River, crested the Sier ras, and burned east toward Hwy. 395
June 29 U.S. Forest Service’s “Key Messages”
The U. S. Forest Service in California is aggressively trying to get certain messages out about the fire situation in northern California by issuing a laundry list containing 10 “Key Messages“. They took the extraordinary step of having them inserted into the Northern California Geographic Area Coordination Center’s “News and Notes”, which usually contains just the bare facts and numbers about initial attacks and ongoing fires.
This may be in response to allegations by some that the USFS is losing many key firefighters to agencies that have much better pay and benefits packages, leaving the agency in California with too many unfilled positions and unstaffed engines.
Martin Mars lands at Lake Shasta
The third time proved to be the charm for the Canada-based Martin Mars air tanker. After having engine problems on Friday and Saturday, it successfully completed it’s 4-hour trip to Lake Shasta north of Redding, California this morning. It will stage there until it receives an assignment, which will likely occur today, visibility permitting. On each mission it can drop 7,200 gallons of water, Thermogel, or water mixed with foam concentrate on a fire and then will refill it’s tank by scooping water from a lake.
Wildfire Today covered the saga of this aircraft earlier.
The Martin Mars anchored on Lake Shasta, June 29. It has already been outfitted with an American flag and a USFS decal. Click on the photo to see a larger version. Photo courtesy of ShastaLake.com.
July 1 N.C.– Eight firefighters struck by lightning
LENOIR, N.C. — Five firefighters are still in a hospital after being struck by lighting while battling a forest fire.
A total of eight firefighters with the North Carolina Forest Service were trying to contain the blaze Saturday, which was sparked by lighting the day before. The strike happened at 4:48 p.m.
Forestry officials believe the lightning bolt hit a tree; the energy radiated underground, where the firefighters were taking a break. They say the sky was clear blue at the time.
Initially, all eight firefighters were hospitalized. Doctors are treating the remaining five firefighters at Caldwell Memorial Hospital. Four of the eight are inmates who assist the forest service though a work release program.
July 3 California: Two dozer rollovers
Two dozer operators rolled their dozers on Tuesday. One was wearing a seat belt and one was not.
A private contractor assigned to the Cold fire in Plumas County suffered a fractured skull, a dislocated shoulder and injuries to one ear when the bulldozer he was operating rolled over, said Dave Olson, a fire information officer for the Canyon Complex of fires on Plumas National Forest.
The employee of Oilar Agricultural Services, based in MacArthur, was flown to Enloe Medical Facility in Chico, where he was in stable condition Wednesday with no life-threatening injuries, Olson said.
In Siskiyou County, a contract operator was digging a fire line between the Alps Complex fire and the Ironside fire when his bulldozer rolled 80 feet down an embankment, said Alexis West, a fire information officer on the complex of fires burning on Shasta-Trinity National Forest.
The operator was wearing a seat belt, which probably saved his life, West said. He was taken to a Redding hospital, where he was treated for arm and shoulder injuries.
He was conscious and alert in Mercy Medical Center on Wednesday morning, West said.
July 5 Martin Mars reloads
I wonder what kind of wake the Martin Mars creates when it skims along a 3-mile stretch of Lake Shasta filling its 7,200 gallon tank at 80 miles per hour? It probably makes the lake a little choppy for the water skiers for a few minutes. July 10 44 Australia and New Zealand firefighters coming to help the U.S.
On Saturday, U.S. time, 44 Australian and New Zealand firefighters will depart for the United States to assist with the wildland fires in California. The contingent will travel to the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, Idaho for a briefing and to be issued equipment.
July 11 Basin fire burns around Tassajara
The Basin fire, east of Big Sur, made huge runs yesterday, burning completely ar
ound the Zen Center at Tassajara. It is now 108,026 acres and is 41% contained, adding about 18,000 acres over the last 24 hours.
