Introduction to the Dolores fire lookout in Colorado

Above: Richard Freimuth and his wife staff the Dolores fire lookout in southwest Colorado. Screen grab from the video.

The SWC Wildfire Coalition posted this video to You Tube featuring Richard Freimuth and his wife who staff the Dolores fire lookout on the San Juan National Forest in southwest Colorado.

The description posted with the video:

Dolores Fire Lookout: Even in today’s high tech world, humans are still the best when it comes to detecting fires. A bygone, iconic fire watchtower and lookout still have relevance in today’s infrared satellite world.
https://www.facebook.com/SanJuanNF/

Fire department says Verizon’s throttling of data hampered suppression of California’s largest fire in history

The data rate for a command and control unit was reduced to 1/200th of the previous speed

cell phone towerVerizon’s throttling of data rates used by a fire department that subscribed to one of the company’s “unlimited” plans hampered the firefighters’ command and control at the fire.

While battling the Mendocino Complex, which has become the largest wildfire in the recorded history of California, the Santa Clara Fire Department deployed OES Incident Support Unit 5262, a command and control resource. Its primary function is to track, organize, and prioritize routing of resources from around the state and country to the sites where they are most needed. OES 5262 relies heavily on the internet to do near-real-time resource tracking.

This unit and other resources in Santa Clara County use web-based applications that rely on high-bandwidth, latency-sensitive exchanges of information with the public and to provide crucial public safety services.

While fighting the fire the County discovered the Verizon data connection for OES 5262 was being throttled. Data rates had been reduced to 1/200th, or less, than the previous speeds. Fire Chief Anthony Bowden wrote in a court filing that the “reduced speeds severely interfered with the OES 5262’s ability to function effectively”. The County has signed on to a legal effort to overturn the Federal Communication Commission’s repeal of net neutrality rules.

Below is an excerpt from an article in the San Francisco Chronicle:

Despite having paid for what it thought was an unlimited data plan, the Santa Clara County Central Fire Protection District saw its data flow “throttled” down to 1/200th of its usual speed as it fought the complex — now the biggest wildfire in state history — because Verizon officials said it had exceeded its plan limit, district Fire Chief Anthony Bowden wrote. This primarily hampered a specialized vehicle the department depends on to coordinate its machinery and staff in such emergencies, and Bowden said that put his battalions at risk.

Without full-speed service for the high-tech command and communications rig, which goes by the arcane name of OES 5262, Bowden wrote, “resources could be deployed to the wrong fire, the wrong part of a fire, or fail to be deployed at all. Even small delays in response translate into devastating effect, including loss of property, and, in some cases, loss of life.

One of the fire captains complained to Verizon that the command and control unit had been so hobbled that “it has no meaningful functionality”.

The battle with the fire morphed into a battle with Verizon as fire department personnel fought with the company about restoring their “unlimited” data rate. Eventually after getting various sections in Verizon and the Fire District involved, the cell phone plan in OES 5262 was upgraded to a more expensive plan that had more capability.

In the last couple of years all four major cell phone providers have advertised “unlimited” data plans. All of them ARE LIMITED in various ways, so it is inconceivable how the Federal Trade Commission lets them get away with false and misleading advertising.

An article published by C|NET on August 9 does a good job of comparing “unlimited” plans offered by Verizon, Sprint, T-Mobile, and AT&T. Of the 10 plans described, all except one have data limits, while the one that does not, limits speed used on hotspots to only 3G. Everyone is now used to 4G speeds or the even faster LTE. 5G, with much higher data rates, is just around the corner. The companies disguise how speeds will be greatly reduced after a data limit is obtained, by using words like “prioritize your data”, “deprioritized”, or just blatantly saying “customer may temporarily experience reduced speeds on these line(s) during times of network congestion”. It likely that during an emergency that affects a large number of citizens, “network congestion” will occur.

We have written many times about the “Holy Grail of Wildland Firefighting Safety”, knowing the real time location of the fire and firefighters. Depending on how these systems are configured they could rely on data delivered through the internet. If that data stream is throttled to 1/200th, is cut off, or becomes unreliable, the safety of firefighters and the public could be threatened.

The intentionally misleading use of the term “unlimited” by the four cell phone carriers is part of the problem here. The FCC and the Federal Trade Commission should do their job and stop this practice.

Evacuations in progress due to fire in Davis Mountains in west Texas

UPDATE at 5:07 p.m. CT, April 29, 2012:

There are two fires burning in the same general area west of Fort Davis, Texas. Below is information from the Southern Area Coordination Center, updated this morning:

Livermore Ranch – This fire is burning 18 miles west of Fort Davis, TX. Values at risk are the community of Davis Mountain Resort (approximately 120 homes) and a repeater site. Evacuations are in effect for Davis Mountain Resort community with shelter set up. Control issues include windy conditions, rugged terrain and drought stricken fuels. Today fire personnel will continue to build fireline and provide structure protection. Growth potential for this fire is report as high.

