Utah: Patch Springs Fire burns 13,000 acres southwest of Salt Lake City

(UPDATED at 4:20 p.m. MDT, August 16, 2013)

Map of Patch Springs Fire at 2:26 p.m. MDT August 16, 2013
Map of Patch Springs Fire at 2:26 p.m. MDT August 16, 2013

Fire managers on the Patch Springs fire southwest of Salt Lake City were notified this morning they would be receiving aircraft no longer needed on the Rockport Fire north of Park City, Utah.

The BLM reported that the Tooele County Sheriff’s department evacuated the town of Terra and the BLM Clover Springs Campground on Highway 199 Friday afternoon. The fire is now on the south side of the highway.

The latest acreage number provided by the BLM is 14,000 acres. An order has been placed for Dunford’s Type 2 Incident Management Team.

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Patch Springs Fire
Wild horses are attracted to a new water source near the Patch Springs Fire Aug 14, 2013. The tank holds water for refilling helicopter water buckets. Photo credit @UtahFireInfo

(UPDATED at 6:50 p.m. MDT, August 15, 2013)

Map of Patch Springs Fire at 3:25 p.m. MDT August 15, 2013
Map of the Patch Springs Fire at 3:25 p.m. MDT, August 15, 2013. The squares indicate heat detected by a satellite, with the red areas being the most recently burned.

The Patch Springs Fire has been active today, spreading at least two to three miles to the north and moving closer to the town of Terra on the south. By late afternoon officials closed Highway 199 to help provide a better environment for firefighters working in the area. “Precautionary evacuations” are underway for the Willow Community northeast of Terra.

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(Originally published at 11:09 a.m. MDT, August 15, 2013)

The 13,000-acre Patch Springs Fire, started from lightning on August 10, has grown to within a mile of the outskirts of Terra, Utah, which is just south of the fire. The Terra Fire Chief and the Patch Springs Incident Commander have set trigger points for the possible evacuation of the town and the potential closure of Highway 199 (Johnson’s Pass). Today crews, a dozer, and aircraft will be reinforcing a fire line around the community.

The north end of the fire is burning in Antelope Canyon, 10 miles from the Tooele Army Depot, a Superfund hazardous materials site with 902 ammunition storage igloos.

Map of Patch Springs and Rockport Fires 4:20 a.m. MDT August 15, 2013
Map of Patch Springs and Rockport Fires, showing heat detected by a satellite. The red dots were seen at 4:20 a.m. MDT August 15, 2013. The location of the Rockport Fire can be seen at the upper right, where 13 homes burned. (click to enlarge)

The Patch Springs Fire is being suppressed by 12 engines, 3 handcrews, a water tender, 2 helicopters, a dozer and air attack, for a total of 149 personnel.

Utah: Rockport fire burns structures

Map showing approximate locations of heat detected on the Rockport Fire
Map showing approximate locations of heat detected on the Rockport Fire at 2:39 p.m. MDT, August 14, 2013 (click to enlarge)

The map above shows the approximate location of the Rockport Fire that has burned at least 13 residences, approximately 20 outbuildings, several vehicles, and 2,000 acres near Rockport, about 8 miles northeast of Park City, Utah. The red squares indicate heat detected by a satellite, but the locations can be off by as much as a mile. The map indicates that the fire is burning through a populated area with homes on large lots.

It started Tuesday afternoon and slowed overnight and Wednesday morning but it was active enough at about 3:30 p.m. Wednesday that a scheduled press briefing had to be relocated from Wanshop (north of Rockport Lake) to the Summit County Justice Center in Park City due to “media and staff safety”.

Utah bill approved to restrict target shooting during enhanced fire danger

The Governor of Utah has signed legislation, S.B. 120, that will allow the state forester to restrict target shooting during periods of enhanced wildfire danger.

When first introduced by state Senator Margaret Dayton it was temporarily withdrawn after the bill received criticism from some, including Utah Shooting Sports Council Chairman Clark Aposhian who was quoted as saying:

If it restricts gun owners from going there, then it should also restrict bird watchers. It has to be closed to everybody.

The legislation does not close areas to the public. It allows the state forester to “restrict or prohibit target shooting in areas where hazardous conditions exist”.

According to Utah State Forester Dick Buehler, of the 1,528 fires in the state in 2012, 33 were caused by target shooting which cost over $16 million to suppress. In October, 2012 when we wrote about the increasing number of fires started by target shooters using exploding targets, we found 10 fires started by these devices in Utah over a 5-month period last year. One of them burned over 5,500 acres.

The legislature in Oregon is considering a bill, HB 3199, that would prohibit the use of sky lanterns (or fire balloons), exploding targets, and tracer ammunition on land within the boundaries of a forest protection district.

Wildfire briefing, February 27, 2013

Fire burns 407 acres near Lone Pine, California

Map of River FireCAL FIRE expects to fully contain the River Fire on Thursday which has burned 407 acres east of Lone Pine, California. Thick brush and winds measured at 25 mph challenged the 500 firefighters that initially fought the blaze after it started on Sunday. Remaining on the fire Wednesday morning are 234 personnel, 11 engines, 6 crews, and 2 water tenders. CAL FIRE is calling it 85 percent contained.

