Friday, October 20, 2017

Graphic novelist Brian Fies: account of losing his home to recent CA wildfires

I'd like to thank Mike Archer for introducing me to Brian Fies through his October 19th (2017) edition of Wildfire News of the Day. I was intrigued by his description of Fies' work:
In an 18-page web comic titled "A Fire Story", a graphic artist who lost is home in Santa Rosa's Tubbs Fire tried to capture how 50 mph wids turned that blaze into a 'napalm tsunami.'
Archer then linked to a CNN story focusing on award winning graphic artist Brian Fies account of losing his Santa Rosa house to the Tubbs Fire (as I write this on October 20th, 36,432 acres burned at 93 percent containment), you may find the October 18th CNN story on Fies' 18-page web-comic account of losing his house here. Here is an excerpt from the CNN story:
Brian Fies sat down with some Sharpies and some paper to process his pain the way he knows best. 
He began to draw. 
The result is "A Fire Story," an 18-page web comic that recounts the heart-wrenching devastation the California wildfires has wrought.
It details how 50 mph winds turned the Tubbs Fire into a "napalm tsunami." How the blaze devoured his family's home in Santa Rosa, leaving it a heap of burned ash. How all that's left for survivors like him is to inventory prized possessions they'll never see again.
I have no first hand experience in anything that comes close to the experience of losing a house to a wildfire or other natural disaster. Fies is one of thousands who have lost their homes and/or businesses to the recent California wildfires. Perhaps his story is similar to those elsewhere who have lost homes and or businesses to wildfires whether it be this year or in years past.

So I went to Brian's blog and read his web-comic. A Fire Story, where he writes and draws about his family's experiences. First the evacuation, then going back to find that his house is gone, and then the aftermath. Brian Fies' web-comic  account of losing his house to the Tubbs Fire may be found on his October 15th blog entry. Here is an excerpt from Brian's October 15th blog:
It's a first-person report from the front line. They're not always pretty. 
Page 9 has some profanity. Actually, it has nothing but profanity. Sorry. I wrestled with that, but that's exactly the way it happened and I am an honest reporter.
Thank-you Brian for this first person account, and sometimes painful account, of losing your home with us. Words escape me. I wish you and the other families who have lost their homes Godspeed in the coming weeks, months, and years.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

IMETs working northern California wildfires (Oct 2017): update

I am sharing a nice video that I believe was from earlier the week of October 16th (perhaps Monday, October 16th?) courtesy of the Weather Channel. You will hear NWS incident meteorologist  (IMET)  Tom Wright (from the US NWS Medford OR) then assigned to the Southern LNU Complex (which includes the Atlas Fire) describing the then current weather situation over the Southern LNU Complex.

IMET Wright was asked what the biggest challenge was that he faced as a meteorologist assigned to this fire. He said forecasting the winds and went on to discuss a little about the challenges the winds posed.

You may recall that one of my blog entries for Friday, October 13th was devoted to IMETs working the northern California wildfires. Just before I posted that article, I reached out the IMET staff behind the US National Weather Service, IMET Facebook page I asked them a question which I get to in a moment. I had started out be mentioning that I knew that these were wind driven fires. I had used the term Santa Anna winds, only to later realize that what are know as Santa Ana Winds in Southern California are called Diablo Winds in the Bay area (see this blog entry on the Diablo Winds).

Random Ramblings: Is there one thing that you would like my readers to know about what IMETs contribute to helping firefighters fight these firestorms (my reference to the wildfires in northern California), and are these contributions different from what they usually do?

US National Weather Service IMET Office: In terms of the work being done by the IMETs in California, it is similar to what we do with other fires. Certainly the Santa Ana winds are something unique to California and are a challenge, but our mission remains the same, which is to keep firefighters and the public safe and support the Incident Management Team with weather information so that they can make tactical decisions on their windows of opportunity and when they may need to disengage.

As I write this article on October 18th, an IMET from the US National Weather Service Weather Forecast Office at Hanford CA is being deployed to the Southern LNU Complex. As of earlier this morning (October 18th), the Atlas Fire referenced in the Weather Channel interview with IMET Wright has burned 51,064 acres and is at 83 percent containment.

IMETs save lives!!

Monday, October 16, 2017

Northern California Wildfires - update for Oct 16th

According to the CAL FIRE Statewide Summary for Monday, October 16th there are 14 large wildfires burning in California accounting for over 213,000 acres burned. An estimated 5,700 structures have been destroyed. At the time I post this, 41 people have died. Some evacuation orders in northern California have been lifted and other evacuation orders are being reevaluated. A driver of private water tender working the Nuns Fire died in a vehicle rollover on Oakville Grade in Napa County. CBS Bay Area reported on the death of the driver in this vehicle rollover in an October 16th report

I compiled the following information on wildfires burning in northern California from the California Statewide Fire Summary (CAL FIRE PIO twitter) for Monday, October 16, 2017. As I transcribed the data from the CAL FIRE PIO's twitter post, any errors in the figures are mine.

Central LNU Complex, In unified command with Santa Rosa Fire Department and Sonoma County Sheriff, CAL FIRE Incident Management Team assigned. 23 civilian fatalities
  • Tubs Fire (Sonoma and Napa Counties) 36,390 acres, 70% contained, significant number of structures destroyed
  • Pocket Fire (Sonoma County) 11,889 acres, 40% contained
  • Nuns Fire  (Sonoma County) 48,624 acres, 50% contained
  • Oakmont Fire (Sonoma County) 875 acres, 15% contained

Southern LNU Complex, CAL FIRE Incident Management Team assigned
  • Atlas Fire (Napa and Solano Counties) 51,064 acres, 60% contained, 6 civilian fatalities, significant number of structures destroyed

Mendocino-Lake Complex, CAL FIRE Incident Management Team assigned
  • Redwood Valley (Mendocino County) 35,000 acres, 50% contained, 8 civilian fatalities, significant number of structures destroyed
  • Sulphur Fire (Lake County) 2,207 acres, 85% contained

Wind Complex, CAL FIRE Incident Management Team assigned
  • Cascade Fire (Yuba County) 9,989 acres, 96% contained, 4 civilian casualties, significant number of structures destroyed
  • Lobo Fire (Nevada County) 821 acres, 97% contained, multiple structures destroyed
  • LaPorte Fire (Butte County) 6,151 acres, 95% contained

For current information from CAL FIRE on wildfires burning in California, see the CAL FIRE PIO twitter account.

