Friday, May 17, 2019

Statistics and Resources from the National Interagency Fire Center

For no particular reason other than I can be a little geeky about statistics, I have been curious about how the wildland fire season (year-to-date) compares with previous years. I found some summary statistics on that National Interagency Fire Center's webpage (NIFC) that you may find here. The page that I viewed was updated on May 17, 2019 which happens to be the day I am writing this. I should caution you that these are summary statistics. Hidden in these statistics, especially acreage are going to be very large fires. That is, 2009, 2011, 2016 through 2018 had year-to-date acreage over 1,000,000 acres, This year coming in at 226,078 acres is not the lowest, that goes to 2013. The table below of year-to-date statistics was obtained on May 17, 2019 from I think that there may be a typographical error, I believe that year-to-date refers to the current year, e.g. the current year's statistics would be from January 1, 2019 through May 17, 2019.

Year-to-date statistics (see note 1)
2019 (1/1/19 - 5/17/19) Fires: 12,567 Acres: 226,078
2018 (1/1/18 - 5/17/18) Fires: 21,997 Acres: 1,600,169
2017 (1/1/17 - 5/17/17) Fires: 22,518 Acres: 2,108,768
2016 (1/1/16 - 5/17/16) Fires: 18,188 Acres: 1,542,953
2015 (1/1/15 - 5/17/15) Fires: 19,741 Acres: 375,155
2014 (1/1/14 - 5/17/14) Fires: 22,527 Acres: 462,319
2013 (1/1/13 - 5/17/13) Fires: 15,971 Acres: 211,225
2012 (1/1/12 - 5/17/12) Fires: 20,,099 Acres: 473,859
2011 (1/1/11 - 5/17/11) Fires: 25,804 Acres: 2,664,606
2010 (1/1/10 - 5/17/10) Fires: 23,899 Acres: 348,404
2009 (1/1/09 - 5/17/09) Fires: 32,251 Acres: 1,297,145
10-year average Year-to-Date
2009-2018 Fires: 22,752Acres: 1,089,366

The National Interagency Coordination Center, an arm of NIFC, has current and archived data on wildfires by Coordination Center may be found on this webpage under Situation, National Products, Incident Management Situation Report.

One of the reasons why I am sharing these data to share this resources from NIFC for those of you who are not familiar with NIFC's resources. NIFC has a nice fire statistic page, mostly summary statistics. I am quite aware that there are likely to be other sources of historical wildfire statistics that I am not aware of either on the national level as well as regional and local. NIFC has a variety of other resources as well: aviation, fire shelters and safety to name a few. I will leave you to your devices to explore.

There is a video that I saw on the NIFC home page on the wildfire outlook for May and June of 2019 with seasonal outlooks for July and August. I am interested in hearing what Brian Henry, Assistant National Weather Fire Weather Program Manager for Predictive Services in Boise, Idaho has to say.

Direct link to video from NIFC


Note 1: The data table showing year-to-date statistics as of May 17th was corrected to correct what I believe to be a typographical error. The original data on the website states that the year to date statistics goes back to January 1 of the preceding year (e.g. 2019 (1/1/18-5/17/19); 2018 (1/1/17-5/17/18, etc). I took the liberty of changing the year to date column to reflect the current year. Any errors in this presentation are my responsibility.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Tanker history: Martin Mars dropping on the 2009 Station Fire

In the late summer of 2009, the Station Fire burned 160,577 acres, two firefighters died and 89 residences were destroyed. I have some articles tagged Station Fire here, and Wikipedia has a summary of the Station Fire here. The fire burned some television antennas and equipment on the top of Mt. Wilson. I spent quite a few hours watching live stream from Los Angeles media of the air operations over Mt. Wilson. I spent one night being afraid that the Mt. Wilson observatory might be destroyed or severely damaged, that did not happen. One of the now historic air tankers that dropped on Mt. Wilson was the Martin Mars. The Martin Mars is, in all likely hood retired from firefighting operations. I spent several minutes watching the live stream of her drop on Mt. Wilson, elegance in action. A very special tanker.

The video below may or may not be the same live stream that I saw almost ten years ago, but that does not matter. Enjoy this video, a little over six minutes of the Martin Mars preparing to drop and then dropping on Mt. Wilson during the Station Fire in late August 2009.