July 17 Four men trapped, three burned on Motion fire
Four men wearing camouflage clothing were found in the Motion fire on the Whiskeytown National Recreation Area in northern California after one of them made a call in Spanish to 911. The area was burning vigorously and several strike teams of engines, hand crews, and dozers were staged along roads preparing for a burning operation.
Of the four Hispanic males, three of them had burn injuries. Jose Alcazar Fernandez, 25, was flown to Mercy Medical Center with third degree burns and was later transferred to the UC Davis burn unit. A second adult and a juvenile were transferred by ground ambulance, then treated for first and second degree burns and smoke inhalation and released. The juvenile male was treated and released for minor burns. The treated adult and a fourth adult male were arrested on federal charges of being present in a closed area.
Law enforcement officers determined that the men were Mexican nationals unlawfully present in the United States. They claimed to have been hunting in the park but refused to say where their weapons were. A marijuana cultivation site had been under investigation nearby and fire overhead and suppression personnel had repeatedly been briefed over the previous few days as to the specific location of the site and the probability of armed suspects in the area.
Firefighter rescues bear cub in fire, then begins treatment for rabies
Yesterday Wildfire Today brought you the story of the horse that was rescued by a crew on the Mill fire on the Mendocino National Forest. Now it’s a bear…. a story not unlike the original Smokey Bear.
A Cal Fire Field Observer on the Moon fire in northern California, Adam Deem, found a bear cub while he was scouting the fire. The bear had some burns on his paws and was having difficulty walking. Deem looked for the cub’s mother but could not find her, so he caught the bear and wrapped him in his brush jacket. In grabbing the cub, Deem received some scratches on his hands which required that he receive treatment for rabies.
Deem cradled the bear in his arms as he drove his pickup to a staging area. From there he and the cub were driven to the Incident Command Post in Anderson. Deem said on the way to the ICP he comforted, petted and sweet-talked the little cub.
At the ICP the Medical Unit treated the bear for dehydration and let him lick a lollipop before a state Fish & Game wildlife biologist picked it up for the trip to the Sacramento area rescue shelter.
UPDATE December 29, 2008 The bear, dubbed Li’l Smokey, is recovering well at the Lake Tahoe Wildlife Care center. He has his own blog and sometimes a live web cam that works occasionally. The Center expects to release him into the wild this winter.
July 26 Gunbarrel fire; largest Fire Use fire ever? The Gunbarrel fire, east of Yellowstone National Park and west of Cody, Wyoming, started on July 26. For many weeks it was managed as a fire use fire, becoming one of the largest fire use fires ever. On August 24 it was converted to a suppression fire after it had burned 53,000 acres. The last reported size on Inciweb was 67,141 acres.
July 29 New Smokey Bear ad cancelled
On June 3 Wildfire Today told you about the new Smokey Bear public service announcements. An off road vehicle group complained that one of the ads seemed to imply that the legal use of an ATV could cause forest fires. Don Amador, the Western representative of the BlueRibbon Coalition in Idaho, said the ad:
“…incorrectly conveyed to the ATV rider that the best way for them to prevent wildfires was to stay at home. Instead, the ad should have encouraged the use of Forest Service-approved spark arresters and limiting travel to approved routes and areas.”
The Forest Service has requested that TV stations discontinue using the ad.
The Cascade fire, pushed by strong winds, grew substantially towards the east in the last 24 hours, from 5,936 to 9,411 acres. Late on Wednesday it was about a mile from the Red Lodge Mountain ski area and three miles west of Red Lodge, Montana. The Billings Gazette has an interesting article about the fire.
There is another article about Tom Moore, who lost a cabin in the Cascade fire and two years ago lost his house in a fire in Idaho.
The map was created at 5:00 p.m. on Wednesday.
HERE is the Inciweb page about the fire.
Firefighter “roughed up” by grizzly bear The firefighter that was roughed up by the grizzly bear while working on the LeHardy fire in Yellowstone National Park is back at work.
