Prescribed fire escapes on Eldorado National Forest

The fire has burned over 2,000 acres 15 miles southwest of Lake Tahoe in Northern California

Caples prescribed fire October 7, 2019
Caples “prescribed fire”. Photo by Forest Supervisor Laurence Crabtree, published October 7, 2019.

I was first aware of the Caples  prescribed fire on the Eldorado National Forest when three tweets were published by the forest’s Twitter account on the afternoon of Monday October 7 saying, “Ignitions continue on Caples Prescribed Fire. More smoke is expected”. Photos taken from an aircraft by Forest Supervisor Laurence Crabtree also were Tweeted.

At that time there had  been news and discussions for several days in the wildland fire community about very strong winds and Red Flag Warnings that were due to hit California Wednesday October 9. Smoke from the prescribed fire was easily detected by a satellite October 7. It was a large amount of smoke to be generated by what was supposed to have been some burning debris piles.

The project began October 1 and involved disposing of debris piles by burning. Additional ignitions occurred on October 5 and 7.

The information below came from the @EldoradoNF Twitter account.

Tuesday, October 8:  A tweet from the National Forest said, “The goal of today’s burn operation is continue active ignitions to reach the end of the ridge and tie into a dozer line that extends to the 10N30 road before the wind event that is predicted for this evening. No additional ignitions are planned this week.” And later that day, “Ignitions on the Caples Prescribed Fire have been completed and crews will patrol and monitor the area over the next few days during the wind. No additional ignitions are planned this week. ”

Wednesday October 9: “Today’s goal is to finish active ignitions to tie into the 10N30 road before the wind event now predicted for Wednesday night. Ignitions were intended to be done yesterday but due to unfavorable wind conditions during the day shift the operation is continuing today.”  And later that day, “Personnel on the Caples Prescribed Burn continue ignitions down the western perimeter of the fire towards forest road 10N30. A total of 1,080 acres have been treated, exceeding today’s target.” And later, “Ignitions are complete on the western end of the Caples Burn. Crews will patrol and monitor the area over the next few days during the wind event predicted to start this evening. Smoke will continue to be visible as the fire consumes unburned fuels within the fire perimeter.” And later, “The scheduled PG&E Power Outage has resulted in the closure of Eldorado National Forest offices except Camino ECC. Fire and essential personnel continue to work, however, forest offices are not open and phones are not operational until power is restored.”

Thursday, October 10: No additional information except for a Community Meeting scheduled in Pollock Pines that evening. One of the six items on the agenda was, “Brief updates on Caples Prescribed Fire and PG&E Power Outage”.

Friday October 11: “The Caples prescribed burn declared a wildland fire on today at 1:30 pm. Fire managers made the decision due to unfavorable weather conditions and the inability to meet previously established objectives. Inciweb is down. We will update when it comes back up.”

Today, October 11, personnel from the Eldorado National Forest report that the fire has burned 2,143 acres. It is 3 miles west of Kirkwood and 15 miles southwest of the south shore of Lake Tahoe. Approximately 152 personnel and a Type 3 Incident Management Team has been assigned.

Here is a report from the Northern California Geographic Coordination Center, Friday morning October 11:

Extreme fire behavior with wind driven runs, torching and spotting has been observed. A Red Flag Warning is in effect until 1000 this morning for the fire area. There is a threat to structures on remote ranches in the area. Private timberlands, major municipal watershed, historical sites and critical wildlife habitat are also threatened. Smoke impacts to the Sacramento Valley and Lake Tahoe areas are possible. Road, trail and area closures are in effect in the fire area.

Caples Fire Map
Map showing heat on the Caples Fire detected by a satellite at 3:36 a.m. PDT October 11, 2019.

Caples Fire escaped prescribed fire information

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

Update on the Fire and Smoke Model Evaluation Experiment

fire Manning Creek burn
Manning Creek burn on June 20, 2019. (Photo by Roger Ottmar)

The Fire and Smoke Model Experiment (FASMEE) is a large, multi-agency effort funded by the Joint Fire Science Program and the U.S. Forest Service to identify and collect critical fuel, fire behavior, and other measurements that will be used to advance scientific understanding as well as operational and research modeling capabilities associated with wildland fire. The goal is to allow managers to increase the use of wildfire and prescribed fire.

