Monday, July 24, 2017

Penn Swamp Fire NJ, Burlington County NJ

I wrote last Friday about a major wildfire that was then burning in a remote area of Wharton State Forest in Burlington County, NJ. To contain the wildfire the New Jersey Forest Fire Service crews did a large burn out operations that resulted in the wildfire growing to 3,500 acres. The fire was 100 percent contained on Saturday, July 22nd. However, fires continue burn in the interior, and may continue to burn for the next few days. Here is some information on the Penn Swamp Fire reported on July 23rd by my friends at the B10 NJ Wildland Fire page:

Crews completed a large burn-out operation achieving 100% containment at about 3,500 acres on 07/22/ Interior pockets of vegetation will continue to burn over the next several days. Crews will continue to monitor control lines. 
Batso Village has reopened to visitors but some trails remain closed.
New Jersey Advance Media reported on this fire on July 23rd.

The Penn Swamp Fire may be the largest wildfire that has burned in New Jersey in ten years, see this article from NJ Advance Media for more information.

It did rain last night, July 23rd into July 24th, I don't know what effect the rains had on helping firefighters to manage the interior sections of the fire that may still be burning. I'd imagine that the rains helped.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Major Fire in Pine Barrens, Burlington County NJ

July 21, 4:59 PM

Only now just learning of a major wildfire, known as the Penn Swamp Wildfire,  that is currently burning in Washington Township NJ (NJ Forest Fire Service Section B2). According to the latest update (July 21st at 4:30 PM) from my friends at the B10 NJ Wildland Fire Page the fire is in a remote area of the Pine Barrens with no access. Fire reported by Batso Fire Tower about 1:20 EDT on Thursday, July 20th.

Crews are performing a large burn-out operation to accomplish containment which will increase the fire size to near 3,500 acres. Currently the fire is about 2,800 acres with 60 percent containment being reported. I found an article with some videos from 6ABC in Philadelphia and another article from NJ Advance Media (updated on July 21st at 2:40 PM).

Here is some nice footage (no sound) from CBS Philly.



Direct link to video


July 21 8:15 PM



Direct link to video

IMET trainees

About a month ago I was perusing the National Weather Service IMET Facebook Page looking for recent postings of IMETs (incident meteorologists) working wildfires and other news affecting IMETs when I came across a couple of posts about IMET trainees on their way to wildfires. See for example the post below.



I wanted to know more about IMET trainees so I wrote a Facebook Message to the NWS IMET staff (in Boise Idaho) who are responsible for their NWS IMET Facebook Page. I have corresponded with them before via Facebook so they knew about my blog. I sent the NWS IMETs a Facebook message them asking them if they could share a little about the IMET training program. This is their response:
IMET training: NWS meteorologists start out their careers as interns and take numerous training courses in forecasting, satellite, radar, etc. After 4 years or so they can become Journey level forecasters (aka General Forecasters). Once they reach the Journey level, and if there are openings in the IMET program, they can volunteer for an IMET position. Once accepted they go through another 250 hours of training, learning everything from meso and micro scale meteorology, weather in different locations across the nation (everything from the mountains in the west to sea breeze interactions in the east), fire behavior training and fire safety. They then go on a minimum of 2 training fires where they complete a taskbook that spells out all the duties they must be capable of doing on a wildland fire incident. Once that taskbook and all the training is complete, then their taskbook is certified as complete and they become a qualified IMET. Annually the IMETs take about 20-40 hours of refresher training to keep their skills sharp and brush up on their fire safety.
I was waiting to share this post until I saw recent activity on IMET trainee postings, when I saw the following posting about an IMET trainee on their way to the Missouri Fire currently burning near Yellow Pine, Idaho (date of origin - 7/20/17; 1,194 acres; 5% containment). I wish this IMET trainee luck as h/she works on their taskbook. Stay safe and thanks for what you are doing! IMETs save lives.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Columbia AAB Tanker Ops on Detwiler Fire

I found a nice short video on tanker operations at the Columbia Air Attack Base (CA), while CAL FIRE Tankers 82 and 83 were working the Detwiler Fire in Mariposa County - 45,724 acres, 8 structures destroyed, evacuations in place, 7% containment as of July 19, 2017 at 12:30 PM EDT. For those of you who are interested in further coverage of the Detwiler Fire, Bill Gabbert of Wildfire Today has been covering the fire in this July 19th post.