Tony Allabastro, a member of the Lewis and Clark Forest Service hotshot crew based in Great Falls, reportedly saw the bear over his shoulder, coming from where his crew had been doing controlled burns, Sandy Hare, public informati
on officer for the LeHardy fire, said Monday.
Before he had a chance to get his bear spray, the grizzly pounced on him and “roughed him up,” Hare said. The bear was “acting instinctually.”
“(The bear) just wanted out,” Hare said. “There was something in its way, and it happened to be a human.”
Allabastro got away with minimal injuries. He was treated at the Yellowstone Clinic in Lake, Wyo., for scratches and bruises Sunday and released. […] Allabastro, who has fought wildfire for three seasons and served on a hotshot crew for one, was tackled by the grizzly while working on a burnout near Fishing Bridge.
To be continued- The final installment, stories from September through December, will be in an article on January 1.
Ministry for Extraordinary Situations requests air tankers
We’re thinking that Bulgaria’s “Ministry for Extraordinary Situations” is equivalent to the United States’ Federal Emergency Management Agency. Their country has requested air tankers through the European Union and NATO to assist with a forest fire burning in Rila National Park. France will be sending two air tankers for the 130 hectare (321 acre) fire.
The purpose of this guide is to provide guidance to chief officers in establishing a policy for response during hurricanes and coastal storms to minimize the risk to fire/EMS personnel and to protect the human, physical and cyber infrastructure critical to safeguard a community before, during and after a storm.
This guidance provides a common framework on which departments may build a local protocol tailored to a specific community.
This fire between Yellowstone National Park and Cody, Wyoming is pretty much done, at least for now. Earlier this week the Type 1 incident management team turned it over to a Type 3 team, which then turned it over to the National Forest District on Saturday. The fire has received a significant amount of rain and even some snow. They are calling it 78% contained–full containment is predicted for October 15. The 67,141-acre fire cost about $153 per acre, which is much less than your typical suppression-type fire.
Cut trees down to protect house or not?
Many property owners are resistant to cutting down any trees near their house. They expect the fire department to protect their house during a wildland fire regardless of what they have done or not done to manage the vegetation and fire risk. But according to the San Diego Union-Tribune, other property owners are cutting down trees unnecessarily, or in some cases all of their trees, thinking that is what they must do to make their house safe from fires.
Chuck Eckels cut down six Australia-native Brisbane box trees on his half-acre Escondido lot about a month after the Witch Creek fire roared past.
“I look at trees as detrimental to the property as opposed to beneficial,” Eckels said.
His attitude is not an aberration. A “less vegetation, the better” approach, Cal Fire urban forester Lynnette Short said, has led many people to needlessly chop down healthy trees.
“People are taking drastic measures,” Short said. “There are a lot of misconceptions out there.”
Local foresters and arborists want trees to stand tall again. They met last week to begin crafting policies that communities can use to save trees while protecting property. They say most well-tended trees pose little fire risk and can even prevent houses from igniting in some instances.
Pete Scully, a division chief for Cal Fire, said healthy trees have gotten a bad rap.
“Live trees, properly maintained and spaced adequately, are fine,” he said.
Arborists say the threat from pines and eucalyptuses in particular has been exaggerated. They say healthy trees aren’t the guzzlers people think they are, so tearing them out to conserve water is often unwarranted.
“We want the public to realize that trees are not the problem but part of the solution,” said Mike Palat, an arborist and chairman of the San Diego Urban Forest Council, which includes arborists, government agencies, landscapers and nonprofit organizations.
Good and bad
Fire-conscious arborists say the Mexican fan palm is one tree they won’t defend. Drew Potocki, urban forester for the city of San Diego, said the palm’s fibrous material ignites easily, and strong winds often turn burning bark chunks into “flaming, flying Frisbees.”
But pines and eucalyptuses – if solitary, properly spaced and 30 feet from a home – are equipped to survive most blazes, Short said.