Bill Gabbert of Wildfire Today continues to report on the wildfires currently burning in California.  You will want to see his two recent updates on the northern California wildfires written on Saturday, October 14th and Monday, October 16th.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Northern California Wildfires - Update October 14th

Saturday evening (October 14th) update on California Wildfires

(October 14th about 3 PM PDT)

(October 14th about 2 PM PDT)

The latest statewide summary of all the wildfires burning in California may be found at this CAL FIRE website. They start with this summary (from Statewide Summary for Saturday, October 14th):
Gusty winds increased early this morning forcing new evacuations and a sparking a new large wildfire in Lake County. Currently more than 10,000 firefighters are battling 16 large wildfires that in total have burned over 214,000 acres. Approximately 100,000 people have been evacuated from the fires. These fires have been extremely destructive with 5,700 structures estimated to have been destroyed.
The Weather Channel has a short video update on the northern California Wildfires (October 14th, about 6PM EDT) that may be found here, along with a story and a rather large photo gallery of about 300 pictures. 

Two San Francisco media outlets that I have been checking periodically:

Blimp Typhoon Research in Guam: Follow-up 1

Earlier this week I wrote about some exciting research being conducted in Guam by French researchers from the CNES. Specifically they are using specially equipped unmanned miniature blimps called AeroClippers that are designed to fly in the eye of typhoons to collect various meteorological data. See my October 9th post for more information.

My friends at the US National Weather Service Guam shared some good news from the French researchers and their three AeroClippers. They have launched two AeroClippers. The first AeroClipper was launched on or about October 12th. The second AeroClipper was launched October 14th (that is this morning, Guam time). The post about the launch of the second AeroClipper has a video showing the launch of the second AeroClipper. This is very exciting and I wish the CNES researchers the best of luck as they track these two AeroClippers. As I understand it, there is one more AeroClipper to be launched.

JTWC is the Joint Typhoon Warning Center

Friday, October 13, 2017

Red Flag Warnings in Northern CA this weekend (0ct 13 - 15)

If you are arriving at this post after October 15th, the video is still worth watching so you can see an example of how NWS Weather Forecast Offices work to warn those in their forecast area of life threatening weather conditions.

IMETs working Northern California Wildfires

Regular readers know that I have lots of respect for the work the National Weather Service Incident Meteorologists do when the are assigned to a specific for a two-week deployment. See for example my May 17th 2017 post where you will learn a little about what IMETs do from a NWS incident meteorologist and this November 2016 post where you will see a video of an IMET answering questions from a middle school class.

I thought that you might be interested in recent IMET deployments to wildfires in Northern California. So, I went to the NWS IMET Facebook page where I found the following IMET deployments since October 9th. Information about these and other wildfires burning in northern California and elsewhere in California, along with a map, may be accessed from the CAL FIRE Incident Page.

Before I go any further, I want to pause and say how much I appreciate all of you IMETs who are working these horrible and devastating wildfires in northern California. I know that you are working hard monitoring weather conditions on your fire. Especially but not limited to monitoring wind forecasts, I understand that some of these wildfires experienced more high winds the other night. What you do is so crucial to keep firefighters on the ground safe. Thank-you. And you stay safe as well.

Edited on October 14 at 6:30 AM to add: The IMETs working the northern California wildfires as well as nearby NWS Weather Forecast Offices of Sacramento and the San Francisco Bay Area will be monitoring Red Flag Warning conditions that are expected occur this weekend, October 13th to 15th (see my post of October 13th for more information).

IMETS save lives!

The four deployments below were on the evening of Monday, October 9th.

The Redwood Complex is part of the Mendocino Lake Complex of Wildfires.

The Tubbs Fire is part of the Central LNU Complex of Wildfires

The Atlas Fire is part of the Southern LNU Complex of Wildfires

Last, but by no means least, an IMET Trainee (to read more about IMET trainees read my July 21st post) was deployed to the Central LNU Complex on October 11th.  Wow, I wish this trainee well as they work with an experienced IMET and fill their taskbook.

Here is a screen grab I did this morning (October 13th) from the NWS EDD interactive map showing current IMET deployments (the pinkish-purple circles) in Northern California. To the best of my knowledge, all the deployments that I have referenced above are mapped out below. Note that IMET locations are found in fire weather under more layers.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Temporary Air Control Tower at McClellan AAB

Thanks to Mike Archer for his daily Wildfire News of the Day e-mail where I learned in his WNOTD e-mail yesterday, October 11th) about a temporary Air Control Tower that is in operation at McClellan Air Attack base. Ordinarily McClellan has no tower and the pilots talk to each other as they are arriving, taxiing on the ground, and then departing. However, with twelve Airtankers working the various northern California wildfires out of McClellan, the air and ground space was a little busy so CAL FIRE called Tower Tech for help. Learn about Tower Tech in this report with video from CBS News Sacramento. Unfortunately, I am unable to get the embed code provided by CBS News Sacramento to work, so I hope that you take about three minutes to go and watch the video.

Titus Gall, CEO of Tower Tech spoke with CBS Sacramento:
'The traffic becomes a little bit too complicated,' said Titus Gall, President and CEO of Tower Tech, Inc. . . . 
'Everything that uses this airport is now talking to these guys,' Gall said, referring to the two-man team running the traffic control. 
Typically, there is no air traffic control team at McClellan and the pilots simply communicate with each other when they need to land and depart. 
The Tower Tech team is scheduling 12 air tankers on a loop, loading fire retardant, making drops and coming back to load up again. But the guys are also handling private planes here on business. 

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

More on CA wildfires - view from a firefighter

Thanks to a friend of mine who told about an NPR she heard reporting on the wildfires in northern California. She said that she had heard a firefighter talking about the challenges in fighting these "monstrous fires." I wasn't sure if I would be able to easily find the NPR audio report, but I think that I found the one that she is talking about. I am embedding the report below. The written NPR report (Oct 11th) where I found the audio report is slightly different, your will find it here.