I had been reading about this wildfire, but my interest was peaked when I came across this July 17th article with video by Giuseppe Ricapito of the Union Democrat. The video was by Maggie Beck with audio by Giuseppe Ricapito. I always enjoy watching and learning more about tanker operations at air attack bases. I hope that you take the time to read the article because there is some information in the article that is not in the video (embedded below).

Ricapito talks about the number of drops made on Monday, July 17th along with some information about flying to the fire (Union Democrat, July 17 2017, Giuseppe Ricapito)
By about 6:45 p.m. on Monday, Air Tankers 82, 83 and 88 (which is stationed out of Grass Valley) had performed 35 retardant drops near the fire site in Mariposa and Jesus Maria Road in Mokelumne Hill. The operations had begun at around 8:30 a.m. Monday, with helicopters deployed to the area not expected to return until evening. The helicopters were not required to return for a refilling of material or fuel, Podesta said, since they could access water at Lake McClure, about two miles from the blaze.  
With around 30 nautical miles to the drop zone, each of the planes has a turnaround time to Columbia Air Attack Base for a fire retardant refilling every 20 to 25 minutes. Every four to five drops, the aircraft would return to the Columbia Air Attack Base for a longer refueling by a mobile Shell jet fuel truck that would pull up alongside the plane on the runway.  
While in the Mariposa area, the air tankers fly at a designated elevation and flight path, dropping the liquid retardant ahead of the movement of the fire. 


Direct link to Union Democrat You Tube video

Monday, July 17, 2017

Campfire safety: cool to touch before you leave

I was online this morning checking for information on the Tongue River Complex that has burned 28,917 acres (90% containment) in the Custer Gallatin National Forest (Montana) when I saw a nice video on their Facebook Page on the proper way to extinguish a campfire.

I was interested in this video because I knew that it had been awhile since I last posted on campfire safety in a post in October 2013. The information in that video is still pertinent as they talk about how to build a safe campfire from checking campfire regulations before you to go to your camping area. selection of the campsite, building a campfire pit, maintaining the campfire, and extinguishing the campfire.

Knowing that campfires are one of the causes of wildfires, I was interested in this video from the Custer Gallatin National Forest. Their Facebook post and video is embedded below. While this short video may be focused for users of the Custer Gallatin National Forest, I think that the instructions on how to safely extinguish a campfire are important. I was probably taught as a youth about the importance of being certain that the campfire was cool to the touch before leaving. It has been many years since I last camped, and perhaps I won't again. If I do, I hope that I remember campfire safety.

The first step in campfire safety is determining before you go to your campsite whether campfires are allowed, so check with your park/forest/campgrounds/local agencies before you go. There is some great information about campfire safety at the Smokey Bear website, including a very nice page on how to maintain and extinguish a campfire.

Friday, July 14, 2017

IMETs on wildfires burning in the western USA

IMETs are working several wildfires currently burning in the western USA, including but not limited to wildfires listed below. If you click on the day of the week in the Facebook posts below you will see the date of the post. Acreage and containment information is current as of 10AM EDT on July 17th. What you see when you click on the link for each fire may differ depending on when you are accessing this page.

Draw Fire (Nevada): 26,872 acres, 70% containment




Rooster Combs Fire (Nevada): 218,380 acres, 71% containment



Brooklyn Fire (Arizona): 32,804 acres, 100% containment 



Tongue River Complex (Montana): 28,957 acres, 80% containment



Whittier Fire (California): 13,199 acres,  52% containment

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

More on wildfires burning in the western USA

On July 10th, I wrote about two of the wildfires burning in California (Alamo and Whittier). When I read the New York Times yesterday, I saw two articles (with pictures) about the wildfires burning out west: one article on the wildfires burning in California and the other article on wildfires burning in the Western USA and Canada (with pictures). Wildfires in ArizonaMontana, Nevada and British Columbia Canada to name a few. Here are some of the wildfires currently burning in each area at various stages of containment (acreage and containment information as of July 12th at 2:45 PM EDT).