“One of the major misconceptions I get, even from fire departments, is that eucalyptus are time bombs ready to go off in the next fire,” Short said. “That’s really wrong. I have eucalyptus on my property, and I would never think of cutting them down.”
Arborists say no matter the variety, keeping the ground around trees free of litter is key in fire prevention. Yet many people erroneously conclude that any tree’s presence greatly raises the risk.
Arborists say eucalyptus trees, such as these along Golden Hill Drive in Balboa Park, are equipped to survive most blazes if they are properly spaced and at least 30 feet from a home. That’s how Eckels viewed it. He said some of his 15-foot trees, which all were more than 20 feet from his home, had singed leaves and blackened trunks, though the fire was hundreds of yards away. That was all the evidence he needed. He said he saw plenty of green trees going up in flames on television, and he wanted to eliminate that possibility on his property.
“I actually liked the trees,” Eckels said. “They provide shade, and they made the property look nice. But I don’t want tiki torches next to my house.”
Eckels’ fears are largely unfounded, said Anne Fege, co-founder of San Diego Partners for Biodiversity and the San Diego Fire Recovery Network.
“Fires don’t ignite a house because your trees have a few scorched leaves,” said Fege, also a member of the San Diego Urban Forest Council.
Cal Fire’s “100 feet of defensible space around the home” mantra has been taken to extremes, said Short, a former firefighter. The standard doesn’t mean remove all vegetation within 100 feet, yet that’s what many people are doing, she said.
Cal Fire says healthy, pruned trees 30 feet or more from a home, including pines, can safely remain if owners have created “horizontal and vertical spacing between plants” within 100 feet of the home.
Many houses that burned in 2003 and last year ignited when wind-driven embers from a mile or more away landed on a flammable part of a home. Shade trees lining a property will catch flying embers before they can hit a home, Potocki said. “The trees could be doing you more good than harm.”
Some people have made matters worse since the fires by scraping their property clean down to the dirt, said Rick Halsey, a biologist, wildland firefighter and director of the California Chaparral Institute in Escondido. He said that’s what a man down his street did.
“What these people end up doing is creating a bowling alley for embers to blow right through to the house,” he said.
BLM: Grazing can reduce fuel
That, of course, sounds intuitive, but the Bureau of Land Management decided to study the fire behavior and post-fire effects of the Murphy fire which burned 650,000 acres in southern Idaho and northeast Nevada in July, 2007. Some of the recent newspaper stories reporting on the study gave the impression that grazing was the answer to preventing large fires, but the actual findings are more complex than that. Here is an excerpt from the abstract in the report.
The team found that much of the Murphy Wildland Fire Complex burned under extreme fuel and weather conditions that likely overshadowed livestock grazing as a factor influencing fire extent and fuel consumption in many areas where these fires burned. Differences and abrupt contrast lines in the level of fuels consumed were affected mostly by the plant communities that existed on a site before fire. A few abrupt contrasts in burn severity coincided with apparent differences in grazing patterns of livestock, observed as fence-line contrasts.
Fire modeling revealed that grazing in grassland vegetation can reduce surface rate of spread and fire-line intensity to a greater extent than in shrubland types. Under extreme fire conditions (low fuel moisture, high temperatures, and gusty winds), grazing applied at moderate utilization levels has limited or negligible effects on fire behavior. However, when weather and fuel-moisture conditions are less extreme, grazing may reduce the rate of spread and intensity of fires allowing for patchy burns with low levels of fuel consumption.
The team suggested that targeted grazing to accomplish fuel objectives holds promise but requires detailed planning that includes clearly defined goals for fuel modification and appropriate monitoring to assess effectiveness.
Some insurance companies requiring 1,000-1,500′ clearance around houses
Allstate insurance in response to the massive fires in recent years in southern California is no longer selling new homeowner policies in the state. Some companies that are still selling new policies are requiring massive clearances around structures.
