Wildfire briefing, March 11, 2015

Lava from Hawaii volcano continues to spread

Hawaii volcano
Lava flow from the Kīlauea volcano in Hawaii. Photo by Hawaii County Civil Defense.

Lava from the Kīlauea volcano above Pahoa in Hawaii continues to spread, occasionally igniting the vegetation. The latest breakout is about 0.7 miles upslope of Highway 130, officials from the Hawaii County Civil Defense said after a helicopter flight Tuesday morning. Over the last four days the lava has advanced about 240 yards.

Three additional deceased hotshots to qualify for benefits

Decisions by the City of Prescott, the courts, and the Prescott Public Safety Retirement Board have resulted in the families of three additional members of the Granite Mountain Hotshots being approved to receive public safety survivor benefits. In 2013, 19 members of the crew were killed on the Yarnell Hill Fire south of Prescott, Arizona. Initially only six of the men were classified as full-time, permanent employees and deemed eligible for full benefits. More information is at AZcentral.

Group opposes FEMA’s plan to reduce hazardous fuel near Oakland, California

The Hills Conservation Network has sued several organizations in an attempt to halt a project that would reduce the hazardous fuels over 2,059 acres in the East Bay area. Below is an excerpt from Courthouse News Service:

“(C)lear-cutting and chipping of eucalyptus will not achieve the most effective reduction of fire risks in the project areas and instead increases fire risks by disposing of wood chips in layers up to two-feet deep over extensive areas of the project sites,” the complaint states.

But FEMA’s environmental impact statement, which justifies depositing up to 24 inches of mulch from eucalyptus trees, “fails to acknowledge research that highlights the high potential for spontaneous combustion in deeper accumulations of mulch, the difficulty of fire suppression in such fuels, the severe long-term damage to soils by the intense heating in mulch and wood chip fires, and the documented spotting danger posed by mulch and other forms of masticated fuels,” the group says.

“The net effect is essentially trading one fire hazard for another.”

Eucalyptus trees actually help reduce fire hazard by breaking up strong winds and reducing hazard from flying embers, and the complete removal of the eucalyptus forest would constitute a “catastrophic site disturbance” that would open up the ecosystem to invasive species, according to the lawsuit.

Last year we wrote this about eucalyptus trees:

Wildland firefighters in Australia and in some areas of California are very familiar with eucalyptus trees. They are native and very common in Australia and are planted as ornamentals in the United States. The leaves produce a volatile highly combustible oil, and the ground beneath the trees is covered with large amounts of litter which is high in phenolics, preventing its breakdown by fungi. Wildfires burn rapidly under them and through the tree crowns. It has been estimated that other than the 3,000+ homes that burned in the 1991 Oakland Hills Fire in California, about 70 percent of the energy released was through the combustion of eucalyptus.

Florida wildland firefighters concerned about their pay

Below is an excerpt from NBC 2:

Firefighters with the Florida Forest Service are fired up over small wages. They’re making a plea to state leaders to correct what they describe as being “grossly underpaid.”


Experience – now one the areas of concern being pointed out by a local union representing some of the firefighters with the Florida Forest Service.

“We do see a fairly high rate of turnover because of that,” said Chris Schmiege, Lee County Forest Area Supervisor.

“That”- being low salaries- in a job wage survey conducted by the union- it states Wildland firefighters receive a starting wage of a little more than twenty-four thousand a year for full-time work.

An amount comparable to a cafeteria worker or plumbers assistant which is considerably less than the average for firefighters at the county and local level, amounts ranging from thirty-nine to sixty thousand a year.

Forest Service officials are now calling on help from state leaders.

“We can definitely use the help, but at the same time we’re doing what we’re doing,” said Schmiege.

Which according to Schmiege also includes going out West to work for other federal fire agencies to stay afloat financially. Right now officials say it’s really almost a labor of love.

Wildfire briefing, January 30, 2015

Fire near Lake Disston, Florida

Fire near Lake Disston FL

Kenny Arnaldi took this photo Wednesday of a wildfire a mile south of Lake Disston, Florida.

Bushfire burns into Waroona in Western Australia

 bushfire threatening Waroona
A bushfire threatening Waroona, about 100 kilometers south of Perth.

A large bushfire has burned into the city of Waroona in Western Australia about 100 kilometers south of Perth. (Map)

Below is an excerpt from an article at abc.net.au updated at about 4 p.m. MST, January 30, 2015:

An out-of-control bushfire is threatening lives and homes at Waroona in Western Australia, with up to three properties believed to be damaged so far. The blaze has entered the town, which is about 100 kilometres south of Perth, and the Department of Fire and Emergency Services (DFES) has warned it is moving fast in a north-westerly direction. Embers are likely to be blown around homes, starting spot fires.

DFES duty assistant commissioner Chris Arnol said residents should take their location into consideration when planning how to respond.

“It depends on where they are. We’ve asked some residents to shelter in place which is the best option for them and others to evacuate to [an evacuation centre in the nearby town of Harvey],” he said. “People should have their fire plans ready and know what to do. We’ve got about 150 firefighters. We had 21 appliances on the fire and we’ve sent a further 24 from the metropolitan area.”

Oklahoma grass fires

Firefighters responding to a fire southwest of Tulsa observed a person setting one of eight grass fires that were burning in the area. More information is in the video below.

Update on the Kīlauea volcano lava flow
Kīlauea volcano
The image above released by US Geological Survey Hawaiian Volcano Observatory on January 29 shows the lava flow front from the Kīlauea volcano a mere 550 yards away from Highway 130 at its closest point. The distal tips are stalled, however “breakouts persist upslope,” writes USGS, “and these areas of activity can be spotted in this photograph by small smoke plumes where the lava is burning vegetation on the flow margins.”

