UPDATE at 9:30 p.m. MT, July 21, 2011:
The WhoopUp fire started four days ago on July 17, and late today the incident management team for the first time made a good quality, fairly current, map available to the public. It can be found on InciWeb and clearly shows the controlled and uncontrolled portions of the fire perimeter as of 8:00 a.m. today. It is a great map, but maps like this could have been made available to the public two or three days ago. A Geographic Information System (GIS) specialist can make one of these in a couple of hours after someone flies around the fire with a GPS receiver.
Providing this important information to the public that is affected by the fire is an important responsibility of the fire managers. Ideally, the Situation Unit on a fire would collect the fire perimeter data late in the afternoon near the end of the burning period and the updated map would be available later that night or no later than 7:00 a.m. the next morning. And if the fire team is fully staffed, they could even do this twice a day if the fire is moving rapidly.
InciWeb is the place these maps should be posted, since we have been trained for years that it is the default place, the one common source, for information about large wildfires and other incidents across the United States. Posting photographs and maps on Flickr and other obscure commercial and government agency sites, like some fires have done over the last month, does not serve the public. And it leads to questions and confusion about copyrights for documents and photos that are in the public domain. Government photos have appeared on Flickr with a copyright warning — for photos that should be in the public domain.
But getting back to the updated information on InciWeb… The new adjusted size is 8,884 acres, down 1,116 acres from the 10,000-acre figure that was on InciWeb around noon today. The acreage figure includes both fires, WhoopUp and Barell. The new map, with data current as of 8:00 a.m. today, shows no completed fireline on the Barrel fire, which is 4 miles south of the WhoopUp fire. Since the main WhoopUp fire appears to be approximately 80-90% contained, the Team was going to shift some resources to the Barrel fire, so maybe they made significant progress on that fire today, making use of the two heavy air tankers and the three heavy helicopters.
In looking at the new map, the Barrel fire appears to be approximately 1,500 acres. The map also shows a fire that is new to me, about a mile northwest of the Barrel fire, perhaps 30-60 acres in size.
Since the Incident Management Team is now beginning to provide some current information to the public on InciWeb, we will cut back on the production of our cobbled-together maps. While they have been fairly accurate, using the best satellite data available, they can’t compare to one made when you have access to a helicopter and a GIS specialist.
UPDATE at 1:42 p.m. MT, July 21, 2011: According to updated information at InciWeb, the official size of the two fires combined, WhoopUp and Barrell, is now 10,000 acres, an increase of 2,629 acres over the size that was announced this morning. Smoke can be smelled in Hot Springs, SD.
7:21 a.m. MT, July 21, 2011. We will update this article as needed today.
Evacuations were lifted Wednesday at 2:00 p.m. for the WhoopUp fire, which straddles the border between Wyoming and South Dakota seven miles southeast of Newcastle, Wyoming. The strong winds that were forecast for Wednesday did not materialize, at least at the Red Mountain weather station southeast of the fire. The Barrel fire four miles south of the WhoopUp fire, the result of two fires burning together, is being managed with the WhoopUp fire and has been active over the last 24 hours. It will be the main focus of firefighters on Thursday, Steve Till, a spokesperson for the fire told us.
- Acres: 7,371, which includes both the WhoopUp and Barrel fires, an increase of 1,827 acres.
- Containment: 40%, down from 60% yesterday.
- Helicopters: 3 Type 1 (heavy), and 1 Type 3 (light)
- Air tankers available: 2
- Personnel (as of late on Wednesday): 527, an increase of 277 compared to Tuesday (according to the National Incident Management Situation Report). Some demobilization has started.
The weather forecast for the fire area on Thursday predicts 90 degrees, winds out of the southwest and west at 8-14 with gusts up to 16-18, relative humidity of 17%, and 0-12% chance of precipitation.
The Rapid City Journal has an excellent gallery of photos of the fire and also a few taken at the air tanker base at Rapid City Regional Airport. The caption on THIS picture is, unfortunately wrong, and should read: “I’ll be glad when they get that busted hose fixed. It’s getting old filling the air tankers with these damn buckets!”