Thursday, January 21, 2021

2021 wildfire season: prescribed burning in New Jersey (1/20/2021)

 Prescribed burning season in New Jersey continues. Yesterday, January 20th, Division B of the New Jersey Forest Fire Service conducted two prescribed burns in Burlington County, NJ

  • Brendan T. Byrne State Forest, Woodland Twp.
  • Wharton State Forest, Washington Twp.
I prepared the image below from Google Earth showing the approximate locations of the two prescribed burns. Both are in or near the New Jersey Pinelands (sometimes referred to as the NJ Pine Barrens).

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

2020 wildfire season: summary from US NWS Incident Meteorologists

California has started off 2021 with red flag warnings and high fire danger starting on or about January 14th and continuing through on or about January 19th. I sincerely hope that this is not a sign of another devastating wildfire season in the U.S. The US National Weather Service Incident Meteorologist posted a nice graphic summary of the devastating 2020 wildfire season in a January 8th post. I share this with you below.

Monday, January 18, 2021

In Honor of Martin Luther King

Today we honor Martin Luther King, whose legacy of working towards freedom and equality for all has had an impact on me. It is also a day to think of service to others. So I want to honor today all the wildland firefighters on the ground and in the air as well as all who provide support for your service to us and the sacrifices you make so that we may be safe.

The post that I have embedded below is from the National Interagency Fire Center's Facebook Page (go here for direct link). I'd like to make a special shout out to the North Jersey Wildland Fire Association for pointing me to the NIFC post. If you do not see the Facebook Post below, it is because your tracking program or ad blocker is blocking the link. 

Friday, January 15, 2021

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

2021 wildfire season: prescribed burning under way in New Jersey

With the attention that the need for prescribed burning in other areas of the United States, I am proud that the New Jersey Forest Fire Service has been conducting prescribed burning for over eighty years. 

The 2021 prescribed burning season is underway in New Jersey. The NJ Forest Fire Services describes prescribed burning on their prescribed burning webpage:

... a prescribed burn is: "the skillful application of fire under exacting conditions of weather and fuel in a predetermined area, for a specific purpose to achieve specific results."

Since 1928, the Fire Service has used fire as a tool to protect the lives and property of our residents living near the forestlands of New Jersey. We do this by setting fires under exacting conditions to reduce the underbrush (the "fuel" for a fire), in areas that are prone to fire, or that may be located in a position where we feel we can defend against an oncoming wildfire. The use of fire in this way requires a level of skill and competence that we encourage through extensive, ongoing training.

The primary purpose of prescribed burning in New Jersey is to reduce the hazardous accumulations of forest fuels. This aids in the prevention of wildfires, reduces the intensity of the fires, and also provides a foundation for safer, more effective fire suppression and protection operations.

There is more about the New Jersey Forest Fire Service’s prescribed burning program in this NJ DEP April 2019 press release 

Thanks to a friend as well as the NJ Forest Fire Service’s Facebook posts (see their January 9th post on Facebook), I know about prescribed burns that were undertaken (weather permitting) on January 9th and 10th:

Division B

  • Monmouth County, Manalapan, Monmouth Battlefield State Park
  • Ocean County
    • Berkeley, Double Trouble State Park
    • Berkley, RJ Miller Air Par
    • Stafford, Stafford Ridge WMA
    • Woodland, Brendan T. Byrne State Forest; Pasadena WMA

On January 13th (see the January 13th NJ Forest Fire Service FB Post): prescribed burning is being conducted (weather dependent) as follows:
  • Division A: Somerset County, Franklin Twp, John Clyde Preserve
  • Division B: Burlington County, Washington Twp, Warton State Forest, Batsto Section: Burlington County, Washington Twp, Warton State Forest, Batsto Section

Monday, January 11, 2021

More on Discovery Channel's CAL Fire series

 I wrote last week about Discovery Channel's CAL Fire Series, see my January 6th post. I had not had a chance to watch the episode 1 "Sacrifice."Actually, I have watched the first episode twice, thanks to Discovery On Demand and recorded episode 2, "A Devil Comin' At You." Discovery is air the short lived CAL Fire series on Sunday nights at 10 PM. So far I know of three episodes. You should (I hope) be able to watch these episodes for free at the Discovery Channel CAL Fire watch now page. I have no idea how long Discovery will make these episodes available on their web site. Some of you may be interested in the review that Bill Gabbert, who was a wildland firefighter for 30 years, had to say about episode 1, his review may be found on this January 4th post on Wildfire Today.

I approached watching Discovery's CAL Fire series as a chance to watch and learn about how CAL Fire has fought some of the wildfires from the devastating 2020 wildfire season. As I understand it, Discovery imbedded some reporters with hi tech cameras for three months with CAL Fire companies as they fought wildfires. They also captured some off duty moments such as training, and preparing and cooking meals. But much of the focus is on the wildfires. Through these two episodes you hear firefighters talking fighting wildfires, the sacrifices they make and their love of the job. There is some discussion about the strategies they use to fight specific wildfires and the wildfires themselves. 

In episode 1, "Sacrifice", footage of engine companies fighting the Apple Fire (Riverside County) and the Ponderosa Fire (Shasta Fire). I won't get into details about these two fires as they are referred to in the episode. In episode 2, "A Devil Comin' At You" a different CAL Fire is showcased, fighting the River and the Carmel Fires in northern California, I believe but am not sure that both burned in Monterey County.  I am not sure, but I believe that I saw a NWS Incident Meteorologist give a weather briefing about a dry lightning forecast on the River and Carmel fires. Throughout each of these two episodes, I saw tankers and helicopters working the wildfires in support of the firefighters on the ground.