On June 20, 2019, FASMEE completed data collection on Manning Creek, the first of two large, operational stand-replacement burns in a dense mixed conifer-aspen forest as part of FASMEE’s Phase 2 Southwest Campaign (Phase 1 was a planning phase and other campaigns are possible). The burn was conducted by the Richfield Ranger District located on the Fishlake National Forest in Utah. Over 40 scientists participated using ground sampling methods, drones carrying state of the art imagery and air quality sampling instrumentation, fire hardened video and still cameras, and LiDAR to collect a suite of data including fuel loading, fuel consumption, fire behavior, plume dynamics, and smoke data. Readers can view video and photographic imagery captured during the Manning Creek fire at

Richfield Ranger District personnel will conduct a second stand replacement research fire this fall near Annabella Reservoir with over 120 scientists participating. In addition to the suite of instruments and sampling techniques deployed during the first research burn, two fixed wing aircraft including NASA/NOAA’s FIREX-AQ DC8 will be sampling plume smoke and heat release. Additional LiDAR and radar units have been acquired to better identify plume dynamics, with cameras and thermocouples added within the fire perimeter to capture data on soil heating and aspen regeneration.

fire Manning Creek burn
Manning Creek burn on June 20, 2019. (Photo by Brett Butler)
drone fire Manning Creek burn
A wildland firefighter flies a drone over the Manning Creek burn on June 20, 2019. (Photo by Adam Watts)


“You’ll get to carry fire”

Looking at the experience of prescribed fire

Prescribed fire Big Cypress National Preserve
Prescribed fire at Big Cypress National Preserve video. Screenshot from NPS video below.

I assumed this third film in a series about prescribed fire at Big Cypress National Preserve in south Florida would be strictly that, prescribed fire. But it took an unexpected turn highlighting the unheralded and under-appreciated federal employees — firefighters — without whom there would be no fire management program in the National Park Service and several other agencies.

In the film there is no off screen narrator that drives that point, but instead there are interviews with two firefighters who obviously cherish the work they do. As a former firefighter, (is anyone ever a FORMER firefighter?) I could relate to the sentiment. They didn’t mention the money they make, which is a fraction of what they could make doing more, uh, normal work. But they conveyed the satisfaction in what they are accomplishing, both personally and for the natural resources.

“We’re here to manage the land and we have that responsibility as a human to do that.”
Megan Hurrell, Firefighter and Fire Effects Monitor at Big Cypress National Preserve

I don’t know if it was one of the producers’ objectives, but the film could serve as an effective recruitment tool.

“I went to my first fire and I knew right then. It’s kinda like when people say you meet the love of  your life it was kind of like that. It was — wow! That was good work, that was hard work. I’m filthy. I feel good about myself, I’m doing something that’s right. I’m comfortable with that and I’m in awe with it.”
Jay Thatcher, Burn Boss at Big Cypress National Preserve

When I was a Fire Management Officer and Burn Boss, occasionally a high-ranking person in the agency would attend a prescribed fire that was in progress. If they were near the action they wore personal protective equipment and I often put a drip torch in their hands and let them participate in ignition, under close supervision, of course. Sometimes it was difficult to get the drip torch back. They had a different perception of prescribed fire after that experience.

Recently a mom was encouraging her eight-year old son to serve in their church as an acolyte, with part of the duties being lighting candles at the alter. She told him, “You’ll get to carry fire,” then she looked at me and smiled.

For Megan and Jay in South Florida it’s in their job description. Sometimes wildland firefighters hear, “You’ll get paid in sunsets.” Well, that, and, you’ll get to carry fire.

Burn Boss: A History of Fire and People in Big Cypress National Preserve

Above: screenshot from the video below.

Big Cypress has released their second in a series of three films about prescribed fire in the south Florida Park, titled, Burn Boss: A History of Fire and People in Big Cypress.

Here is their description:

The job of the Burn Boss is difficult. Perhaps the toughest in all of professional conservation. To be the Boss of Fire, you must be willing to take responsibility for one of nature’s most powerful forces: Fire.

Jennifer Brown and Into Nature Films worked shoulder-to-shoulder with Big Cypress National Preserve to tell the history of the National Park Service’s most accomplished fire program. With beautiful cinematography, fascinating interviews, and tantalizing story, this film highlights the colorful people and places in the wild heart of south Florida, narrated and written by Rick Anderson, a descendent of Florida pioneers. Rick has dedicated his life to the use of fire for the land.

Last month the first film in the series was released, “Fire Swamp”, that  explains the relationship between fire and the swamp.

Prescribed fire at St. Vincent NWR produces massive smoke column

The manager of the Twitter account for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s St. Vincent National Wildlife Refuge wanted to make it clear that the photo was taken during the implementation of the prescribed fire.

The refuge is in the Florida panhandle, southeast of Panama City. (map)

Video released about Native Fire in the Southern Plains

Native Fire Video

Produced in in partnership with Injunuity, the Bureau of Indian Affairs has released  “Native Fire,” an educational video about prescribed fire.

It covers Native American’s historic use of fire and addresses how traditional practices in the southern plains have influenced its modern-day application. In the video, fire research specialists speak to this history and address some of the complex challenges facing land managers today.

The 13-minute video also explains why fire is an essential and timeless tool that is necessary for maintaining and restoring ecosystems that evolved with fire.