Thursday, April 17, 2014

Fire in the Pine Barrens -- April 21, 1963 -- 51 years later

I believe that I first heard about Black Saturday in the Pine Barrens --  April 21, 1963 when 183,000 acres in the New Jersey Pine Barrens burned -- when I read John McPhee's book The Pine Barrens (1967).  John McPhee writes:

On April 20, 1963, the day of the forest fire in the recorded history of the Pine Barrens, the burning index shot past two hundred into interminable beyond, It was not a particularly hot day, but the vegetation was still in the cured staff, winds war blowing at about fifty miles an hour, and there was a drought. Once a fire got started, there was not much chance that it could be controlled. Actually, twelve non-continguous major fires started on that day. … The fire was so hot that it caused the surfaces of macadam roads to form bubbles. Overhead, white piles of smoke went up hundreds of feed, and against this white background, now and again, appeared black twister os smoke from pitch. Multiple airdrops were made but did not significantly help (116-7).

In his book The Pine Barrens John McPhee has a chapter on fire in the Pine Barrens. His book is well written and a quick read. If you want to get to know the New Jersey Pine Barrens and don't know where to start, I'd recommend finding a copy to read.

There is a short article in the Burlington County Times on April 16, 2014 with a few photos from the 1963 Black Saturday fires in the New Jersey Pine Barrens, thanks to my friends at New Jersey Forest Fire Service Section B10 website for making me aware of this article.

Added on April 14, 11 AM EDT. I believe that I first learned about how the ecology of the Pine Barrens is adapted to fire from reading John McPhee's book. McPhee writes:

Of all the natural phenomena of the Pine Barrens, the most startling one is the speed with which the vegetation comes back from fire. There has been so much fire in the pines for so many centuries that, through the resulting processes of natural selection. the species that grow there are not only highly flammable but are able to tolerate fire and come back quickly. (McPhee, 1967, The Pine Barrens, p. 118).
That being said, and even though I myself have witnessed how quickly sections of the Pine Barrens burned in the 2007 Warren Grove Fire have come back, a fire of that magnitude (about 15,000 acres) or larger has the potential to cause loss of property and loss of life. I dread the day that we see another fire of the size that burned on Black Saturday in 1963.

The Pinelands Preservation Alliance has some great information on the Pine Barrens and does work advocating for the Pine Barrens. The Pinelands Preservation Alliance has a webpage on Fire in the Pines with some photos and links to two videos, which I've embedded below. You will learn how the ecology of the Pine Barrens depends on fire. The first video is taken from a DVD that the Pinelands Preservation Alliance produced called The Pine Barrens: Up Close and Natural. The second video is a report from NJN News Public Television one year after the 2007 Warren Grove Fire.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Videos of Turbo-Cat dropping on wildfires

Thanks to my friends at Downstown Aero Crop Services who wanted me to share these videos with you. They gave me permission to embed their videos of the Turbo-Cat dropping on some fires on April 13. The videos are posted on Downstown's (public) Facebook Page. I wrote about the Lower Bank Fire on April 14. In that same article on April 14 I wrote about wildfire in Salem City where two brush trucks were destroyed with no injuries, I am not certain if the fire in the first video is the same fire that I wrote about.

Here in New Jersey, our SEATs are doing good work, dropping on wildfires in support of the wildland firefighters on the ground. Nice work everyone. Stay safe!

Out of Service Fire, Salem NJ C-10 4/13/14 (posted April 14)

Lower Bank Fire Turbine Cat Drop (posted April 13)

Drop #2 Lower bank B2 (posted April 13)

Monday, April 14, 2014

Spring fire season in NJ continues - April 13

Spring fire season continues here in New Jersey with all its attendant dangers as outline in this Asbury Park Press article.

This past Sunday (April 13) was a busy day. In Salem City New Jersey a brush fire cropped up in an area dominated by phragmites and other weeds. Two brush vehicles, from the Pennsville and Elsinboro fire departments were destroyed in this wind driven fire. The firefighters in the two vehicles did get out. Approximately 100 acres were burned before the brush fire was brought under control later in the day. A SEAT under contract with the New Jersey Forest Fire Service dropped on the fire. An article with photos from the South Jersey Times reporting on the fire may be found here, and a video which includes a shot of the SEAT from NBC10 in Philadelphia may be found here.

Thanks to my friends at New Jersey Forest Fire Service Section B10 (last updates on April 13 about 1830 to 1900 hours), I know about three more wildfires that burned yesterday in central and southern New Jersey.
  • In Atco, Waterford Township (Section C11) a wild fire (size unknown) burned near the Atco Raceway. A single engine airtanker (SEAT) on contract with the New Jersey Forest Fire Service dropped on the fire in support of the wildland firefighters on the ground. The fire was partially contained as of 1900 hours last night.
  • A 10 to 20 acre fired burned in Brick Township (Section B8) yesterday with support from a SEAT and a helicopter. The fire is now contained. Article from Newsworks (thanks to Mike Archer from firebomber publications (WNOTD)
  • The third fire that I know about (I suspect that there are many I don't know about) has burned approximately 20 acres in Lower Bank (Burlington County, Section B2). Two SEATs and a Huey Helicopter with a bucket dropped on the fire.
I just got my copy of Mike Archers' Firebomber Publications/Wildfire News of the Day and saw this article from OCSignal on a small, 1/2 acre fire in Manchester (Burlington County) NJ that a SEAT dropped on. Nice job to the SEAT pilot and the ground crews for keeping this fire small.

