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August 31, 2007

Stevens Fire Update

You can see for yourself from this webcam view that the fire is no longer a threat. If you can't believe your eyes then you can read it here at Desastres.org, Peru's top fire reporting site. I did a double take when I saw Google News had the Peruvian web site up top for news on this 150 acre wildfire.

Comment; The IC sized up the fire and requested Tanker 910. Dispatch approved the request and the Supertanker was overhead 2 hours later. Recall they believed this fire had the potential to reach 3,000 acres. My guess is the heavy tanker delivered a couple of well laid lines as part of the well coordinated air attack assault. The combined actions put this to bed.

Forty five engines were summoned to the scene along with crew strike teams and additional overhead. They were gearing up for a days long event.

It's my contention the DC-10 Supertanker blew this fire away. This is the second time in the last week an initial attack incident commander asked for the tanker. These BC's and fire captains are among the most experienced wildland firefighters in the world. If they order a piece of equipment it's because the armament will help save property or lives of civilians and firefighters.

Particulars for this fire are as follow per the Incident 209 report.

% Contained
or MMA
55 Percent
Projected Final Size:
Estimated Costs
to Date
Estimated Final Cost:
Actions planned for next operational period:

Total Personnel
assigned to fire 849, (yup eight hundred and forty nine)

That is roughly 8 firefighters per acre and between them it will cost the state $1 million more before this one is "cold trailed" i the next day or so.

I hope to read some eyewitness accounts of the effectiveness of the big plane and the role it played. I am maintaining my theme for this summer that we are at the dawn of a new era in wildland firefighting, an era where supertankers become part of the initial attack arsenal statewide.

Reminder of what Tanker 910 can do.

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August 30, 2007

Fire: Santa Cruz Mountains, Watch Real Time

ALERT: Google searchers landing here may be looking for coverage of the Summit Fire burning in the Santa Cruz Mountains near Corallitos......

CLICK HERE for SUMMIT FIRE Updates From Firefighter Blog.

CDF/Cal Fire is responding to a fire above Los Gatos in the South Bay and you can follow the incident from a distance via this webcam situated on Mt. Hamilton across the valley.

I was watching this smoke plume before the contributors at WildlandFire.com started this thread following the initial attack information.

The IC upon size up asked for Tanker 910.

"IC requested air tanker 910, st of cdf engines for structure protection , Santa Clara County E-1,7,and Saratoga E-30 staged on Montabello for structure protection County brush patrols at incident."

Dispatch honored his request and according to another poster the tanker arrived on scene at 14:40 hours, two hours after the request.

This is one to watch as early projections place the potential at 3,000 acres. Additional resources from throughout the Bay Area including OES engines for structure protection have been ordered.

Here is an overhead view of the Stevens Fire area:

View Larger Map


Firefighter Blog Recent Observations, Traffic Etc.

I have been playing around with the direction of this blog since it's beginning. Originally the idea was to post on firefighter injuries and deaths as a tribute to heroes. The blog was started just as blogging as a communication platform was taking off. I'm not sure if this was the first firefighter blog but it was one of the first.

The traffic numbers have always been low, enough that I could look at the traffic logs and see where each visitor was coming from. Often I'd follow a link from a visitor to his or her area, investigate the referring site and then research the fire service in that area and post a blog on the local fire departments or points of interest.

Enough to keep an ageing retired firefighter occupied and frankly a very fun hobby.

Along the way I have kept up with the gizmo's, widgets and gadgets that make content richer and more appealing to the eye. Firefighter Blog has maintained the top search spot on Google, Yahoo and MSN Search for years now, not because the content is absolutely material but because of optimization techniques learned from running my search marketing business.

Some things I have learned recently have changed the way I view this blog a little. I have learned in order to get "hits" I have to blog an event just as it happens. Google loves fresh blog content. I have seen some of the posts from this blog on Google Blog Search within minutes of publishing. Google sends 90% of the traffic here. Yahoo! a little, ASK.com less than 1%, the rest is from referring sites that link to one of the posts. An example is a game forum site called DarkFall Online. They linked to one of the Greek Fires satellite posts and as a result sent hundreds of visitors here. Who knew, as much as my kids play online games I had never heard of that one.
Another is a news forum in Turkey that also referred hundreds of unique visitors.

An ego boost and possibly a glimpse of the future for this blog was when CNN.com and Washington Post referrals showed up on the logs. Both sites linked to Firefighter Blog from their front news pages for the keywords "Greek fires" or "Greece".

Firefighter Blog was listed under "Greece Blogs." (trust me it's there) The Washington Post was one of the first newspapers to give blogs a space and voice on their online pages. The New York Times has dabbled in the practice as well. Old media in general has been slow to embrace blogs as a resource but we see this changing.

Event blogging by locals is here.

Efforts by local blog coverage of the Angora Fire in Lake Tahoe and the Zaca Fire near Santa Barbara provide blueprints for event blogging. Local blogging of the Castle Rock Fire near Sun Valley Idaho (Sun Valley Online) is another superb example.

Numbers. The Angora Fire brought 4,500 visitors on the second day of the fire. Google picked up one of my posts with a fire map.
The Zaca Fire brought under 1,000 visitors a day on average.
The Greek Fires brought 9,000 clicks the second day of the fires. Google decided my satellite maps were worthy. Google also indexed Greek fires content from Firefighter Blog (mostly satellite images) in every European Google search engine.

In contrast to U.S. fires and local blog coverage there is very little blog coverage from Greece and what can be found has little to do with fires and much to do with blasting the government.

So where does the blog go from here? As far as making money from the little ads sprinkled here and there forget it, I disabled all ads. The day of the 9k visits one person clicked an ad and I netted .34 cents, a waste of space.
Ads may be displayed here on a CPM basis. The demo's excite some brands so I may sell a banner here and there in the future. The blog was never intended as a money maker but I'd like to be able to cover my Direct TV Football Sunday Ticket and a pizza or two from this blog.