I like this report because you are hearing from a wildland firefighter about the difficulties in fighting a wind-driven wildfire.

California wildfires - October 2017

Updated on October 12th at 12:30 PM. In an article posted on October 12th, Wildfire Today is reporting that:
The latest figures on this week’s wildfire outbreak, per CAL FIRE as of late Wednesday:
  • 22 wildfires have burned more than 170,000 acres
  • 3,500 homes and structures have been destroyed
  • 21 people have died, and that figure is expected to rise
  • More than 8,000 firefighters are working fires across the state, primarily those in Northern California’s wine country. This includes crews on 550 engines, 73 helicopters and 30 air tankers.
Be sure to go and read the entire October 12th article on the California wildfires on Wildfire Today

Fire Aviation has two articles on aviation resources fighting the California wildfires:

Finally for those of you who might be interested in local coverage of the California wildfires:

October 11th I suspect that most of you know that among the wildfires currently burning in California are several wildfires burning in Northern California accounting for on the order of 115,000 acres burned. And this is just norther California, and doesn't include wildfires burning elsewhere in the State. These wildfires have been reported across much of the national media, both broadcast and print media. I understand that at least 2,000 homes and businesses have been destroyed and at least 15 people are dead with many more missing. My thoughts and prayers go out to all affected by these devastating wildfires. Thank-you to the wildfire crews on the ground for working these wildfires, stay safe.

Direct link to video from Shaking My Head Productions

Wildfire Today has been doing their usual extraordinary job covering the wildfires burning in California. See for example:

I am posting some coverage of these wildfires. All these articles are good. Some of the coverage might be repetitious, but you can get a feeling for the devastation  by looking at the videos and phots from the fires.

California Broadcast and print media

National media:

Monday, October 09, 2017

Miniature Blimp/balloon typhoon research in Guam

This is the first of at least a couple of posts about miniature blimp/balloon typhoon research going on in Guam in October of 2017. This post, divided into three parts,  is a little longer than my usual post. In the first section is an introduction and a little bit about Guam (focusing on geography). After providing some links to information about tropical cyclones in the second section, I share information from the NWS Guam about the typhoon research being conduction in Guam by researchers from the French CNES agency. Finally in section three, I provide a link(s) to more of my posts about the miniature blimp known as the AeroClipper.

A few months ago, I started to become familiar with the US NWS WFO at Guam because a NWS meteorologist I knew transferred to Guam. So, I found and bookmarked the US NWS Guam Facebook site  I check in with the NWS Guam Facebook page, in part because I am interested in learning more about typhoons. Just last week, I was checking out the NWS Guam’s Facebook page when I found out about some very interesting research that some researchers from France will be doing out of Guam from October 4th to October 21st (weather permitting). I want to share a little about that research with you, but before I do that a little geography and a little about Guam

As you can see, Guam, which is an unincorporated territory of the United States, is located in the Western Pacific. According to the entry for Guam in the CIA World Fact Book (go here), Guam is at 13.28 N, 144.47 E. Guam's climate is tropical marine (see the geography entry in CIA World Fact Book's entry for Guam

As you may know, tropical cyclones in that part of the pacific where Guam is located are known as typhoons while tropical cyclones off of the atlantic coast and in the Gulf of Mexico are known as hurricanes. The National Weather Service has a nice module on tropical weather, including tropical cyclones at their Jet Stream Education site. Now, I know that both typhoons and hurricanes are tropical cyclones and I wanted to know more about Guam. I had heard references about the northwest pacific being known as typhoon alley, so I searched on typhoon alley and came up with an article from written in July 2016 that you may find here. I learned a lot about typhoons in general as well as the differences between typhoons and hurricanes. I then wrote to my friends at the NWS WFO at Guam to see if they had any comments on the article. They told me that the article covers it, stressing that “all the ingredients for tropical cyclone development are here all year round and little land mass to stop development — practically none until you reach the far western Pacific.

I am always interested in learning more about interesting weather related research involving aviation, including the use of balloons. So when I came upon the following Facebook post from the US NWS Guam at the end of last week, I was fascinated. It was after reading that Facebook post, which I am embedding below that I knew that I wanted to share this with you. The first thing I did was to learn a little more about Guam which I have shared in the beginning of this article. Please take a few moments to read about this fascinating research involving balloons known as AeroClippers. Hopefully, there will be a couple of nearby tropical cyclones so that the folk from CNES in France can do their research. I am fascinated by what the AeroClippers could mean to providing data that will help forecasters in the Western Pacific and elsewhere get data from the eye of the typhoon. I am looking forward to following the CNES AeroClipper research while they are in Guam and wish them the best. The Facebook post was posted on October 6, 2017.

Here are a couple of media articles from the Guam Press about the Aero Clipper. As always, I am never certain how long these links will be up.
October 14th: I posted on the launch of two of the AeroClippers by the CNES researchers working out of Guam

Friday, October 06, 2017

Santiago Fire Crew (Orange County) working the Canyon Fire (CA)

Well, with a good three weeks without significant rainfall here in New Jersey, I was going to write about the dry conditions. But I won't. Instead, I am going to hold off on that post until the middle of next week. Let's just say I want to see what transpires between now and then in the weather department. We shall see, won't we.

I thought I'd share a crew video, uploaded by Randy Cruz of the Santiago Fire Crew of Orange County, California working the Canyon Fire. Allow a little under five minutes for the video. I wrote about the Canyon Fire here.

Direct link to video from Randy Cruz

Wednesday, October 04, 2017

Time for some smokejumpers - October 2017

Some of you know that when I first got interested in wildland firefighting nine years ago, one of my former grad school professors who was knowledgable about forestry and wildland firefighting suggested that I read a couple of books about smokejumpers. I followed his advice. Time went on and eventually started this blog.

From time to time, as I am doing now, I like to look around for new to me videos about smokejumpers. I found two that I am sharing here. Perhaps some of you have already seen these two videos elsewhere, but if so, perhaps you will enjoy seeing them again. Allow about 15 minutes to watch both videos.

