Wednesday, October 01, 2014

What wildland firefighters are about

I've had one of those days, I meant to write something else for today's entry. But got involved taking care of some rather mundane but important tasks on my computer following an upgrade to my operating system late last week. So, I thought I'd share this video from the US Forest Service called "The Heart of a Firefighter."

direct link to video

Monday, September 29, 2014

King Fire (CA) - 89% contained today

Things in the world of wildfires can always change. As I write this article, the King Fire that has been burning since September 13th is at 89 percent containment thanks to recent rains (see this article from the LA Times (with photos)). Hopefully weather and related conditions will allow for continued progress in fighting this wildfire.

Some of you may have noticed that for the last week or so, I had been posting a short update on the King Fire on the right side of this blog. If the fire remains at or above 89 percent containment I will no longer be posting those short updates. If the situation should change for the worse then I'll resume those short updates. For those of you who want to read my earlier articles covering the King Fire, see my articles of September 17th and September 19th

Anyway, as of today's update on Inciweb's King Fire Page, the fire has burned 97,099 acres. A total of 80 structures have been destroyed including 12 residences. Six people have been injured. There was a fire shelter deployment a couple of weeks ago. Fortunately, no one was injured. Bill Gabbert of Wildfire Today wrote about the the deployment here and a second article about the role a pilot had in helping the groundcrews involved in the shelter deployment here.

The King Fire has a freely available Facebook Page with daily updates and pictures. The King Fire Page on Inciweb has a page with photographs.

I may have been involved in other projects last week, my mind has never been far from the ground and air crews who have been working the King Fire and other wildfires that are currently burning. You've done good work and I know that the residents in the community affected by wildfires appreciate what the firefighters are doing to keep them safe.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Aerial Applications in Central NJ - seeding winter cover crop (2 of 2)

I conclude this short series (See articles I posted on September 22 and September 24 about aerial applications of winter cover crop seeds in Central NJ.

Please spend some time to look at this great slide show of seeding operations from NJ dot com (9/18/14). Allow a few minutes to view the 44 photos in the slide show.

Residents near the farms that were seeded were notified prior to the seeding operations which began the afternoon of September 16 and were completed on September 18. See this September 18th article from the Hunterdon Democrat for more information.

Christian Bench, a Soil Conservation Technician with the  US Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service in Pittstown NJ provides some additional information about the seeding operation. He gave me more information about the benefits of cover cropping:

Some cover cropping benefits are seen right away including soil erosion protection. Other benefits such as increased water infiltration, nutrient scavenging, increased soil microbe activity and increased soil organic matter will be seen only after several years of cover cropping on the same fields. This is why we are doing this for 3 consecutive years on the same fields.

Bench speaks to the advantages of using aircraft to disperse the winter seed cover over no-till drilling methods:

While aerially seeding is not the only way to plant a cover crop it is the only way to seed into standing crops that have not been harvested yet. No-till drilling cover crop species after the cash crop is harvested is a very effective way of seeding but as it gets later in the year the farmer is limited to what species he/she can plant. Aerial seeding opens a whole new window of opportunity because it allows for a more diverse mixture of seed species to be planted that all benefit soil in a different way. Drilling cover crop species after harvest limits farmers to very few species that will take root late in the year.

I asked Bench if similar seeding operations, including the use of aircraft, are happening in other parts of the United States. He says:

Yes. This occurs across the U.S and is catching on more and more as government programs are helping to fund such seedings. Farmers are also seeing the benefits of cover crops to their operations and seeding cover crops aerially on their own dime as well.

loading the hopper with seed

loading the hopper with seed

close-up of loader

close up  of spreader (disperses seed)

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Aerial Applications in Central NJ - seeding winter cover crop (1 of 2)

A couple of days ago I wrote about watching Downstown Aero Crop Service doing loading operations for seeding applications on nearby farms. I begin today by introducing the seeding program with part 2 coming on September 26th where Christian Bench Christian Bench, a Soil Conservation Technician with the  US Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service in Pittstown NJ provides more information about last week's seeding operations.

This was the first of a three year program, last done in this area some thirty years ago, with the U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service. Farmers participating in the program will have a four-species cover crop applied by a Downstown Air Tractor 602 each September for three years. This is year one, aerial seeding operations occurred from late in the day on September 16th through the afternoon of September 18th. Farmers will receive monetary compensation (on a per acre basis) for participating in the program with farmers in the Neshanic and Musconetcong River Basins receiving additional compensation from the North Jersey Resource Conservation and Development Council.