I'll keep plugging on blogging larger incidents and firefighting items that interest me. If the site returns to the days of 5 to 30 visitors a day I'm OK with that.
In the meantime if anyone needs an incident blogger for their publication(s) drop me a line.
Mikeswebmail @ Gmail dot Com


August 29, 2007

Zaca Incident Firefighter Suffers Serious Leg Injury

The Zaca Fire, or Zaca Two Fire as it is being referred to is better than 95% contained but still incurring damage. The Santa Barbara Daily Sound covers the story of injured 20 year old Kern County Firefighter John Lee;

"A firefighter from Kern County sustained serious injuries after falling 30 feet while working on containment lines for the Zaca Fire in the Sisquoc River area on Sunday, fire officials said.
Josh Lee, 20, suffered an open compound fracture of his lower left leg, as well as other minor fractures, County Fire Spokesman Eli Iskow said.

“We hoisted him out with County Air Support Helicopter 309 with a rescue hoist and a county fire paramedic on board,” Iskow said. “He was flown to Cottage Hospital and he had his tibia pinned [Sunday] night.”
Lee, a first-year crew member with Democrat Crew 87 from Kern County, will remain under observation and treatment for his other injuries for the next few days, officials said."

View Larger Map

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Castle Rock Wildland Fire Remains a Threat

Take a look at the Castle Rock Fire perimeter map below and notice the unsecured line surrounding the Upper Board Ranch. I can't find any information on how many structures are in that area. Structure protection engines and crews may be doing battle before it's over. Some Ketchum area neighborhoods are being protected by private crews provided by AIG Insurance Co.

Fire Map from Inciweb

Here is a great Sun Valley Idaho area blog that offers a fantastic post with a fire timeline and photos.

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Castle Rock Fire ICP Tour.......What???

Wait, you say the Castle Rock Wildfire Incident Command would host a tour of the command post? Apparently Yes!

The event was postponed until the weekend.

Here is the notification that also includes the original text announcing the grand tour plans;

Can you believe this?

"Tonight's Castle Rock Command Post tour canceled

Tours will be staged this weekend

The Castle Rock Incident Command Post tour scheduled for tonight, Wednesday, August 29 has been canceled.
The public is invited to tour the Command Post located near River Run on Saturday, September 1 and Sunday, September 2. Tours will be conducted at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m., fire activity permitting.
Participants should meet at the Incident Command Post located at Highway 75 and Serenade Lane south of Ketchum. Follow the signs to the parking area and meeting location.

All tours will take 60 to 90 minutes.
Please wear comfortable shoes and be ready to walk on uneven surfaces. For more information, please call 622-7384."

Recall the thunderous applause that greeted Castle Rock Fire Commander Jeanne Pincha-Tulley as she entered the hall at a fire information meeting just the other day. Maybe this was a natural extension of the shared love, reciprocation for the heroesque welcome. You know, "come on by the camp, bring the kids and cameras, but oh wait, be sure to wear comfortable shoes and bring your appetite"!

Breaking: Firefighter Blog has been tipped to the probable menu for the Tour and Reception!

Menu selections to may offer a simple selection of appetizers including;

Pate` and Cracker Assortment
Duck Liver, Forest Mushroom and French Truffle Pates
are featured with a complete array of
Stone Creek Hearty Rye, Toasted Sesame, and Whole Grain Crackers.

Prosciutto Wrapped Melon Wedges
If there were two ingredients that were made for each other these
are them, fresh melon wedges are wrapped with thinly sliced
imported Italian prosciutto ham.

White Boudin with Honey Creole Mustard Dip
Fresh boudin sausage is grilled, then sliced into balls
and served with our honey creole mustard dip!

Featured dish!

Stuffed Grape Leaves
The Greeks yell, Opah! When they are excited and having a good time. (which they are not right now sadly)
Our stuffed grape leaves are made with currants,
dill weed and pine nuts.
Then drizzled with olive oil and fresh lemon juice. Opah! Opah!

Follow this down with a sampling of regional wines from Idaho's own Snake River wine region.

*A moment of silence followed with a tip of our wine glasses to the East aimed at our friends in Greece who actually had homes and villages burned to the ground, will be observed before the guided portion of the tour begins.

A word of caution: Please do not bother the people you see walking around with dirt and ash on their faces, hands, cloths and uncomfortable boots. We apologize in advance for their appearance. We tried to arrange this tour at a time when camp is at its quietest (when we like it best) but this is a working camp and interruptions by the camp inhabitants should be expected.
Again our apologies.

I bit my tongue hard the other day for a number of reasons and still am. Many of you who read this blog certainly have your own opinions on the underlying issues here. I don't need to spell them out.

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August 28, 2007

Greek Fires Video View

The human side of this Greek national tragedy may be the story of 2007. There is stressed emotion visible in every image from stills to video. The first video is raw footage from the fire front in Grilos. The second is a montage to music and the final video news based from yesterday 8/27.
(Warning: If you like bunny rabbits don't watch this video.)

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Greek Fires Satellite Images, Acreage 450k

64 confirmed dead, Over 450,000 acres scorched

Images from NASA-MODIS Rapidfire (below) seem to show less fire activity today than yesterday. This view only shows Southern Greece. Probably the best spot on the web to get world news round up of the tragedy is Google News. The best coverage of the Greek fires is coming from Europe, Asia, Canada and Australian news agencies.

From EUBusiness "(BRUSSELS) - Fires in Greece which have killed more than 60 people ravaged some 184,000 hectares of land late last week, according to data released Tuesday by the European Union's fire information service.

