Photos during tests of exploding targets

(Above: photo by Idaho State Fire Marshal’s Office)

During the last week of August, the Idaho State Fire Marshal’s Office, along with other experts and investigators from around the Pacific Northwest participated in scientific testing of exploding targets and their propensity for igniting wildfires in the forest environment.

Thanks and a tip of the hat go out to Steve. Typos or errors, report them HERE.

Power poles treated with fire resistant paint survived the Sheep Fire

Sheep Fire INL smoke fire
A smoke column over the Sheep Fire in Eastern Idaho, July, 2019. BLM photo.

(From the Bureau of Land Management)

Mitigation efforts reduce impacts of 112,000 acre Sheep Fire

The lightning caused Sheep Fire started on the evening of July 22 on the Idaho National Laboratory (INL) site in eastern Idaho. The area has a history of large, wind-driven wildfires that burn quickly through the grass and sagebrush desert. The Sheep Fire was no exception. It quickly became INL’s largest fire in history consuming over 112,000 acres.

power poles damaged fire wildfire
Power pole damaged during the T 17 Fire at the INL in 2011. BLM photo.

Firefighters worked hard—and successfully—to save facilities from the wind-driven fire, but infrastructure losses were incurred.  Transmission lines providing electricity to multiple counties across eastern Idaho are prevalent in the area, and their wooden power poles were particularly at risk. Approximately 61 rights of way for transmission lines cross BLM lands near INL. The INL itself has 4,000 power poles situated in brush and grass fuels.

During the active fire seasons of 2010 and 2011, which burned over 160,000 acres of both BLM and INL lands, power poles often burned, resulting in power outages, public safety issues and unplanned replacement costs. After the 2011 fire season, BLM fire mitigation specialists from the Idaho Falls District met with local power company officials, county officials and the INL. They discussed solutions to the considerable loss of power poles incurred from wildfires. The BLM proposed using a latex-based fire retardant paint on power poles to help protect them from burning.

fire retardant paint damaged wildfire fire
Fire retardant paint applied to power poles. BLM photo.

The INL decided to implement this proposal—having lost almost 60 power poles just in 2011. Although the treatment cost $100 per pole, the INL staff was willing to make that investment due to the high replacement cost of $1,200 to $2,500 per pole. Over the next two years, INL painted 3,000 of its power poles 5 feet up from the ground with the fire retardant paint. INL prioritized power poles receiving the paint based on service area, damage risk and vegetation density.Every pole painted in the latex-based fire retardant paint survived the Sheep Fire. Even poles that had not been repainted since their initial coat in 2012 and 2013 survived.

INL’s mitigation efforts successfully kept power to its grid during the Sheep Fire. While wildfires will continue to threaten infrastructure, Idaho Falls District BLM will continue finding innovative and cost effective partnerships in eastern Idaho to mitigate wildland fire impacts.


UPDATE: The product used by the INL is Osmos Fire-Guard Wood Pole Protection.

Goose Fire burning from Nevada toward Idaho

Little Goos Fire map
Map showing the location of the Little Goose Fire in Northeast Nevada at 1:36 p.m. MDT August 5, 2019.

A fire that was reported at 6:23 p.m. Sunday August 4 in the Northeast corner of Nevada has been burning vigorously on Monday. Heat detected by a satellite at 1:36 p.m. (see map above) showed it to be moving north and had spread to within a mile of the Nevada/Idaho border. In later satellite photos it appeared to have approached the border and was generating pyrocumulus clouds. By the time you read this there is a good chance it will have burned into Idaho.

The BLM reported at about 6 p.m. Monday that it was a full suppression fire and had burned 3,500 acres.

At various times it was called “Goose Fire” and “Little Goose Fire”. Just plain “Goose Fire” seemed to be winning out by late Monday afternoon.

At about 4:40 p.m. MDT FlightRadar showed four single engine air tankers from Twin Falls and Tanker 911, a DC-10 from Pocatello, flying in the vicinity of the Goose Fire. A NOAA research Twin Otter also showed up, flying a grid pattern — NOAA46 (N46RF), that was most likely analyzing the atmosphere over the fire. NOAA has a fleet of nine aircraft that conduct airborne environmental data gathering missions. Later after the first NOAA Twin Otter departed, another NOAA Twin Otter was over the fire, NOAA48.

Little Goose Fire map aircraft
Map showing aircraft near the Little Goose Fire in Northeast Nevada at 5:37 p.m. PDT August 5, 2019. NOAA46 (N46RF)

Fire at Idaho’s nuclear research facility burns 90,000 acres in 24 hours

The Sheep Fire is about 24 miles northwest of Idaho Falls

Sheep Fire Idaho
Firefighters burning out along a road on the Sheep Fire. Photo by BLM Air Attack Dan Zajanc.