Direct link to video

Monday, May 13, 2019

2018 fire season: E-631 2018 Crew Video

Enjoy this crew video of the 2018 fire season of E-631. Great footage in this video. Allow five minutes for the video. I believe this crew is out of New Mexico. Enjoy. Thanks to the crew of E-631 for keeping us safe during 2018 and best wishes for a save 2019 fire season.

Direct link to video by Alec D

Friday, May 10, 2019

Time for some helos, May 2019 edition

Every so often I like to share videos of helicopters used to fight wildfires. I have always liked watching helicopters, whether it be through a video or the times I have seen and heard one flying over head. Once in awhile I have seen one from the right seat of a Cessna 172 while on a scenic ride. I saw a CH-47 once about four years ago that was about 1 to 2 miles away crossing in front of us. That was pretty cool, but in the pbotograph I took it was smaller than the size of my fist. Oh well.

About five years ago, my good friend Matt died too young. Matt loved helicopters and was quite knowledgeable. We had fun talking helos. He had model helos that he used with his young sons.

Matt, I share this videos today in your memory. I know that you are flying in favorable tail winds.


Bambi Buckets

Direct link to video

Bell 212

Direct link to video

NJ Forest Fire Service Takeoff, Augusta NJ Airshow

Direct link to video

Wednesday, May 08, 2019

IMETs using GOES East and Weat

We now have two operating satellites in the GOES-R generation of satellites, two more in the series have yet to be launched. If I am not mistaken, GOES East (originally GOES-R now GOES-16) has good coverage from the east coast to the Rockies.  We now have an additional satellite in the GOES-R series, GOES-17 (launched as GOES-S) that became GOES West in early March of 2019. Any reference to GOES East in this article refers to GOES-16 and any reference to GOES West refers to GOES-17.

I understand that all NWS Incident Meteorologists (IMETs) are at least Journeymen Forecasters (General Forecasters). So they would have had training as required on the GOES-R series of satellites (GOES-16 and GOES-17) in connection with their work as Forecasters in NWS Weather Forecast Offices. I have written several articles about IMETs which may be found here (latest at top).

I have been curious about how Incident Meteorologists have been using the new GOES East and West Satellites (go here to read about what IMETs do and to watch a short video). I would like to thank Robyn Heffernan, National Fire Weather Science and Dissemination Meteorologist with the NWS National Fire Weather Program for taking the time to answer some questions.

RRamblings: Did existing IMETs receive any additional training through either recurrent training or special training, on using the GOES-R series of satellites in their work as IMETs. If so, can you briefly explain what is covered in this training?

RH: Yes!  Not only did IMETs (new and veteran) receive special training for the new GOES series of satellites, so did every forecaster in the National Weather Service (NWS).  The NWS Satellite Foundation course consisted of 15-20 hours of training to bring forecasters up to date on the capabilities of the GOES-R/S satellites.  Specifically, topics included an introduction to GOES-R/S highlighting improved spatial and temporal resolution and additional new channels available, followed by products and imagery that address a broad range of applications including fire weather.  The NWS is currently planning on the development of a new course specifically dedicated to the applications of the new satellites for fire weather.

RRamblings: Has GOES East (aka GOES-16) made a difference in the work of an IMET? If so, how? And how might this be different from how they use GOES East (or GOES West) in their work for their WFO?

RH: The new GOES East and West satellites (R/S) are making a significant difference for IMETs in the field as well as forecasters back at the Weather Forecast Office (WFO).  The new GOES East and West satellites provide three times more spectral information, four times the spatial resolution, and more than five times faster temporal resolution than the previous system.  This means, for wildland fire, we can routinely see fires down to 15 acres in size (although we have been able to see structure fires as well) and watch these fires grow through 1 minute imagery.  This is a game changer!  IMETs on large incidents can see which portions of a fire are particularly active on a given day.  Forecasters back at the WFO are able to see new fire starts and fire growth, and work with land management agency partners to provide necessary forecast weather information.

RRamblings: Is there one thing that you would like my readers to know about GOES East and West as specifically applies to the work of an IMET.

RH: These data are so new to us that we have only begun to discover the utility of the data from these new satellites.  In addition to new developments in the GOES series of satellites, new advances in polar satellites are occurring as well.  In 2017, a new polar satellite was launched, NOAA-20, which includes the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiomenter Suite (VIIRS).  VIIRS is extremely useful in wildland fire due to the ability to detect and view wildland fires at an incredibly high spatial resolution.  In time, we hope these new data will open up a new world with how the NWS works with land management agency partners to assess and forecast the fire environment.  

