A firefighter who received second and third degree burns over 60 percent of his body September 1, 2019 while battling the Spring Coulee Fire in Okanogan County, Washington passed away yesterday, October 2, 2019. Christian Dean Johnson, 55, of Okanogan was surrounded by his wife Pam, family, and friends at Harborview Medical Center.
Christian has served his country as a sergeant in the Us Army, and was deployed with the Washington State National Guard from November 2003-May 2005 in Baghdad. He retired after 22 years of service and has volunteered for the Okanogan Fire Department for 20 years.
Christian is a selfless man, who is always willing to help those in need, and never ask for anything in return. We are now asking for your help to make this long journey a little easier for him and his family. Any amount of donations are greatly appreciated and will go towards helping his wife (Pam Johnson) with travel, housing, food, etc.
Our sincere condolences go out to Mr. Christian’s family and friends. May he rest in peace.
Maple trees are so valuable and prized by woodworkers, especially those who manufacture musical instruments, that it is a violation of the law in Washington to transport the wood without a state-issued specialized forest products permit. Armed with a permit that authorized the harvesting of maples from private land, Justin Andrew Wilke and Shawn Edward (Thor) Williams and others camped for several days in the Olympic National Forest scouting for big leaf maple trees with the highly desired figured wood pattern. They identified trees containing figuring by “checking” the trees, that is, using an axe to peel back the bark to expose the pattern of the wood, sometimes doing it at night to avoid detection.
When they found a tree they liked they would fell it with a chain saw, buck it up, and transport the wood to a mill in Tumwater, Washington, presenting the permit and saying it had been harvested with permission from private property. According to the federal grand jury indictment, Wilke and/or Williams made more than 20 trips to the mill between April and August of 2018, collecting more than $13,000 by selling illegally harvested National Forest timber.
The theft was going fine for the two men until they ran into a problem on August 3, 2018 near the Elk Lake Lower Trailhead. Their latest target contained a bee’s nest that made it difficult or impossible to fell the tree. Spraying wasp killer was not effective, so they agreed that Mr. Wilke’s plan to burn them out with gasoline was the next step.
The indictment does not specify if the fire got rid of the bees, but the men were not able to put it out with water bottles. The fire, named “Maple”, ultimately burned 3,300 acres.
When a U.S. Forest Service Law Enforcement Officer questioned Mr. Wilke on August 4 about the fire and his timber-poaching activity, he told the officer that he had not been cutting timber, did not have a chain saw, and knew nothing about the fire. It turned out that he had concealed his saw to hide it from investigators.
Mr. Wilke and Mr. Williams were charged with multiple felonies related to timber theft and starting the fire. Mr. Williams had previously been in trouble with authorities in Florida for firearms violations.
From the Washington Post, October 1, 2019:
A spokesperson with the U.S. attorney’s office told The Washington Post that Wilke pleaded not guilty during a court appearance on Monday and remains detained. His trial will begin in December. Williams is in state custody in California and will be transported to Washington state to be arraigned, the spokesperson said.
Thanks and a tip of the hat go out to Tom. Typos or errors, report them HERE.
A firefighter suffered serious burns September 1, 2019 while working on a 142-acre fire near Spring Coulee Road in Okanogan County, Washington.
The information below is from Okanogan County Emergency Management, September 3:
Christian Johnson, Assistant Chief of the Okanogan Volunteer Fire Department, has suffered serious injuries while on the Spring Coulee Fire. He has second and third degree burns over 60% of his body.
Christian is currently in a medically-induced coma at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle. They are trying to stabilize him so they can proceed with skin graft surgery. He will be looking at a minimum of 2-3 months in the ICU.
Christian has served his country as a sergeant in the Army, and was deployed with the Washington State National Guard from November 2003- May 2005 in Baghdad. He retired after 22 years of service and has volunteered for the Okanogan Fire Department for 20 years.
Christian is a selfless man, who is always willing to help those in need, and never asks for anything in return. We are now asking for your help to make this long journey a little easier for him and his family. Any amount of donations are greatly appreciated and will go towards helping the family with travel, housing, food, etc.
If anyone would like to make a donation, they may use the GO FUND ME account or make a donation to: Christian Johnson Donation Account at North Cascades Bank, PO Box 672, Okanogan WA 98840.
Below: Video of the Spring Coulee Fire in Okanogan County, Washington, September 1, 2019. Okanogan County Emergency Management.
Thanks and a tip of the hat go out to Tom. Typos or errors, report them HERE.
Atmospheric scientists regularly take note when satellites detect thunderheads rising above columns of wildfire smoke. These “fire clouds”—experts call them pyrocumulonimbus (pyroCb) or cumulonimbus flammagenitus—are caused when fires loft enough heat and moisture into the atmosphere to produce thunderstorms.
