Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Update on Wildfires in Pacific Northwest (USA) and British Columbia (Canada)

I thought I'd post some updated information about the wildfires that I wrote about on July 28th.

Starting with British Columbia (Canada), I reported on two wildfires:

1.  The Red Deer Creek Fire (burning in British Columbia and Alberta: an estimated 34,827 hectares burned (or 86,060 acres) reported to be 10 percent contained. Evacuations are no longer in place. Structure protection is in places at oil and gas values in the vicinity. Cooler temps and lower humidity earlier this week helped wildland firefighters.

2. The  Smith Creek Fire is reported at 280 hectares (or 692 acres) thanks to better mapping. (642 acres) and remains at 60 percent containment. Only one property (down from 2,200) remains under an evacuation order as of Tuesday, July 22.

A nice interactive map of the current active wildfires in British Columbia may be found on  here.

Wildfires continue in the Pacific Northwest. Here is updated information on:

Buzzard Complex (OR) 395,747 acres, 905 percent of the perimeter is contained.
Carlton Complex (WA) 250,258 acres, 16 percent of the perimeter is contained.

For more information on wildfires burning in Oregon and Washington, thanks to Mike Archer of Wildfire News of the Day:

Bill Gabbert posted an update on the Carlton Complex Wildfire (WA) on Wildfire Today on July 22nd

Monday, July 21, 2014

Wildfires in Pacific Northwest (USA) and British Columbia (Canada)

When I start to hear about wildfires on the radio and in other news outlets, then I know that they are major wildfires. That is the case with two  wildfires that I've been hearing about the last couple of days (info in urls current at the time I write this, 3:30 PM EDT on 7/21/14):

Buzzard Complex (OR) 395,747 acres, 75 percent of the perimeter is contained, caused by lightning
Carlton Complex (WA) 237,890 acres, 2 percent of the perimeter is contained, caused by lightning and other natural causes.

This is a report from the July 18th CBS evening news, I'm not sure if the evacuations referred to are still in place. You will hear about the wildfires in Washington and elsewhere out west.

Here is another report on the Washington wildfires from Fox News dated July 21.

Not to leave Oregon out, Oregon Live  reports on the wildfires in central Oregon in a report also dated July 21st (with photos).

Before I move on to the wildfire situation in Canada, I want to provide a brief update on the Shaniko Butte Fire that I wrote about on July 16, 2014The fire is now at 42,500 acres and 50 percent of the perimeter is contained.

At the same time that wildfires have been burning in Oregon and Washington (and elsewhere in the western USA), there have been wildfires burning in British Columbia and Northwest Territories in Canada.

Here is a video (dated July 18 and published on July 20) from Global News reporting on one of the wildfires burning in British Columbia (with some tanker and helo footage!)

I found a report on CTV News in Vancouver updated this morning that may be found here reporting that 2,400 of the 2,500 people who were evacuated due to the wildfire burnining near West Kelowna B.C. have been allowed to return. The CTV report also refers to a 35,000 hectare fire burning near the boarder of B.C. and Alberta.  

For more information on wildfires burning in British Columbia, the Wildfire Management Branch has a devoted webpage for Widlfires of Note along with a nice interactive map which maps wildfires that are currently burning. Here is some information on the two fires that I first read about in the CTV report:

1. The Red Deer Creek Fire: an estimated 34,827 hectares burned (or 86,060 acres), there is no containment as I write this, the fire was caused by lightning.

2. I believe but am not certain that the fire burning near West Kelowna that CTV reported on is the  Smith Creek Fire that has burning 260 hectares (642 acres) and is at 60 percent containment. Evacuation orders remain in effect.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Planes Fire & Rescue is here!!

direct link to video

direct link to video

CAL FIRE advised Disney in the production of Planes: Fire & Rescue. see this  July 16th article from the Huffington Post. Also advising Disney on the film were the Redding Smoke Jumper base (see this article from KRCTV) and the US Forest Service.

I'll be seeing the movie within the next couple of days, I can't wait!!