From Capital Press:
Daniel Sparks, a 29-year-old investment manager, bought a home last July in the Scripps Ranch neighborhood of San Diego, where thousands of houses burned down in October 2003. He had to scramble to find coverage, saying his old insurer, Mercury Insurance Group of Mercury General Corp., refused to issue a new policy.
“I tried to use the same insurance provider, and he would not cover my new house,”
Mr. Sparks says. “They said (his property) had to be 1,000 feet away from brush.” Since his lot abuts a Marine air base, he can’t clear it because it’s government property, he says. (A spokesman for Mercury said its clearance requirement for the area isn’t new.) Mr. Sparks finally found insurance from another company.
Companies also impose tougher policy conditions. Some have recently started requiring property owners to increase clearances to as much as 1,500 feet of vegetation from around homes in some fire zones. That’s 15-times more clearance than what’s currently required by California law. Indeed, Allstate says that 1-in-5 houses in high-risk areas it has inspected had hazardous brush conditions.
Increasingly, some insurers also won’t issue policies for homes on steep slopes, because wildfires burn uphill faster. Some are underwriting policies only where the home is located near a professional fire department, not the volunteer fire departments common in some rural areas, agents and brokers say.
Most insurers are using satellite imaging to inspect properties, agents say. And more companies also are physically inspecting houses and requiring documentation for safety measures like fire-resistant roofing. Homeowners whose properties are cited for hazards are given a period of time, usually six months, to correct the problems or their policies can be dropped.
Cape Town, South Africa (AHN) – At least 20 people died in runaway brush fires fueled by strong winds in South Africa over the weekend.
More than 100 fires across the country burned 125,000 acres of land.
In KwaZulu-Natal province 13 people were killed and 25 others after being burned in fires that roared through the area. Elsewhere in the province, another three people were burned to death and five others hospitalized for burns after their shack caught fire in Eastern Cape.
In Mpumalanga province three people were killed by fires.
“This is almost typical weather for August-September with late winds and early spring. There are hot conditions but you still get cold fronts hitting the Cape,” South Africa Weather Service forecaster Evert Scholtz told Afrol News.
But although the windy conditions are common for this time of year, the large number of deadly fires in different parts of the country are not, says Percy Morokane from Johannesburg’s Emergency Services.
“This particular situation has never been experienced before. Reports are coming in from all over the country,” Morokane told BBC news.
Montana: Dunn Mountain fire: contained at 102,383 acres
This huge fire 30 miles northeast of Billings received some rain late on Sunday. The precipitation and cooler temperatures enabled firefighters to make good progress Sunday and Monday, resulting in the fire being 100% contained today. Here is a photo from a couple of days ago:
Wyoming: Gunbarrel fire update
The fire received from a quarter to over a half an inch of rain on Sunday. Paul Broyles’ Type 1 Incident Management Team will transition to a smaller Type 3 Team on Wednesday and the Incident Command Post will move back to Wapiti Ranger Station when that occurs.
Cool temperatures overnight in the 30s helped to slow the progress of this fire. Some structures are still threatened and the size is reported to be 150 acres.
A fast-moving fire south of Lake Tahoe had burned at least 125 acres as of Sunday evening. Two resorts, three campgrounds and about 20 homes are being evacuated for the fire south of Highway 88, 6 miles west of Woodfords. Sunday evening the fire was crowning in timber, pushed by strong west winds. A Type 3 incident management team has been ordered. Lat/Long: 38 45′ 28.8″ -119 55′ 23.17″ . HERE is a link to a Google map.
A strong cold front moved through the area Sunday night. Much cooler weather is expected for Monday and Monday night, followed by a rapid warm-up from Tuesday onward. Winds will remain generally light through at least Wednesday.
Photos courtesy of Tahoe Daily Tribune.
Aircraft used during the Seige of ’08
AINonline has an interesting article that summarizes the vast aircraft resources that were used during the lightning bust in northern California this summer. Here is an excerpt:
In addition to the rotorcraft assets, the effort employed a wide range of fixed-wing aircraft–ranging from a DC-10 waterbomber to the Predator UAV–to help control the blazes.