This first video is from ABC News (April 2016) and is about smokejumpers out of Redding California (California Smokejumpers website). TodayI enjoyed hearing the smokejumpers, a base manager, and a wife of one of the jumpers talk about their experiences. Especially the wife for adding the dimension of what it is like for her and their children.

Direct link to video from ABC News

In the second video you will get an overview of the McCall Idaho Smokejumpers.  The video is from On Final Productions (February 2017)

Direct link to video from OnFinal Productions

Monday, October 02, 2017

Good bye Lockheed P2-V Neptunes

On Saturday, September 30th, Neptune Aviation had a farewell party for the four remaining P2-V Neptune Tankers, all are being retired this season. As I understand it, one P2-V may still be on contract and will be retired at the end of her contract.

Thank-you all the P2-Vs and her crews -- pilots, co-pilots, ground support, etc. who have flown wildfires over the years.

Some of you did not make it to retirement, tankers 7, 4, 99, 9, 42, 11, and two tanker number 8's were lost in the line of duty. For a complete list of fatalities in Lockheed P2V tankers see Bill Gabbert's June 7, 2012 article on Wildfire Today, Bill has listed a 1992 crash (ferry flight) with no tanker number. You and your crews are flying in favorable tail winds. May you rest in peace, and condolences to your friends, families and co-workers.

You have flown countless numbers of wildfires, saved many lives, and saved many residences and businesses. You did all this in support of the crews on the ground. Your service will not be forgotten. It will be strange to not see you flying after the end of the season. I will miss you!

Neptune Aviation continues to fly BAe-146 jet tankers.

The Missoulian had a nice report (with a photo gallery) on the farewell party (which includes the video that I am embedding below) which may be found here.

Edited on October 4th to add: I only just now went to Bill Gabbert's Fire Aviation site and found that Bill posted a nice article (with a link to a video) about Neptune Aviation's retirement of their P2V air tankers

Direct link to video from Missoulian

Here is a nice report on Neptune's farewell party for the P2-V's from KPAX

Direct link to video from KPAX

Friday, September 29, 2017

Canyon Fire (Orange County CA) - some aerial operations

While I did not blog on the Canyon Fire that was first reported on September 25th, I did know about it in large part because of Bill Gabbert's coverage on Wildfire Today (see for example Bill's September 27th article) as well as Mike Archer's Wildfire News of the Day e-mail newsletters during this past week. According to the September 29th 7:01 AM PDT update from the Orange County (CA) Fire Authority (page may be updated when you access) the wildfire has burned 2,662 acres and is at 75 percent containment. Evacuation orders in place earlier this week have been lifted and six structures have been damaged.

I'd like to share some videos that I found of some of the aerial operations earlier this week over the Canyon Fire.

Direct link to video from CBS SF Bay Area

Direct link to video from Mark Giradeau

Direct link to video from wakebrdr94

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Enhanced Risk of Wildfires

When I was out and about this afternoon, I noted that it was a bit windy and dry. While I enjoy the less humid weather, it does mean a lower relative humidity. All this means that I was wondering about enhanced fire danger. So, I just checked the NWS WFO Mt Holly and saw this special weather statement:

Special Weather Statement

Special Weather Statement
National Weather Service Mount Holly NJ
956 AM EDT Thu Sep 28 2017

Hunterdon-Somerset-Middlesex-Western Monmouth-Eastern Monmouth-
Mercer-Salem-Gloucester-Camden-Northwestern Burlington-Ocean-
Cumberland-Atlantic-Cape May-Atlantic Coastal Cape May-
Coastal Atlantic-Coastal Ocean-Southeastern Burlington-Delaware-
Philadelphia-Western Chester-Eastern Chester-Western Montgomery-
Eastern Montgomery-Upper Bucks-Lower Bucks-
Including the cities of Flemington, Somerville, New Brunswick,
Freehold, Sandy Hook, Trenton, Pennsville, Glassboro, Camden,
Cherry Hill, Moorestown, Mount Holly, Jackson, Millville,
Hammonton, Cape May Court House, Ocean City, Atlantic City,
Long Beach Island, Wharton State Forest, Media, Philadelphia,
Honey Brook, Oxford, West Chester, Kennett Square, Collegeville,
Pottstown, Norristown, Lansdale, Chalfont, Perkasie, Morrisville,
and Doylestown
956 AM EDT Thu Sep 28 2017

...Enhanced Risk of Wildfire Spread this Afternoon...

Low afternoon relative humidity values, gusty winds, and dry fine
fuels will create an elevated risk for the spread of wildfires
across the area through early this evening.

For more information about wildfire danger, burn restrictions, and
wildfire prevention and education please visit your state forestry
or environmental protection website.



If I get wind of any wildfires I'll let you know.

Updated on September 29, 2017: I did not have a chance to listen to streams of New Jersey Forest Fire Service radio channels so I don't have any knowledge of wildfire activity yesterday. Nor was I able to find anything useful in checking out some New York, New Jersey, and Philadelphia media. This doesn't mean that there was no wildfire activity in New Jersey and environs yesterday, only that I do not know of any wildfire activity. 

Monday, September 25, 2017

Wildland firefighters in San Diego County CA working a wildfire (9/24/17)

Thanks to todays' Wildfire News of the Day e-mail newsletter from Mike Archer who shared this video of wildland firefighters on the ground and in the air working a wildfire on September 24, 2017 near the San Diego River (near Friars Rd and I-5).  Mike shared a link to the Firehouse website where I watched the youtube that I am embedding below.

Direct link to video (you will want to click on "show more" to read the complete description of the wildfire.)

Friday, September 22, 2017

More from the Geronimo Hotshots (from 2014)

The Geronimo Hotshots from The Atlantic on Vimeo.

I have shared a few videos in years past showing the Geronimo Hotshots in action. They usually do a video at the end of the fire season. And since the 2017 fire season is still ongoing as I write this post, it is too early for the 2017 Geronimo Hotshot Crew video. However, in my wonderings just now I found the video from the Atlantic showing the Geronimo Hotshot crew in action, uploaded three years ago (2014). 

