Friday, July 29, 2016

About the Erskine Fire (Kern County, CA)

I saw incredible footage of the Erskine Fire on Facebook yesterday which I will embed and link to in a little while. The Erskine Fire began sometime in the afternoon of June 23rd near Lake Isabella in Kern County, California. At the last update on Inciweb on July 6 2016, the Erskine Fire had burned 48,019 acres and is (or was) at 98 percent containment. Kudos to the wildland firefighters on the ground and in the air who worked this fire, some of whom are on mop up duty as I write this.

A couple of items interested me from the Erskine Fire's Inciweb news page:
You will want to check out Bill Gabbert's (of Wildfire Today) report with updates on the Erskine fire that may be found in this June 23rd article (with updates).

Burned Area Emergency Recovery on the Erskine Fire has started, for more information go to Erskine Fire BAER page on Inciweb.

Now for the videos. Both videos that I am embedding here are from High Desert News. The two videos are shot by and copyrighted by David Johnson of High Desert News. David, great footage!

June 23rd video by David Johnson of High Desert News is fire footage from the first day of the fire. Incredible footage, allow about seven minutes for the video.

July 2nd video by David Johnson of High Desert News, an interview with the Kern County Fire Department Captain (about seven minutes) includes information for residents that were affected by the fire and then current information on the status of the fire. The Erskine Fire is the largest wildfire to date in Kern County,

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Sand Fire (Angeles National Forest, CA) -- July 27th

I suspect that many of you may have seen or heard some of the media coverage of the Sand Fire that is currently burning in and near the Angeles National Forest near Los Angeles, California. As I write this, according to the Sand Fire's Inciweb page (accessed on July 27th at 12:15 PM EDT), the fire has burned 38,346 acres and is at 40 percent containment, with aircraft working the fire. Here are links to a couple of photos of aircraft from the Sand Fire's photo page on Inciweb: Neptune BAe-146 Tanker 40 and a helo dropping retardant.

As I write this, the latest information (late in the evening of July 26th) about evacuations and road closures may be found in this news article on the Sand Fire's news release page (Sand Fire News Release Page on Inciweb is here).

I hope that you are following the articles on the Sand Fire written by Bill Gabbert of Wildfire Today and Fire Aviation: video of a DC-10 Tanker dropping (bottom of post), article on a building in the Angeles National Forest destroyed by the Sand Fire, and finally he has been reporting (with updates) on the Sand Fire in this July 25th post (including a map). You might want to check back at Wildfire Today and Fire Aviation for later updates.

I thought you might be interested in some media coverage of the Sand Fire:

CNN report with video  and photos (July 26th, 10:40 PM)
ABC7 in Los Angeles, CA (article, video and photos) -- July 27th
NY Times video (from Tyler Celio/Instagram) - July 25th

August 3, 2016 2:20 PM EDT

The Sand Fire is at 100 percent containment, and burned a total of 41.432 acres (see the Sand Fire's Inciweb page for more information.).

Monday, July 25, 2016

Hayden Pass Fire, July 25 (Coaldale CO)

I wrote about the Hayden Pass Fire that is burning in Coaldale (Fremont County), Colorado on July 13th. As I write this, according to the latest update from the Hayden Pass Fire Inciweb Page, the fire has burned 16,520 acres, much of the acreage burned is in the Pike And San Isabel National Forests and is now at 55 percent containment. As some of you know, active fire information on Inciweb is updated periodically while the wildfire is burning, so the information that I am reporting here may not be current. I was interested to see that the wildfire had grown by a little more than 4,000 acres since I last wrote about the wildfire on July 13th.

On or about July 23rd, an Interagency Burned Area Emergency Response was sent to the Pike And San Isabel National Forests  to begin work on a burned area survey, see the Hayden Pass Post-Fire BAER page on Inciweb for current information.

I don't know about you, but I find it useful to look at maps showing a wildfire perimeter, especially when you can see some of the nearby roads. Here is a map showing the fire perimeter on July 21st.
Obtained on July 25, 2016 from
Mandatory evacuations were in place for residents near the fire perimeter (County Road 45 and County Road 6). Mandatory evacuations were lifted for County Road 45 residents on July 19 while evacuated residents of County Road 6 were allowed to re-entry on July 21st.

There are some videos (daily reports) and photographs that you may access on the Hayden Pass Fire Inciweb page.

