Wednesday, September 02, 2015

Reflections on the wildland firefighters fighting the western wildfires

I have been thinking a lot about all the wildland firefighting crews on the ground fighting the wildfires out west. Never having been any kind of firefighter, I can't imagine what it is like for them. Fortunately, I have a couple of sites with some great photos of some of these wildland firefighters that I'll share with you in a moment.

I'd like to be able some apprropriately worded reflections for you to go with the title of the blog post. However, I don't think that I have the words. But I do think that photos are more appropriate. A famous proverb applies here, one picture is worth a thousand words.

Last night I was the on the King5 (western Washington) website when I came across a wonderful photo gallery of still photographs of some of the wildland firefighters that have been working the Chelan wildfires in Washington. I just have to share this with you. My favorite photo is the first photo that you will see. Knowing that inciweb often has photos on their incident pages, I am also sharing the photopage link for the Okanagon Complex.

King5 Photo Gallery: Heros on the fire lines
Inciweb-Okanogan Complex Photographs

Thank-you all wildland firefighters, on the ground and in the air and your support crews. Stay safe.

Tuesday, September 01, 2015

In Memory of Tanker 09: not forgotten

In Memory of Tanker 09 and her crew lost on September 1, 2008

direct link to video on youtube

In early April of 2009 I had only been writing this blog on aerial wildland firefighting for less then three months when I learned about the loss of Tanker 9 on September 1, 2008. I think of the crew of Tanker 09 often. When I was reminded earlier today that today is the seventh anniversary of the loss of Tanker 09, I thought it only right to pause and remember the crew of Tanker 9 who died that day at Stead Airbase near Reno, Nevada.

Gene Wahlstrom, 61, Captain of T-09.  He was the chief pilot for Neptune Aviation with over 25 years in the aviation industry.

Greg “Gonzo” Gonsloroski, 41, First Officer of T-09, received his type rating on the P2V in the spring of 2006 and was well on his way to becoming an air tanker Captain.

Zachary VanderGriend, 25, an airframe and powerplant mechanic, was fairly new to Neptune. He got his private pilot’s certificate at the age of 17.

Tanker 09, registration number N4235T, serial number 150282, model number SP-2H, date of manufacture: 1962. Owned and operated by Neptune Aviation, Missoula, Montana.

I won't forget. May you continue to fly in favorable tail winds.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Wildfires in north western US - August 31st

Thanks again to Mike Archer's Wildfire News of the Day for the links to these articles, you may subscribe to Mike's six day a week e-mail newsletter here.

NPR report: Western Wildfires Outpace Weary Firefighting Crews (August 30, 2015)

direct link to NPR story with audio

Oregon, Idaho and western Montana

Friday, August 28, 2015

More on the wildfires out west

I am going on an outing in a couple of hours, a day trip for some recreation. My thoughts and prayers continue for all those affected by the wildfires in the western portion of the U.S. Before going, I haven't yet had breakfast, I want to make this post.

There are a lot of wildland firefighters from the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand. The military is helping. Crews from many States, including New Jersey are helping. Our friends in Canada have sent some air tankers to help us out. Our friends from Canada have (again) sent us some air tankers to help. Stay safe everyone and thanks for all you are doing.

The National Interagency Fire Center issued a Press Release on August 20th (download here) about mobilizing wildland firefighters from Australia and New Zealand. I understand that they have arrived and are working in Washington and Oregon.

Here are three articles focusing on the wildfires that I learned about through Mike Archers Wildfire News of the Day, a six-day a week e-mail newsletter that you may subscribe to here.

America is at War with Fire (U.S. Military helping to fight wildfires), Warisboring on August 25th
39 photos of Washington Wildfires from the Yakima Herald with links to more articles)
Christian Science Monitor (article and video, August 22nd) on the crews fighting the wildfires (including prisoners, military and crews from other countries)

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Thank-you wildland firefighters

I am sharing (perhaps a rerun?) one of my favorite tribute videos to wildland firefighters and smokejumpers. Stunning images and great music. With some pictures of now historic tankers. Words can't express my gratitude (and prayers) to all the wildland firefighters (on the ground and in the air) who are working very hard to keep us safe. And we have wildland firefighter friends from Canada, Australia, and New Zealand helping us out here in America.

Stay safe.

direct link to video

Monday, August 24, 2015

Wildland firefighters who died near Twsip WA identified

On August 20th I wrote about the tragic deaths of three wildland firefighters near Twsip WA on Aug 19th. Those who lost their lives are:
  • Tom Zbszewski, age 20
  • Andrew Zajac. age 26
  • Richard Wheeler, age 31
Daniel Lyon (age 25) was critically injured and is being cared for at Seattle hospital.

You may read a August 20th report from the Northwest Interagency Coordination Center about the identities of the deceased and the injured here. The Seattle Times wrote about the Zbszewski, Zajac, and Wheeler (as well as an update on Lyons injuries) in this August 20th article with photos (updated on August 23rd).
Rest in Peace. Your sacrifice won't be forgotten, prayers for your families, friends and colleagues. Heal well Daniel Lyon, prayers for your recovery.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

New Jersey Forest Fire Service will send more firefighters out west

An August 21st press release from the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection came to my attention last night. The New Jersey Forest Fire Service will be sending a second crew of 20 wildland firefighters to help fight the wildfires out west. They will be leaving this weekend or early next week. Here is an excerpt from the August 21st NJDEP press release:

Responding to the growing need for support to fight Western wildfires, the Christie Administration is sending an additional 20 members of the New Jersey Forest Fire Service and New Jersey State Forestry Services to assist in the battling of wildfires that are raging across parts of the Northwest, Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Bob Martin announced today. … “Our commitment to assist in this national effort to battle these dangerous fires is unwavering,” Commissioner Martin said. “We are proud to be sending our dedicated and brave crews from the New Jersey Forest Fire Service to pitch in and help protect others.”