The damage, recorded from August 24 to 26, brought the total amount of land burnt in fire-prone Greece this year to 268,834 hectares (672,085 acres), the European Forest Fire Information System (EFFIS) said.

The European Commission said EFFIS data also showed that weather conditions in the southern peninsula of Peloponnese, the area worst hit since the fires started on Friday, were likely to improve in coming days...."

Image today August 28

Image from August 27

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August 27, 2007

Castle Rock Fire Lays Siege On Ketchum Idaho

UPDATE 8/28: Ketchum no longer threatend.
Incident Commander Jeanne Pincha-Tully is applauded wildly by appreciative residents of upscale Sun Valley during a community briefing. (biting my tongue hard right now)

Image and fire data from Inciweb.org

"The 41,901 acre Castle Rock fire is now 31 percent contained. Resources fighting this fire include 1,630 firefighters, 11 helicopters, 5 bulldozers, 45 hand crews and 110 engines. No lives or structures have been lost to this point.

The weather forecast today calls for partly cloudy skies, with slightly decreased temperatures, decreased wind speeds, and higher humidity. Variable winds in the morning will shift to the southwest in the afternoon. Winds will gust to 20 mph."

Significant events yesterday;

"The cold front that passed over the fire yesterday produced winds that channeled with the topography and caused the fire to make a significant run towards the east and north, immediately threatening 3 structures in the Greenhorn area. With structure protection already in place, and with the support of air resources, crews protected the structures with no damage. The fire reached the Seattle Lodge and Bald Mountain communications site with two different flame fronts. With structure protection already in place and with the support of air resources, the structures were protected with no fire damage. Crews contained a spot fire in the area of Hulen Meadows. The fire slopped over in the area of Norton Lake; crews continue to try and gain control. The slop over on the western perimeter was contained as crews continue to construct direct line north and south from Boyle Mountain."

With two fronts affected by the predicted wind shift today will be a challenge for the incident command team headed by Jeanne Pincha-Tulley.

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Greek Fires Pictures via Video Caps

With round the clock coverage of the national disaster some viewers in Greece are taking to the web to catalog the event. Have a look at this Flickr page for some amazing video captures including some that show suspected arsonists caught in the act.

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August 26, 2007

Satellite Images Of Fires In Greece


Satellite images from NASA-Modis Rapidfire indicate the fires in Southern Greece may be weakening.

Compare the images from August 26 to the image below.
(Click to enlarge)

Image from August 25, 2007

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Budget Contrasts California vs. Idaho

The Zaca Fire to date has consumed 240,000 acres and has cost taxpayers $100 million.

The Cascade Complex Fire has eaten 225,000 acres at a cost of $35 million.

Both fires are more than one month old with containment dates extending into September.

Both fires were mainly confined to Federal lands. Zaca in the Los Padres National Forest, San Rafael Wilderness and Dick Smith Wilderness, while the Cascade Complex burned Boise National Forest, Payette and Salmon-Challis National Forests.

At one point there were 3,200 firefighter and support personnel on the Zaca Fire. Total personnel on the Cascade Complex never exceeded 1,200.

Forty firefighters have been injured to date on the Zaca Fire while nine firefighter injuries have been reported on the Cascade Complex Fire.

If Fed heads ever get around to investigating this disparity their discussions might center on decisions made once the Zaca Fire entered the San Rafael Wilderness.

The results of those decisions was enormous, not the least of which nearly the whole of two national wilderness areas burned.

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Greek Fires Terror Related?

A sensational headline but a very real subject. The quote below is taken from Atlas Shrugs.

"The police, the armed forces and the Greek antiterrorism authorities have found arson devices in Greek forest areas which are triggered by mobile phones. Satellite images reveal that within a space of a single hour, many fires appeared in different locations of Greece. The plan was to make the fire brigade forces overstretch.

It is certainly a terrorist attack. George Karatzaferis, the leader of the right wing party, LAOS, called the day, ‘Greece's 9/11’.

Who did it is anyone’s guess. It could be Greek anarchists or radical groups of Greece’s northern neighbours which have claims on northern Greece. We should never forget that there will be general elections in Greece soon. Who might have an interest from an image of a weak and overstretched state mechanism?"

First indications are a 65 year old man and a couple of juveniles were arrested for setting a couple of the 100 fires were set. As the Greece Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis was quoted saying:

"So many fires breaking out simultaneously in so many parts of the country cannot be a coincidence"

I hope Homeland Security sends a team over to review what the Greek arson investigations reveal. California and much of the U.S. West is vulnerable to organized arson by determined terrorists. Does anyone know if we have a fire-terror response plan on the State or community level?

Some food for thought from idle chat forum from Cyprus.

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Greece Wildfires Assault Ancient Olympia

U.S. news coverage of this real life Greek tragedy has been stimulated now that the fires threaten the ancient ruins of Olympia. So far 51 people, including 3 firefighters have died in the blazes.
Olympia is home to 11,000 people, the historic ruins will survive any fire.

From PR-Inside.de

"The worst blazes _ 42 major fronts _ were concentrated in the southern mountains of the Peloponnese and on the island of Evia, north of Athens. Arson has been blamed in several cases, and seven people have been detained on suspicion of causing fires.
Another ancient site was under threat, with flames approaching the Temple of Apollo Epikourios, a 2,500-year-old monument near the town of Andritsaina in the southwestern Peloponnese, said the town's mayor, Tryphon Athanassopoulos. The blaze was about three kilometers (less than 2 miles) away.
«We are trying to save the Temple of Apollo, as well as Andritsaina itself,» he told Greek television.
A separate blaze had abated Sunday in Kalyvia, an area between Athens and the ancient site of Sounion to the south, while 42 fires in various parts of the country had been brought under control.
Nearly 1,000 soldiers, backed by military helicopters, reinforced firefighters stretched to the limit by Greece's worst summer of wildfires."