As I write this update it is 5:30 PM EDT on July 18th, I just got back from seeing Planes: Fire & Rescue. I stayed to the end to see the credits and saw references to the advisors from CAL FIRE, and CAL FIRE's Hemet-Ryan Air Attack Base as well as the Grass Valley Air Attack Base. The credits were scrolling quickly, so I missed the references to the Redding Smoke Jumper Base and the US Forest Service.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Shaniko Butte Fire (Warm Springs) OR

I have had the pleasure of sharing videos by Steve Konrad on this blog, see for example my articles of Aug. 19, 2013, May 23, 2014, and May 26, 2014. I don't have any more videos from my friend Steve to show you at the moment. But I did hear from him yesterday morning and he told me that he had just gotten word that his crew was deployed to wildfire in or near Warm Springs, Oregon.

I decided to devote todays article to the fire that Steve's crew is working on. I can't say with absolute certainty that the fire that Steve's crew is working on is the Shanko Butte Fire (OR-WSA-H8AK), but it is the only active wildfire that I have found currently burning in Oregon that is near Warm Springs, Oregon. By the way, I believe that Warm Springs is in or near the lands of The Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs.

Unfortunately, I don't have a whole lot of information about the Shaniko Butte Fire to share with you or link to. The latest inciweb info on the Shaniko Butte Fire (accessed 7/16/14 about 5 PM EDT) has minimal information, the date the fire started (July 13th), and some kml fire perimeter files that I used to create the google earth image that I am sharing with you. According to information that I obtained from the kml fire perimeter file that fire had burned 12,197.85 acres as of July 16, 2014.

Shaniko Butte Fire Perimeter on July 16, 2014 (from Google Earth)

The morning report for July 16, 2014 from the Northwest Coordinating Center describes the Shaniko Butte Fire:
Start 7/13. Grass and brush. Cause lightning. … Extreme fire behavior. Values at risk; residences and structures.
In addition, the Northwest Coordinating Center has a blog with information on fires buying in the northwest, including an entry on July 15, 2014 at 7 PM reporting the loss of one residence.

KTVZ in Bend Oregon has been covering this fire, their latest report (with a video) update on July 16, 2014 may be found here. KTVZ is reporting that 280 personal (including my buddy Steve and his crew?) are working the fire, which is not contained as I write this. They also report that aircraft may be working the fire, with the possibility of helicopters dipping from the Deschutes River.

For my buddy Steve Konrad and the rest of his Tom Fery Crew, I am thinking of you. If this it turns out that I have mis-identified the fire that you are working on, well the thought is there. And of course there are many, many other wildland fire crews out there (US, Canada, and globally) working fires. This article is for all of you. You do what you do to keep us safe from wildfires, often working in situations of extreme wildfire behavior. Stay safe!

Monday, July 14, 2014

Mills Canyon Fire WA and Moccasin Hill Fire OR

There have been two fires burning in the northwest that I have been hearing about recently in the news: The Mills Canyon Fire burning easy of Seattle, WA and the Moccasin Hill Fire burning near Lakeview OR. These are but two of several wildfires that are currently burning in Washington, Oregon, and California. Stay safe everyone and thanks for all you do to keep us safe.

Mills Canyon Fire (WA)

direct link to video

direct link to video (posted July 9, 2014

The Mills Canyon Fire, started on July 8 has burned 22,571 acres and is currently at 25 percent containment. You can see a small sampling of the aerial resources (helos and one of the DC-10 tankers) that worked the fire in the second video that I embedded above. Evacuations were in place on July 13th (for more information go here. Some photos are available from this inciweb page.

There is a thread on the Wildland Fire Hotlist for the Mills Canyon Fire. Bill Gabbert of Wildfire Today wrote about the Mills Canyon Fire on July 10th, 2014 and updated on July 13th.

Some media reports:
KATU on July 10 with photos and a video
Fox News (July 12)

Moccasin Hill Fire (OR)

I believe that I learned about the Moccasin Hill Fire from a crawler on one of my local news broadcasts this morning. According to a fire update on an Oregon Dept. of Forestry Wildfire Blog, this fire has burned an unknown number of residences and evacuations were in place yesterday (July 13th). According to the Inciweb page for the Moccasin Hill Fire, the fire started Sunday afternoon, July 13th at  about1:15 PM PDT, has burned 2,000 acres and is not contained (based on information from late in the evening of July 13th) Information on aerial resources (including helos and tankers that worked the fire yesterday may be found in this news release

For more information:
Wildfire Today on the Moccasin Hill Fire
KVAL (July 13th, 9 PM PDT)