I read a nice article with a video on FoxNews21 (July 18th) about the base camp set up for the Hayden Pass Fire.

I was interested in some of the aircraft that have and continue to work this fire. I understand from the July 22-23rd report on the Hayden Pass Fire Inciweb page that as of July 25th two helicopters (one large and one small) are at an airport close to the fire to provide support.  I found the video of a Chinook Helicopter that I am embedding below from the Hayden Pass Fire Facebook Page (I believe this is publicly available, but I could not get the direct link to video that they posted on July 25th to work).

Here are some links to photos of some of the aircraft that worked the fire.

Kaman K-Max waiting for duty and her bucket
Chinook taking off from Salida Helibase
Airtanker (very large airtanker?) dropping
Helicopter and bucket
Bill Gabbert of Fire Aviation shared a nice photo from Weston Burch of DC-10 Tanker 912 dropping, and for those of you following the Sand Fire, Bill Gabbert also shared a nice video of a DC-10 Tanker dropping in the aforementioned article.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Malheur Heli-Rappel

Continuing with videos of helitack and heli-rappel crews crews. Here is a nice video from feener productions of Life on the Malheur Rappel Crew uploaded in September 2013. The video is about eight minutes long, there is no audio. I looked the footage so I am sharing it here. Enjoy. Thanks Malheur Rappel Crew for all you do and stay safe!

Direct link to video

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

ODF Helitack (2015)

Continuing with videos from helitack crews, here is a nice video about the Oregon Department of Forestry helitack crew highlighting their 2015 season. Nice work everyone and have a safe 2016 season.

Direct link to video

Monday, July 18, 2016

Kootenai Helitack (2015)

Continuing with more videos. Today I am sharing a very nice video showing the Kootenai Helitack 2015 fire season. Kootenai Helitack is based in Libby, Montana and is used as an initial attack resource. Thanks for all you do, and have a safe 2016 season/

Direct link to video

Friday, July 15, 2016

Time for some helicopters

Some of you know that I have a special place in my heart for helicopters. On a slightly warm, but pleasant summer afternoon I am sharing some footage of various helicopters that work wildfires. Thanks to my friends from the B10 NJ Wildland Fire Page where I first watched these videos a few weeks ago (they change their videos on their video page once a week on Friday or Saturday)

These are for you Matt.

I start with some footage from the Mesa Verda Helitack 2013 season

Direct link to video

Here is a short video of helicopters (bucket and snorkle) working a wildfire in China

Direct link to video

I finish up with a video from my friends at Erickson Air Crane

Direct link to video

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Hayden Pass Fire, July 13th (Coaldale CO)

As I was making my rounds earlier today of today's wildfire news, I noted the Hayden Pass Fire that has burned 12,193 acres near Coaldale, Colorado. The fire started on July 8th and was probably caused by natural events. It is not contained. As usual, Bill Gabbert of Wildfire Today has been covering this fire with some photos taken from space with a thread on the Hayden Pass Fire that he has been updating, last update on July 13th. I check Bill's blog at least once a day to see the latest wildfire news, including his reports on wildfires.

Here are a couple of nice videos about the fire that I found.

Last night (July 12),  Denver 7 - The Denver Channel had a report on the Hayden Pass Fire. There was an interview with an artist who has lived near Hayden Pass for thirty years and has to leave behind some art work in the event of an evacuation. He has most of his art work in the back of his van.

Direct link to video

Here is a nice video of some images of the smoke from the Hayden Pass Fire. The smoke is in the background, with photos of the local area.

Direct link to video

Monday, July 11, 2016

Neptune's BAe 146 Tankers

It is one of those rare perfect summer days in northwest New Jersey, temps in the low 80s with low dew points. So I took a little play time today. Hope that those of you who are able are taking some time off during the summer.

Anyway, I don't know about you, but I love hanging out and watching airplanes landing and taking off. One of the great things about the internet is that I can partake in watching tankers landing and taking off courtesy of many fine videos on Youtube. Today, I am sharing a video of Neptunes BAe-146 Tankers 1 & 2 working out of Boise, Idaho on August 26, 2015, uploaded by airailimages. Enjoy!

Friday, July 08, 2016

Team from South Pole Rescue back home

On June 24th, I wrote about a rare successful mid-winter aerial rescue of two sick workers from the South Pole in Antarctica. The other day a read a report from CTV in Alberta Canada, with a few videos) that the two crews from Kenn Borek Air who flew this rare mid-winter trip Antarctica arrived back home in Calgary, Alberta on June 30th.

