Crowdsourcing fire recovery photos

Morgan Fire
Morgan Fire as seen from Brentwood, September 8, 2013. Photo by Brittney Lauren.

Mt. Diablo State Park is using a crowdsourcing technique to create a time-lapse history of the recovery of the vegetation following the wildfire that burned much of the park last September. The Morgan Fire blackened about 3,200 acres 18 miles east of Berkeley, California before it was contained.

Park managers have posted signs at four locations on hiking trails asking visitors to place their cameras in a bracket, take a photo, then post it to a social media page along with a specific hashtag. The images for each location are then assembled into a slide show in chronological order — and of course they are posted on the internet. The website is receiving so much traffic, it has been down occasionally and some of the slide shows have not worked at times..

Not only is this a relative inexpensive way to document the recovery of the vegetation after a fire, but it educates and informs the public as they participate in the project. It undoubtedly garners publicity for the park, increases website traffic, and probably swells the number of visitors to the park.

Granted, with the loosely controlled camera angles and varying lens settings, it may be difficult for scientists to reach detailed conclusions about the fire effects in the burn area, but that may not be the primary objective.

California: Bernardo Fire near Rancho Santa Fe

Map Bernardo Fire, north of San Diego, 2:52 pm PDT May 13, 2014
Map of heat detected on the Bernardo Fire, north of San Diego near Rancho Santa Fe, at 2:52 p.m. PDT May 13, 2014. The icons can be as much as a mile in error.

(UPDATE at 8:23 a.m. PDT, May 14, 2014)

All evacuations have been lifted for the Bernardo Fire north of San Diego at Rancho Santa Fe. The satellites that passed over the fire early Wednesday morning did not detect any large sources of heat or any additional fire spread.

San Diego Fire-Rescue reports Wednesday morning that 1,548 acres have burned and the fire is 25 percent contained. As of Tuesday night there were no reports of any homes burning, in spite of the fact that the fire burned through and adjacent to dense housing developments.

The weather on Wednesday will be a challenge for firefighters, who should expect 94 degrees, a relative humidity in the single digits, and by 11 a.m. 26 mph winds gusting up to 43 mph. By nightfall the winds will decrease to 10 mph or less and the humidity will rise to 39 percent by 1 a.m. Thursday.

The video report below was aired at 11 p.m. Tuesday night.

San Diego, California News Station – KFMB Channel 8 –

Police Chief Shelley Zimmerman said about 22,000 phone numbers that had registered with AlertSanDiego were sent evacuation alerts in the first hours after the fire started on Tuesday. It was first reported near Del Norte High School’s playing fields, on Nighthawk Lane and Camino San Bernardino in the city of San Diego, about 10:40 a.m.

The video below is a time-lapse of the fire as photographed from a camera system on Mt. Woodson.

Continue reading “California: Bernardo Fire near Rancho Santa Fe”

California: Deluz Fire, Camp Pendleton

The Deluz Fire started near the Naval Hospital on Camp Pendleton southwest of Fallbrook, California Friday afternoon. By Sunday night the spread had stopped after burning about 2,500 acres and it was reported to be 20 percent contained. Some residents of the O’Neill Heights Housing area were evacuated Saturday but were allowed to return Sunday afternoon. Southern California Interagency Team 1 assumed command of the fire at 2:00 p.m. Sunday.

NBC News has a very interesting time-lapse video of  images from the Red Mountain web cam showing the fire from the moment it started.

The video below from CNN was shot by Maylette Brown at Camp Pendleton. She said “The fire started from the housing area and was pushed towards the Naval Base Hospital. The closer the fire got to the hospital, the thicker the flames and smoke got to us.”


The Yarnell Hill tragedy; examining the wind and topography

(UPDATE at 9:14 p.m. MDT, July 6, 2013)

We added this photo of the entrapment site on the Yarnell Hill Fire. The dozer line was punched in after the incident to facilitate the removal of the bodies, which were at the end of the line. The photo was taken by Wade Ward of the Prescott FD, and is used here with permission.

Yarnell Hill Fire fatality site, Arizona, 2013. Prescott FD photo by Wade Ward. (click to enlarge)


(Originally published at 8:53 MDT, July 6, 2013)

Robert Ford, who grew up in Prescott, studied some of the information that is available about the wind when the 19 members of the Granite Mountain Hotshots were killed on the Yarnell Fire June 30. His message is below, with a few notes from me [in brackets].


“A graphic showing the “safety zone” and shelter deployment site is here.”

[Note from Bill: the times in that article are approximately 6 hours in error. We were told by Carrie Dennett of the Arizona State Forestry Division that their office received notice that shelters had been deployed at 4:47 local time, Mountain STANDARD Time. But they were not in direct communication with firefighters. The information had to travel up a chain of command and may have been delayed. I have not seen definitive word on when the deployment took place.]

“A Google Earth rough approximation of the high res photo above is attached.

Approximate location of shelter deployment
Approximate location of shelter deployment. Google Earth.

Looking due west, eye altitude about 5400 feet. The approx. shelter site is 34.221416,-112.775796. The Landsat imagery was acquired last May; note the fuel, when compared to the Facebook photo above.

