Live cam view of wildfire in Grants Pass

Fire near Grants Pass, Oregon
Fire near Grants Pass, Oregon at 6:48 p.m. PT, May 31, 2011. Screen grab from Daily Courier cam.

(UPDATE at 4 p.m. PT, June 1, 2013)

Here is an update from the Oregon Department of Forestry:

Firefighters working overnight on the Beacon Hill Fire east of Grants Pass chased down and extinguished a handful of spotfires. The crews made progress on improving the fireline, burning out unburned fingers of fuel inside the fireline, and mopping up hot spots near to the fire’s edge. The size of the fire was revised upward to 115 acres.

Today [Saturday] approximately 50 firefighters will be working to contain and extinguish the wildfire. Four fire suppression crews, four engines and two water tenders have been assigned to the fire.

The 17-second video below shows a view of the fire from a helicopter, filmed Friday by Pacific Aviation NW, pilot Brett Hopper:


(Originally published at 7:06 p.m. PT, May 31, 2013)

The Grants Pass Daily Courier has a live web cam pointed at a wildfire burning on Beacon Hill adjacent to the city along Interstate 5. (UPDATE: as of Saturday, June 1 the cam is no longer pointed at the fire.) Here is an excerpt from an article at the Oregon Department of Forestry’s web site:

A fast moving grass and brush fire broke out around 3:30 p.m. today near Interstate 5 east of Grants Pass. One home was damaged by the wildfire and an outbuilding burned. No injuries have been reported, and no evacuations have been called for.

The fire is burning through heavy brush and mixed forest on Beacon Hill. Steep terrain and continuous vegetation caused the fire to grow rapidly between 4:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m.

Beacon Drive is closed to traffic, and one lane of the northbound lane of Interstate 5 is closed, but traffic is moving through. Jones Rd. is closed.

Approximately 100 wildland firefighters and 70 structural firefighters are working to contain the blaze and protect homes. Two helicopters are dropping bucketfuls of water on the fire, and two bulldozers are constructing fire line.

The web cam may be intermittent.

Foreign workers hired with federal stimulus money for USFS contracts

Contractors in Oregon who were awarded contracts for work in national forests hired foreign workers even though one of the goals of the federal stimulus funds was to decrease unemployment in the United States.

Here is an excerpt from an article in the Oregonian:

In the Oregon case, contracts in the amount of $7 million were approved to clear and clean federal forests in central Oregon at a time when local unemployment was nearly 15 percent. Local officials said there where thousands of experienced workers were idle who could fill the need. When the contracts were announced in 2009, Oregon had the third-highest unemployment rate in the nation at 11.1 percent.

Even so, the contractors told federal regulators they could not find enough local workers for the jobs.

The federal investigation looked at 14 contracts to clear federal forests in central Oregon. The contracts were controlled by four Oregon companies: Medford Cutting Edge Forestry, Summitt Forestry, Ponderosa Reforestations, and G.E. Forestry. All hired foreign workers, according to the report, though they didn’t all handle hiring in the same way.

While legal, the hiring practices appear to violate the spirit and purpose of the $840 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, better known as the stimulus, which was designed to create jobs that would jumpstart the country out of recession.

The article does not say that any contract fire crews used foreign workers.

Members of the Oregon House of Representatives are scheduled to vote on House Bill 3315, which would require the Oregon Employment Department to report on any company performing “forest maintenance” work on federal lands that use foreign workers on temporary work visas instead of domestic workers.


Thanks go out to Kelly.

Wildfire briefing May 10, 2013

Smokejumping into pot

Smokejumpers who parachuted into the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest in Oregon to suppress a lightning-caused fire discovered a marijuana plantation in the Applegate area on Monday.

The jumpers reported the garden, and Jackson County sheriff’s spokeswoman Andrea Carlson said law enforcement officers hiked in to the area and seized two guns and more than 1,000 small marijuana plants. Carlson said it appeared to be an operation run by Mexican drug gangs.

In addition to the pot, the garden had fertilizer, PVC piping, and a great deal of trash.

Military and civilian agencies conclude fire training at Camp Pendleton

Five military, law enforcement, and fire agencies concluded their annual wildfire training at California’s Camp Pendleton Thursday. Here are some excerpts from the Union Tribune:

Marine Corps units from Camp Pendleton and 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing joined sailors from Navy Region Southwest, and units from Cal Fire and the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department for this week’s sixth annual wildfire training exercise.

Cal Fire signed an agreement with the Navy in 2004 and the Marine Corps in 2007, and the three agencies began holding annual three-day training exercises in 2008.

On Thursday, the third and final day of the exercise, helicopters filled 300-plus-gallon buckets by dropping them into Lake Pulgas, then emptied the massive containers over a marked spot in the hills. The battle against the simulated fire included ground crews and bulldozer operations, an added component to the training.

More good news for local residents is the Marine Corps has two more CH-46 helicopters at its disposal for potentially fighting fires than in the past. Last year, just one of the helicopters was available, because the others were deployed, Lt. Col. Dana Gemmingen said. This year, up to three CH-46 helicopters could be available, he said.