The article along with nine videos from CTV may be found on this CTV webpage (dated July 5, 2016). CTV reporters interviewed the Kenn Borek crews that participated in the mid-winter rescue from the South Pole on July 5th. I tried, but was unable to get the embed code to work here, sorry.

I am never certain how long these reports and the videos will be available, so I am highlighting for you some of the key points that I learned from reading the report and watching the videos. Watching all nine videos takes about 15 or 20 minutes tops.

  • The two Twin Otters and their crews, traveling together,  arrived home in Calgary on June 30th.
  • They traveled a total of 21,054 nautical miles.
  • The two Twin Otters had extended fuel tanks taking up much of the "passenger area" and were equipped to handle winter weather in the Antarctic.
  • The crews had Antarctic experience. The crew that flew to the South Pole talked about flying the route from Rothera Base to the South Pole in October (late spring and summer in the Antarctic), saying that even in the summer they often spent the 10 hour flight from Rothera to the South Pole in the clouds.
  • The crews are committed and well trained. When the CTV reporter asked who would volunteer for such a mission in the future all raised their hands.
  • In addition to using GPS for navigation the pilots used celestial navigation.
  • The two Twin Otters left Alberta on June 14th, making their last stop of the day in Texas. Pilots from Kenn Borek air flew on a commercial flight to Texas so that the team could continue to fly, at night to the next stop in Costa Rica.
  • By June 17th the Twin Otters had arrived at Punta Arenas, Chile. Medics joined the Kenn Borek teams in Chile.
  • The Twin Otter that stayed behind in Punta Arenas had her skis on until just before the Twin Otter (KBG) that flew to the South Pole arrived back in Punta Arenas when they changed out her skies for wheels.

Wednesday, July 06, 2016

Personal reflections on Fire Weather Forecasting (part 5 of 5)

I have been considering and reflecting on what to share in this final “reflections” post to wrap up my series, “About Red Flag Warnings & other Fire Weather products from National Weather Service (NWS) Weather Forecast Offices (WFOs).” I think that I can let the articles that I wrote (see bottom of this post for a list with links) stand for themselves. However in parting, I have six reflections or thoughts that I'd like to share with you.

1) As I reflected on what I had learned in researching and then writing my series on “About Red Flag Warnings & other Fire Weather products from NWS WFOs”, I found myself thinking early on in this process that fire weather and fire weather forecasting is complicated. I came away thinking that I had no idea just how complicated fire weather and fire weather forecasting is before I started doing background research for this series. 

2) I have a great deal of respect for the NWS WFOs who issue Red Flag Warnings and Fire Weather Forecasts. To all at the NWS WFOs, I say thank-you, thank-you, thank-you. I know that wildland firefighters on the ground and in the air use Red Flag Warnings (RFW) and other Fire Weather Forecasts to know how the weather is affecting their fire. To all of you who work fires on the ground and in the air and on support teams I say thank-you, thank-you, thank-you. 

3) I call myself an ordinary citizen who is interested in knowing about current weather forecasts, including fire weather forecasts in my corner of New Jersey in the United States. So I go to my local WFO website and keep an eye out to see if they have issued any Fire Weather Watches or Red Flag Warnings. Sometimes not all the RFW criteria will be met, but conditions will warrant the issuance of a Special Weather Statement for Enhanced Fire Danger. For example, perhaps the relative humidity (RH) is below RFW criteria but the winds and fuel moisture criteria are above RFW criteria, so the local NWS WFO will issue a Special Weather Statement for Enhanced Fire Danger (or another product with similar wording). I appreciate knowing about any possibility of enhanced fire danger if for no other reason than I can be more vigilant. Often local media will pick up on upcoming Fire Weather Watches and Red Flag Warnings.

4) I don’t know about you but I do try to be fire aware on any day and try not do anything that might lead to a wildfire. I am especially mindful to be extra careful on days when Red Flag Warnings or Enhanced Fire Danger Warnings are issued by my local NWS WFO. These are some of things that are on my list: I no longer smoke, but if you are a smoker being careful not throw a cigarette on the ground. Also on my list are no outdoor burning, checking my car for a pipe that might drag on the road, if I am camping checking for current camp fire regulations and perhaps going the extra mile and not lighting a camp fire, being sure that camp fires are fully extinguished, and if I am going to compost ashes from your indoor fireplace or wood burning stove I will be sure that ashes are fully extinguished. Your State fire agency will have a list of what you should and should not do on a high fire danger day. Of course, it is always good to be fire aware even if you are not under a RFW. 