Spring Mountain – This fire is burning 25 miles west of Fort Davis, TX. Values at risk are ranch community building near the fire area. Difficult terrain and drought stricken fuels are contributing to fire growth. Texas Forest Service personnel will assist local jurisdiction with aerial suppression resources again today. Growth potential is reported as high.

Tony Wilder’s Type 1 Incident Management Team is responding.

According to Marfa Public Radio, updated at 12:30 pm., the Livermore Ranch Fire has burned 10,246 acres and the Spring Mountain fire is 9,580 acres.

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A large fire has resulted in evacuations in a rural area of west Texas between Fort Davis and Valentine in Jeff Davis county near the Davis Mountains Resort. Fire Marshall Stewart Billingsley asked the National Weather Service to transmit the following message via the Emergency Alert System. It was sent out at 7:24 p.m. CDT on Saturday:

RESIDENTS OF JEFF DAVIS COUNTY IN AND AROUND THE DAVIS MOUNTAINS RESORT…THERE IS A WILDFIRE SLOWLY APPROACHING THE DAVIS MOUNTAINS RESORT FROM THE NORTHWEST. DUE TO THE DANGER POSED BY THIS FIRE… DAVIS MOUNTAINS RESORT RESIDENTS ARE URGED TO EVACUATE IN A CALM AND ORDERLY MANNER. THERE IS TIME BEFORE THE ARRIVAL OF THE FIRE TO EVACUATE SAFELY. PLEASE TAKE ANY NECESSARY ITEMS WITH YOU…ESPECIALLY MEDICATION.

ONCE YOU HAVE EVACUATED…YOU CANNOT RETURN UNTIL THE EMERGENCY HAS PASSED. SOMEONE WILL BE AT THE CATTLE GUARD TO CHECK YOU OUT SO WE CAN ACCOUNT FOR AS MANY RESIDENTS AS POSSIBLE. AGAIN…ONCE YOU HAVE DEPARTED THE DAVIS MOUNTAINS RESORT…YOU WILL NOT BE ABLE TO RETURN UNTIL THE EMERGENCY HAS PASSED. THANK YOU FOR YOUR COOPERATION.

Click on the maps below of the fires to see larger versions.

 UPDATED information, April 30, 2012

 UPDATED information, May 1, 2012

Maps of Bastrop fire in Texas, Sept 7

Today we are updating the map that we provided yesterday of the Bastrop fire and trying a new format, a gallery of maps. Above you will see three maps of the fire, topographic, street, and satellite. Click on them to see larger versions, then hit your “back” button to return to this article. All of the maps have graphics representing heat detected by satellites at 4:00 a.m. CT September 7 . Red is for active burning, yellow is heat detected within the previous 12 hours, and black represents heat detected within the previous 24 hours.

The two people that died in the fire have not yet been identified, except that they were not public safety personnel. The fire has now burned approximately 38,000 acres and the containment increased from zero to 30 percent today. The number of structures burned, according to the National Situation Report, has changed from the earlier estimate of 600, to 550.

[UPDATE at 11:00 a.m. CT: The Texas Forest Service reported this morning: “An assessment has been completed on the Bastrop County Complex and 785 homes have been reported destroyed.” Farther down in the TFS report it says about the Bastrop fire: “An assessment team has confirmed 885 homes have been destroyed”.]

The Bastrop fire is the largest fire currently burning in Texas. The Southern Area’s Type 1 Red Incident Management Team will be in place early Wednesday morning.

As you can see, the map shows very little fire activity within the last 12 hours. This is most likely due to some of these factors:

  • The wind has decreased from the 30+ mph produced by tropical storm Lee to the 5-10 mph we have seen over the last 24 hours. Even less wind, 2-10 mph, is predicted through Thursday. Wind is the primary factor that turns small fires into large conflagrations.
  • In some places the fire is running out of fuel, moving out of the forested areas and into agricultural areas.
  • More firefighting resources on the ground and in the air are fighting the fire.

We posted information about the other fires burning in Texas here.

An interesting footnote. You may have noticed on the lower-right side of the satellite imagery map the name “LUECKE” spelled out in green. The landowner clear-cut trees on the property, leaving enough to see the letters. They are huge, and span about 2.5 miles from the “L” to the last “E”. Astronauts on the International Space Station use these letters to check the resolution of their cameras.

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Photos of the Sheps Canyon fire near Hot Springs, SD

Today we took some photos at a new fire that started at about 2 p.m. in Sheps Canyon west of Angostura Reservoir about five miles south of Hot Springs, South Dakota. The Mt. Taylor Hot Shots from Baker New Mexico, surprisingly, showed up and put in some line and did some burning out. Two Single Engine Air Tankers worked the fire, reloading at Hot Springs. There was also a dozer on scene and an air attack ship with “Alaska” written on the bottom of a wing. When we left at around 5 p.m., the spread had been slowed considerably.