Lightning today

As this is written at 1:06 p.m. MT, I am hearing thunder in the Black Hills of South Dakota. Darren Clabo, the South Dakota State Fire Meteorologist, wrote the following this morning when describing a frontal passage expected today:

…The forecasted combination of relative low RHs, favorable fuel characteristics, a chance of lightning, and shifting winds may lead to problematic fire weather conditions this afternoon. This is not a Red Flag Warning day but conditions still warrant a heads-up.

Other western states experiencing lightning right now include Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, Montana, and Texas.

Lessons Learned Center web site back up

The web site of the Wildland Fire Lessons Learned Center was down for part of this week, leaving and inoperable for three days — Monday through Wednesday. It is back up, but not at 100 percent capability. They are still making some repairs.

Farm workers fired for fleeing California wildfire

Fifteen strawberry pickers who were fired last week for fleeing when a large wildfire was burning nearby, have been rehired.

MAFFS training concludes in Cheyenne

Training and recertification for Air National Guard Modular Airborne FireFighting Systems (MAFFS) C-130 crews from Wyoming and North Carolina concluded today. Below is a photo of one of the four aircraft. We have more photos over at Fire Aviation.

MAFFS training near Cheyenne, Wyoming. USAF photo by Tech Sgt. Rich Kerner.
MAFFS training near Cheyenne, Wyoming. USAF photo by Tech Sgt. Rich Kerner.

Forest Service report spotlights fire risk for homes on the edge of wildlands

In a recently released report, U.S. Forest Service researchers noted that about 90 percent of fuel reduction treatments on national forests were effective in reducing the intensity of wildfire while also allowing for better wildfire control.

The report, “Wildfire, Wildlands, and People: Understanding and Preparing for Wildfire in the Wildland-Urban Interface,” synthesizes the latest research and provides examples of what communities in the wildland-urban interface can do to reduce their risk by becoming “fire adapted.” Aimed at community planners, the report also underscores the important roles that homeowners and local, state, and federal governments play in reducing risk and describes available tools and resources.

Department Secretaries to visit NIFC

The Secretaries of Interior and Agriculture, Sally Jewell and Tom Vilisack, will visit the National Interagency Fire Center Monday. Ms. Jewell was recently confirmed in her new position and supervises the Bureau of Land Management, National Park Service, Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

Fire in Florida

Stefan Willett of Daytona, Florida, aka @bassking511, just tweeted the following photo with the hashtags  #jupiter and #fl. He described it as “huge fire off the highway”.

Florida fire,

Update: check out the recent articles at Fire Aviation


Thanks go out to Kelly, Andy, and Barry.

Utah bill approved to restrict target shooting during enhanced fire danger

The Governor of Utah has signed legislation, S.B. 120, that will allow the state forester to restrict target shooting during periods of enhanced wildfire danger.

When first introduced by state Senator Margaret Dayton it was temporarily withdrawn after the bill received criticism from some, including Utah Shooting Sports Council Chairman Clark Aposhian who was quoted as saying:

If it restricts gun owners from going there, then it should also restrict bird watchers. It has to be closed to everybody.

The legislation does not close areas to the public. It allows the state forester to “restrict or prohibit target shooting in areas where hazardous conditions exist”.

According to Utah State Forester Dick Buehler, of the 1,528 fires in the state in 2012, 33 were caused by target shooting which cost over $16 million to suppress. In October, 2012 when we wrote about the increasing number of fires started by target shooters using exploding targets, we found 10 fires started by these devices in Utah over a 5-month period last year. One of them burned over 5,500 acres.

The legislature in Oregon is considering a bill, HB 3199, that would prohibit the use of sky lanterns (or fire balloons), exploding targets, and tracer ammunition on land within the boundaries of a forest protection district.

Another advertiser irresponsibly uses fire balloon in ad

Fire balloon
A fire balloon or sky lantern as seen in a testosterone commercial

Another advertiser on television for some unfathomable reason is using imagery of a fire balloon or sky lantern in a commercial. This time it is a company selling AndroGel, which is testosterone. In November it was Mercedes.

These incendiary devices use burning material such as rubbing alcohol or a candle to heat the air in a bag made of tissue paper or very thin plastic. The heat makes the device lighter than air causing it to rise into the sky, staying aloft for 10 minutes to 2 hours. They can be very pretty to watch especially when they are released dozens or hundreds at a time such as at a wedding or some other celebration. The  problem is they are uncontrollable and sometimes start wildfires or structure fires.

As we told you on February 27, 2013, a bill has been introduced in the Oregon legislature, HB 3199, that would prohibit the use of sky lanterns (or fire balloons), as well as exploding targets, and tracer ammunition on land within the boundaries of a forest protection district. The bill can be tracked at As this is written it is in the Agriculture and Natural Resources committee. (UPDATE: the bill was signed by the Governor and will take effect January 1, 2014.)

Explaining forest management in 100 seconds

This animated video explains forest management, prescribed burning, fire return interval, and fuel management in 100 seconds.

The video is very well done and gets its point across quite efficiently, however it may be obvious to some that it was produced by an organization like the Oregon Forest Resources Institute which represents forest producers, small woodland owners, forest sector employees, academia, and the general public. The group appears to be similar to the Idaho Forest Products Commission that came up with the “Thin the Threat” bumper sticker last year.Thin the Threat bumper sticker

via @FireAviationNPS