5) Thank your local NWS WFO, social media is great for this. Whether it be RFW or warning us about any weather event (flood, hurricane, snow storms, thunderstorms and tornadoes to name a few), they are all about keeping us safe. 

6) Finally, a prayer, meditation, or thought for wildland firefighters doesn’t hurt. 

Articles in this series:

Monday, July 04, 2016

NWS Mt. Holly Fire Weather Products Part 2 (part 4 of 5)

Today I continue with the second part of my interview with Lee Robertson, fire weather focal point for the National Weather Service (NWS), Mt. Holly NJ. This is part 4 of a 5 part series "about red flag warnings & other fire weather productions from NWS Weather Forecast Offices (WFOs)." For those of you who are landing here, in part 2 of this series I provided a framework for discussion of red flag warnings and other fire weather products. The first part of my interview with Lee Roberts is presented in part 3, posted on July 1st.

As you continue reading my interview with Lee, please remember that fire weather operations in the NWS Mt. Holly are appropriate for the fire regime in the Mt. Holly Forecast Area. Further Mt. Holly’s fFire Weather Operations Plan is customized for their core audience (or partners). Mt. Holly Fire Weather Operations Plan that is available at under “additional fire weather information”

Q5. Random Ramblings: 6. Where does Mt. Holly get their observations from, I noted some observation sites on your fire weather page. And what is included. Can you add anything to what I can read in the sites linked to on your fire weather page?

Lee: Our observations come from a variety of places.  The main observation is Automated Surface Observation System or ASOS, which we use for everything from Aviation, to public forecasting.  There is the RAWS network which are the sites listed on our Fire Weather page.  There is also the Citizen Weather Observation Program aka CWOP network.  

Note: ASOS observations are available at This FAA website for ASOD observations (click on your State in the map). RAWS and CWOP observations are available at from this Mesowest website based in Utah, where you can select your state and then use a drop down box to select the observations you want to see (ASOS observations are also available at the same Mesowest website based in Utah where they are listed as “NWS”).

Q6. Random Ramblings: How often does Mt. Holly issue your Fire Weather Forecast (FWF) and if issued, your Red Flag Warnings?

Lee: We update our Fire Weather Forecast (FWF) twice daily; around 4 am and 4 pm.  This was changed from only 4 am several years ago to give an updated forecast to the next day for our fire weather partners.  When conditions are not representative to the forecast, such as relative humidity being much lower than forecast (for instance 20% occurring, versus 35% forecast) our forecasters should be updating the forecast.  Also, if a Red Flag Warning is issued, the FWF is to be updated as well.  

Q7. Random Ramblings: Can you briefly talk about the spot weather forecasts that Mt. Holly issues?

Lee: Spot Forecasts are requested by our Fire Weather partners when they need weather information for a specific locations when they are working individual fires.  Sometimes they request Spot Forecast for prescribed burns, other times they request Spots when an active wildfire is ongoing.  Other times, we do not get any requests from them because they are able to use the FWF and current conditions to suit their needs.  There is a website where they can request the Spot Forecast, and access the actual forecast output when we issue it.  Once they send their request, an alert pops up on our screen in our office and we work up our forecast, then send it out.  Depending on forecaster workload and other factors, once the request is issued, it can take as little as 5 minutes, sometime up to 15-20 minutes to show up on the website.  Our partners also have our number, so if there is a concern about the foreast or if they didn't get it, they can always call us.

On July 6th I will close out this series with some reflections on what I have learned while researching and then writing this series about red flag warnings & other fire weather productions from NWS Weather Forecast Offices (WFOs).

Other Articles in the series

Friday, July 01, 2016

NWS Mt. Holly Fire Weather Products Part 1 (part 3 of 5)

Recall that I live in the NWS Mt. Holly’s weather forecast area. I’d like to thank Lee Robertson, fire weather focal point for the National Weather Service (NWS), Mt. Holly NJ. Lee and I spent a few e-mails discussing the fire weather operations in NWS Mt. Holly. As you read my interview with Lee, please remember that fire weather operations in the NWS Mt. Holly are appropriate for the fire regime in the Mt. Holly Forecast Area. Further Mt. Holly’s Fire Weather Operations Plan is customized for their core audience (or partners). Mt. Holly Fire Weather Operations Plan that is available at under “additional fire weather information.”