Cal Fire fielded a fleet of 23 S2T twin-turboprop waterbombers based out of the former McClellan AFB, along with 14 OV-10 Broncos used for aerial and ground control. Eight C-130 Hercules belonging to the Air Force Reserve and National Guard were quickly converted into fire bombers through the installation of modular airborne firefighting systems and used to great effect, according to authorities.
A pair of National Guard infrared-sensing RC-26s–used frequently on drug interdiction missions–was deployed to identify hot spots in the conflagration and relay real-time images to the crews on the ground. The massive Martin Mars flying boat and a squadron of four Convair CV-580s, each capable of carrying 2,000 gallons of flame retardant, came from Canada.
This fire between Yellowstone National Park and Cody, Wyoming has not made any major advances in the last couple of days. It has burned 61,433 acres and is being managed as a Confine/Contain fire. Paul Broyles’ Type 1 Incident Management Team reports this morning:
Yesterday’s Activity Fire activity was again moderate with little perimeter growth. Most of the active fire behavior was in the Jim Creek and Trout Creek areas where the fire burned out some interior pockets of bug-killed trees. Firefighters successfully burned out an area between Elephant Head and Goff Lodges and secured fire lines in the vicinity of Star Hill Ranch. The northeastern flank of the fire advanced up the Robbers’ Roost Creek Drainage some distance, but remains several miles east of the Rattlesnake and Dead Indian Creek drainages.
Today’s Planned Activity Firefighters will focus efforts on securing fire line in the Robbers’ Roost Creek drainage to stop its northward spread. Crews will mop-up and finish securing fire lines near Elephant Head and Goff Lodges and the Star Hill Ranch. Structure protection efforts will remain in place in all areas of the fire as needed. Helicopter support will aid their efforts as wind conditions permit. Crews will begin retrieving pumps and hoses from areas of the fire where they are no longer needed and will be available for initial attack response.
Today’s Forecasted Weather Temperatures: Mid 80’s Humidities: 9-16% Winds: Out of the southeast at 20-30 mph.
The cause of Monday’s fire in Boise that burned ten homes, and may have caused the death of one resident, has been determined.
Boise Fire investigators said Thursday that an electrical connection on a power pole, called a hot tap stirrup, arched causing molten metal to fall to the dry grass below, igniting a wildfire that took only minutes to burn ten homes and damage nine others in a southeast Boise neighborhood Monday.
Lisa Grow, vice president of delivery operations and engineering for Idaho Power, said during the storm that blew through Boise Monday evening, just before 7 p.m. a tree branch fell into a powerline along Boise Avenue about five miles from the fire scene. That caused a break in the power distribution, forcing a stronger current to the hot tap stirrup miles away.
She says the 50 mph winds, plus the extra current, caused the arch that ignited the fire in the Oregon Trail Heights subdivision. The last time the connection was inspected was in 2006. According to Idaho Power, they are inspected every three years.
Update: air tanker pilot’s injuries minor
Yesterday we covered the crash of the single engine air tanker (SEAT) in northwest Colorado. Thankfully, we can now report that the injuries to the pilot were minor. The SEAT went down at 3 p.m. Wednesday about 20 miles northwest of Meeker, CO. The pilot’s name has not been released. The BLM says he walked away from the crash while working on a fire on BLM land and was taken by helicopter to a hospital in Grand Junction.
Ammo depot in Ukraine burns in forest fire
KIEV, August 28–Artillery shells and other ammunition at a storage site in Ukraine exploded after a forest fire spread to the facility, prompting an evacuation, emergency officials say. The prime minister was quoted as saying nobody was seriously injured.
The Defense Ministry said the fire broke out in a forest near the town of Lozovaya, some 500 kms (300 miles) east of the capital Kiev.