To the Geronimo Hotshot Crew, where ever you are as I share this -- be it working a fire, waiting for another wildfire assignment, or perhaps finishing up the season and preparing to go home to your families -- I hope that all are safe. Thank-you for what you do to keep us safe from wildfires.  I am reassured that if we in New Jersey and environs ever needed a hotshot crew and you got the call that you would come and help us.

And of course, the same goes for all Hotshot crews.

Thank-you Geronimo Hotshots, all hotshot crews, and all wildland fire crews (federal and state) for your service. Many of you spend months away from your friends and families. Working wildfires is dangerous work. Stay safe. Know that you are appreciated!

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Images from recent wildfires in California and Canada

Here are some videos and images from recent wildfire activity in California and Western Canada.

First up a video shot from the cockpit of a C-130 MAFFS from the 146th Airlift Wing team. There was a nice short article on the Weather Nation about this C-130 MAFFS with a link to the video from the National Guard that I am embedding below. This is great footage of the view from the cockpit of working a fire.

Direct link to video on Youtube from the National Guard

CBS News had a nice report (with a photo gallery and videos) on wildfires in California and western Canada (go here for the September 13th report from CBS News). The video link in the report that says "wildfires rage in 8 western states (dated September 3rd) may lead you to another CBS News video, However I did find a direct link to this video. As always, I am never quite certain how link the embed code for videos from network news outlets will work. So if you arrive here later to find that the videos no longer play, you will know why. Before I share the videos, there is a great photo gallery of images from wildfires in the western USA and Canada included in this CBS news report on the western widlfires. As fate would have it, I had trouble with the embed code that CBS news supplied, that happens sometimes so here are direct links to the two videos included in the report:
Perhaps you will find references and links to these videos and the CBS September 13th report on the wildfires on other websites that cover wildland firefighting. I  heard about these reports and videos from Mike Archer's Wildfire News of the Day e-mail newsletter for September 19, 2017. Mike does a great job with the Wildfire News of the Day (5 or 6 days a week). Thanks Mike!

Monday, September 18, 2017

Recent IMET assignments (September 2017)

It has been over a month since I posted about recent IMET (Incident Meteorologists) assignments. IMETs save lives. I am very thankful for the work you do to provide site specific weather forecasts on your wildfires so that all the crews have the best weather forecasts possible. You do this to keep everyone safe. IMETs save lives!

September 11th

September 13th

IMET enroute and IMET getting ready to launch a weather balloon!

A trainee assigned to a wildfire

September 16th

IMET enroute and photo of some weather instruments.

Friday, September 15, 2017

New Jersey Forest Service helping out in Montana

Sometime over the summer, I'm not quite sure when, the New Jersey Forest Fire Service (NJFFS) sent an Engine Strike Team (comprised of three engines) plus crew to help fight wildfires in Montana. I am very proud of the engines and the crews who have been helping fight the wildfires in Montana. I would like to thank my friends at the NJFFS Section A2 for the great reporting that they did on their Facebook page. I am going back 1 month to provide you with some highlights of what the NJFFS Engine Strike Team has been doing in Montana. Links provided to Federal Fires listed on Inciweb where possible.

August 14, NJFFS Engine Strike Team released from the Trail Fire and released to Miles City Dispatch (Montana) for reassignment.

August 20, NJFFS Engine Strike Team is still at Miles City. 

August 24 NJFFS Engine Strike Team at Miles City, crews transitioning. One crew demobilizing, another crew on way

August 27th, NJDDS Engine Strike Team released from Maurer Mountain Fire and enroute to Mendenhall Fire (Sweetgrass County, 3 miles south of Springdale, Montana)

August 29: photos from the Mendenhall Fire were NJFFS Engine Strike Team was then assigned.

August 31 NJFFS Engine Strike released from Mendenhall Fire and assigned to Sartin Draw Fire in Powder River County, 35 miles northwest of Broads, MT.

September 1, NJFFS Engine Strike Team still at Sartin Draw Fire, photos.

September 5, NJFFS Engine Strike Team returns to Miles City Dispatch Center. Crews in process of transitioning

September 6, transition day.

September 7, NJFFS Engine Strike Team assigned to Hart Fire, Rosebud County

September 14, NJFFS Engine Strike Team assigned to Blacktail Fire, east of Loco Mountain in the Crazy Mountains. 

Updated on September 16th at 12:30 PM. NJFFS Engine Strike Team has been released from the Blacktail Fire, returned to Miles City and will be returning to New Jersey.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Military Aircraft in action providing Irma relief

I am embedding a couple of videos for you from (Hurricane Irma) showing aircraft and aircrews being deployed in support of Hurricane Irma relief missions.

In the first video by Staff Sgt. Traci Keller (60th Mobility Public Affairs) you will see  two C-17 Globemaster III's take off on September 11th with supplies in support of Hurricane Irma relief efforts. One Globemaster is from Joint Base Charleston SC and the other is from Travis Air Force Base, California. Both are taking off from Travis Airforce Base.

In the second video, by Master Sgt. Philip Speck (123rd Airlift Wing Public Affairs), you will see twelve members of the Kentucky Air National Guard 123rd Airlift Wing evacuate U.S. citizens from the Dutch Caribbean Island of St. Maarten on September 9-10th. The Kentucky Air National Guard had two C-130 aircraft working with the New York Air Guards 106th Rescue Wing and the Puerto Rick Air Guards 156th Airlift wing evacuating over 1,028 U.S. Citizens from St. Maartens.

Here you will see some Seahawk Helicopters take off on September 11th from the USS Abraham Lincoln (which I believe was off the eastern Florida coast when this video was shot). The USS Abraham Lincoln is but one of the military assets working with the Department of Homeland Security providing Hurricane Irma relief missions. Video courtesy of Navy Media Content Services, video by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Jeff Sherman.

Finally, you will see a video shot from a Coast Guard Aircraft out of Air Station Clearwater (FL) flying over flooded Jacksonville FL on September 11th, providing rescues of those stranded by the flooding if required. Rainfall from Irma lead to the flooding in Jacksonville, FL on September 11th .