I close by sharing a video report from NBC10 in Philadelphia reporting on the New Jersey Forest Fire Service (NJFFS) crew that is currently working the Morrell Complex of wildfires in Montana in the Lolo National Forest near Seeley Lake, 516 acres have burned to date and is at 10 percent containment. The report also mentions the three NJFFS trucks working fires in Washington and an update (April 21st about 5 PM) on the wildfires burning in out west.

Friday, August 21, 2015

NJ Forest Fire Service Crew in Montana fighting wildfires

In an article I wrote on August 18th on the wildfires burning in the western USA, I mentioned that the New Jersey Forest Fire Service (NJFFS) had deployed 32 wildland firefighters to help battle the wildfires burning out west with trucks going to Oregon and a crew of NJFFS wildland firefighters going to Idaho, Montana, or Oregon. See this August 16th article from the NJ Herald for more information.

I knew that the NJFFS crew was in Montana and that they are already working on their second fire. It wasn't until today that I had some specific information to share. That is, a crew of 20 NJFFS wildland firefighters is currently assigned to the Morrell Complex of wildland fires that has burned 476 acres in the Lolo National Forest, the fire is at 15 percent containment. The most current information on this fire may be found at the Morrell Complex Inciweb page. I am going to quote some information that I found on the Morrell Complex Inciweb page at the time that I am writing this article (4:05 PM on August 21st), the information is current as of August 21st at 10:45 AM:
Summary: Another very active fire day today (Friday) which is expected to have similar conditions as yesterday, but leaning towards slightly cooler temperatures and stronger winds causing a RED FLAG WARNING to be in effect. Winds will be shifting from southwest to northeast direction with gusts nearing 45 mph. A cold front will be passing through with a 20% chance of wetting rain in the evening. The fire is now estimated to be 476 acres. The percent contained changed from 25% to 15% yesterday due to the fire growing beyond established firelines on the eastern flanks. Over 120 members of the public joined together at a community meeting last night to hear the latest strategies and meet local fire management officials. 
Resources: Heavy equipment continues to be the primary resource on hand for the fire. This includes one 20-person handcrew from New Jersey, 3 excavators, 1 feller-buncher, 3 water tenders, 4 engines, 1 dozer, 5 “skidgines” and a helicopter with bucket for line work and initial attack. A total of 107 firefighters, including overhead, are currently working on the fire. Resource orders have been placed for additional hand crews, miscellaneous overhead and safety officers. (emphasis added)
I am very proud to have a crew of wildland firefighters helping fight the Morrell Complex of wildfires. I am sure that Montana appreciates the help.

As I was preparing to write this blog post, I found this August 20th article on NJ dot com, a nice article about one of the NJFFS wildland firefighters, Sean Riley.  Riley is working on the crew in Montana. Riley is the head of the Newfield NJ Fire Department. Riley explains in the article about some of the testing that is involved in being a wildland firefighter and volunteering for out-of-state duty (Riley put his name on list of NJFFS wildland firefighters willing to do out-of-state duty in 2015) in this excerpt from the August 20th article:
"You take a three-mile pack test where you have 45 pounds on your back. You have to cover [that distance] in 45 minutes," Riley said. The pack test is just one of several rounds of qualifications firefighters must go through before they're cleared to take on jobs of this magnitude. 
When the U.S. Forest Service puts out the call for volunteers, firefighters have two days to respond. If they accept, the firefighters are sent to the scene for a two-week assignment. 
"You know when you sign up that it's going to be last-minute," said Riley. "You don't know when it'll happen. It's a matter of when the fires reach a certain point."
I have heard that the NJFFS trucks (three type 4 engines and their crew) may be in Oregon, I'm not quite sure where.

Updated on August 22, 2015: According to this August 21st press release from the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, the three NJFFS trucks that arrived in the west on August 17th were assigned to work wildland fires in Washington and are still there. This same press release also mentions that the New Jersey Forest Fire Service is sending an additional 20 wildland fires out west to help fight wildfires out west.

New Jersey Forest Fire Service Wildland Firefighters in state and working out of state, you rock and I am proud of you. Stay safe.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Three wildland firefighters die near Twisp WA

It is with a heavy heart that I offer my condolences to the families, friends, colleagues, and all who loved the three wildland firefighters that died yesterday fighting a wildfire near Twsip, Washington. I understand the four firefighters are injured, at least one critically, prayers for the injured and their families. See this Seattle Times article (last updated August 20th at 7AM PDT) for more information on this tragedy, a map of the area, some fire photos, and coverage of other wildfires.


Wednesday, August 19, 2015

NASA Satellite Image (Aug 16th) of Fires in Pacific Northwest USA

I thought that some of you might be interested in a NASA Satellite image of the fires in the Pacific Northwest collected by the Moderate Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA's Aqua Satellite on August 16, 2015. The red spots on the image are very warm surface temperatures or hot spots. For more information about this image and the fires in the image go to this NASA webpage. Photo credit: NASA Goddard MODIS Rapid Response Team.

Obtained on Aug. 19, 2015 from
Photo Credit: NASA Goddard MODIS Rapid Response Team