Friday, July 11, 2014

SEATs - Mostly about SEATs on Exclusive Use Contracts

I believe that I first became aware that there would be awarded this year (2014) when I read the March 2014 edition of AgAir Update (Marc Mullis, "Gearing up for the new season", AgAir Update, March 2014, p. F-13). Bill Gabbert of Fire Aviation announced the awards of the Exclusive Use SEAT contracts on April 28, 2014:
The National Multi-Agency Coordinating Group announced today that the Department of the Interior is funding 33 exclusive use Single Engine Air Tankers (SEATs) in 2014 as national shared resources. Historically, SEATs have been funded as primarily a local or regional resource with assigned home bases. The 2014 exclusive use SEAT fleet will not have assigned home bases. They will be treated as national shared resources similar to Large Air Tankers (LATs). Geographic area Coordination Centers (GACCs) can preposition SEATs using the same mechanisms and rationale used for other national resources DOI contracts for 33 Single Engine Air Tankers.
Bill provides a good and easy to read discussion of some of the details of the Exclusive Use Contracts including the mandatory availability period (100 days), and that no relief pilot is required. You might want to take a few moments and read his April 28th article, DOI contracts for 33 Single Engine Air Tankers.

For a few years I had been hearing about Call When Needed (CWN) SEAT contracts, and was curious about how SEAT retardant tank capacity compared under the CWN contract and the EU contract. You may recall that Type 3 SEATs have 800 gallon retardant tanks and Type 4 SEATs have smaller retardant tanks (500 to 799 gallons) (for example see my discussion on my airtanker 101 page. I had a suspicion that type 4 SEATs could be contracted under the CWN contract but I wanted to see what the contracts said. What can I say, I am a bit of a geek. That being said, I know that analyzing tanker contracts can be a bit tedious and is beyond the purpose of this blog. However, I was gambling that the particular points that I am interested would be easy to find and more or less understandable. I hope that I was right.

According to the Exclusive Use (EU) SEAT Contract (found here), SEATs under the Exclusive Use Contract are Type 3 SEATs (a Type 3 SEAT carries 800 to 1,799 gallons of retardant) and will have a retardant gate system approved by the Interagency Airtanker Board (EU SEAT Contract Sections, B2.2.1, B2.2.2; p. 11, accessed on July 10, 2014). On the otherhand, SEATs on a Call When Needed (CWN) Contract (found here) can be Type 3 SEATs or Type 4 SEATs (500 to 799 gallons of retardant). The retardant gate systems on Type 4 SEATs do not have to be certified by the Interagency Airtanker Board (CWN SEAT Contract Sections, B2.2.1, B2.2.2; p. 11, accessed on July 10, 2014).

And I found this about relief pilots in the EU and CWN SEAT contracts:

Relief Pilot not required under the EU Contract  (EU SEAT Contract Section C24.2, p. 41, Accessed on July 10, 2014) while relief pilots are required for CWN Contracts (CWN SEAT Contract Section C24.2, p. 41, accessed on July 10, 2014).

For those of you who are interested in such things, a listing of the SEATs under exclusive use contract may be found here. Finally, my entry point for accessing all of the SEAT documents that I linked to in this article (as well as lots of other information on SEATs) may be found on the BLM Fire and Aviation Single Engine Airtanker Page.

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Reflections on writing this Blog (2 of 2)

In late June into early July 2008, I was on vacation in rural northern New England, and away from easy access to the internet. I was slowly starting to get back into writing articles for this blog. I wasn't sure what direction my writing would go, but I kept writing anyway. I spent some time each day listening to the news on National Public Radio when one day I recall hearing reports on the Basin Complex Fire that was then burning in the Big Sur area of Southern California. Each day more reports followed and for reasons that are still hard to articulate, I found myself getting interested in wildfires. I knew when I returned from vacation that I would write about the Basin Complex Fire.

My first article on wildfires, on the Basin Complex Fire, was six years ago today, July 9, 2008. And I was hooked, I had entered a new world. I knew that I had a lot to learn. The best way I can describe those first few months of writing about wildfires was that I was taking my few readers along with me as I learned about the world of wildland firefighting.