(UPDATED at 6:37 p.m. MDT July 24, 2019)

Firefighters are making progress on the Sheep Fire 24 miles northwest of Idaho Falls, Idaho. The fire is on land administered by the Idaho National Laboratory (INL), an agency within the Department of Energy. (scroll down to see a map)

At a briefing Wednesday the fire chief said containment has increased to the point where they expect to release 5 of the 17 engine crews later in the day.  He said no “buildings” have burned but some “power structures” were damaged. A backfiring operation was executed on the south side of the fire Wednesday night. About 105 personnel are assigned to the fire.

Wednesday the size of the fire was estimated at 110,000 acres, an increase of 20,000 acres from Tuesday.

Firefighters were challenged Wednesday by strong winds. A weather station in Idaho Falls recorded sustained winds at 20 to 25 mph with gusts above 35 along with a high of 90 degrees and relative humidity in the teens. The forecast for Thursday at the fire area is about the same, except with much diminished winds — 12 mph with gusts to 21 in the afternoon.

Officials at the INL said Wednesday that there has been no release of radiation due to the fire.

Most of the workers at the INL were evacuated from the lab facilities, but there appears to be a good chance they will be allowed to return to work on Thursday.

Photos and videos of the fire, including videos of air tanker drops filmed from overhead by Air Attack, can be found here.

The photo below is interesting.

Smoke column Sheep Fire
Smoke column over the Sheep Fire in Idaho. Photo by BLM Incident Commander Kris Bruington.

In the video below of a briefing about the fire, the Fire Chief describes the status of the blaze beginning at 7:30.


(Originally published at 6:17 p.m. MDT July 23, 2019)

Sheep Fire INL smoke fire
A smoke column over the Sheep Fire in Eastern Idaho Tuesday morning. BLM photo.

The Sheep Fire on property managed by the Idaho National Laboratory (INL) has burned approximately 90,000 acres in the first 24 hours. The facility about 24 miles northwest of Idaho Falls conducts nuclear research. (see the map below)

All non-essential employees were evacuated from several facilities at the lab: Central Facilities Area, Advanced Test Reactor Complex, Naval Reactors Facility, Radioactive Waste Management Complex, and Idaho Nuclear Technology and Engineering Center.

INL Site facilities are preparing for the anticipated loss of commercial power and are switching to on-site backups per existing emergency procedures.

Lava Fire Sheep Fire
Map showing the location of the Lava and Sheep Fires in Idaho. Data from 2:26 p.m. MDT July 23, 2019. Much of the fire is burning in light fuels that consumes quickly and may cool before the next heat-detecting satellite overflight. Therefore the fires may be larger than they appear on the map.

Radiation monitoring is ongoing, and based on current information there is no risk to the public, according to information released by the INL.

The Sheep Fire started at about 6:30 p.m. Monday from a lightning strike, and later that night other fires were started by lightning in the area. It is being managed by the Bureau of Land Management and is burning between Highways 20 and 33.

Sheep Fire INL smoke fire
The Sheep Fire northwest of Idaho Falls, ID. Photo provided by the Idaho National Laboratory.

The weather forecast for the fire area until dark on Tuesday predicts 16 mph winds gusting to 24 out of the southwest, 25 percent relative humidity, and temperatures around 90. Wednesday should bring winds out of the southwest at 24 mph gusting to 35, 88 degrees, and relative humidity of 18 percent.

Another fire in Idaho, the Lava Fire, has burned 800 acres north of Shoshone. (see the map above)

Thanks and a tip of the hat go out to Bill and Al. Typos or errors, report them HERE.

Four new wildfires break out in Nevada and Idaho

Two people were arrested for allegedly starting the Jasper Fire north of Reno by target shooting into an area with cheat grass

Jasper Fire north of Sun Valley, Nevada
The Jasper Fire north of Sun Valley, Nevada. Photo by Truckee Meadows Fire Protection District, July 13, 2019.

Four new wildfires broke out in the Great Basin Geographic Area late Saturday, two each in Idaho and Nevada.

satellite four fires Idaho Nevada wildfires
The GOES 17 satellite detected four fires in Idaho and Nevada at 9 p.m. MDT July 13, 2019. The imagery is enhanced to show heat from the fires. Click to enlarge.

Jasper Fire

The Jasper Fire was reported at about 3 p.m. north of Sun Valley, Nevada. The Washoe County Sheriff’s Office asked for voluntary evacuations in the Sun Valley area as the fire reached Eagle Canyon Drive. The Truckee Meadows Fire Protection District reported that the fire burned about 800 acres. By Sunday morning the blaze was producing very little smoke, but at least one outbuilding was destroyed Saturday.

Jasper Fire north of Sun Valley, Nevada
The Jasper Fire north of Sun Valley, Nevada. Photo by Truckee Meadows Fire Protection District, Saturday evening July 13, 2019.