The four species in the winter cover are: clover, tillage radish, triticale, and oats. Among the benefits of this winter cover seeding is providing soil nutrients. In the spring the idea is that nitrogen will be produced. Additional information on this aerial seeding program (including information about the program and a description of each species) may be found in this September 9 article from the Hunterdon County Democrat.

close-up of four-species winter seed cover

four-species winter seed cover

Monday, September 22, 2014

Aerial Applications in Central NJ - Preview of things to come

Last week I had the pleasure of going to a nearby airport, Alexandria Field, to watch my friends from Downstown Aero Crop Service with one of their Air Tractor 602's as the loaded the Air Tractor with seed that they were dispersing over select farms in Hunterdon, Somerset, and Warren Counties in New Jersey. I'll be writing more about this operation in my next article on September 24. But I thought I'd provide a preview of things to come by sharing a few photographs with you.

Air Tractor 602 piloted by Edward Carter, Jr just before landing

Loading her hopper with seed

Friday, September 19, 2014

Update on Boles and King Fire (California)

direct link to video and article on News10 ABC

For those of you in and around the areas that have been burned by the Boles and King Fire in California, I've had several friends comment to me about the fire. Thanks to the firefighters in the air and on the ground who have worked these fires.

Boles Fire

According the latest update from the CAL FIRE Boles Fire incident page, the Boles fire has burned 479 acres and is at 90 percent containment with 150 structures being destroyed.There is a nice report from KTVU about some firefighters who tried to save a home in Weed destroyed by the Boles Fire.

King Fire

As I write this, the King Fire has burned 76,376 acres and is at 10 percent containment. Recall that when I posted on Wednesday, September 17th, the size of the fire was at 18,544 acres. It grew by more than 40,000 acres over Wednesday night into early Thursday morning (September 18th). Bill Gabbert of Wildfire Today wrote about the growth of the King Fire in an article he wrote yesterday (September 18th). See also, coverage from  CBS13 Sacramento early morning of September 18th (with video).

Current updates:
King Fire Updates on Facebook (should be publicly available)

More Articles:
Wildfire Today on arrest of man suspected of starting the King Fire
KQED (PBS) on King Fire
KCRA video report on air attack
News10ABC (Sept. 19th) on the King Fire

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

California wildfires

Boles Fire in Weed, Siskiyou County, Califonia

I first learned of the Boles Fire in Weed California last night from some friends. Very sad. One hundred fifty homes destroyed. As I write this, according the CAL FIRE Boles Fire incident page the Boles fire has burned 375 acres and is at 25 percent containment. I'd like to thank Bill Gabbert of Wildfiretoday for his usual outstanding reporting, I got the video from the article that Bill first posted on September 15th the Boles Fire (which he updates), which is where I learned about the video that I am sharing here. 

King Fire, Eldorado County, Eldorado National Forest, California 
The King Fire has burned 18,544 acres and is at five percent containment according to this CAL FIRE incident report on the fire. CNN has a video report on the fire that may be found here (article and video accessed on Sept. 17). Bill Gabbert reported on a fire shelter deployment at the King Fire here, all CAL FIRE firefighters are accounted for with no reported injuries. 

I understand that tankers are or were working both the King and the Boles Fires.

Here is a video of one of the DC-10 tankers working the King Fire. The video was posted by the NWS in Sacramento CA, video credit to Jason Clapp:

Monday, September 15, 2014

Sliverado Wildfire, Cleveland National Forest, California

Over the weekend, I heard about the Silverado Fire as I watching a cable news outlet. As I write this, the Silverado Fire has burned 968 acres in the Cleveland National Forest in California, and is at 80% containment. Evacuations are in place. I found these two videos showing footage of the Silverado fire thanks to my friend at the NJ Forest Fire Service Section B10 webpage, he has a wonderful videos of the week page where he posts a few new fire videos weekly.

direct link to video from loudlabs news

direct link to video from Kevin Byrnes

Friday, September 12, 2014

Curiosity Arrives at Mt. Sharp on Mars

I am taking a time out to share some exciting news about what one of my favorite Martian Rovers -- Curiosity -- has been up to these days. After two years she has arrived at the base of Mt. Sharp. on Mars. I did get advance notice of a press conference yesterday where this was announced but a prior commitment kept me away from watching the press conference on live stream. A press release with photographs from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory may be found here.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Station Fire - 5 years later - moving on (at least for now)

Yesterday I spent quite a bit of time going through my files on the Station Fire, as well as reviewing sources on the Internet that had written about the Station Fire as it was being fought as well as investigations and concerns raised in the aftermath of the Station Fire. Bill Gabbert of  Wildfire Today wrote a series of articles on the Station Fire (the link is for articles with tagged "Station Fire" with the most recent article being listed first).

At this point all I will say is that I learned a lot about wildland firefighting following various sources who covered the Station Fire while the fire was raging as well as the aftermath of the fire. I think that, at least for now, it is best for me stop here. The fire burned over 160,000 acres. Lives were lost, people were injured, houses were destroyed, residents were evacuated. For the victims of this and other wildfires, I will remember. It doesn't feel like enough, but at times it is the best that I can do.

I've been exploring some things which are tangental to the Station Fire. Perhaps I'll be back sometime later and offer my reflections on the tangents that I am exploring.