By late December 2008, I was still interested in wildland firefighting and wanted to keep writing about wildland firefighting. I had an awareness that aerial resources were used in wildland firefighting, but knew no specifics. The problem was  that I was approaching the end of what I could easily do on my own. In early to mid-January of 2009 I met a new friend who knew about aerial wildland firefighting from the inside. My friend introduced tohis world of aerial wildland fire firefighting and spent a lot of time teaching me including many e-mails and sending me a lot of information that I soaked up. A couple of weeks after I met my new friend, I wrote my first articles on aerial wildland firefighting. Over the course of the next few months I continued to write about aerial wildland firefighting and I continued to learn. I met a few more people in the business. I continued to learn and I continued to write. I am eternally grateful to those in the business that I met those first several months that I was writing about aerial wildland firefighting, they made those first several months easier as I continued to learn and gain confidence.

My new friends introduced me to the world of aerial wildland firefighting and helped me wade through various websites where I could find information, introducing me to some sources of good and reliable information on wildland fires in the U.S. and elsewhere and I met more people knowledgeable about aerial wildland firefighting. They answered my questions and we chatted by e-mail while I watched live streams of major wildfires out west. They send me information that I would not otherwise easily find on the internet.  I am still in touch with many of those who helped me early on as well as some I met later, they continue to answer my questions and send me information. Thanks to all of you who helped me early on as well those I met later. My blog is better for knowing all of you wonderful people.

I still continue to learn. 

A brief but heartfelt thanks to my Grandfather who was aeronautical engineer. I think that I got the "airplane gene" from him. Grandpa, I know that you are smiling down on me as you fly in favorable tail winds.

Saving the best and most important for last, I'd like to thank all of you who read my blog. Without you none of this is possible.

Monday, July 07, 2014

Reflections on writing this blog (1 of 2)

I am pausing for a couple of days to take some time to share some personal reflections on writing this blog. 

About ten years ago this coming fall I decided that I wanted to switch gears and focus on writing full time. I had a couple of writing projects that kept me occupied for the next year or so but those projects ended sometime in early 2006. I floundered for a few months wondering where my writing would take me. I started this blog in late June 2006. A few months later, I got interested in Malawi, a country on the east coast of Africa through some acquaintances. In April 2007 I was invited to accompany a group from California for a two-week trip to Malawi, and began writing about my then upcoming trip to Malawi around the same time (April 2007).

By the time I left for Malawi, I felt that the best way that I could share my experiences in Malawi was through this blog, so as internet connections allowed, I kept up with my blog for the two weeks of my travels. I had enough material to keep writing about Malawi in this blog through December 2007. 

This time of year I always find myself reflecting on my time in Malawi because I spent the last two weeks of June 2007 in Malawi. While what I could write about Malawi seems limited and in someways wholly inadequate, I am very glad that I went. Don't get me wrong, I often think of the people that I met in Malawi, at a couple of times a month and often more. It was a life changing experience. I traveled with a great group of people, and I think of them often. 

One of the women I met in Malawi, a minister's wife I believe told me something that I have never forgotten. Our visit was less than two years after Katrina hit New Orleans and environs. She said to us:

"We prayed for you after Katrina hit. You (in America) aren't used to the devastation that Katrina brought you. We are used to that kind of devastation." I've never forgotten that. Nothing I could say, I wiped a couple of tears from my eyes and gave her a hug.

When I wrote my last article on Malawi, actually a moving on piece in January 2008, I had no idea what I was going to write about next. I had a real hard time writing anything in my blog for a few weeks. I finally gave myself an exercise about writing about extraordinary ordinary things. A simple exercise that got me back into writing this blog. Sort of. 

Then came the Basin Complex Fire in June 2008 and it is my interest in that wildfire because I had some acquaintances who lived in the affected area that ultimately lead me to write about aerial wildland firefighting. More on that on Wednesday, July 9.

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

New Hampshire Wildland Firefighters honor fallen AZ and CO wildland firefighters

A report from WMUR in New Hampshire came across my desk yesterday. Wildland Firefighters in New Hampshire honored the 19 fallen Granite Mountain Hotshots (Yarnell Hill) this past Monday, and will honor the  14 fallen South Canyon wildland firefighters on July 6. It was not my intention to post another tribute, as I made my tribute the other day. I have strong ties to New England, so I was very touched when I read the report and watched the video (which I can not embed here). So, I wanted to share the report with you. If you are so inclined, please take about three minutes to watch the video and read the report.

WMUR on honoring 19 who died at Yarnell Hill

For all of you traveling the coming holiday weekend here in America, stay safe.