Stay safe everyone!

Revised at 4:25 PM EDT

Friday, April 11, 2014

Edison Fire (New Jersey): Final update

I wrote yesterday about a fire that was burning in Edison New Jersey near the Raritan Center. I understand from this wildland fire hotlist thread that the final acreage for this fire is 193.5 acres burned, and that it was declared under control at 17:20 last night. Go here for the latest update from NJ dot com (with photos).

Stay safe everyone!

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Just in -- wildland firefighters battling brush fire (Edison NJ)

I was perusing some media outlets just now when I came across a short report on NJ dot com about a wildfire burning in Edison (Middlesex County) NJ near the Raritan Center, the story from NJ dot com may be found here. I then went to the NJ Forest Fire Section B10 and saw that they just reported on the fire in the "Current NJ Wildfire Activity" section on their homepage (scroll down a bit).

I will update this thread later on as I find out more information on this wildfire.

Update: April 10, 2:50 PM As I write this, this fire, reported at about 11 AM, continues to burn with a noticeable smell of smoke. I'm not quite sure how many acres have burned. I saw a report on News12New Jersey (not publicly available) and also on the the website of NJ Forest Fire Section B10 that a helicopter with a bucket was making drops on the fire.

Update: 6:20 PM Fire has burned approximately 250 acres and according to this report with video by ABC7 in NYC is at 95 percent containment. An updated article (with photos) is also available from NJ dot com.

Enhanced fire danger in NJ continues for April 10

The National Weather Service in Mt. Holly, NJ issued a Special Weather Statement at 9:03 AM on Thursday, April 10 for an enhanced risk of wildfire spread this afternoon:
Low Relative humidity levels, a gusty southwest wind and drying fine fuels will create an elevated risk for the spread of wildfires this afternoon. Wind should be sustained in the 10 to 15 mph range with gusts to 20 mph.
Please do not park vehicles in grassy areas and ensure proper disposal of any smoking materials. It only takes one improperly disposed cigarette to ignite a fire. ...
Yesterday (Wed. April 9) we were also under a risk for enhanced fire danger. I did spend some time on and off yesterday afternoon listening to some online scanner feed for New Jersey Forest Fire Service Division B, hearing several reports of wildfire activity, probably activity that was of smaller acreage. I saw this because I saw no reports in the media, at least what I could find, of wildfire activity. I am reasonably certain that media would pick up on major wildfire activity (100 acres or more), but there may well be activity that I do not know about as well as media reports that I could not find.

I did hear a report, confirmed by my friends at Downstown Aero -- (supply Single Engine Airtankers on contract to the New Jersey Forest Fire Service) -- that Alpha 3 (Ag-Cat, 300 gallons) made one drop on a wildfire in or near Lake Hopatcong NJ (Division A). I do not know the size of the fire. My friends at Downstown Aero did tell me that there were no drops in Division C (southern New Jersey), but got the impression that there were smaller fires that the wildland firefighters on the ground worked.

I'd like to thank all New Jersey Wildland Firefighters on the ground and in the air, various support operations, and mutual aid responders for all you do to keep us safe here in New Jersey! Stay safe everyone!

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Devious Mount Fire (NJ) -- contained

As sometimes happens, yesterday got away with me with a few items of personal business that required my attention, so I am only now making the promised post updating the Devious Mount Fire that I wrote about here. The fire burned approximately 1,600 acres and was declared 100 percent contained late in the afternoon on Monday, April 7. As I write this, my friends at the NJ Forest Fire Service Section B10 webpage have a final report on the fire with some nice photos on their home page (just scroll down a bit). According to the NJ Forest Fire Service Section B10 webpage initial resources included:

40 firefighters
7 engines
2 tractor plows
2 Single Engine Airtankers (SEATs)
1 type 3 helicopter

A link to a map showing the location of the fire may be found here here.

The last news report from 6ABC in Philadelphia with a video may be found here. Finally, there is the Wildland Fire hotlist thread for the Devious Mount Fire.

There is enhanced fire risk this afternoon and again tomorrow afternoon here in New Jersey, so I'll be doing my best to try to follow what might be going on. I do have some reflections following up on the Devious Mount Fire that I want to write about, if not later this afternoon then in a day or so.

Monday, April 07, 2014

Devious Mount Wildfire -- NJ Pine Barrens -- midday update

I wrote about the Devious Mount Wildfire a few hours ago, here.

