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 https://fasmee.net/study-sites/manning-creek

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.

Class action suit filed over health effects of burning sugar cane

Burning field sugar cane
Burning a field of sugar cane in Hawaii. Photo by bob Bangerter.

A class action lawsuit was filed in Florida Tuesday over the health effects of burning sugar cane fields.

The four people at the front of the room where the legal action was announced included, in addition to an attorney and a state legislator, Frank Biden, brother of former Vice President Joe Biden, and former Jacksonville Jaguars running back Fred Taylor.

Fields of sugar cane are sometimes burned before manual harvesting in order to remove the dry leaves and chase away or kill any lurking venomous snakes.

Below are excerpts from an article at the Sun-Sentinel:

There have been more than 100,000 cane field burns in Palm Beach County since 2004, according to former state Sen. Joe Abruzzo, who now serves as the director of government relations at the Berman Law Group, which filed the suit.

According to Abruzzo, there are also 700 hospitalizations for asthma in Palm Beach County for every 100,000 residents. That’s significantly higher than statewide numbers. According to the Centers for Disease Control, the hospitalization rate for asthma in Florida is 142.4 out of 100,000.

“The sugar companies, they have to take responsibility for this. If nothing more, they need to promote awareness and get down to the bottom of these health issues because the community is dying,” Taylor said. “The black snow that comes from the sky, people are breathing that stuff in. They’re getting sicker and sicker every day.”

The lawsuit accuses U.S. Sugar, Florida Crystals and other sugar producers of negligence, liability for any damages caused by the burning of the fields, and trespassing in that hazardous waste landed on the property of members of the class-action suit, among other things. The suit asks the court to institute a medical monitoring program for residents of Belle Glade, South Bay, Pahokee and nearby areas, as well as asking the court to force sugar companies to stop any future crop burnings.

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