Arizona
Frye Fire (48,443 acres, 88% containment)
Hilltop Fire (33,826 acres, 75% containment)
Brooklyn Fire (32,804 acres, 85% containment)

Montana
Tongue River Complex (28,684 acres, 55% containment)
Blue Ridge Complex (3,000 acres, no containment)
July Fire (11,174 acres, 70% containment)

Nevada
Roosters Comb (120,000 acres, 15% containment)
Draw Fire (25,249 acres, 60% containment)
Tabor Flats Fire (25,000 acres, 95% containment)

British Columbia, Canada
Gustafsen wildfire (5,000 hectares, estimated or 12, 355 acres, no containment)
Hanceville Fires (10,000 hectares, estimated or 24,711 acres, no containment)
150 Mile House Fire (2,600 hectares, estimated or 6,425 acres, 50% containment)

If you are interested in more photos of the recent wildfires, check out The Weather Channel online as they have 126 photos of the recent wildfires in an article dated July 11th.

Thanks to the ground and air crews and their support staffs for all you are doing to keep us safe. Stay safe!




Monday, July 10, 2017

Alamo and Whittier Fires, Santa Barbara County CA

There have been a number of wildfires burning out west recently keeping ground and aerial crews busy. Two of these fires are the Alamo and the Whittier Fires, both burning near Santa Barbara CA. The Whittier Fire (10,834 acres, 5% containment) has a page on inciweb while the Alamo Fire (23,867 acres, 15% containment) has no inciweb page but has a page on the CAL FIRE incident page. As I understand it, each incident has tankers and helos working the fire to support the ground crews. Bill Gabbert of Wildfire Today, doing his usual good job, has been covering the Alamo Fire and the Whittier Fire.

Here is a time lapse image of both wildfires shot over 17.5 hours, uploaded to Youtube


Direct link to video

This is a nice video about how various crews from southern California are cooperating to work the Alamo Fire, and what goes on behind the scenes including animal evacuations.


Direct link to video

Friday, July 07, 2017

Part 8 of 8 Application of GOES-16 for wildfire detection: Reflections on using GOES-16 for wildfire detection and the Experimental Wildfire Detection Notification App

Over the last several weeks as I was first learning about GOES-16 and then learning about the Experimental Wildfire Detection Notification  (WFDN) App, I have gained an appreciation for what the improvements in GOES-16 will bring to weather forecasting when she becomes operational as GOES-East in the Fall of 2017. I have tried to touch on these improvements in earlier articles and as applies to wildfire detection in this series. Looking at wildfire detections, I am very excited at the improvements that the Advanced Baseline Imager (ABI) in GOES-16 will mean to fighting wildfires.

The work that the NWS WFO at Norman OK and their state partners shows that the WFDN App means that in most cases, WFDN App dispatches come before 911 notifications, the lead time depending on how the WFO pushes WFDN to their local/state partners.

I have also gained an appreciation for how complicated satellite meteorology is. What I have learned about GOES-16 barely scrapes the surface of what GOES-16 will bring to weather forecasting.

June 21: Part 1 of 8: Application of GOES-16 for wildfire
detection: Introduction

June 23: Part 2 of 8: Application of GOES-16 for wildfire detection: A little about the
GOES-16 Advanced Baseline Imager

June 26: Part 3 of 8 Application of GOES-16 for wildfire detection: examples of improved imagery with GOES-16

June 28: Part 4 of 8 Application of GOES-16 for wildfire detection: wildfire detection
improved with GOES-16

June 30: Part 5 of 8 Application of GOES-16 for wildfire detection: February 18, 2016 wildfire danger in western OK and development of the Experimental Wildfire Detection Notification App

July 3: Part 6 of 8: Application of GOES-16 for wildfire detection: Experimental Wildfire Detection Notification App in use Spring 2017

July 5: Part 7 of 8 Application of GOES-16 for wildfire detection: Experimental Wildfire Detection Notification App making a difference

July 7: Part 8 of 8 Application of GOES-16 for wildfire detection: Reflections on using GOES-16 for wildfire detection and the Experimental Wildfire Detection Notification App (this article)

Wednesday, July 05, 2017

Part 7 of 8 Application of GOES-16 for wildfire detection: Experimental Wildfire Detection Notification App making a difference