And this;

"The government, which has declared a nationwide state of emergency, announced Sunday it would offer up to ¤10,000 (US$13,615) to people who lost relatives or property."

This is the best image I could get from NASA's Rapidfire/Aeronet dated today 8/26.

This reminds me of the Kelowna B.C. fire of 2004 where the fire burned to the water.

The image above is a part of Kelowna going up in flames.

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August 25, 2007

Satellite Images of Greek Wildfires


UPDATE! Newer Satellite Images Here!

Map and Image from NOAA/OSEI Site

Note the fires burning in Albania and Italy

August 24, 2007
The image below (taken 8/25) is from a site that is normally home to an Athens Webcam. The fires have gripped the nation of Greece as the death toll surpasses 60. A family friend who pays for Greek TV feeds tells me the station is carrying 24 hour coverage of the fires.

From the news wires and related blogs:

"And new fronts emerged. Dozens of fresh fires broke out across the country — including some blamed on arson — with the worse infernos concentrated in the mountains of southern Greece.

By sea and by land, authorities evacuated hundreds of people trapped by the flames.

An extra 500 soldiers were to join firefighters on Sunday, the fire department said. At least 12 countries also pledged reinforcements, including firefighting aircraft and crews.

Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis said arson was suspected in some of the blazes.

“So many fires breaking out simultaneously in so many parts of the country cannot be a coincidence,” Karamanlis said in a nationally televised address. “The state will do everything it can to find those responsible and punish them.”

A 65-year-old man was arrested and charged with arson and multiple counts of homicide in a fire that killed six people in Areopolis, a town in the southern Peloponnese, said fire department spokesman Nikos Diamandis. Separately, two youths were arrested on suspicion of arson in the northern Greek city of Kavala, he said. Their parents were also to face charges, he said...More"

Blogosphere search results for Greek Fires


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Zaca Fire Busts $100 Million, 83% Containment

Firefighters are still working hard on the Zaca Fire, the second largest wildfire in California history. As the fire "winds down" weather continues to challenge ground and air crews.
Below is a wind prediction chart that shows unfavorable winds developing over the next 24 hours.

Image/Chart SCWHC

The fire perimeter map shows uncovered fire line on two fronts.

(Map from Inciweb)

Incident Statistics Inciweb.

Saturday, August 25, 2007 8:00 AM

  • Fire Status
  • Acres Burned: 238,968 acres
  • Acreage Increase (last 12 hours): 2732 acres
  • Fireline to Build: 6 miles
  • Date Started: July 4, 2007 at 10:53 am
  • Percent Contained: 83 percent
  • Expected Containment: September 7, 2007
  • Injuries: 40
  • Structures Threatened: 66
  • Structures Destroyed: 1 outbuilding
  • Cost to date: $101 million dollars

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170 Fires Devastate Peloponnese Region Of Greece

Free Republic describes the horror in the town of Zahero:

"Greek emergency workers continue to find the charred bodies of people burned to death by forest fires that are raging in the south of the country. Officials raised the death toll from the fires over the past two days to 44.

Searches of burnt cars, houses and fields were still turning up the remains of those who could not escape.

The Prime Minister, Kostas Karamanlis, called the situation "an unspeakable tragedy" and the government appealed to the EU for help. Greek newspapers are calling the southern Peloponnese region a "crematorium", says the BBC's Malcolm Brabant in Athens.
The fires have been moving so fast that people have been cut off before they could escape. With emergency services overstretched, desperate residents and local officials called television and radio stations to appeal for help.
Some of the worst fires are concentrated along an 80km (50 mile) stretch on the west coast of the Peloponnese to Mani in the very south of the peninsula. But others are burning across the country.

Two new fires broke out near Athens, forcing a road between the city and its airport to be closed

A monastery and homes were evacuated as flames closed in on the capital.
Arson was suspected in several cases, with 20 new fires starting during the night, a fire department spokesman said
All top football matches were postponed on the opening weekend of the season

France responded to Greece's appeal for help, sending two water-dropping planes, which were scheduled to arrive on Saturday afternoon, AFP reported Family found
At least nine people are reported to have burnt to death in their cars as they attempted to flee the flames near the town of Zahero, west of the Peloponnese.
The Associated Press reported that a car had crashed into a fire engine, causing a traffic jam from which people could not escape as the flames advanced.

Zahero seemed to be the centre of the disaster. Fire crews said they had found at least 30 bodies in villages near the town, as they searched burned out cars and houses. "It's a tragedy," an eyewitness told Greek television. "I can see the burnt bodies of a mother holding her child in her arms. Further away there are more bodies. It's terrible."

Fire officials confirmed that a mother and her four children had perished, as had three firefighters.

A local prefect close to the scene described it as horrific.
"The situation is extremely dire... The speed with which this fire has been spreading is astonishing," said the mayor of Zahero, Pantazis Chronopoulos.
Six deaths were confirmed in the seaside town of Areopolis in the Mani region of Greece's deep south. Hotels and several villages have been evacuated, fire officials said...."

Greece suffered from multiple wildfires in late July and were aided at that time by Russian firefighting aircraft and crews. In the video below the reporter describes how the Russian crews would help and that the crews would be stationed in Greece throughout the fire season. Presumably they are on scene now.

The BBC uploaded a remarkable video of the Fires in Greece on YouTube but provided no embed ability.


Wildfires Kill 44 In Greece, Including 3 Firefighters


View Larger Map

Reuters via Yahoo! news:

"Fire brigades were battling 87
forest fires around the country on Saturday, in "western Greece, the Peloponnese, the island of Evia and the Attica (Athens) region," fire department spokesman Ioannis Stamoulis said.