On August 8, 2019, a team of atmospheric scientists got an exceedingly rare look at these clouds as they were forming. NASA’s DC-8 flying laboratory passed directly through a large pyrocumulonimbus that day as it was rising from a fire in eastern Washington. The flight was part of a joint NOAA and NASA field campaign called FIREX-AQ. Scientists are studying the composition and chemistry of smoke to better understand its impact on air quality and climate.
David Peterson, lead forecaster for FIREX-AQ, was in the cockpit of NASA’s DC-8. “The views were absolutely stunning,” said Peterson. “Very few photographs of large pyroCbs are available, especially from the air.”
The photograph above, shot from roughly 30,000 feet (9 kilometers), shows the setting Sun shining through thick smoke at 8 p.m. Mountain Time. Particles in the smoke reflect light in ways that make the Sun appear orange. The photograph below shows the smoke plume (gray) that fed the pyrocumulonimbus cloud (white).
The flight was the most detailed sampling of a pyrocumulonimbus in history, explained Peterson. A second research aircraft flew over the plume a few hours earlier in the day, and mobile labs on the ground also made detailed measurements.
“PyroCb are like large chimneys, transporting a large quantity of smoke into the lower stratosphere,” explained Peterson.
When smoke does reach the stratosphere, it tends to spread globally and remain high in the atmosphere for longer periods—months or even years—than smoke that stays in the lower troposphere. One recent study concluded that the largest fire clouds can even lift quantities of smoke aerosols into the lower stratosphere that are comparable to a moderate-sized volcanic eruption.
An early morning thunderstorm ignited the Williams Flats Fire on August 2, 2019. The Operational Land Imager (OLI) on Landsat 8 acquired a natural-color image of the blaze (at the top of the page) as it approached the north bank of the Columbia River on August 7, 2019. The image is natural color (OLI bands 4-3-2), overlaid with the infrared and shortwave infrared signature of actively burning fires.
The Williams Flats fire in northeast Washington was very active Wednesday and Wednesday night, spreading to the east an additional one to two miles and reaching BIA Road 11 less than half a mile from the Columbia river on the east side of the fire
The Incident Management Team released information about a new evacuation order at about 7 p.m. Wednesday, but unfortunately no map was provided:
The Level 1 Evacuation has now been elevated to a Level 3 Evacuation Notification – “Leave Now” by the Colville Tribes Emergency Services and the Ferry County Sheriff’s Office.
While homes are not immediately in danger, the only road out may be cut off by fire. Now is the time to evacuate. Anyone who remains in the area may not be able to leave once the fire reaches the Nine Mile-Hellgate Road.
The evacuation zone is as follows: From the intersection of Little Nine Mile Creek with the Nine Mile-Hellgate Road, draw a straight line west to the Whitestone Lookout. All areas south of that line are now at a Level 3 Evacuation —-”Leave Now”. All residents of the area are advised that for their own safety, they need to leave now.
On Monday the Williams Flats Fire in Northeast Washington spread for another half mile to a mile toward the north and east, to bring the total burned area up to 16,781 acres according to data from an overnight fixed wing mapping flight. (see map above)
The fire spread across Whitestone Ridge on the southeast flank. Dozers are constructing direct fireline and crews are burning out fuels as construction progresses toward the fire’s northeast corner. Helicopters were able to drop water as needed Monday to reduce the risks of loss to timber, Hellgate Game Reserve, and archeological sites, but water-scooping planes and large air tankers were unable to fly due to heavy smoke which compromised visibility.
Challenges firefighters are facing on this include high temperatures, reduced visibility, steep rocky terrain, and wildlife dangers such as snakes and bears.
Firefighting resources assigned to the Williams Flats Fire:
22 hand crews
18 fire engines
22 water tenders
764 total personnel
(Originally published at 1 p.m. PDT August 5, 2019)
The Williams Flats Fire along the Columbia River 15 miles east of Coulee Dam, Washington spread half a mile to one mile on the north and east sides on Saturday and Sunday to bring the size up to 13,497 acres. (see map below)
The fire is burning on Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation and Washington Department of Natural Resources protected lands. On Monday firefighters will strengthen existing containment lines and begin mop-up of hot spots on the west flank. Line construction is on-going on the southeast flank toward Whitestone Ridge. Dozers are constructing direct fireline and crews are burning out fuels as construction progresses toward the fire’s northeast corner.
Firefighting resources assigned to the Williams Flats Fire include 14 hand crews, 18 fire engines, 8 dozers, 19 water tenders, and 7 helicopters for a total of 542 personnel.
Helicopters are dipping and air tankers are scooping water (see above) from nearby Lake Roosevelt to aid on-the-ground firefighters in suppression efforts and the aircraft need space to work. The public is asked to avoid these activities on the water. The area is being patrolled by the the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation Law Enforcement.
The forecast for Monday calls for 91 degrees, 15 percent relative humidity, and winds out of the southwest and west at 6 mph, with limited humidity recovery Monday night. Tuesday should be the hottest day of the week, with 94 degrees, 14 percent RH, and variable winds at 2 to 7 mph.