Oregon may regulate exploding targets and sky lanterns

A bill has been introduced in the Oregon legislature, HB 3199, that would prohibit the use of sky lanterns (or fire balloons), exploding targets, and tracer ammunition on land within the boundaries of a forest protection district. (UPDATE: the bill was signed by the Governor and will take effect January 1, 2014.)

“Concealed carry is a right, target shooting is not”

Those were the words of Utah state senator Margaret Dayton who resurrected her bill that would give the state forester the authority to ban target shooting on state lands during periods of enhanced wildfire danger. Earlier she withdrew the bill after it received criticism from some shooting enthusiasts. The bill passed the Senate this week along with another that would allow firefighters to access water on privately owned land to aid them in fire suppression efforts.

According to Utah State Forester Dick Buehler, of the 1,528 fires in the state in 2012, 33 were caused by target shooting which cost over $16 million to suppress. In October, 2012 when we wrote about the increasing number of fires started by target shooters using exploding targets, we found 10 fires started by these devices in Utah over a 5-month period last year. One of them burned over 5,500 acres.

Colorado Senate considers legislation regulating prescribed fires

A bill is speeding through the Colorado Senate that would add safeguards to prescribed fires conducted in the state. Senate Bill 13-083 would:

  • Establish control over prescribed burning within the Division of Fire Prevention and Control in the Department of Public Safety;
  • “Prescribed Burn Managers” must be certified by the Division for prescribed fires occurring on state lands or conducted by state agencies on private lands. This does not apply to “burning conducted by an agency of the federal government”;
  • A Prescribed Burn Manager must be on site during a prescribed burn “until the fire is adequately confined to reasonably prevent escape”;
  • Allows the Division to collect fees for providing training and certifications.

Getting manufactured crisis fatigue?

While the people we send to Washington to conduct the nation’s business have not passed a federal budget in four years, and they propel us from one manufactured crisis to another, some of us may tire of the hype as we reel from one ridiculous deadline to another. Unfortunately the impacts on the land management agencies from the budget cuts required by the sequester will be significant unless they are reversed within the next few weeks.

On October 13, we first wrote about the sequester, which will require federal wildland fire programs to be cut by at least $218 million, or 8.2 percent.

Here are some excerpts from an article at the Union Democrat with examples of impacts on the National Park Service and U.S. Forest Service in California:

The Associated Press obtained a Park Service memo Friday that detailed some of the planned Yosemite cuts. Staff reductions would end guided ranger programs at Wawona and the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias, eliminate a program in which 3,500 volunteers provide 40,000 hours of activities and mean less frequent trash pickup due to loss of campground staff.

Park administrators fear that less frequent trash pickup would potentially attract bears into campgrounds.

Seasonal road closures like that of Tioga Road may be extended later than usual because there will be less staff available to clear snow.

“The reductions would limit the National Park Service’s ability to sustain a full complement of seasonal employees needed for interpretive programs, maintenance, law enforcement and other visitor services as we are preparing for the busy summer season. Local communities and businesses that rely on recreation to support their livelihoods would face a loss of income from reduced visitation to national parks.”

In the Stanislaus National Forest, cuts could reduce funds available for fuels reductions that help prevent catastrophic forest fires. About $134 million in lost wildland fire management funds would lead to as many as 200,000 fewer acres treated nationwide, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack wrote in a letter dated Feb. 5 to U.S. Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., chairwoman of the Senate Appropriations Committee.

The Forest Service is also prepared to close up to 670 of 19,000 developed recreation sites nationwide, such as campgrounds, picnic areas and trailheads, according to Vilsack.

Webinar today: Debunking Myths in Wildland Fire

Today from 1 until 2 p.m. MT:

Sarah McCaffrey will present findings from recent research on social issues of fire management with particular emphasis on the accuracy of various accepted truths about the public and fire management and the variables that actually are associated with approval of different fire management practices.

More info and registration details.

Thanks go out to George

Utah: update on bill to restrict target shooting during enhanced wildfire danger

The bill that Utah state senator Margaret Dayton withdrew after it received criticism from shooting enthusiasts will continue to be pushed through the legislative process, the senator announced on Thursday. The bill would give the state forester authority to temporarily restrict target shooting during periods of enhanced wildfire danger. The new version of the bill would stipulate that the ban could only be enacted with the support of the locally elected sheriff.

According to Utah State Forester Dick Buehler, of the 1,528 fires in the state in 2012, 33 were caused by target shooting which cost over $16 million to suppress. In October, 2012 when we wrote about the increasing number of fires started by target shooters using exploding targets, we found 10 fires started by these devices in Utah over a 5-month period last year. One of them burned over 5,500 acres.

Ban bird watching?

Here is an excerpt from an article in the Salt Lake Tribune.

[Senator Dayton] decided to hold the bill last week to try to iron out the differences, but the two sides couldn’t forge a compromise. [Utah Shooting Sports Council Chairman Clark] Aposhian didn’t attend Dayton’s press event Thursday.

“He did not agree to this,” Dayton said. “We didn’t ask the gun community to be present today. But we feel by working with Representative Curt Oda and the Sheriffs’ Association, we can help people understand these are intense efforts to protect Second Amendment rights.”

Aposhian said he wanted the bill to restrict access to everyone — not just target shooters.

“If it restricts gun owners from going there, then it should also restrict bird watchers,” he said. “It has to be closed to everybody.”.