Soaring temperatures, hot winds, drought and arson have been blamed for the unusual number of forest fires this summer.

Worst hit was the Peloponnese, where dozens of villages have been evacuated while others remain cut off by the flames. Fires in the region stretched some 160 km (100 miles) from the Ionian Sea in the west to Mani in the peninsula's most southern part.

"My village is burning," a resident from Travlos in the Ilia region told Greek television. "There are about 500 people here. We have gathered water in buckets and are waiting for the flames to approach. There is nothing else we can do....."

".......I can hear the flames outside my door. There is no water anywhere, there is no help. We are alone," a resident from the village of Adritsaina told a Greek TV station by mobile phone.

Greece declared a state of emergency in the provinces of Lakonia, Messinia and Ilia - where electricity and phones were largely cut off - and called for urgent help from its European Union partners.

European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said he was "saddened by the tragic loss of human lives" and he hoped EU partners would "provide all the material support Greece needs in this moment of distress."

Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyanni said France was sending 4 Canadair planes, due on Saturday, and also 60 firefighters.

Germany had offered three helicopters and Norway one plane under a joint European firefighting program."

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August 22, 2007

80 Fire Initial Attack Requests DC-10 Tanker, Denied

I came across an interesting item on the "Initial Attack" forum thread on WildlandFire.com.

Members reported a new fire off Interstate 80 near the summit dubbed the "80 Fire."

As you follow the thread it is apparent the Incident Commander upon size up requested a "heavy" air tanker from dispatch. For whatever reason the request was denied. Posters believe the aircraft requested is Tanker 910 most recently on assignment on the Zaca Fire in Santa Barbara. The fire, reportedly now at under 100 acres and holding was initially deemed a threat to a housing development in Truckee, 1/2 mile ahead of the fire.

Not second guessing dispatch here, in fact the information is second hand and it would not be fair to say the IC actually requested the DC-10 Supertanker (T-910). In any case this says the following;
  1. Battalion level fire officers know the tanker exists and what it is capable of.
  2. There is no turning back on the project after the current contract ends.
  3. Opinion from the field will put pressure on Fed tightwads who killed the 747 Supertanker.
  4. Firefighters will be looking overhead for the "heavy" on incidents in the future.
I predict a day when there will be a half dozen DC-10 or 747 tanker conversions stationed around the Western States in years to come. There is no turning back.

More coverage on the "80 Fire" here.

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Ikhana, NASA's Image Drone Aids Firefighters

Ikhana is the name of NASA'a unmanned aircraft put in use last week on the Zaca Fire.

From NASA;

"A Predator B unmanned aircraft system has joined the inventory of research aircraft at NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center, Edwards, Calif. Built by General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc. of San Diego, NASA took possession of the aircraft during the fall of 2006. The aircraft has been given the Choctaw Nation name "Ikhana"(pronounced ee-kah-nah), which means intelligent.

Designed for long-endurance, high-altitude flight, Ikhana will be flown primarily on Earth science missions under the Earth Science Capability Demonstrations project at NASA Dryden. It will also be used for advanced aircraft systems research and technology development."

Images from NASA (links above and below)

NASA issued this press release and within claim;

""The images from the flight demonstrated that this technology has a future in helping us fight wild land fires," stated Zaca Incident Commander Mike Dietrich. "We could see little on the ground since the fire was generating a lot of smoke and burning in a very remote and inaccessible area. This technology captured images through the smoke and provided real time information on what the fire was doing," said Dietrich. NASA's Ikhana, a Predator B remotely piloted aircraft adapted for civil missions, is flying its first operational effort during a series of four or five missions over the western states. Its sensor payload is collecting detailed thermal-infrared imagery of wildfires and is demonstrating the ability of unmanned aircraft systems to collect data continuously for 12 to 24 hours. The second flight in the series, a mission that will take Ikhana over Idaho and last an estimated 20 hours, is scheduled for Thursday, Aug. 23."

It honestly beats me how Ikhana can house a camera any better than a human piloted aircraft. At least with a drone no pilot is in danger

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Zaca Commander Honored At "Outgoing" Reception

Legendary comedian Jonathan Winters, toasted outgoing Zaca Fire Commander Bill Molumby and his (timed out) 40 man team at an "outgoing reception" on the rooftop of the Santa Barbara's Hotel Adalucia.

Praise was heaped on the team by the grateful Monetcito residents in attendence.

"You are very special people and we appreciate you and what you have done for us here in Santa Barbara,” Winters said in a serious tone. And then, with his perfect comedic timing, Winters changed the mood. As he was presented with a “Team Two” cap, and honored as the first-ever celebrity Team Two honorary member, he deadpanned how he thought that appreciation might grow.

“I’ve been thinking of running for governor of California,” he said. “I’d win, you know, because I know how to pronounce ‘California.’” The audience roared with laughter and, as Winters departed, he left behind a room full of mutual admiration and genuine smiles — perfect souvenirs of our community’s appreciation!"

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Zaca Incident Winding Down

Text within the Zaca Fire incident 209 form this morning.

"Live Oak Zone: The fire is expected to have little active fire spread in all areas except unburned islands. Small pockets of heat expected to continue smoldering within the upper Caliente drainage. Active fire spread in the unburned islands in Santa Cruz drainage. Richardson Zone: West and North down Sisquoc River toward Sierra Madre Ridge. North to Dry Canyon, East to Hwy 33.

Live Oak Zone: Transferring out of unified command as the threat to Santa Barbara County has been mitigated. The fire has not progressed on the county jurisdiction and will be managed by the USFS. Richardson Zone: Block 16: Total zone mileage calculated at 70.1 miles. Contained zone mileage = 35.8 miles. A Precautionary Evacuation Order is in place for the area west of Hwy 33 from the Santa Barbara/Ventura Co. line south to Pine Mountain Inn. Road Closure in effect on Hwy 33; Closed to all traffic from Pine Mountain Summit to Ozena. All other areas are open to residents."