As I watched these two episodes, I reminded myself that I am looking at how CAL Fire fights wildfires with a focus on the 2020 wildfire season. While I believe that some of the basics of wildland firefighting may be the same, i.e. cutting line, felling trees, dozers, and aerial support (if available); what other state firefighting agencies and federal wildfire crews (US Forest Service, BLM, etc.) do will be different (size of wildfires, weather, topography, fuel types, etc.).

Friday, January 08, 2021

2020 widlfire season: Glass Fire (CA)

The Glass Fire burned 67,484 acres in September and October 2020 in Napa Valley California destroying 1,555 structures and damaging another 285.

Enjoy this footage (about 30 minutes) of the aerial attack on the Glass Fire, you will hear some radio communications in the backgroumd. If you don't have 30 minutes to spare, watch for a few minutes.

Among the tankers you will see are (not in order as shown on the video) DC-10 (10 Tanker), P-3 (Air Strike), S2-T (Cal Fire), MAFFs C-130, and Global Super Tanker 944 (747).

January 15, 2021: Opps, in reviewing my posts over the last couple of months I just realized that I shared this same video on December 7, 2020. Oh well. 

Direct link to video on Youtube

Wednesday, January 06, 2021

2020 wildfire season: IMETs fire season and CAL Fire series

I have been watching Discovery Channel's short series on CAL FIRE this afternoon, but am not yet finished with what I can watch at this time. A couple of friends who are or were wildland firefighters recommended that I watch this series. Bill Gabbert of Wildfire Today was a wildland firefighter  for about 30 years, he has a review on his website. Unfortunately, I forgot to record the episode that aired on the Discovery Channel on Sunday, January 3rd, I am hoping that I will be able to watch this episode. At this time, I can say that I am enjoying the clips that I have seen, after all writing about aerial wildland firefighting and related concerns is what I do. I hope to have more to say this later this week or early next week

In the meantime when I logged onto Facebook I got a notification that that the NWS IMETs (Incident Meteorologists) made a post summarizing their year, their number of missions are not different from what they shared earlier in December 2020, 188 missions in 2020 (see my December 14th post). It was their fourth busiest season. As I have been reflecting on the devastating 2020 wildfire season it is only fitting to share this end of year summary from the NWS IMETs on their 2020 season with some additional numbers. You did good work providing timely forecasts to the wildfires you worked on, working hard to be sure that the firefighters had the best forecast possible. Thank-you from the bottom of my heart for your service. IMETs save lives. If your ad blocking or tracking extension don't allow you to see this embedded post and you prefer not to disable your settings, you may find the NWS IMET Office's facebook summarizing their 2020 fire season here.

Jamuary 7. 2021: I was preoccupied yesterday afternoon, making this post quickly. I have gone in and made some revisions, adding some details. 

Monday, January 04, 2021

A few reflections as we begin a New Year

Many of us were happy to bid 2020 a fare thee well. I feel like I would be remiss if I did not mention COVID-19 as  COVID-19 pandemic is foremost on the minds of many as too many died and many more were sickened. We hope that 2021 might bring some hope. The wildland firefighters on the ground and in the air fought these wildfires with COVID safety protocols in place where some were sickened and at least one has died, see this September 2020 article by Bill Gabbert on Wildfire Today for more information. 

But more to the point and the reason I write this blog is about aerial wildland firefighting and related concerns. This is the third year since 2010 with over 10,000,000 acres burned in the United States.

Year-to-date statistics obtained on January 4, 2021 from

2020 (1/1/20-12/31/20)

Fires: 58,258

Acres: 10,274,679

2019 (1/1/19-12/31/19)

Fires: 50,469

Acres: 4,664,369

2018 (1/1/18-12/31/18)

Fires: 58,113

Acres: 8,767,801

2017 (1/1/17-12/31/17)

Fires: 71,499

Acres: 10,026,086

2016 (1/1/16-12/31/16)

Fires: 67,595

Acres: 5,503,538

2015 (1/1/15-12/31/15)

Fires: 68,047

Acres: 10,113,927

2014 (1/1/14-12/31/14)

Fires: 63,487

Acres: 3,571,493

2013 (1/1/13-12/31/13)

Fires: 46,839

Acres: 4,308,297

2012 (1/1/12-12/31/12)

Fires: 67,578

Acres: 9,197,224

2011 (1/1/11-12/31/11)

Fires: 74,081

Acres: 8,709,442

2010 (1/1/10-12/31/10)

Fires: 71,971

Acres: 3,422,724

10-year average Year-to-Date


Fires: 62,882

Acres: 6,789,149

My heart went out to the wildland firefighters on the ground, assisted by aerial support who worked hard to bring these devastating wildfires under control. Thousands of residences were destroyed. While wildfires have died down out west, the danger is never over. For many out west, the danger did not end with the containment of wildfires. Until the burn scar can be rehabilitated, mud slides remain a danger. Then there are those who are living elsewhere, perhaps in temporary quarters until they can rebuild.  

Rarely a day goes by when I do not think about the efforts of wildland firefighters on the ground and in the air to fight wildfires. They make sacrifices to try to keep us safe. Somehow offering my prayers and mediations to the firefighters, their families and all those who were affected by wildfires burning in or near their homes or businesses does not always seem like enough, but what do I know? So I write these so that all who read know that I care.

We have entered a New Year, and who really knows what type of wildfire season we will have in the United States? Time will tell.