Red Flag Warnings, Texas and Alabama

Red Flag Warning, 2-20-2013

The National Weather Service (NWS) has issued Red Flag Warnings for some areas in Texas and Alabama, and Fire Weather Watches for other areas in these states. I had to manipulate the colors in the map above in order to make it easier to see the Watch areas. Light yellow on light green is difficult to see on their original map.

The map below is produced by the NWS’ Storm Prediction Center, but uses the term “Critical Fire Weather” instead of Red Flag Warning.

Fire Weather 1-day outlook 2-20-2013
Fire Weather outlook for February 20, 2013. Click to enlarge.

It as has been 1 year, 2 months, and 20 days since the U.S. Forest Service issued a solicitation for next-generation large air tankers, but no contracts have been awarded.

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The maps above were current as of 9:15 a.m. MT on Wednesday. Red Flag Warnings can change throughout the day as the National Weather Service offices around the country update and revise their forecasts. For the most current data, visit this NWS site.

Red flag warnings for portions of New Mexico, Texas, and Florida

Red Flag Warning, Texas-NM, 2-18-2013
Red Flag Warning, Texas and New Mexico, 2-18-2013

The National Weather Service has issued a Red Flag Warning for dry and windy conditions between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. MT today in the Guadalupe and Davis mountains, Van Horn, Highway 54 corridor, Reeves County, Upper Trans Pecos, Stockton Plateau, and Terrell County. The NWS forecast predicts the winds will be 20 to 30 mph with the relative humidity between 5 and 10 percent.

There is also a Red Flag Warning for an area in the Florida panhandle between Pensacola and Tallahassee until 6 p.m. CST today for a relative humidity below 35 percent and an Energy Release Component at or above 20.

In case there is a fire:

The U.S. Forest Service does not have any large air tankers on exclusive use contracts at the present time. They issued a solicitation for “next generation” air tankers 15 months ago, but no contracts have been awarded. The contracts for the existing Korean War vintage air tankers, and Neptune’s new-ish BAe-146s, expired in 2012. Usually air tankers come on duty in Alamorgordo, New Mexico in mid-February and in Boise in late February.

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The map above was current as of 12:10 p.m. MT on Monday. Red Flag Warnings can change throughout the day as the dozens of National Weather Service offices around the country update and revise their forecasts. For the most current data, visit this NWS site.

City near Austin to install automatic wildfire detection system

FireWatch AmericaThe City Council of West Lake Hills, near Austin, Texas, has approved the purchase of a camera system to detect wildfires. The FireWatch devices mounted on towers are designed to detect smoke within 6 miles by rotating their sensors, completing a 360-degree rotation every 8 to 12 minutes, during which it takes images, analyzes, and then transmits those images for secondary analysis. If possible fire events are detected, the system alerts fire authorities.

West Lake Hills, with a population of about 3,000, is described on Wikipedia as a wealthy suburb on the west side of Austin.

The City Council has set aside $200,000 for the purchase and installation of the camera system. The city of Austin and Travis County are also considering the acquisition of the devices.

Wildfire briefing, January 25, 2013

Caylym continues to develop containers for dropping retardant

Caylym system
Caylym system dispersing a liquid after exiting an aircraft. Photo credit: Caylym

Since Wildfire Today last covered their disposable container for delivering retardant over wildfires,the Caylym company has continued to develop and promote their concept. The system consists of containers constructed of cardboard, plywood, a plastic bladder, and dozens of yards of straps. They hold 264 gallons each and are designed to be carried in military aircraft such as the C-130 or C-27 using the standard cargo system. The containers when empty weigh 100 pounds.

At Fire Aviation we have more photos and a video, as well the results of our interview with Rick Goddard, the Managing Director of Caylym

South Africa: Firefighter Man killed fighting a fire near Clanwilliam

(UPDATE January 26, 2013: It turns out the man that was killed was not a trained firefighter, volunteer or paid. As so frequently happens in remote areas of South Africa, he lived nearby and was doing what he could to fight the fire while hoping that firefighters might show up.)

A man has died fighting a wildfire near Clanwilliam in South Africa (map). Christo Fourie, a retired bank manager, had been missing since Wednesday and his body was found Thursday in a burned area near his vehicle. A police spokesperson said Mr. Fourie was caught in the fire but the exact circumstances of his death were being investigated. A news report described the man as a volunteer firefighter.

