Backbone fire; changes in northern California fire suppression

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Last year in northern California the smoke from the hundreds of fires started by lightning had a major impact on communities for many weeks. This year the National Incident Management Organization (NIMO) team assigned to the Backbone fire says they have made some changes in the way they are managing this fire.

Here are examples of the changes in an excerpt from an long article in the Record Searchlight.

  • Stepped-up air-monitoring efforts, including working closer with local air-quality management districts to put monitors in many communities that have never had them before as well as communicating with residents about any potential dangers caused by smoke.
  • Aggressively fighting the fire. “We’re working at minimizing the duration of fires, keeping the size and the cost and the negative impacts down to local communities,” said Robin Cole, the Backbone Fire’s spokeswoman. Thanks to those efforts (and relatively mild weather), the Backbone Fire may be contained within the week. In years past, such a fire would be allowed to burn for months.
  • Appointing community liaisons – including residents, retired longtime firefighters and community leaders – to meet daily with fire commanders to hear updates and give input and advice on firefighting strategies.
  • A National Incident Management Organization, or NIMO, has been in the area since before the fire started, learning the terrain and meeting with residents. The team will be on site for the duration of the fire, a noticeable shift from last summer when fire-leadership teams, some from as far away as Alaska, were swapped every few weeks.

In this video, NIMO Incident Commander George Custer elaborates on what the team is doing this year, compared to last year.


Wildfire news, July 6, 2009

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Helitack video

The blog Random Ramblings has been writing a lot recently about fire aviation. Today they have a link to a video about the helitack crew at Zion National Park.  Check it out HERE.

NIMO IMTeam on northern California fire

The Atlanta National Incident Management Organization team out of Atlanta, under Incident Commander George Custer, will assume command of the Backbone Fire, formerly called the LT-17 fire (thanks for changing the name) on Wednesday. The Times-Standard of Eureka, California, has a surprisingly detailed explanation of what a NIMO team is.

Two fires have merged to form this fire, one from the Six Rivers National Forest and another one from the Shasta Trinity NF, for a combined total of 3,300 acres.

From InciWeb:

The Backbone fire was started by lightning on Monday, July 1st. Formerly called the LT-17, the Backbone has now grown to encompass the Trinity Fire, a separate incident that was ignited on the Shasta Trinity National Forest. Firefighters from the Lower Trinity Ranger District of the Six Rivers National Forest and other nearby forces were able to extinguish 13 of the 14 lightning fires that were ignited that evening. Due to the remote location of this fire, in the Trinity Alps Wilderness, and the amount of heavy dead and down fuels and standing dead snags from the Megram Fire the suppression of this particular fire was more difficult.

Thanks Dick


Television reports fire to be 15 times larger than it was

On Sunday afternoon a television station in Los Angeles, CBS2, reported on their web site that the Tujunga fire in the Angeles National Forest was 2,000 acres. They were wrong by a factor of 15. When the spread of the fire was stopped, fire officials said it was 130 acres. HERE is a link to the InciWeb report showing the fire was 85% contained at midnight.

German Lessons Learned site

Felix Krieg from Germany wrote to let us know that they have launched their @fire wildland fire lessons learned site. He said it is based on the U.S. Wildfire Lessons Learned Center and another site. The @fire site is in German, so unless they implement my suggestion to install a translation widget on the site it will be of use only to those who can read German. When I worked for the International Association of Wildland Fire I installed a translation widget on their site. It is still there and works fairly well. You can try it out HERE; look near the bottom of the left-hand column.

I put their lead paragraph through Google Translate and it came up with this:

On this page @ published reports on fire incidents and (near-) accidents, which were identified during the forest fires have occurred. We report primarily on accidents that have occurred in Europe, but also what is happening in other countries in the world. With this listing we would like the teams and managers of fire departments provide a focal point to benefit from the experience of others to learn. As a central point, it is not in our sense, a defense affected negatively depict or errors to criticize – we want more clues as to the safety of all firefighters who can increase.This compilation of lives of their employees.

But, we congratulate Felix and the others who put the lessons learned site together. This is an excellent way to learn from the experiences of others.

Denali National Park testing helicopter pilots

Mount McKinley (or Denali)

The staff at Denali National Park frequently has to rescue climbers on Mount McKinley (or Denali), the highest mountain peak in North America at 20,320 feet above sea level. Sometimes rescues involve the park helicopter, specifically selected for high altitude operations.

According to a story at KTUU.COM, the park is testing people who hope to pilot the park helicopter. The test involves hovering the helicopter with a 100-foot long line that has a simulated person at the end, represented by a log. A successful pilot would have to hold the log just above the ground within a ten-foot circle for two out of three minutes.

The park does not own a helicopter, they contract for one each year. The test is to evaluate helicopter companies who are interested in bidding on the contract.

And speaking of Denali National Park:

The Bear Creek fire has burned 23,000 acres, 16,000 of them inside the park. From the NPS Morning Report:

Fire activity on the Bear Creek Fire increased due to the recent warm, dry weather. Monitored on July 3, and it was moving moderately to the south due to the north winds. Alaska Fire Service smokejumpers were flown in on Saturday to provide structural protection to the Roosevelt Cabin, a historic cabin located approximately three miles from the southern end of the fire. Three NPS fire management staff are being flown to the cabin site today to continue structural protection, along with two smokejumpers. There is no immediate threat to any other park structures, or to park developed areas.

Incident Management Teams committed

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The National Situation Report shows that 16 Type 1 Incident Management Teams and 3 National Incident Management Organization (NIMO) Teams are assigned. The national IMTeam rotation page, which apparently has not been updated in a while, lists 17 Type 1 Teams, with one of those shown as “unavailable”. So apparently, all of the Type 1 Teams that are available are committed to fires.

There are 3 or 4 NIMO Teams. The status of the brand new Phoenix and Portland Teams is unclear, but one of them must be operational in addition to the previously organized Boise and Atlanta Teams, since a total of 3 are assigned.

I’m scared to link to the regular IMTeam web site, since simply opening the site in your web browser last week installed a virus or trojan on your computer. They claim the problem is fixed now. I am probably being overly cautious, but for a while at least, if I don’t have to go there, I won’t. The NIMO site and the IMTeam rotation pages are on different systems and did not have a virus problem.