Monday, September 11, 2017

A little on aerial resources for Irma recovery

I am not here to blog on the recovery efforts in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma's destructive path through Florida. If you landed here in the immediate hours or days after Hurricane Irma hit Florida then I leave you to your devices to find local TV and newspaper coverage. This is not an extensive list, but over the last couple of days I have referred to:
My interest today is in the use of aerial resources to get to the Florida Keys, which as many of you may know from the media coverage many areas of the keys are without cell phone coverage, land line phones, water, sewage, and  electricity. As I write this, Monroe County officials have not opened the Overseas Highway (Route 1) to the public and it will be awhile before that highway is opened. Only first responders and other essential personnel, National Guard, and Utility workers are allowed down the highway. Yesterday, I wondered about the use of aerial resources as I knew that two ways into the Keys are by air and by sea.

Florida Governor, Rick Scott was on a C-130 to get his first look at the extensive damage to the Florida Keys according to this article from the FL Keys News. As I understand that middle and upper section of the keys had the most extensive damage.

I got my answer when I saw this article on the FL Keys News about massive airborne relief mission to the Keys using C-130s and helicopters, some from the Mississippi Air National Guard with personnel, equipment and supplies.

I know that this post is sketchy because I don't really have much more information on these aerial relief missions. I do know from this post from Monroe County (covers the Keys) Facebook page that the runways at Key West Naval Air Station and Boca Chica Field, Boca Chica Key about four miles from Key West, FL It seems that helicopters will be the first in followed by the Cargo Planes (C-130s later).

And yes, speaking of help from the sea, there will soon by a US Airforce carrier off of Key West followed by a couple of naval vessels to assist (see this post from Monroe County (covers the Keys) Facebook page for more information.

Updated Tuesday, September 12, 2017, 9 AM

Later last night I found some press releases from the U.S. Department of Defense News website. They had the three news stories, all dated September 11th that pertain to aerial relief missions to Florida and the Caribbean impacted by Irma.

US Army deploys almost 10,000 troops, trucks and generators and at least six aircraft
New York Guard sending Aircrews and Blackhawk Helicopters (some with with hoists)
U.S. Northern Command positions military assets including aircraft
DoD Special Report with photos on Irma relief missions (accessed on September 12th at 9AM)

September 12th, 3:15 PM

A DoD report incorrectly stated that there may be evacuations of 10,000 people from the Keys. That statement in the report (that I have hopefully since deleted) is not correct per Monroe County FL (covers the Keys).

Friday, September 08, 2017

Kudos (again) to Hurricane Hunters

As folk in Texas and Louisiana (and elsewhere) continue to recover from Hurricane Harvey that made landfall on the Texas Coast on August 25th, Florida and adjoining states on the Southeastern United States are preparing for Irma's landfall later this weekend. My thoughts and prayers are with all those in Irma's path.

I know that NOAA's Hurricane Hunters as all as Hurricane Hunters from the US Air Force Reserve 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron of the 403rd Wing have been flying Irma to provide meteorological data on Hurricane Irma. Before I go any further, I want to express my deep appreciation and thanks to the crew of all of our Hurricane Hunters! What they do is risky!

NOAA Flight Directer, Richard Henning on board NOAA42 (Kermit) on September 6th gave Fox News an interview on what NOAA 42 is doing, below is the report (allow 5 minutes) from Fox News.

Direct link to video on Youtube from FoxNews

Here is a short video from Nick Underwood of NOAA of NOAA42 flying the eyewall of Hurricane Irma on or about September 6th, a category 5 hurricane at the time this video was posted:

I finish with another short video of NOAA42 flying Irma on September 4th, this time from Lt. Rob Mitchell of NOAA.

Wednesday, September 06, 2017

Reflections (sort of) on Aviation Weather

Regular readings of this blog know that I am a non-pilot aviation enthusiast as well as a weather enthusiast. Over the years, I have become acquainted with the NWS Aviation Weather Center website. I am grateful for the opportunity to sit in, as a non-pilot aviation enthusiast, to private pilot ground school a few years ago where I first learned the basics of the various aviation weather tools that pilots use. I augmented this with my own self study over the years. I appreciate that a good knowledge of aviation weather and the various tools available to pilots saves lives. But more than that, learning about aviation weather is somewhat complicated.

The origins of this post stems from reading an article on the AOPA website about a fly-in that the AOPA is hosting in Norman,  Oklahoma. Participants in this fly-in will have the privilege to tour the Aviation Weather Center for a small charge, and there is a two-day workshop, for more information go here. I would love to be in a position to go to any part of this event! But for various reasons, I can not.

I had decided when I first learned of this fly-in a few days ago on the AOPA website that I wanted to make a post about the Aviation Weather that both showed my respect for the staff of the NWC Aviation Weather Center and respected the complexity of Aviation Weather.

Knowing that AOPA Air Safety Institute (ASI)  does good work on air safety for pilots, and knowing that they have a lot of videos on various issues of air safety on their Youtube channel, I decided to find one of the videos on aviation weather. It turns out the the ASI was an eight part series on aviation weather for pilots that they call Weather Wise, the link to all eight videos on Youtube may be found here (or at least it was as I write this article on September 6th).

I am sharing here the first video in ASI's eight part Weather Wise series, called Weather Wise Gathering Information. The video is aimed at pilots who should already have a good working knowledge of the NWS Aviation Weather Center as well as at least one of the various private Aviation Weather Platforms used by pilots that are available on the web. For those of you who are not pilots, I hope that your take away is how important pre-flight weather planning and briefings are to all pilots (private, commercial, airline pilots, military pilots, ag pilots, tanker pilots, etc. etc).

Monday, September 04, 2017

Happy Labor Day Holiday to all who celebrate

I wish all who celebrate a Happy Labor Day holiday here in the United States. I am taking the rest of the day off from my labors.