This is part 1 of my interview with Lee Robertson, part 2 will post on Monday, July 4th.

Q1: Random Ramblings: I understand that NWS Mt. Holly’s Red Flag Warning Criteria, from the Mt. Holly Fire Weather Operations Plan, are as follows:

PA: wind >=20 mph (sustained/frequent gusts), Relative Humidity <=30%, 10 hour fuels <=10% 
NJ: wind >=20 mph (sustained/frequent gusts), Relative Humidity <=30%, 10 hour fuels <=10%
DE and MD: wind >=20 mph (sustained), Relative Humidity <=30%, 10 hour fuels <=8%

I have read the Mt. Holly Fire Weather Operations Plan. I understand that a Fire Weather Watch means that critical fire weather conditions (red flag warnings) may happen in the next 12 to 72 hours. Red flag warnings are issued by NWS office when critical fire weather conditions are imminent expecting to occur within the next 12 to 24 hours, The exact criteria vary from office to office.  I know that your fire weather plan uses other language to describe when you issue a Fire Weather Watch and Red Flag Warnings, but I want to use hours here because I think that this is language that everyone will recognize. Finally, you will sometimes issue a special weather statement for elevated fire risk. Can you elaborate on these fire weather products?

Lee: There really isn't much other way to describe Red Flag Warnings/Fire Weather Watch and their criteria.  Fire Weather Watches (PHLRFWPHL) are issued for the 2nd, 3rd or 4th 12 hour period of a forecast (24-48 hours). A Red Flag Warning (also PHLRFWPHL) is issued for the 1st or 2nd period of a forecast (12-24 hours).  The three criteria ALL have to be met at the same time to be considered a Red Flag Warning.  Some regions/offices have more or less criteria, but it's the same that all criteria have to be met.  If say, the Relative Humidity is not less than 30%, then it would not be a Red Flag Warning day even if winds gust to 30 mph and fuels are dry, and same for the other ones not being met.  You listed the criteria.  We forecast the RH (relative humidity) and Wind Speeds.  Fuel moisture is determined by our Forestry partners.  We coordinate with them to see who fuels have reacted to recent rainfall and drying conditions to determine of a RFW is needed.  Sometimes it is determined that fuels are not critically dry, or winds and/or RH will be marginal, and a RFW is not needed, so we may issue a Special Weather Statement to highlight the threat so people can be aware of the dangers of fires, and also give a heads up to our fire partners that it could be a dangerous day, but not critical RFW conditions.  We coordinate via a chat system with our neighboring NWS offices about the conditions we expect, and then coordinate with our Forestry partners our concerns for the day and determine what statements, if any, will be needed whether that be an RFW or SPS (Special Weather Statement) or a mentions in our Synopsis in our Forecast Discussion.

Q2. Random Ramblings: Who are Mt. Holly’s forestry partners? Do you have any idea how your forestry partners determine fuel moisture?

Lee: Yes, our partners are the Forestry/Forest Fire Services with each state.  
They have instruments in the field that give them actual measurements for fuel moisture.  But they also take into account recent rainfall and drying.

Q3. Random Ramblings: I know that the SPC does fire weather forecasts, can you briefly explain how Mt. Holly interfaces with SPC regarding forecast fire danger?

Lee: SPC does do a Fire Weather Forecast that covers the entire country.  They have specific criteria that they use to determine if they will issue an enhanced, critical, or extreme fire weather day.  You can view their criteria here. Again, we coordinate via our chat system concerns on either end.  There are days when they will have us in an outlook and our partners are less concerned due to fuels not as dry as thought, and there will be days when we have statements out when no outlook is in effect for various reasons, one being SPS uses Temperature as a criteria, while we do not.

Q4. Random Ramblings: How does Mt. Holly coordinate with adjoining office on fire weather forecasts. For example on March 23, 2016 (the day I first wrote Lee) Upton issued a special weather statement for elevated fire risk a couple of hours before you did. Did you talk to them?

Lee: As mentioned above, we have a chat system we use to coordinate with neighboring offices, or we use a phone call.

Other Articles in the series