Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Catfish Fire Tower (NJ)

Anyone who has hiked on the Appalachian Trail (AT) has probably walked by the Catfish Fire Tower. For those of you who live in or visit northern New Jersey and are interested in hiking the AT to the Catfish Fire Tower, it is not a long hike going south on the AT from the parking area on State Highway 602 about a 15 minute drive from Blairstown NJ. There is also a nice loop hike you can take where you will walk back to the parking area on the AT you will walk by the fire tower, the New York New Jersey Trail Conference has a description of this loop hike with auto directions that may be found here. I have not done this loop trail in several years, but this was a regular hike when I was younger with younger knees. I'd recommend it. 

It is also visible from the air, and since I know that it is there and where it is, it isn't too hard for me to find from the air as long as I am paying attention. I have seen this fire tower on many of the flights I have taken with my pilot friends when we flew up the Appalachian Ridge from the Delaware Water Gap.

Just this morning, I found a nice short article from New Jersey Monthly on Bob Wollf of the New Jersey Forest Fire Service who is the current fire observer at the Catfish Fire Tower.  Here is an excerpt where he describes part of a typical day at the fire tower:
Wolff begins his daily eight-hour shift at about 10 am, when the temperature increases, the wind picks up and humidity drops. Settling in, he switches on the radio and reports to his base in nearby Andover. “Wolff operator is signing on, Channel 7- KYD- 797,” he calls in. 
And so the fire watch begins. In New Jersey, a fire observer’s job isn’t just detecting fires, but also dispatching aircraft, ground units and personnel. Once they are in action, the fire observer orchestrates the entire drama. 
Wolff listens for the wind and observes the tops of the trees to see if they are bending. He watches to see how quickly the clouds are moving, another indicator of the wind. Weather can be brutal and fast to change along the ridge top. On this morning, visibility is limited and the breeze is light, but I can feel the tower sway.

As I write this, the article from the May 2016 New Jersey Monthly may be found here. It is a short read, and I learned something about the work of a fire observer. I don't know how long this article will be freely available online.

Here are a couple of short videos about the Catfish Fire Tower.

Direct link to video

Direct link to video

Monday, May 23, 2016

Smokey Bear Hotshots (2015 Fire Season)

Some of you may recall that the Smokey Bear Hotshots came east to help fight the Sixteen Mile Fire that burned in the Poconos (PA) in late April 2016. Here is the Smokey Bear Hotshots 2015 Fire Season Video:

Direct link to video

Friday, May 20, 2016

Geronimo Hotshots (2015 Fire Season)

I have shared videos from the Geronimo Hotshots on a few other occasions, see for example: Jan 8, 2016, and two videos on their 2014 season part 1 and part 2. Finally the Geronimo Hotshots have a nice video on being a Geronimo Hotshot. Today I am sharing the Geronimo Hotshots 2015 Fire Season video:

Direct link to video

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

The Big Burn (1910)

I recently came across a documentary from American Experience (PBS) on Youtube about the 1910 Wildfire known as the Big Burn. I recall seeing this on PBS last year. It is well worth the time to watch it (about 55 minutes). Enjoy.

Monday, May 16, 2016

More on Heli-rappelling

I shared a video of the Salmon heli-rappell crew on May 11th, continuing with the work of helirappell crews, here are three more videos.

Rookie helirappell Training

Direct link to video

Helirappell Training

Direct link to video

Salmon Helirapplers Helmet Cam (2014)

Direct link to video

Friday, May 13, 2016

Bass River State Park (NJ) - Henry Fire

The Henry Fire was first reported on May 12, 2016 in remote area of the Bass River State Park in Bass River Township near the Burlington and Ocean County border. As of the evening of May 12th, the fire, which is burning near the Garden State Parkway, had burned about 460 acres and was at 60 percent containment. No residences are threatened.