Friday, September 01, 2017

Reflections on CAL FIRE

I finished off my trip to the west coast of the USA by visiting family and friends in southern California for a long weekend, a trip I make every two or three years. I don't recall any moderate or large wildfires in the portion of the state where I visited last June.  I think, but am not certain, that there was not high fire danger or red flag warnings when I visited. Not so in 2014 when I spent a week in southern California on personal business. There were red flag warnings up for a portion of my stay. I kept informed by following fire weather alerts from the National Weather Service. Because I was busy and also unfamiliar with the geography, I asked one of my friends to let me know if I should be aware of any fire danger near where I was staying or traveling. At the same time, I knew from what I have learned about CAL FIRE over the eight plus years that I have been blogging on aerial wildland firefighting that CAL FIRE and their partner agencies would be working to keep myself and more importantly my family and friends safe. There were no wildfires that I knew of either near where I was staying that week or near where I had to travel.

I am very grateful and want to thank CAL Fire and their partner agencies (local and national) for keeping my family and friends in southern California safe!

CAL FIRE has a good collection of fact sheets available on all aspects of CAL FIRE operations at the CAL FIRE communications web page, including but not limited to several factsheets on their aviation program. I will leave you to your own devices to check out all their aviation related fact sheets, but to get you started you may want to read this overview on the CAL FIRE Aviation Program, and some information about their S2-T tankers. I wrote in early August that CAL FIRE hopes to replace their Super Huey Helicopters with Blackhawk Helicopters.

In the months after I started blogging on aerial wildland firefighting in early 2009 I learned a lot about ground and air wildland firefighting through following wildfires including but not limted to the Station Fire. I followed the aerial and ground operations on live stream from southern California TV station, learning a lot with the help of a couple of former tanker pilots who always patiently answered my questions (and they still do answer my questions and otherwise help me out!). Of course at the same time I was following other wildfires that there then burning elsewhere in the US. I was off on a great adventure as I continued to learn and blog about wildland firefighting in the air in support of firefighters on the ground.

As time went on I continued to blog on aerial and ground-based wildland firefighting. Somewhere around 2012, I began to blog more on other aviation and meteorological issues unrelated to wildland firefighting. But I do and will always have a special place and affection for aerial wildland firefighting in support of wildland firefighters on the ground. So, while I do sometimes blog on my interests in aviation and weather, I do always return to blog about aerial wildland firefighting. CAL FIRE continues to hold one of the special places in my heart for all that I learned about wildland firefighting in the first year or so of blogging on aerial wildland firefighting. And as I said earlier, my feeling for CAL FIRE are personal because of my family and friends in southern California.

Thank-you CAL FIRE!

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

A little about Washington State wildfire resources

I continue to write about State level wildfire resources in states where I have spent some time this summer. In early June I traveled to the west coast visiting Washington in the Pacific Northwest and then southern California.

Over the years that I have been writing this blog I have known of many wildfires in Washington and have a great deal of respect for their State wildfire agency, the Wildfire Division of the Washington State Department of Natural Resources (WDNR). The WDNR is very competent, working hard to keep their residents as safe as they can from wildfire danger. They do this with the following resources:
DNR Wildfire is the state's largest on-call fire department, with more than 1,300 employees trained and available to fight fires as needed. This includes more than 800 permanent DNR employees, 500 seasonal employees, about 117 wildland fire engines, eight helicopters and six single engine air tankers, which are under contract with DNR.
Additionally, the Department of Corrections works with DNR on a voluntary Correctional Camps Program that provides job training for approximately 300 inmates while meeting the state’s need for more wildland firefighters and firefighting support. Corrections crew members are able to earn minimal funds while providing cost-efficient support. (obtained from on August 29, 2017)
I learned a little about their helitack program on the WDNR Aviation page, their eight UN-1H helicopters are equipped with buckets to drop water/foam on fires. In addition, they fly helitack crews to remote locations to provide initial attack on wildfires. More information about the helitack program is available on the WDNR Aviation page, and you will want to visit the WDNR flicker page for some photographs. For those of you who are interested in fire aviation, here is a link to a short history of the WDNR helitack program.

Finally, the WDNR has a nice page of wildfire information, including a map, with links for more information on current wildfires.

Next up: reflections on CAL FIRE.

Monday, August 28, 2017

What I have learned about wildland firefighting in North Carolina

I recently spent a long weekend with some friends who live in the mountains of western North Carolina. I found myself interested in what I could find on the web to learn more about wildland firefighting in North Carolina. I decided to spend a little time when I returned home to see what I could find on the web to share with you.

I went first to the North Carolina Forest Service (NCFS) website (that I had bookmarked some time back) and quickly found their fire control and prevention page with oodles of links and information. Those of you who are interested in learning more may want to spend sometime exploring this webpage.

The North Carolina Forest Service is divided into thirteen districts in three regions, information on these regions with a tool you can use to find a district for a specific county may be found here.

I know that North Carolina uses aviation resources to help wildland firefighting crews on the ground, with a vague idea that SEATs and helicopters are used. I hoped to find more specific information and was not disappointed. According to the North Carolina Forest Service Aviation webpage, the NCFS
operates 24 aircraft including 19 fixed wing airplanes and five helicopters. Aircraft are utilized in forest management, fire mitigation and detection, as well as fire suppression and direction of ground forces battling wildfires. Based strategically throughout the state, the response time of these aviation resources to emergencies can be measured in minutes.

A fleet of three single engine airtankers (SEATs) can operate from remote grass airstrips near the fire scene and deliver 500 to 800 gallons of fire suppressant or retardant during an initial attack or in support of ground firefighting forces. 
The N.C. Forest Service operates seven aircraft that are Federal Excess Property and are technically owned by the USDA Forest Service. These aircraft are on loan to the N.C. Forest Service specifically for fighting wildfires and include five fixed wing airplanes and two helicopters. (obtained from on August 28, 2017.
It looks to me like only some of North Carolina's aviation resources are specific to firefighting and I suspect that some do double duty. Based on the information I cited above, I think it is safe to say that there are five fixed wing and two helicopters that are Federal Excess Property owned by the US Forest Service are available for fighting wildfires. I am not sure where the three SEATs fit in, are they Federal Excess Property? In any event, North Carolina has in state aviation resources at their disposal. I am especially interested to read that North Carolina is in the process of transitioning to Air Tractor 802 F SEATs (capable of carrying 800 gallons of retardant or water/foam), scroll down to the bottom of the North Carolina Forest Service Aviation webpage for more information on SEATs and their other aviation resources.