My friends from the  New Jersey Forest Fire Service Section B10 website are reporting that as of 1230 hours (April 6), the Devious Mount Wildfire remains at 1,500 acres and is now 50 percent contained and 30 percent controlled. A nice report from Lisa Rose of the Star Ledger on the wildfire may be found here. The video that I embed below accompanies the Lisa Rose's article, this is a view of the fire from the Garden State Parkway.

As I write this rain is moving into Southern New Jersey which I understand will overspread the whole State as well as adjoining areas by this evening. I am hoping that this rain will only help the wildland firefighting crews contain and then control the fire. I'll write another update later this evening. In the meantime, I used Google Earth to get the following image for you showing you an approximate location of the fire (currently burning in Wharton State Forest) and the rain (in green) moving in (click on the map to enlarge it for better viewing). 

Devious Mount Wildfire -- NJ Pine Barrens #1

Thanks to my friends at New Jersey Forest Fire Service Section B10 for letting me know about the major wildfire -- the Devious Mounty Wildfire -- currently burning in the Wharton State Forest in the NJ Pine Barrens. If you are reading this post today, you can scroll down to where it says "Current NJ Wildfire Activity", you can read the latest update of the Devious Mount Wildfire. If you are coming to this post sometime after this wildfire is contained than you may find different information under "Current NJ Wildfire Activity," but I will have made a post reporting on the containment of that fire.

Anyway according to the report on New Jersey Forest Fire Service Section B10 , as of 8:30 AM, the Devious Mount Wildfire is currently burning in a remote section of Wharton State Forest. The fire is not currently burning near any structures or roads. Approximately 1,500 acres have burned with 30 percent containment. Yesterday (Sunday April 6), Bravo 3 (Ag-Cat under contract with the NJ Forest Fire Service) made multiple drops. There is thread about the Devious Mount Fire on the Wildland Fire Hotlist forums that may be found here, as I write this the information in that thread was from last night and I expect that the thread will be updated as the day progresses.

The smell of smoke from this fire was detected by people as far away as New York City yesterday and into this morning, see this report from NBC 4 in New York City for more information

Some of you might be interested in how weather radar can detect smoke, and smoke inversions. If so, my friends at the US National Weather Service Philadelphia/Mt. Holly had a great educational photo with a little meteorology science that they just posted this morning (April 7) on their Facebook Wall, here is a direct link to the photo (that I hope works, you don't need a Facebook account to access the photo).

I will be back later on with updates on this fire.

Friday, April 04, 2014

Spring fire season begins in NJ And PA

New Jersey
Yesterday was the first day that the NJ Forest Fire Service SEATs were on contract for our spring fire season. I was out and about doing some personal chores yesterday afternoon so was not home listening to online scanner feed from the NJ Forest Fire Service (NJFFS Division B online scanner feed,  NJFFS Division C online scanner feed). It was a nice early spring day and I saw evidence that the top layers of the soil had or were drying out after the rains last weekend. As I was driving around, I tuned into WCBS AM (880) and heard a short report, all of perhaps 30 seconds, that there were a few brush fires burning around the region (northern NJ, NYC and adjoining counties including Long Island) and eastern CT). I heard nothing more than that. I wondered if any of the NJFFS SEATs had dropped on a fire in support of the firefighters on the ground. 

I got my answer when I went to Section B10 webpage earlier this afternoon and learned of a nine acre fire that burned in Sussex County NJ off of U.S. Route 206, an area that I've driven by a few times. NJFFS Alpha 3 (Ag Cat) and Delta 6 (helicopter and bucket) worked the fire. In addition, there was a smaller fire elsewhere in Sussex County that took less than 30 minutes to contain according to this report from the NJ Herald.

Spring fire season is, or soon will be underway in Pennsylvania, my neighboring State to the west. Here four stories that I heard about courtesy of Wildfire News of the Day:

A trash fire got out of control, burning a couple of acres in Ormsby, PA on April 1 reported by The Bradford Era on April 2, 2014.

A 2.5 acre wildfire  in Blacklick Twsp., PA on March 31 required a few municipal fire companies before the fire was brought under control, from the Indiana Gazette.

I wrote here about Air Tractor 802's Single Engine Air-Tankers that are now on contract in Pennsylvania. I learned from  this article from the Daily American that there is a helitanker at the Somerset County Airport in Pennsylvania.

Finally, there was a nice article in the Bradford Era on April 1 saying that the spring wildfire season in Pennsylvania may be short in some parts of the State because the snow hung around through most of March in the northwestern part of the State. I also learned about the ways the snow melts and how it can affect wildfire danger.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Prescribed Burns - USFS

Over the next three or four posts, I am going to posting about prescribed burns.

This is a video from the United States Forest Service on how they do prescribed burns in the Mark Twain National Forest. I like this video because they talk about the importance of prescribed burns. The specifics of preparing for and conducting prescribed burns in your area may differ from what is shown in this video. And the vegetation may well be different.

direct link to video