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December 30, 2005

Texas And Oklahoma Fires Continue

"In terms of the outlook, there is no significant precipitation in sight,.." Reuters

This is beginning to remind me of California in the summer. The differences between fighting wildfires in California and Texas or Oklahoma are significant. When an engine company is toned out from a California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection fire station the captain or engineer has behind him a full compliment of firefighting tools at the click of his/her mic.
Within minutes air support, hand crews, bulldozers and overhead can be summoned for aid. The same can be said for Los Angeles County, Kern county, Ventura County and Santa Barbara County.
In most cases now it's an unfair fight, most potentially devastating fires are snuffed before they reach more than a few acres. Not to say some don't get away but for the most part the fire is extinguished quickly and expertly.

Our brothers and sisters in Texas and Oklahoma by contrast do not enjoy for the most part the breadth of resources at their disposal that their California cousins do.
I suspect some of these rural professional and volunteer stations are facing these fires with very little in the way of support behind them.

If this is true as I suspect it is these firefighters are placed in a very tough position. These fires are primarily wind driven events. Without the resources available to perform basic flank attacks they are forced to move ahead of the fire and evacuate residents and set up for structure protection. Even then with no dozer or air support and an inability to set effective backfires due to the high winds, there is little they can do.

My hat is off and boy do I wish I were there. Good luck guys, this is throwback firefighting where you have to think on your toes and where everybody is IC on their side of the fire.

December 28, 2005

Wind-Driven Texas Wildfires

AP via Firehouse.com

By Sheila Flynn
Associated Press Writer

"Firefighters searched for missing people and hoped for cooler, calmer weather Wednesday after deadly wildfires raced across thousands of acres of grassland dried out by Texas' worst drought in decades and destroyed dozens of homes.

The wind-driven fires were blamed for four deaths, the Texas Division of Emergency Management said Wednesday.

In addition to the deaths, at least three people were unaccounted-for Wednesday in Cross Plains, a town of about 1,000 people, fire officials said. Firefighters were searching burned-out houses.

More than 100 buildings, including 78 homes, were destroyed by Tuesday's fires, which burned across 13,000 acres, the state emergency management agency said. That included about 25 homes in Cross Plains, local fire officials said. Blazes also destroyed at least two dozen homes in Oklahoma.

Fires were still smoldering Wednesday in four Texas counties, the agency said. One new fire was reported Wednesday in an isolated area of eastern Oklahoma; it was later contained...."

December 15, 2005

Injured Firefighter Suing Land Owner

"Mark Keller, who also is a Burleigh County sheriff's deputy, was one of three firefighters injured when they were surrounded by fire and their truck stalled while they were battling a grass fire on April 8 north of Bismarck.

Keller spent two months at a Minneapolis-area hospital after suffering second- and third-degree burns while fighting the fire.

His attorney, Tom Dickson of Bismarck, said Keller's injuries are because of the landowner's negligence. He said the landowner is a North Dakota-owned corporation. He said a worker started the fire on the farm land to burn tree stumps.

"Dickson said Keller's medical bills are around $500,000.

A South Central District Court judge will decide within 90 days if the case will go to a jury. Dickson said the lawsuit was filed this week.

A so-called "Fireman's Rule" precludes firefighters and police officers injured on private property from suing the property owners for negligence.

"It's really an archaic 19th century rule of law," Dickson said. The rule has been challenged in several states, he said.

"It's an immunity defense," Dickson said. "It's never been addressed in the Supreme Court here."

Information from: KXMB-TV via Grandforks.com

My take:
Wildland firefighters are often confronted with a decision whether or not to protect a structure not conforming to the Uniform Fire Code concerning vegetation clearance requirements.
I maintain that homeowners not conforming to local, state or federal fire codes should be held liable for injuries to fire personnel who are hurt responding too or suppressing the fire.
I see a day soon when homeowner/landowner insurance policies will be cancelled for not complying to these ordinances. It's only right. Once a homeowner loses their insurance, which pressures their mortgage, they will make the proper modifications to the property.
I hope Mark Keller prevails in the North Dakota Supreme Court.

December 12, 2005

Every Department Should Be So Lucky

"Cheryl Anderson brings together 150 years of visual history for "Detroit Firefighters: A Pictorial History of the People."

Using research skills gained through 20 years of genealogy research, Anderson assembled a pictorial history of 4,200 Detroit firefighters, which she is self-publishing this month.

Anderson, a South Lyon area resident for more than 30 years, became interested in recording the history of Detroit firefighters because of her husband, Fred, who served in the Detroit Fire Department for 35 years.

Although Fred retired three years ago, the couple's son Dan is still a Detroit firefighter. Until a recent series of lay-offs, their son Tike was also with the Detroit Fire Department.

"Detroit Firefighters" features photographs of firefighters from 1865 to the present. A brief written history of the department introduces the 200-page book, which is arranged alphabetically by name. Every person in the photographs is identified.

Anderson explained.....continued, HometimeLife.com"

December 09, 2005

Rupert Murdoch's NewsCorp Embraces Christmas

"The Huffington Post has obtained pictures of nativity scenes spread throughout Newscorp's New York headquarters. According to a source, Rupert Murdoch has ordered the scenes to be placed on the front reception desk of every floor of the building. The scenes have caused resentment among some Newscorp employees.

Last week, Newscorp-owned Fox News changed the name of the "Holiday" ornaments it sells on its website to "Christmas" ornaments."

As to not "offend" some employees, the Christmas party is called a "holiday" party. No matter, this is as good as it will get in corporate America. Good on ya Rupert!

December 05, 2005

IAFF Christmas Holiday Healthy Eating Guide

Fit to survive, IAFF guide to eating sensibly over the Christmas holiday season.
Check it out!

December 03, 2005

Australia's Wildfire Season Ramping

A simple overview of the Australian wildfire season.

Australian bushfire history

This is an interesting essay from an Aussie site Blue's Hideaway.

" It happens with shocking regularity. Some kangaroos grazing along side a bush track, unaware of the terrible danger heading their way. Koala's sleep soundly in the eucalyptus. Possums and wombats steadly go about their feeding business. The Australian bush, a peaceful friendly place but unseen dangers are every where. Firstly the animals just smell a strange smell, their ears tweak back. Its a smell that they have become to fear. The smell of smoke!! The bush comes alive with panic. The usual silence is now broken with the sound of fleeing scared animals.
They run, they hide. Crawl into caves, into rotting tree trunks, others hide behind rocks. Some climb the tallest trees. Others burrow into the ground.
Unfortunatly it is all in vain as a 60 foot wall of fire is heading their way!! No Escape. No place to hide"