Thank-you Robyn for your time! I wish all in the NWS National Fire Weather Program Office and the IMETs the best as the spring and summer wildfire. Thank-you for helping keeping our firefighters as safe as possible as the fight wildfires.

Monday, May 06, 2019

Incident Meteorologists are ready to go wildfires to save lives

As I write this, it is May 6th, and to date Incident Meteorologists (IMET) have not yet been deployed to any fires. This slow start does not mean anything. The wildfire season could get very busy with a lot of IMET deployments. For example, according to a post from the NWS IMET Office on their Facebook Page: "As of 4.29, we haven't had anyone out on a mission yet, The only other time in the last 21 years that has happened was in 2015 (1st mission on 5/5) Despite the late start, we wound up with 153 missions. It wast the ninth busiest season on record ). Late Starts do not = Slow Seasons (obtained on May 6, 2019 from US National Weather Service IMET Facebook Page, April 29, 2019 post)

It is May 6th and to the best of my knowledge there has not yet been an IMET deployment to a wildfire. It does not really matter whether or not this will be a slow season, time will tell. The point is that when they get the call, IMETs are ready at a moments notice to go and provide onsite weather forecasting to help the wildland firefighters on the ground and in the air be safe as they work the fire. IMETs do save lives. Should the need arise, I know that IMETs will provide services to a wildfire in my neck of the woods. I am comforted by that knowledge. I hope that doesn't happen, but in this day and age, who knows what will happen.

Here are a couple of short videos where you can learn about what IMETs do. In the first video, listen to IMET Jeff Colton describe his work as an IMET on the 2018 Wapit Fire.

IMETs save lives!

Direct link to video

IMET's will often, but not always, deploy weather balloons to gather important meteorological data from the atmosphere, see the video below.

Direct link to video

Friday, May 03, 2019

New Jersey Forest Fire Service: Historical Footage from Last 20 years

New Jersey continues to green up nicely, at least in my part of the state with forecasts of rain or showers for this weekend. Even so, it is always prudent never to let your guard down. Wildfires can and do happen, sometimes when you least expect it.

So far, today is quiet and I am taking the rest of the day off for some rest and recreation with a friend. I leave you with this video retrospective from my friends at the NJ Forest Fire Service Section B10. This is a best of video of wildland fires in NJ Forest Fire Service Section B10 and around New Jersey. A variety of photos: helicopters, SEATs, engines and dozers, shots of wildfires, wildland firefighters working fires, prescribed fires, etc.

Direct link to video from NJFFS Section B10

Wednesday, May 01, 2019

B747-400 Supertanker (May 2019)

I have known about the Global Supertanker's B747-400 Supertanker, capable of carrying about 18,600 gallons of retardant (perhaps up to 19,200 gallons). She can also carry gel, water or foam. Global Supertanker has a nice page that may be found here where you can learn more about the Supertanker can do. I have only written about the 747 Supertanker on one previous occasion in January 2017 when the 747 Supertanker was deployed to Chile to work a major wildfire. Bill Gabbert of Wildfire Today and Fire Aviation was embedded with the Suipertanker crew at that time and has written extensively about the 747 Supertanker (Bill's posts tagged Global Supertanker may be found at this link). In addition to Chile the 747 Supertanker flew has flown wildfires in California and Oregon. She may have had contracts to fly fires in other places that I do not know about.

At the time that I am writing this article, Global Supertanker has only one 747 Supertanker.

I was inspired to write this article thanks to an article with videos and a photo gallery from KATU that Mike Archer shared in a recent Wildfire News of the Day Newsletter.

The actual KATU (Oregon) article about the 747 Supertanker is a short piece that you can read quickly. However, the meat of this piece is in two videos about the 747 Supertanker that I am sharing below and a great photo gallery featuring the 747 Supertanker by KATU Photojournalist Rick Peavyhouse. There is no embed code, so you will have to the KATU article to watch the two videos, they are worth watching so I hope you take this opportunity to watch the two videos (allow five minutes).

Here is a July 2018 video from KPIX in the San Francisco Bay Area of California featuring the 747 SuperTanker.

Direct link to video from KPIX

Monday, April 29, 2019

A look at Air Attack Operations from the National Interagency Fire Center

On a nice early spring day here in New Jersey after some rain over the weekend and more showers on the way tomorrow into the rest of the week, we are still in the middle of our spring fire season. I am reminded that even with the rain, the sandy soils of the NJ Pine Barrens (aka Pinelands) can dry out quickly. And while the soils in northern and central New Jersey may dry out slowly, we should never let our guard down. Aircraft continue on contract in central and southern New Jersey with a NJ Forest Fire Service based in northern New Jersey.