I have to tell you something. As my friends drove us around the mountains of western North Carolina, I have to say that I had a great deal of respect for the ground and air crews of the North Carolina Forest Service. I knew that they were expert in fighting wildfires in their mountains and valleys. I hoped that given the recent rains before our visit that wildfire danger was minimal, but you never know. If there were any wildfires during our visit I did not notice. Which I suppose is a good thing.

Other links of interest concerning wildland fires from the North Carolina Forest Service:

Ground Equipment (with a description of each type of equipment)
Fire Weather with interactive mapping
Photo gallery
Current situation report, current activity and out of state
Current wildfire statistics by district and year to date summary
Number of wildfires (1928 to 2015), pdf file
Causes of wildfires in NC (1928 to 2015), pdf file
Ten year average fire statistics chart, pdf file

I will continue to write about state wildfire agencies in states that I visited this summer. Next up is Washington.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Type 1 Helicopters

Regular followers of my blog probably know that I love aviation, but sadly circumstances prevent me from becoming a licensed pilot. I am fortunate to have pilot friends who take me on scenic rides when their schedules permit and the weather cooperates. I keep a journal of my scenic rides. On November 10, 2014 one of my pilot friends took me a scenic ride to the Pilot's Shop at the Lancaster PA Airport, KLNS. I wanted to pick up some aviation charts and gifts and was happy that my pilot friend accommodated me. We had a nice 45 minute flight to Lancaster. It did not take long to pick up my charts and the gift. We had a cup of coffee at one of the flight services and he flew back to our home airport. My pilot friend had flight following. On the way back the controller came on the radio to warn the pilot about a CH-47 that would cross our flight path, but at a different altitude. I don't recall how far out the CH-47 was, I'd say somewhere between 5 and 10 miles. Anyway, it took a minute or so for my brain to kick into gear to realized that what I was seeing was a CH-47 Chinook Helicopter. Even from a few miles out, I was impressed at her size. As I recall, she seemed to be in military olive drab. The pilot acknowledged that he had the CH-47 in site, and we both safely flew on. I thought about taking a picture, but by the time I got the camera out she was on her way and too small for a shot. Yeah, I know, I know, this may sound like a tall tale. It is not, but I'll leave you to your thoughts. Perhaps one day, I'll get to see a CH-47 up close and be able to take a photograph.

I tell this story because Columbia Helicopters has CH-47 Chinooks that they fly in firefighting configuration. The CH-47 is included in the group of firefighting helicopters known as type 1 helicopters, at least I am fairly confident that the CH-47 is still flown in firefighting configuration as a type 1 helicopter.

As I write this, according to Bill Gabbert of Fire Aviation, there are 28 type 1 helicopters (700 to 2,500 gallon capacity) on exclusive use contract with the US Forest Service with up to 30 more being available on Call When Needed Contracts in 2017.

One of the reasons for this post on type 1 helicopters is to share with you two videos, you will have to go the supplied links to watch the videos (they are short) of what I believe are Sikorsky S61 helicopters (type 1). I was on the inciweb page for the High Cascades Complex of Wildfires (Spruce Lake, Broken Lookout, and Sherwood) which have burned a combined total of 13,655 acres (60% containment) in the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest in the Medford OR area in southern Oregon. I found both of these videos on the High Cascades Complex Photo page on Inciweb.

In video number 1 you will learn about type 1 helicopters while watching one of the type 1 helos filling her belly tank from her snorkel tube. In video number 2 you will see a couple of Helos filling their tanks from a portable tank aka heliwell. You might want to watch the videos in full screen.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Watching the Eclipse from Sylva North Carolina

The zone of totality for the August 21st solar eclipse passed through western North Carolina (go here to see an article about the eclipse in North Carolina) and I drove down to see some good friends and the eclipse.

I watched the total eclipse from Sylva, North Carolina (population 2,588),  the county seat of Jackson County. Thanks to an invite from some good friends who live about 30 miles away from Sylva, I enjoyed a long weekend with good friends. The capstone was driving to Sylva to watch the total eclipse of the sun on Monday, August 21st.

Sylva did a great job organizing a three-day eclipse festival. They had music on Friday and Saturday nights along with a moonlight fun run on Saturday night. On Sunday night there was a panel on the science of eclipses at a local community college. On Monday, eclipse day, Sylva’s solar eclipse event was held in Bridge Park, a downtown park, started at 11 AM with music. There were food trucks and a stage where a speaker talked about the eclipse at 1 PM. Parking was offsite at the nearby Jackson County Justice Complex with overflow parking across the street. There was a shuttle ($1 each way) from the Justice Center to Bridge Park, located about one-half mile away.

Shuttle Bus

My friends drove to Sylva, a 45 minute drive was over two hours because of heavy eclipse traffic. We each had our eclipse glasses, water, and a chair. We got to Bridge Park about 1:15. All the spots in front of the stage were taken, so we found a grassy spot with a good view of the sun.

We used our eclipse glasses to watch the moon move across the sun. Just before totality (at 2:36 PM EDT) the sky darkened and you could see colors on the horizon. When we saw nothing out of our glasses, we took our glasses off and saw the total eclipse. I feel like any words that I write to try to described the blackened sun with the corona are inadequate. With that in mind seeing the total eclipse was an incredible and awe inspiring experience, one that will stay with me. The best part was being a part of crowd where everyone cheered and clapped when the total eclipse occurred.

Sylva, NC

Bridge Park and Stage

In front of Bridge Park, Sylva NC

My friend summed it up when she spoke of the total eclipse: “that was one of the most incredible things I have ever seen in the sky.”

After totality a little boy said: “that was so cool.”

My friends and I knew that we all seen something special, that seeing a total eclipse was worth the traffic nightmare to and from Sylva. As I traveled back north on Monday and Tuesday through some horrendous traffic in Virginia, my traveling companion and I agreed that the eclipse was worth it.