If you have Google Earth, it is also easy to duplicate the camera location of the time-lapse video (posted on your site) [embedded again above] purportedly shot from “Congress”; actually I’ve determined it was shot just west of the Date Creek Road (dirt – you can see the dust clouds from passing vehicles) just North of the intersection with Highway 89. The time-lapse video, looking N45E, shows the fire just cresting the ridge starting about one mile due Northwest of the shelter deployment site, then flashing to the right (southeast) along the ridge-line towards the deploy site. The smoke then obscures how the fire must have flashed over the ridge just 1500 feet west of the deploy site. In any event, the video shows how very rapidly the wind moved through the natural basin of the deploy site; probably aided by a natural venturi effect from the walls of the basin; also note that by the end of the video a trailing vortice formed off the ridge crest has actually moved the plume locally down (by 2000 feet !) to about the elevation of the Camera. It was an amphitheater of death for all of those brave men. This also explains why some men were found “outside” their shelters; that’s because a wind of unimaginable proportion, moving locally upward, lifted their shelters away.

Well thank you and you are very welcome to use whatever of this information you please. I have learned so very much from your site; it contains absolutely the best no-nonsense web coverage of this fire. In the event you wondered, I used to model the effects of wind on the topography surrounding astronomical observatories; but I never had to deal with a surface boundary condition as defined by a wildfire: that adds an order of magnitude of complexity to the simulation. I would like to presume the Feds will realize the importance of contracting a surface topography wind effect model for this fire, as a component of their investigation; If you have any say in the matter I am happy to recommend the best people; it’s not cheap as it requires supercomputer time.

Finally, I needed to relate that I grew up in Prescott; fighting fires was a rite of passage. You would have thought that by now the FS would have developed a weather-topography-fuel load model to deal with this sort of thing.

Well now they will do so.”


In a follow-up message, Mr. Ford wrote:


Yarnell Hill Fire photo texted at 4:04 p.m. by Granite Mountain HS
Yarnell Hill Fire photo texted at 4:04 p.m. by Granite Mountain HS

“For your information, I was able to determine the approximate vantage point of the photo [added above] as looking due East from 34.227291,-112.788630, at an eye elevation of 5,510 feet.

Screen capture from Google Earth.
Screen capture from Google Earth. Approximate location of the previous photo.

This location [above] is just off (east of) the trail on the ridge crest-line, and is located about 0.82 miles Northwest (as the crow flies; longer by trail) of the shelter deploy site (subject of my previous post). Now given the vantage point vector as due East, the plume appears to be moving southeast; thus the fire front (barely visible in the photo) is being driven directly towards Glen ilah.”


Follow-up from Bill:

A comment left on one of our posts by “lone ranger” found an article that included information provided by the National Fire Administration, which is the first I’ve head that they had anything to do with this incident. I would be hesitant to trust this information. The report says the firefighters initially took refuge in a burned area, the black, then left that site and deployed their fire shelters later in another area as they headed toward a ranch which was to be their safety zone.

There continues to be confusion about the times. This may be partly due to the fact that Arizona is not on Daylight Savings Time like most of the United States. They use Mountain STANDARD Time.

A blog called Cliff Mass posted a very clear and detailed explanation of the weather. His last line in the article:

A number of media outlets called the strong winds unpredictable and random. This is not correct, as shown by the information I provided above.

Chuck Bushey told us that once upon a time there were:

…Fire Behavior Service Centers in various regions, warning crews in real time about t-storms (or other events) heading their direction that they couldn’t yet see and getting them into the black. The Southwest use to run a FBSC with a qualified Fire Behavior Analyst (FBAN) but I think they dropped it as did everyone else.


Time-lapse video of a prescribed fire in longleaf and slash pine

This is a time-lapse video (spanning over 2 hours) of a dormant season prescribed fire in a mixed longleaf pine / slash pine flatwoods stand in the University of Florida Austin Cary Forest near Gainesville, Florida. This particular stand within the forest is burned on an annual basis during the months of January and February to demonstrate the influence of burn season on vegetative composition, fuel characteristics, and fire behavior. The burn was conducted in January 2013 by Austin Cary Forest Staff along with University of Florida faculty, staff, and students from the 2013 Fire Ecology and Management class.

For more information about fire science and wildland fire management in the southern U.S., visit the Southern Fire Exchange (

via @RMIMTTeamC & @FireScienceGOV

Videos of the Myrtle fire in South Dakota

UPDATED July 20; we added this time-lapse video that was shot by Christopher Redmond Thursday near Highway 385 just north of Pringle, SD. Here is how he described it:

First day of the Myrtle Fire southwest of Rapid City and east of Pringle, SD as it explodes. Fire was pretty much plume dominated until winds shifted out of the east in the late evening. Several large bursts in fire activity caused some pyrocumulus to redevelop during the last gasp of daylight.


Original article, July 19, 2012:

We posted more information about the Myrtle Fire in South Dakota earlier, but here are a couple of short video clips that were shot Thursday evening.