I am a little bit superstitious, so let's just say I am taking advantage of this fine day to share a video from the National Interagency Fire Center (produced in 2012 and revised in 2013) on Air Attack. I shared this video about six years ago on this blog, and I think it bears repeating, so here it is again. You will learn about Air Attack Operations and the difference between air attack, lead planes, and aerial supervision modules (ASM) along with radio communications between aircraft and between aircraft and ground crew supervisors. Some of the dangers facing low level air operations are discussed such as power lines, meteorological towers, and wind turbines. Most but not all of the operations that you will learn about in this video occur in the western part of the United States. While some states have their own or contract aircraft that fly fires without air attack, some of what you learn here applies to these operations (communications with ground crews and dangers to low level aircraft.

The video is about 11 minutes long.

Direct link to video from the National Interagency Fire Center

Friday, April 26, 2019

More on NJ Forest Fire Service Prescribed Burning & Wildfire Prevention Techniques

Following up on my March 29th article on the New Jersey Forest Fire Service's (NJFFS) 2019 Prescribed Burning Season (84th year), through the end of March the NJ Forest Fire Service completed prescribed burns on 22,616 acres. In my March 29th article, I linked to Bill Gabbert's March 25th article on Wildfire Today with Michael Achey and Marie Cook's article on the NJFFS prescribed burning program. Achey an Cook discuss the New Jersey Prescribed Burning Act:
NJFFS has been using prescribed fire on state lands since 1936, primarily to reduce hazardous fuel accumulations. Other beneficial effects of these treatments include providing high quality wildlife habitat and resilience in forest health. While reducing the threat to public safety posed by hazardous fuels is always the primary mission, this year’s signing of the New Jersey Prescribed Burning Act has given fire management officers additional latitude for using prescribed fire as a tool to achieve several other ecological objectives. While prescribed burning takes place statewide across all ownerships, much of the activity is concentrated on state lands in fire-adapted Pine Barrens communities.
In a recent NJFFS New Release (go here to read this news release from the NJ DEP,  News Release 19/P029)) State Firewarden Greg McLaughlin discusses prescribed burns to manage habitats and other ecological needs that are now possible because of the New Jersey Prescribed Burning Act. These burns to manage habitats will be conducted after the spring wildfire season ends:
After the threat of wildfire decreases, the Forest Fire Service may implement up to 17 additional “growing season” prescribed burn projects across 1,325 acres. 
“Prescribed burning during the growing season is a unique and innovative new management practice that has never before been implemented here,” State Firewarden Greg McLaughlin said. ”This is the result of the recently signed legislation known as the Prescribed Burn Act, which has authorized the Forest Fire Service to use prescribed fire for habitat management as well as to reduce fuels.” 
Examples of habitat management projects include creating and enhancing wildlife habitats, targeting treatment of nonnative invasive species and restoring native forest habitats.
This year marks the second year that representatives from other states participated in a Prescribed Fire Learning Exchange, according to NJ DEP News Release 19/P029:
This year marked the second time the Forest Fire Service hosted a Prescribed Fire Learning Exchange for others and participated in wildland fire research projects with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service. 
Visitors to the learning exchange included five forest health representatives from the New York Department of Environmental Conservation, a fire ecologist from the New York Central Pine Barrens Commission, two firefighters from the Fire Department of New York, five fire and aviation management personnel from the Montana Department of Natural Resources, four students from Utah State University and eight students from Northern Arizona University. Florida is the only other state on the East Coast to offer similar training. 
In addition to the success of the learning exchange and work on various public and private lands, the Forest Fire Service also assisted in implementing numerous wildland fire research projects.
Achey and Cook also write about the Prescribed Fire Learning Exchange, see Bill Gabbert's March 25th article.

I am very proud of the New Jersey Forest Fire Service as the are gaining some national attention for their prescribed burning program. I am looking forward to the prescribed burns to for habitat management. The NJFFS wildland fire crews work hard fighting wildland fires as well as doing prescribed burns. Thank-you for all you do keep us in New Jersey safe.

Last but by no means least, please enjoy these two short videos about the NJFFS Prescribed Burning Program that were referenced in the NJ DEP News Release 19/P029