Mississippi wildfire threatens natural gas facilities
A wildfire in Simpson County Mississippi (map) burned over an underground natural gas pipeline and came close to an above ground gas substation.

Below are excerpts from an article at WSMV:

“If it blows up down here, won’t nobody be left in Simpson County,” said resident Gurston McDonald.

McDonald lives just down the road from where a fire ripped through several acres of grass and forest, stopping just a few feet shy of a natural gas substation.

“All these gas lines coming through is a great concern,” added McDonald.

Simpson County EOC Director Glen Jennings said at least three fires broke out Thursday afternoon. However, the one off the highway posed the biggest danger to neighboring residents. Containing it also remained a challenge, because forestry officials can’t dig a fire line when there’s a gas line underneath.

“We don’t push on these gas lines. We just let it go, try to control it by water or some other means,” said Ben Vanderford with the Mississippi Forestry Commission. “We never know how deep those lines are, when we’re out there plowing these fire lines. These lines may be five or six feet under the ground, they might be five or six inches under the ground.”

And as night fell, flames spread again toward the substation, this time from a patch of trees about 200 feet away, with no fire line to stop it.


Volcano in Hawaii continues to ignite fires

Hawaii volcano brush fire
Vegetation fire ignited by the Kīlauea volcano in Hawaii, January 15, 2015. Photo from the Hawaii Volcano Observatory.

In addition to the 270 acres that burned earlier in the week, the Kīlauea volcano in Hawaii ignited fires in two more areas on Thursday that burned about 350 acres by the end of the day. The fires were west of Highway 130, 0.6 to 0.9 mile from the Aina­loa subdivision.

Two  dozers were at the scene improving fire breaks along with two helicopters dropping water.

Hawaii County Assistant Fire Chief Gantry Andrade said the fires would likely be under control by Friday.

A web cam operated by the Hawaii Volcano Observatory at the Pāhoa Marketplace occasionally grabs images of smoke from the lava-ignited fires.

Kīlauea volcano in Hawaii brush fire
Aerial photo taken January 13 showing a vegetation fire ignited by the lava flow from the Kīlauea volcano in Hawaii. Note the fire break, which was overrun by the lava.

Wildfire briefing, January 14, 2015

Hawaii’s Kīlauea volcano lava ignites brush fire

A lava flow from the Kīlauea volcano in Hawaii ignited a brush fire on Tuesday that burned 270 acres. It was surrounded by fire breaks, but at 5:30 p.m. local time a dozer was working to clean up the existing break and construct a new line closer to the head of the fire. According to a Hawaii County Civil Defense update, the brush fire was west of Highway 130, about 1.5 miles from the Aina­loa subdivision. The agency said Tuesday afternoon that neither the brush fire nor the stalled lava flow pose an immediate threat to communities.

Granite Mountain Hotshots’ families treated to European boat trip

From the Daily Courier:

The families of Prescott’s fallen [Granite Mountain] Hotshots participated in a unique trip over the holidays. They were given an opportunity to see and visit the historic sites along Europe’s Danube River while finding solace amongst others who also have experienced the tragic loss of loved ones in recent U.S. tragedies.

Family members of the Hotshots were joined by family members of the victims of the 9/11 tragedy and the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing. The 19 Granite Mountain Hotshots died battling the Yarnell Hill wildfire on June 30, 2013 in the worst wildland firefighting tragedy in more than 80 years…

The paper said 19 family members participated in the trip.

News from Australia:

Lava continues to spread from Hawaii volcano

Kilauea volcano lava
Lava from the Kilauea volcano in Hawaii spreads through a fence, down an embankment, and onto a parking lot. Screen capture from County of Hawaii video.

Lava from the Kilauea volcano has advanced onto a parking lot of the Pahoa Transfer Station on the Big Island in Hawaii. West Hawaii Today has more information, including a video.

Wildfire briefing, November 11, 2014

Lightning injures three people in Australia

Lightning in Western Australia struck and injured three people, including a person near his home who was believed to be a volunteer firefighter. According to a neighbor the man later walked to an ambulance but was holding his arm. A spokesperson for the Department of Fire and Emergency Services said the man fell to the ground after being hit.

“He had an initial check and was cleared, suffering a little anxiety, and was transported to hospital,” the spokesman said.

Firefighters in Victoria contained the spread of a fire that came within 250 meters of properties in the state’s north-east on Monday.

U.S. Representative activated with the National Guard in response to volcano lava flow in Hawaii

Tulsi Gabbard national guard
Tulsi Gabbard working in the Command Cell at Joint Task Force Response in Pahoa, Hawaii. (Photo: SSG Katie Gray/DVIDS)

The lava from the Kilauea volcano in Hawaii continues to spread and ignite vegetation that it contacts, but for now the threat of significant wildfire has decreased

U.S. Representative Tulsi Gabbard completed her State Active Duty orders with the Hawaii Army National Guard last week in response to the lava flow.

The Congresswoman served as a military police captain in the command cell at Joint Task Force Response in Pahoa, assisting with personnel and logistics.

Gabbard worked with approximately 80 other National Guard soldiers and airmen working to patrol the area and assist the Hawaii Police Department with traffic control points.

Planes: Fire and Rescue released on DVD

planes fire and rescue

DisneyToon Studios has released the animated film Planes: Fire and Rescue on DVD. The movie about fire aviation hit theaters in July and had a domestic and overseas box office of $219 million. It was in the top five highest-grossing family films of the summer.