Estimated Costs
to Date
222,907 ACRES
Expected Containment

That containment date will be updated soon. Costs will exceed $100 million or more as rehabilitation costs are factored in over the coming months.

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August 21, 2007

Hwy33 Not Breached, Firefighters Prevail

This thing is about over folks. You have to credit the incident management teams, superb piloting, skilled firing teams and brave hand and engine crews. When the chips are finally counted there will be some great stories to tell about the battle of Hwy 33 on the night of August 20.

From Santa Barbara County Fire- Zaca Fire update.

"Monday the existing fire line held even though unfavorable winds caused discontinuation of back firing operations. Firefighters are continuing to hold the line at the Monte Arido Fuel Break and the Pendola Jeepway. The fire was smoldering and creeping within the Caliente drainage with little active fire spread yesterday and fortunately is expected to progress very little. Unburned islands of fuel continue to burnout in several of the drainages. In the Richardson Zone on Monday strong winds, high temperatures, and extremely low humidity, in combination with exceptionally dry, heavy fuels in alignment with the winds and slopes again produced intense fire behavior. Aggressive suppression action with air tankers, helicopters and ground forces is ongoing along Hwy 33. Fire fighters have completed their backfiring operations from the Pine Mountain Summit North to Ozena...."

Updated statistics from Inciweb.

This is pretty much the way the final Zaca Fire perimeter will look.
(Click to expand)

Acres Burned: 220,863 acres

Acreage Increase (last 12 hours): 5,171 acres

Date Started: July 4, 2007 at 10:53 am

Percent Contained: 77 percent

Expected Containment: September 7, 2007

Injuries: 39

Crews: 72

Engines: 139

Helicopters: 20

Air Tankers: 8

Air Attack: 3

Dozers: 55

Water Tenders: 80

Total Personnel Assigned: 3,162

Cost to Date: $ 87.5 million

Live Oak Zone: The fire is in a smoldering condition in Agua Caliente Canyon. A Direct attack with Crews and Dozers are continuing. Richardson Zone: A Precautionary Evacuation Order is in place for the area west of Hwy 33 from the Santa Barbara/Ventura Co. line south to Pine Mountain Inn. Road Closure in effect on Hwy 33; Closed to all traffic from Pine Mountain Summit to Ozena. All other areas are open to residents.

Current Wind Conditions 8 (g-16) mph NE


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Is Zaca Monster Finally Dying?

Wind projection graphs from SCWHC indicate wind will be favorable for firefighters and fire strategists. There will be 20 MPH winds blowing from the East and North at 2:00 pm that should push the fire away from Hwy 33 and back into the burn.

Later in the evening the winds flatten out providing firefighters a chance to firm existing lines. Provided the fire did not breach Hwy 33 overnight this wind forecast means the Eastern advance of the fire should be over.

The satellite loops last evening showed heavy smoke drift to the East and it will be interesting to read if firefighters had to chase spots. There is nothing to be found on Google News or Google Blog search and no such information has come from the incident command.

If Hwy 33 lines held overnight this fire is very close to done.

Zaca Fire -- Lat: 34° 46´ 45" Long: 120° 5´ 24"
(Left Center of Images)

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August 20, 2007

Tanker 910 Video From Zaca Fire Lines

Caught this on YouTube just now. If the firefighter who captured this amazing video wants to follow it with a story I would love to publish it here.

Tanker 910, (T-910) Wikipedia page.

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Zaca Fire From A Bird's Eye

Zaca Fire helicopter pilot Desiree Horton takes a moment before returning to 16 hour shifts to describe her activities as part of a combined assault on the mile wide flame front heading towards Hwy 33 on Friday the 17th;

"....A combined effort of the helicopters throwing fire from the dozer lines to burn towards the flame front, the water drops to stop the spots, and the ground guys who are the real heroes and in the most risky business of all slowed the fire that day. Every time a spot would cross over the line, guys on the ground would come in and attack the fire by hand, digging line around it and doing what they do down there. I even saw dozers run line right next to the spots, and these spots I’m talking are huge, taller than the dozer. I can only imagine the heat. While we flew next to the fire to throw psd balls down to stop it coming towards the line the heat was so intense even from the air. It was amazing to watch all of the ships but mostly those crews on the grounds with only their safety zones cut out by dozers to take shelter if the fire jumps the line and heads their way. The chills I experienced were from the satisfaction of getting into some risky areas and throwing fire to fight fire. It was truly amazing....." Continue reading at Desiree's Copter Chick blog.

Thank you Desiree, your unique perspective is an amazing contribution to the Zaca Fire story.

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Pivital Day For Zaca Fire Teams

These images come from the Southern California Wildland Fire Hazard Center. The maps show favorable (flat) winds this morning however winds will increase steadily throughout the day from the West pushing from 8 to 18 MPH.

August 20 9:00 am

August 20 5:00 pm
Fire Location; Lat: 34° 46´ 45" Long: 120° 5´ 24"
(Just above the two Channel Islands on the left side of the map)

Zaca Fire perimeter map from August 19. Source SBCFire.

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August 19, 2007

Zaca Fire Spots Over Hwy 33, Crews Chasing

*UPDATE: Corrected 0600 hr 8/20 Zaca Incident command from ICS-209.

" All other areas are open to residents. CORRECTION TO THE 8/19 #209 POSTED ON FAMWEB AT 1800 : FIRE HAS NOT MOVED TO THE EAST SIDE OF HWY 33 as stated in Block 33. "
(Revised acreage overnight grew to 214,725 acres)

The following data is taken from Incident 209 report and narrative from Santa Barbara County Fire.

