Wildfire briefing July 19, 2013

Seven things to know about fire aviation

Check out the new article over at Fire Aviation about MAFFS, broken CV-580 nose gear, an update on next-gen air tankers, Neptune’s grid test, U.S. Forest Service C-27s, a shortage of lead planes, and an update on the 20,000-gallon 747 Supertanker

Senator Harry Reid talks about fighting fire “on the cheap”

It’s probably not likely that the Majority Leader of the U.S. Senate reads Wildfire Today, but if he had he would have found that we have something in common, an aversion of trying to fight fire “on the cheap”. We have used that phrase many times, and Senator Harry Reid uttered the words Wednesday, according to an article in the Las Vegas Review-Journal in which he was discussing the Carpenter 1 fire just west of Las Vegas:

WASHINGTON — As firefighters head home from Southern Nevada, U.S. Sen. Harry Reid on Wednesday blamed “climate change” for the intense blaze that consumed nearly 28,000 acres and drove hundreds of residents from their homes around Mount Charleston this month.

Reid said the government should be spending “a lot more” on fire prevention, echoing elected officials who say the Forest Service should move more aggressively to remove brush and undergrowth that turn small fires into huge ones.

“The West is burning,” the Nevada Democrat told reporters in a meeting. “I could be wrong, but I don’t think we’ve ever had a fire in the Spring Mountains, Charleston range like we just had.

“Why are we having them? Because we have climate change. Things are different. The forests are drier, the winters are shorter, and we have these terrible fires all over the West.”

“This is terribly concerning,” Reid said. Dealing with fire “is something we can’t do on the cheap.”

“We have climate change. It’s here. You can’t deny it,” Reid went on. “Why do you think we are having all these fires?”

The thrill of covering a wildfire

Jay Calderon, a photographer for MyDesert.com, wrote an article in which he wrote, “Covering a wildfire is one of the more exhilarating things I get to do as a photojournalist.”

A premature and shallow examination of the Yarnell Hill Fire

I have mixed feelings about mentioning a report that has just been released about the Yarnell Hill Fire that killed 19 members of the Granite Mountain Hotshots. But, it is already being referenced in articles, so you may hear about it regardless.

An official investigation is going on now. After it is released we will have much more information about what did, or did not happen that resulted in the tragedy. In spite of the lack of details available, an organization called Pacific Biodiversity Institute wrote a 34-page document expressing the opinions of the authors, Peter H. Morrison and George Wooten. Mr. Morrison’s expertise, according to their web site, is in “conservation biology and ecology with additional expertise in GIS, botany, conservation planning and management”, while Mr. Wooten is described as a “botanist and website developer”.

Their report is shallow, relies on cliches, summarizes the fire behavior describing it multiple times by saying the fire “exploded”, does not understand the nuances of fighting fire or fire behavior, and reaches very detailed and specific conclusions about the vulnerability of hundreds of individual structures based solely on satellite imagery.

So even though they quoted our analysis of the facts about the weather that was recorded by a nearby weather station, and how that could have affected the fire behavior, we can’t recommend their report as authoritative.

Families of Granite Mountain 19 to receive large sums of money

The families of the firefighters that were killed on the Yarnell Hill fire could each receive payments of close to half a million dollars, according to an analysis by NBC News. They came to that conclusion after considering the donations that have been received, the U.S. Justice Department’s Public Safety Officers’ Benefits Programs for law enforcement and fire officers injured or killed in the line of duty, plus Workmen’s Compensation benefits. Hopefully this will do a lot toward taking care of the wives and surviving children.

Unusually high wildfire danger in Scotland

Due to very hot weather (for them) Scotland and other parts of the UK are experiencing many more wildfires than usual. Scotsman.com explains:

Devastating wildfires have ripped through parts of Scotland as the longest heatwave for seven years spread across Britain and forecasters warned temperatures could climb as high as 35C [95F].

Mountain blazes tore across the south Wales’ valleys while flames devastated swathes of Tentsmuir Forest in north east Fife, Scotland, last night, and London experienced its worst grass fires since 2006.

The spate of hot weather is believed to have caused up to 760 premature deaths already and weathermen today warned that the hottest day of the year is yet to come.

John Mayer’s Wildfire

I sometimes check out the hashtag #wildfire on twitter, but for the last few days it has been flooded with something about John Mayer and “Wildfire”. So finally I checked it out, and it’s the name of a new song which has the line “…You and me are catching on like a wildfire”. The video is below.

You may remember that a John Mayer concert in Livingston, Montana earlier this year raised more than $100,000 to help firefighters who battled the 2012 Pine Creek Fire that burned through the community of Pine Creek seven miles south of Livingston August 29, 2012.  He owns a home there but was not in the area when five homes and 8,500 acres burned.

So in my book, he gets a break when he sings about “Wildfire”.

Wildfire in Scotland near Corpach

Fire in Scotland. Corpach.
Fire in Scotland, in the Corpach West Highlands area. Photo from Sam on Twitter, used with permission.

A gentleman in Scotland posted on Twitter several reports and the photo above about a wildfire in the Corpach, West Highlands area.

Below is what was tweeted between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. MT today, by Sam  who granted us permission to use the photo, but asked that his Twitter handle not be disclosed:

  • S**t an actual brick. Yet another wildfire here :-/ #scary
  • It took less than an hour to come over the hill and now massive rings of flames are visible. Getting far too close to houses now #wildfire
  • Here it is tinder-dry. We’ve had about 5 massive wildfires in the last week.
  • Update on the #wildfire. Can finally see the fire brigade going up the forestry tracks
  • @RedMist78 @tebone01 Haha! Don’t worry, we have a big loch that does the trick for this one. Buggered if it happens to the hill behind us.
  • The helicopters are on the way. It’s got into the forestry. Behind me is heather, bracken and trees.

UPDATE at 4:54 p.m. MT, April 1, 2013:

Another person on Twitter posted an impressive night photo of the fire at about 3:45 p.m. on Monday.

Here is a link to an interesting photo of firefighters working on the fire.

Firefighters dealing with numerous large wildfires in Scotland

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While some areas in Scotland are still without electricity due to recent heavy snow storms, other areas are dealing with large wildfires. Very impressive photos of the fires can be found on the BBC web site.

One of the fires on the Ardnamurchan peninsula was two miles long and approaching the village of Strontian. Other fires are near Lewis, Skye, Mallaig, and Glenelg.