I have exchanged several e-mails and have had a couple of telephone conversations with Todd Lindley (Science and Operations Officer, NWS Weather Forecast Office Norman OK about the Wildfire Detection Notification (WFDN) App. In a telephone conversation on May 1, 2017, I asked Todd if he could provide a couple of examples that I could share with you about how the Experimental WFDN App has made a difference. He discussed two examples that I will share with you.
February 8th 2017: The NWS Norman OK Forecaster analyzing GOES-16 wildfire detection images detected a hot spot in Logan County, OK. After the analysis and evaluation of these images was complete, the data released to Oklahoma for dispatch. Upon dispatch to Oklahoma, it turned out that the hot spot detected by GOES was a  structure fire in a very rural location. This WFDN dispatch was the only dispatch, there was no 911 dispatch. The house, which was not occupied at the time, was fully engulfed. 
February 23rd, 2017: In the period leading up to February 23rd, weather forecasters at WFO Norman OK used some historical wildfire outbreak data coupled with elevated wildfire danger conditions in the area to communicate extreme fire danger conditions to their State partners. The Oklahoma Forestry Services used this information to preposition ground and aviation resources (in this case Blackhawk helicopters) on February 22nd. 
On February 23rd Forecasters at NWS Norman OK analyzing GOES-16 images detected a hotspots, after analysis and evaluation, the data was released to their State partners for dispatch. One of the hot spots was near where OFS had prepositioned ground and aerial assets on February 22nd. Units responded quickly to the wildfire with good initial attack. The fire was contained at about 200 acres.. Similar outbreaks in nearby areas of Texas in the same time period grew to about 5 to 8,000 acres. The key to the containment of this particular fire at 200 acres was the prepositioning of ground and air resources coupled with the WFDN resulting in moving resources to the hotspot. The key was initial attack.
In part 8, I will conclude this series with some  of my own reflections on what I have learned in writing this series on the application of GOES-16 for wildfire detection and the development of the Experimental Wildfire Detection Notification App.

List of articles in this eight part series on the Application of GOES-16 for wildfire detection

June 21: Part 1 of 8: Application of GOES-16 for wildfire detection: Introduction

June 23: Part 2 of 8: Application of GOES-16 for wildfire detection: A little about the GOES-16 Advanced Baseline Imager

June 26: Part 3 of 8 Application of GOES-16 for wildfire detection: examples of improved imagery with GOES-16

June 28: Part 4 of 8 Application of GOES-16 for wildfire detection: wildfire detection improved with GOES-16

June 30: Part 5 of 8 Application of GOES-16 for wildfire detection: February 18, 2016 wildfire danger in western OK and development of the Experimental Wildfire Detection Notification App

July 3: Part 6 of 8: Application of GOES-16 for wildfire detection: Experimental Wildfire
Detection Notification App in use Spring 2017

July 5: Part 7 of 8 Application of GOES-16 for wildfire detection: Experimental Wildfire
Detection Notification App making a difference (this article)

July 7: Part 8 of 8 Application of GOES-16 for wildfire detection: Reflections on using
GOES-16 for wildfire detection and the Experimental Wildfire Detection Notification App

Monday, July 03, 2017

Part 6 of 8: Application of GOES-16 for wildfire detection: Experimental Wildfire Detection Notification Ap in use Spring 2017

The launch of GOES-16 in November 2016, which continues in operational testing, means that images from the GOES-16 Advanced Baseline Imager (ABI) are available to NWS weather forecasters at WFO Norman OK in 2017 for use with the Experimental Wildfire Detection Notification (WFDN) App. There are times when GOES-16 is unavailable because of operational testing, when that happens imagery is available from GOES-14 in Super Rapid Scan (SRSOR) mode (see the June 30th article in this series for more information about GOES-14 in SRSOR mode). The WFDN App continues to help first responders respond to wildfires quickly as this official from the Oklahoma Forestry Services shared with Todd Lindley of the NWS Weather Forecast Office Norman OK: “The timeliness and location accuracy of the detected wildfires prompted timely communication with local resources. Having this information encourages rapid size up and allocation of resources prioritization and efficient assignment of aerial and heavy equipment” (Todd Lindley January 27 2017 e-mail with author).