The fire has burned 24,000 hectares (59,305 acres) and is being fought by firefighters supported by helicopters and four air tankers.

Missouri: Fire destroys Mammoth-area home 

A wildfire destroyed a home on County Road 527 off the T Highway near Mammoth, Missouri on Monday. The fire was fought by the Timber Knob and Pontiac VFDs for several hours but the home was a total loss.

Utah: fire baloons may become illegal

Fire Balloon, Mercedes
Fire Balloon — a screen grab from a Mercedes commercial on CBS, November 4, 2012.

Proposed legislation in Utah would outlaw fire balloons, sometimes called Chinese lanterns or sky lanterns. These devices are small, lightweight, inexpensive hot air balloons powered by burning material at the base. They can be made out of common household materials or purchased in large quantities online.

We first wrote about fire balloons in November after seeing the concept promoted by Mercedes in a car commercial on network television. An article in the Deseret News quotes Coy Porter, the Utah State Fire Marshal, as saying, “The biggest problem is just if they’re slightly damaged, there’s a small rip, they don’t get the elevation, they can still come down while the flame is still going in there.”

These incendiary devices are sometimes released by the hundreds at weddings or in celebration of the Chinese New Year.

More information from the article:

During the wedding rehearsal for former BYU and current NBA basketball player Jimmer Fredette last May, hundreds of lanterns were released into the Denver sky. One of those lanterns landed in a neighbor’s yard and lit a tree on fire. Fortunately, it didn’t do too much damage.

Last summer, Porter said a wildland fire in St. George was also started as a result of a sky lantern.

Links to information about a few fires that have been caused by these devices: here, here, and here.

Los Angeles: law firm has Wild Land Fire Litigation Practice Group

I guess there should be no surprise that a law firm has a “Wild Land Fire Litigation Practice Group”. In our litigious society there are probably lawyers that specialize in every conceivable niche. The Murchison and Cummings law firm in Los Angeles has such a group chaired by Friedrich W. Seitz. They are representing the Bluebonnet Electric Cooperative in defending them against the numerous lawsuits that have been filed relating to the September 2011 fire in Bastrop County, Texas that burned 34,000 acres and destroyed 1,600 homes. In an effort to try to get in on the action, a law firm in Texas created a web site in order to recruit clients to sue Bluebonnet for another fire in Bastrop County, the Wilderness Ridge fire, which burned 26 homes, 20 businesses, and 1,491 acres in Bastrop County, Texas in February, 2009.

Murchison and Cummings has defended Southern California Edison and Breitburn Energy Partners against litigation arising out of wild land fires for many years.

Texas Forest Service adds university to their name

Texas AMFSThe Texas Forest Service is part of a university — Texas A&M University. Many emergency responders think it is an odd structure for an emergency services organization. While the state of Colorado recognized the problems with having their state Forest Service under Colorado State University following the escaped Lower North Fork prescribed fire in which three residents were killed at their homes, Texans have doubled down on keeping their Forest Service under the control of a university.

The Texas Forest Service has changed their name to “Texas A&M Forest Service”. The change was proposed earlier this year by Texas A&M University System Chancellor John Sharp as “a way to better align marketing and branding efforts”, according to the university’s web site. The university’s announcement did not say how much it would cost to change the name and their logos.

The governor of Colorado went a different direction after the Lower North Fork Fire, and decided to have all state emergency services agencies under one umbrella, the Colorado Department of Public Safety. Governor Hickenlooper said “We want to have it in one place, with an agency that is used to dealing with situations where minutes matter”. His objective was to streamline the decision making as well as the dispatching and managing of firefighters.

 

Thanks go out to Dick

National Wildlife Refuge in Texas closed by fires

Four fires on the McFaddin National Wildlife Refuge on the Gulf Coast of Texas have grown to 13,000 acres in the last few days. It’s prompted officials to close the wildlife refuge to the public.

McFaddin National Wildlife Refuge burnout
McFaddin National Wildlife Refuge burnout

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service personnel said today that the fires on the refuge were ignited by lightning — the first on July 14. A series of lightning storms has since passed through, torching off more fies. Park Ranger Tami Schutter said they decided to close the refuge yesterday.

Jim Stockie, the FMO on the refuge, told the Associated Press that they’ve had a tremendous amount of lightning across the 68,000-acre refuge for the last three weeks. He said the latest fire grew to over 4,000 acres.  About 15 firefighters from the wildlife agency and National Park Service are assigned.