Washoe County Sheriff Darin Balaam said Alex Javier Arias, 23, and Jorge Arias, 22, were arrested for starting the fire by target shooting into cheat grass. They could be charged with destruction of property caused by fire through gross negligence which is a felony, Sheriff Balaam said.

Air tankers and helicopters assisted firefighters, including at least one air tanker, Tanker 88, from CAL FIRE.

A Type 3 Incident Management Team, Sierra Front with Incident Commander Stephenson, was scheduled to in-brief at 6 a.m. Sunday, according to @GreatBasinCC.

Ridgeline Fire

As of Saturday evening the Ridgeline Fire, 5 miles northeast of Albion, Idaho had burned about 1,000 acres and was running and spotting in juniper and brush. It was being fought by firefighters on the ground assisted by four Single Engine Air Tankers and a DC-10.

The impressive video below of a DC-10 dropping was tweeted by @BLMIdahoFire July 13, 2019 but they did not say when or where it occurred. It may have been at the Ridgeline Fire 5 miles northeast of Albion, Idaho the same day.


Elk Fire

The Elk Fire burned about 30 acres south of Winnemucca, Nevada.

Canmay Fire

The Canmay Fire, 8 miles north-northwest of Mountain Home, Idaho started on Bureau of Reclamation land eight miles northwest of Mountain Home, ID. Saturday evening it was running, flanking, and creeping through brush and short grass and had burned about 2,000 acres.

The weather forecast

The weather forecast for Sunday on the Jasper, Elk, and Canmay Fires are all about the same —  temperature in the 90s with wind speeds over 10 mph. It will be a little cooler on the Ridgeline Fire with the temperature in the 80s, and winds less than 10 mph.

Video found of air tanker takeoff as an engine failed

It occurred at Coeur D’Alene, Idaho in 2018

Air Tanker 101 MD87 Rapid City
Air Tanker 101, an MD87, at Rapid City, December 12, 2017. Photo by Bill Gabbert.

(This article first appeared on Fire Aviation)

On July 30, 2018 an engine on an MD87 air tanker failed while taking off at Coeur D’Alene Airport in Idaho en route to drop retardant on a wildfire. The reports at the time was that it failed after takeoff, but in this video that just came to light filmed by Harold Komm, Jr. it appears that the incident occurred during takeoff while the aircraft was approximately half or two-thirds of the way down the runway. At 0:52 in the video below, smoke or debris can be seen in the vicinity of the tail of the aircraft. Then the engine noise decreases as the takeoff continued. When it finally became airborne dust is kicked up at the end of the runway.

The flight crew deserves high praise for getting the plane into the air and then landing safely. An engine failure at that point is one of the worst times for it to happen.

(The video can also be watched at YouTube)

The aircraft was Air Tanker 101, an MD87 operated by Erickson Aero Air. Mr. Komm said that after takeoff the plane flew out to the designated retardant jettison area about seven miles northeast of the airport so it would not have to land with a full load of retardant.

Seven fires were discovered after the incident within a five-mile radius of the airport. One of the firefighters was injured while suppressing the fires.

Mr. Komm said he just recently found a report of the incident on Fire Aviation and offered to allow us to publish his video. We had to edit the audio to remove some unwanted background noise unrelated to the aircraft, but other than that and adding titles at the beginning and the end we didn’t change the video. He told us, “I had talked to Erickson Aero Air HQ in Oregon to make sure it was ok for me to distribute and the only thing was that I had to forward a copy of the video to the lead mechanic. I got some cool swag from Erickson Aero Air for being in the right place and time doing the video.”

This was not the first time that an engine on an Erickson Aero Air MD87 failed and falling debris caused problems after hitting the ground. On September 13, 2015 debris from an engine landed in a residential area of Fresno, California. One chunk of metal crashed through the rear window of a car, while other shrapnel was found in city streets.

There has been concern since at least 2014 about retardant being ingested into the engines when the MD87 is making a drop. A SAFECOM filed back then considered the possibility after engine surges or intermittent power was a problem for one aircraft after making a drop. Photos were taken of retardant stains on the fuselage caused by retardant flowing over the wing.

The first fix that Erickson Aero Air implemented was in 2014, “a new spade profile that has proved to eliminate this problem by keeping the fluid column much more vertical” the company wrote.

Then in June, 2017 they took a much more radical step. They had an external tank, or pod, fabricated and installed below the retardant tank doors, which lowered the release point by 46 inches, mitigating the problem Kevin McLoughlin, the Director of Air Tanker Operations, said at the time.

On December 12, 2017 I was given a tour of Tanker 101 by the flight crew while it was in Rapid City, and noticed there was evidence of retardant flowing over the top of the wing and flaps.

MD-87 retardant wing engine failure
Tanker 101, an MD87, with evidence of retardant stains on top of the wing and the flaps, December 12, 2017 at Rapid City Airport. Photo by Bill Gabbert.