Firefighters couldn’t handle the blaze, and it spread to the arsenal, which contains some 100 tons of ammunition on a 1,235-acre (500-hectare) site, it said.
Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko said that there were no casualties, adding that 1,400 people had been evacuated and a total of 6,000 would be evacuated from the area around the facility.
About 1,400 people had been evacuated and 6,000 would be evacuated from the area around the facility, officials said.
Lidya, a local resident, said: “They told us on radio and TV we should take documents and personal belongings and leave our houses to wait near bus stops.”
“People waited and waited but no transportation was provided. So people started to run, all, including disabled people and old people. I was standing here and saw everything – it was scary, I’ve never seen anything like that.”
Nikolai Tityursky, a spokesman for the Ukrainian armed forces, said: “We have conducted a helicopter reconnaissance flight to detect the locations where the burning process is still under way, where there are still rounds of ammunition that can detonate.”
“After the explosions finish, we’ll send five tanks to help put out the blaze.”
Ukrainian defense officials have warned that dozens of large ammunition depots inherited from the former Soviet Union are poorly maintained and represent a serious public hazard.
A fire and explosions at a munitions depot in southern Ukraine in 2004 killed five people. It took days to put the blaze out.
Some of the materials in the middle of the fire are 94,000 tons of missiles, 60 tons of propellant explosive, and Luna-M tactical missiles.
File photo of Luna-M missile on transporter.
HERE is a link to a page that has two different videos of the ammo dump burning and exploding.
The nighttime blaze near the town Lozova in Ukraine’s Kharkiv province had produced hundreds of detonations so far, threatening firefighters with shrapnel and making quick control of the fire impossible, Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko said.
Two storage buildings the Soviet-era artillery shell and rocket dump were burning, and 120-millimetre mortar rounds were detonating “almost every minute” said Viktor Baloga, a government spokesman.
Emergency workers evacuated more than 6,500 residents of Lozova and surrounding villages five kilometres or less from the fire’s epicentre.
One military service member was injured as a result of the fire. Windows were broken throughout Lozova and houses damaged as far as three kilometres from the fire, an army spokesman said.
A massive government effort to bring the blaze under control was in progress. Some 200 vehicles and 1,000 firefighting personnel drawn from both the military and civilian sectors were participating, said Volodymyr Shandra, Ukraine Emergency Situations Minister.
USFS diverts funds to cover fire expenses
There are a number of local stories around the nation about the U. S. Forest Service ordering Forests to take money that was planned for other uses to cover massive firefighting expenses. Here is a brief excerpt from one of the stories, this one about the Cleveland National Forest in southern California from the Union-Tribune.
Campground bathrooms and roads in the Cleveland National Forest will suffer because the U.S. Forest Service is cutting at least $400 million in programs nationwide so it has enough money to fight fires in September.
“It’s all those types of things that users typically see,” said Brian Harris, a spokesman for the agency in Rancho Bernardo.
National forests in California are on the hook to lose $33 million, and they could give up more if the Forest Service has to battle a massive wildfire. That money would have been used for removal of hazardous trees, roof repairs, new vehicles and other needs.
In the 438,000-acre Cleveland National Forest, the funding hit is estimated at $1.3 million – or roughly 5 percent of the forest’s annual budget. The forest, which stretches across San Diego, Riverside and Orange counties, is a major recreation area that gets about 850,000 visits a year.
If you can’t get enough of this fiscal stuff, here are more articles about this in other parts of the country: Montana, Oregon, Wyoming & South Dakota, West Virginia, and Colorado.
Gunbarrel fire, west of Cody, Wyoming
From the Powell Tribune
“The winds are just howling,” Clint Dawson said Wednesday, describing the wind’s rate around the Gunbarrel Fire.
Dawson is the zone fire manager for Shoshone National Forest.
In the valley — in the vicinity of the newly-relocated Gunbarrel Fire camp at Buffalo Bill State Park — the wind was gusting to 40-60 mph in the early afternoon on Wednesday. The new incident command camp is just above the reservoir west of Cody.