199,588 ACRES
Projected Final Size:
236,578 !! (this will be revised)
Estimated Costs
to Date
% Contained
or MMA
75 Percent
to Date:
Growth Potential - Extreme
Difficulty of Terrain - Extreme

"Firing operations were proceeding well today along Pendola road and the Hildreth Jeepway but were suspended for safety's sake due to unfavorable winds, however firefighters held the existing fire line.
Spot fires have occurred on east side of Hwy 33 at Pine Mountain Ridge and aggressive suppression action with air tankers, helicopters and ground forces is ongoing. Firefighting conditions were very dangerous today in several areas. Strong winds, high temperatures, low, low humidity and the blazing hot sun all combined and increased the intensity of the fire as it pushed up slopes and canyons, especially when they aligned with the wind. Flame lengths again today exceed 100 ft. in spots, as the fire consumed the the thick bed of heavy brush.
In the Richardson Zone* the fire is still trying to push itself to the east and northwest. There are concerns that due to Fire Weather Watch and the possibility of a Red Flag Warning the Fire could grow significantly. Firing operations have kept the fire north of the Ogilvy Ranch road. In the Ventura Zone* firefighters are gaining access through private lands as they prepare contingency lines and will continue to improve the existing fuel breaks, safety zones and interconnect the existing fuel breaks as needed."

Smoke and ash is affecting people in Ridgecrest as discussed on Panamint Charlie and has entered Death Valley. Satellite images show the smoke approaching Las Vegas.
maybe Hurricane Dean will finally put the Zaca Fire out.

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Gov. Declares State Of Emergency For Ventura County

It's a safe bet Governor Schwarzenegger's office is getting the skinny on the Zaca Fire when others are finding it difficult to get the whole story. Inciweb.org has been down all day today so maps and "official" information is hard to come by.

Inciweb is a government operated website that act as a repository of information on large fires nationwide.

Incident commanders or their team members upload reports to Inciweb twice daily so the general public can better understand what is happening on the ground. When Inciweb goes down it's time to put the ear to the ground or start reading tea leaves.

Maybe the Governor's people read this quote by a fire official earlier today;

"It's growing, and it may become the granddaddy of them all before this is over with," Maeton Freel, a fire information officer with the U.S. Forest Service told the Ventura County Star." LATimes

I'm looking at satellite image loops and what I am seeing is a fire with three distinct heads on a clear path NE towards Kern County through Ventura County.

Run this Image Loop and see for yourself. I'm told most of the smoke plumes are the result of firing operations so I'll go with that until something else confirms my worst thoughts.

To appreciate the terrain confronting firefighters here is a photo of the Romero Canyon area in the general area where the fire is burning on the Southwest front of the Zaca.

Image credit SB-Outdoors.

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Zaca Fire Advances Into Ventura County

Firing operations from Highway 33--

Highway 33 between Wheeler Gorge and Ventucopa has been closed except to local traffic only.
"Beginning at 10:00 am on Sunday, August 19th , this section of Hwy 33 will be closed to all traffic, including residents. The closure is required to safely conduct a backfire operation planned along Highway 33 from the Pine Mountain Road to Ozena. Travelers on Hwy 33 will continue be impacted while firefighters conduct firing and suppression operations and to secure the firelines on the eastern perimeter of the fire...."

Full Zaca Fire discussion available Santa Barbara County Fire.

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August 18, 2007

Sundowners, Santa Barbara's Santa Ana's

One class from my fire academy days that stuck in my head through the years was unique California wind phenomena that included discussion of So Cal's. Santa Ana's, Chinook or East winds in the N/E part of the state and Sundowners in Santa Barbara.

The instructors showed the class a video of dozer operators being overrun when a sundowner developed without warning. I don't recall the fire name or the extent of injuries I only remember how fast the crews were overrun.

Not much has been made of the the potential of such an event (publicly) from the Zaca Fire base but surely they are aware of the potential and keeping a keen eye.

I found a site that explains the sundowner phenomenon and it's a fascinating read.

The paper points to a sundowner fire that occurred in October 1971 below Romero Saddle that burned into and through Romero Canyon -- just SE of where the Zaca is headed.
According to the paper the Romero Saddle is one of three wind gaps in the Sana Ynez Range that invite the downhill wind.

With the area being squeezed by low pressure forming North and SE, (note image from an earlier post today) sundowners and the potential for deadly wind intensifies.
Extended area forecast discussion found here.

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Zaca Control Line Map

The Zaca Incident Command posted this map to Inciweb last night. The massive head of the fire is less than 5 miles from the Ventura County line and approximately 15 miles from the outskirts of Ojai. Clicking the map enlarges details. Note the distance between the Richardson Fire Camp in the Cuyama Valley and the Live Oak Camp near Lake Cachuma.

(Credit: Zaca Fire GIS Section posted on Inciweb)

Weather won't be a help for a few days it seems. If you run the animated loop you'll see Ventura County is between two low pressure systems. Not good!

Weather Satellite

More animated satellite imagery here (press the animated link)

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Zaca Fire Claims Spot In California Fire History

The Zaca Fire has now climbed to number 5 (171,750 Acres) in the top 10 largest wildland fire list in California history surpassing the Matilija Fire that burned in the same general area in 1932. By the end of the day the Zaca Fire should be number 3 surpassing both the Laguna Fire and Marble Cone Fire (1977).

Next up then would be the Cedar Fire.

Devastating wildfires are nothing new to Santa Barbara County or Ventura County. Matilija, Day, Wheeler, now Zaca and another less publicized 1917 Matilija Canyon Fire that claimed the lives of residents near Ohai have occurred in the counties.