For more information:
NBC10 - Philadelphia - report with video (May 12th, 10:37 PM EDT)
NJ dot com report (May 13th, 8:04 AM EDT)

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Fort Mc Murray (Alberta) wildfires - May 10th update

For those of you who are landing here to get updates on the wildfires that have been burning in and around Fort McMurray in Alberta Canada, I have made earlier posts on the wildfires on May 4th, May 5th (on the evacuations) and May 6th.

Here is some aerial footage from Global News, via Facebook (uploaded on May 7th) during a fly over of Fort McMurray. You will some of the destruction in the Abasand and Beacon Hills neighborhoods.

People are still urged to stay away from Fort McMurray, it may be at least two more weeks before it is safe for residents to return. Many areas of the city have no water, gas, or electricity. As I write this, the wildfires have burned 204,000 hectares (or almost 505,000 acres) and at least 2,400 homes and other structures have been destroyed. Government officials accompanied by media toured Fort McMurray yesterday. The downtown is largely intact and it is being reported that firefighters did save 85 percent of the structures in the city. See this CBC Edmonton article with videos and photos (last updated May 10th at 5:22 AM MT).

Here are some more photo galleries and videos:
Global News (photos and videos) during the May 9th media tour
TheStar (May 7th) photo gallery

Monday, May 09, 2016

Air Tractor Fire Boss in action

I took a needed time out today to watch a couple of nice videos showing Air Tractor's Fire Boss in action. I thought that you might enjoy these videos so I am sharing them here. The second video may be a rerun, and if so it is worth watching again.

Direct link to video on youtube

Direct link to video on youtube

Friday, May 06, 2016

Fort McMurray wildfires -- May 6th update

I posted another update with links to photos and videos of the Fort McMurray wildfire on May 10th

May 6 2016, 3:45 PM EDT

Some photos of the Fort McMurray wildfires for you:

May 6 2016, 11:40 AM EDT and updated at 1:20 PM EDT

I have been following the wildfires in Fort McMurray, Alberta as best I can and as time allows. For those of you that might want to catch up you might want to see the article I wrote on May 4th with updates on May 5th. In addition, later on May 5th I shared a CBC interview with the gentlemen who shot some dash cam video as he was evacuating Fort McMurray this past Tuesday.

I was chatting over e-mail with a good friend, now retired from the wildland firefighting business, about the Fort McMurray wildfires. He commented that "sometimes Mother Nature takes charge and we just have to get out of the way." Got me thinking. I was hoping that I could easily find something amongst all the media coverage about the fire that would speak to that point. I saw this article in todays New York Times by Fernanda Santos called Forces of Nature Conspire Against Firefighters Around Fort McMurray (with a video). Here is an excerpt:
How do you stop a big, fast-moving wildfire like the one ravaging Fort McMurray, Alberta? The answer is, you can’t. 
Don Whittemore, a senior disaster response manager from Boulder, Colo., who has trained teams of firefighters in the United States and abroad, compared the task to “trying to stop a hurricane from hitting the Eastern Seaboard.”
Thank the stars that all of Fort McMurray and some towns to the south have been evacuated. On Tuesday, some evacuees went north the the oil sands worker camps. Starting early this morning, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police have been escorting evacuees and workers from the northern oil sands worker camps in convoys of 50 south of Fort McMurray. The Mounties will be leading and following the convoys with  a helicopter over head. The hope is that by the end of the day 1,500 who had been staying in the oil sands worker camps will be evacuated to places south of Fort McMurray. For more information on these convoys see this CBC Edmonton report (with videos, last updated May 6th, 11 AM MT) and a report from the Edmonton Journal (with videos and photos).

If any of you are looking for some maps of the Fort McMurray area, here is a nice interactive report from the New York Times (May 4th) with a map, photos, and a video. I found a map of the Fort McMurray area mapping out on the Edmonton Journal last night, the map may be found here.

According to a CBC Edmonton report (last updated May 6th, 11 AM MT) the Fort McMurray wildfires have burned approximately 100,000 hectares as of the morning of May 6th or about 247,000 acres.

Finally, CBC has a webpage with eleven videos of the  Fort McMurray wildfire, posted on May 5th (6:30 AM local time). You may have seen some of these videos already.