An aircraft flying over the fire Wednesday reported winds reaching 115 mph at 11,000 feet, Dawson said. (some of the peaks in the fire area are at about 10,000 feet-bg)
The fire was was spotting on the east side of 12,000-foot high Trout Peak, according to an incident report.
Wind often is the rule rather than the exception in the hills and mountains above the reservoir, but Dawson described these fierce winds as “abnormal.”
A red-flag warning was issued for the fire area again on Wednesday. That means low humidity and windy conditions likely will translate to potential fire growth and extreme fire behavior, said Mark Giacoletto, Shoshone Forest fire management officer.
As of Wednesday morning, the Gunbarrel Fire was roughly 10-12 miles west of Cody and north of U.S. 14-16-20. It had grown by 3,424 acres since Monday to a total of 57,384 acres and extended about 24 miles roughly from east to west. Lightning ignited the fire about 38 miles west of Cody on July 26.
At-risk structures on both ends of the fire were being closely monitored and defended by firefighters on the scene.
The price of managing and fighting the fire also is mounting. On Monday, the cost was an even $6.6 million. By Wednesday morning — before Wednesday’s fierce winds — the price tag had grown to a little over $7.6 million.
Members of the Great Basin Type 1 Incident Management Team arrived Tuesday. Official transfer of command occurred Wednesday morning.
Goats gobble grass–and brush
In the 1980’s we conducted some experiments using goats for fuel management on the Cleveland National Forest east of Pine Valley, California. They did a fine job of eating all of the grass and almost every leaf on every plant in a brush field. If they were brought back months later, or the following year (or two) the brush would eventually die. This was less risky than prescribed fire in an urban interface area. There were no bulldozers chewing up the ground, and it did not contaminate the air or ground with smoke or pesticides.
But goat-proof fences and drinking water had to be in place, and usually a goat-herder had to remain on site, so it was a high-maintenance operation.
In the last few years fuel management by goats has become more popular. The News Review has an article about a goat-herding family. Here are some excerpts.
Terry and Vera Adams waded through a small sea of Billy goats at their Corning ranchette last week, trying to think of just exactly how many of the animals they own.
All summer long, most of the herd—their female (nanny) goats and babies (kids)—have been on the go, transported from location to location throughout Northern California, eating down grasses, weeds, brush and other vegetation. Counting the male goats surrounding them in a large fenced pasture back at the couple’s home, they figured their stock is up to about 1,400-or-so animals.
It’s been a good year for T&V Livestock, the Adams’ family-run business that contracts with private landowners and public agencies in need of vegetation control. And with today’s focus on health and the environment, they’re bound to get busier.
“The public really goes for it. They like the idea of no sprays and burning,” said Terry of his goats (and a few sheep). “It’s a pretty environmentally friendly way of doing things.”
Dale Shippelhoute of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service agrees, which is one of the reasons he contracted with the couple to bring the animals to several federally owned properties over the summer.
Currently, goats are chomping their way through vegetation at the Stone Lakes refuge just 10 miles south of Sacramento, along a wildland-urban interface in Elk Grove. Residents in towns bordering the FWS site have been receptive to the project, which, unlike prescribed burning, doesn’t adversely affect air quality.
Aided these days by their two kids (children, not goats)—Marly, 14, and Terrance, 9—the Adamses have run T&V Livestock for nearly a decade, learning the ins and outs of an operation that is much more complicated than it may sound.
Caring for the creatures means transporting them, along with everything they need to thrive: water, supplements and other supplies. They also have hired help live on site in a trailer and specially trained guard dogs, Anatolian shepherds, to protect them from predators.
Business is strong this year, but Vera says some seasons have been pretty thin. She also warns that goats are tricky to care for; they are susceptible to parasites and cold weather.
While the creatures require a lot of time and effort, Vera insists the family likes having them.