GOES-16 imagery (or GOES-14 in SRSOR mode) flows directly into AWIPS and NWS radar. The next step is important, that is, a NWS forecaster has to analyze and evaluate the GOES-16 imagery before the data is released via the WFDN App software for dispatch to state (or local) officials. NWS staffing in times of wildfire danger is similar to staffing in other severe weather events such as tornadoes. The WDFN App was modified and improved in the spring 2017 by the NWS Norman OK, one of the key improvements is that the WFDN App auto-populates. There are no added costs to the WFOs, at least there are no added costs to the WFO Norman OK.

The NWS Weather Forecast Office (WFO) Norman OK partners with the Oklahoma Forestry Service (OFS), the Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management (ODEM), the Texas A&M Forest Service. NWS Norman send WFDN SMS to e-mail notifications are sent to two OFS Chiefs, the Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management Watch Officers, and a Chief from the Texas A&M Forest Service, they in turn transmit the WFDN App to local first responders. Speaking of the partnership between NWS WFO staff and State/County wildfire agencies, Todd Lindley told me that the use of the WFDN App “requires a deep level of cooperation between State/County Agencies and the NWS WFO staff” (May 1, 2017 phone call with author). In most counties in the NWS Norman OK forecast area the use of the WFDN App has translated to 5 to 10 minutes lead time ahead of E-911 notifications.

The WFO Norman OK continued to use the WFDN App during their Late Winter/Early Spring 2017 wildfire season, and they will continue to use the WFDN beyond the Late Winter/Early Spring 2017 wildfire season. In addition, other NWS WFOs are using the WFDN App. The WFDN App can be modified by each WFO for their own use. The use of the WFDN has spread to other NWS WFOs, and there are still more WFOs that have expressed interest in the WFDN. Other WFOs that are currently using the WFDN App include: NWS Amarillo TX and NWS Tulsa OK. In Amarillo TX, after the imagery is analyzed and evaluated by their forecasters, the WFDN notifications are released directly to local agencies. This means that local first responders in the Amarillo TX region receive the notification 15 to 20 minutes in advance of E-911 notifications because unlike in the Norman OK area (5 to 10 minutes ahead of E-911), the WFDN goes directly to the local agencies.

The WFOs of the NWS have always been involved in forecasting fire weather through the issuance of fire weather forecasts and red flag warnings. The development of the Experimental Wildfire Detection Notification App (WFDN) changes this for Norman, Amarillo, and Tulsa WFOs, Todd Lindley of WFO Norman OK explains:
If I could make a final summarizing statement about the Experimental WFDNs, it is that there is not a change in overall NWS fire weather services. However, the development of the Experimental WFDN, a prototype, does mean that in in addition to providing fire weather services they are taking on an experimental and more active tactical role in routing firefighting resources directly to newly detected fires (May 1 June 5, 2017 e-mails with author).
In part 7,  I will share a couple of examples of how the Experimental Wildfire Detection Notification made a difference in the Spring of 2017 in Oklahoma.

List of articles in this eight part series on the Application of GOES-16 for wildfire detection

June 21: Part 1 of 8: Application of GOES-16 for wildfire detection: Introduction

June 23:  Part 2 of 8: Application of GOES-16 for wildfire detection: A little about the GOES-16 Advanced Baseline Imager

June 26: Part 3 of 8 Application of GOES-16 for wildfire detection: examples of improved imagery with GOES-16

June 28: Part 4 of 8 Application of GOES-16 for wildfire detection: wildfire detection improved with GOES-16

June 30: Part 5 of 8 Application of GOES-16 for wildfire detection: February 18, 2016 wildfire danger in western OK and development of the Experimental Wildfire Detection Notification App

July 3: Part 6 of 8: Application of GOES-16 for wildfire detection: Experimental Wildfire Detection Notification App in use Spring 2017 (this article)

July 5: Part 7 of 8 Application of GOES-16 for wildfire detection: Experimental Wildfire Detection Notification App making a difference

July 7: Part 8 of 8 Application of GOES-16 for wildfire detection: Reflections on using GOES-16 for wildfire detection and the Experimental Wildfire Detection Notification App