Great Fires in California History
  1. Great Fire of 1889, 800,000 acres.
  2. Cedar Fire 280,00 acres (15 fatalities 1 firefighter, 2,200+ structures)
  3. Marble-Cone Fire 178,000
  4. Laguna Fire 175,000 acres
  5. Zaca Fire 171,000+ (ongoing)
  6. Matilija Canyon Fire 163,000 acres (est.)
  7. Day Fire 162,000 acres
  8. Wheeler Fire 91,000 acres
  9. Old Fire 91,000 acres
Notable Fires
  • Sawtooth Complex 61,000 acres
  • Esperanza Fire 40,000 acres Memorial
By contrast the largest wildfires in modern day Oregon history are--

Year/Fire Name/Number of Acres Burned
  • 1848 Nestucca 290,000
  • 1848 Siletz 800,000
  • 1853 Yaquina 482,000
  • 1863 Silverton 988,000
  • 1868 Coos Bay 296,000
  • 1933 Tillamook 240,000
  • 1936 Bandon 143,000
  • 1939 Saddle Mountain1 90,000
  • 1945 Wilson River/Salmonberry 33,000
  • 1951 North Fork/Elkhorn 33,000
  • 1966 Oxbow 44,000
  • 1987 Silver 97,000
Source; Oregon.gov/fire

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Cascade Complex Command Post Fends Siege

Yesterday I noted the run on the Cascade Fire incident command post (ICP). Here is a series of images taken from the Cascade Complex pages at Inciweb.

Aerial view of the Cascade Complex incident base.

Activity as the fire approaches the camp
(Credit: Bill Paxton, Great Basin IMT1)

(Credit: Bill Paxton, Great Basin IMT1)

(Images credit: Bill Paxton, Great Basin IMT1 and IMT1 Team)

No damage to the ICP resulted from the run. No injuries reported.

*Regarding use of images. These images were posted without direct consent. This goes against this blog's policy regarding use of proprietary digital property. Permission for use of these images is pending. I decided to use these images in advance of permission to publicize the events occurring not only on this incident but over a widespread area of the Northwest.

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Cascade Complex Wilfire Tools In Action

Take a look at the Cascade Complex Fire header as the Skycrane lifts off.
(video shot Aug. 10)

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August 17, 2007

Cascade Complex Wildfire

This a fire to keep an eye on.

For updated information on the Cascade Complex Fire visit Inciweb. Check out some amazing images shot by Incident team members here.

Below is the raw incident data from 1830 hours yesterday;

From the Cascade Fire ICS- 209 form: (via email)

Major problems and concerns (control problems, social/political/economic concerns or impacts, etc.) Relate critical resources needs identified above to the Incident Action Plan.

The Monumental Fire has merged with the Sandy Fire and is showing growth into the Frank Church Wilderness to the south and east of the Sandy Fire. Consistently, during all operational periods, fires have exhibited very active to extreme fire behavior with plume dominated influences during extreme fire growth. Existing hot perimeters around Cascade ICP remains a concern. (my bold emphasis) Division M still poses a threat to the Warm Lake Residential Recreation Area. Due to extreme growth a defensive strategy is in place for multiple improvements ahead of both the Monumental/Sandy and North Fork Fires. Evacuations and new road closures are in effect and the Warm Lake Highway and South Fork Road remains closed. Evacuations in the Warm Lake area remain in effect.


Remarks: The significant increase in overall acres in yesterdays operational period is due to the merging of the Monumental Fire and Sandy Fire. IR priority is the Monumental/Sandy and North Fork Fires, particularly the north ends. IR has not been received for the Monument/Sandy fire east side where improvements are threatened. Monumental 72,759 ac 10% contained, North Fork Fire 36,779 ac 11% contained, Sandy Fire 18,082 ac 27% contained. Whiskey and Tyndall Fires have been consumed by the Monumental/Sandy Fire. Strong inversions continue to delay air operations on both the Monumental and North Fork fires.

Actions planned for next operational period:

Continued structure protection with contingency groups and engagement in defensive mode operations around ICP, Warm Lake, and north of Warm Lake Highway. Establish direct line south from Warm Lake Highway at Trail Creek over Kline Mt. to the NW corner of Warm Lake to protect structures at the west shore of Warm Lake and Kinney Point. Hold burnout along Forest Road 437 and 447 from the Sandy Fire perimeter to Landmark to keep the fire from spreading north in Johnson Creek and threatening additional structures in Johnson Creek. Protect Landmark Guard Station and Deadwood Outfitters. Check southerly spread west of the Deadwood River to mitigate future threats to Elk Creek Guard Station. Assess Pistol Creek Airstrip for protection needs."

Local media coverage of the fires' assault on the incident base.

127,620 ACRES
7: Start Date Time
07/17/2007 1700
% Contained
or MMA
16 Percent
Estimated Costs
to Date
to Date:
Expected Containment

Committed Resources:

*Note: NorthTree Fire Intl. is providing mobile mapping services on the Landmark Complex.*

A tour of the Landmark Fire, East Zone and Cascade Complexes can be downloaded at

Google Earth virtual tours of the 2007 Idaho Wildfires and more can be found at http://www.northtreefire.com/gis/virtual.php

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Smoke Blankets Montana

There are too many larger fires (over 500 acres) burning in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming to list individually here but check out the Morning Report for a full description of each incident.

One fact that stands out is the Zaca Fire has three times the fire personnel (2,800) of any other fire currently burning except one. The East Zone Complex in Idaho has already burned 162,000 acres with 10% containment and is manned by only 612 firefighters and support staff. The East Zone Complex fire has claimed 12 structures.

Cascade Complex has 1,100 firefighters working 120,000 acres. The Cascade Complex added 20,000 acres overnight and has claimed one structure. By contrast the 5,000 acre Tar Fire burning in grass range land in central California is 90% contained has over 1,000 Cal Fire firefighters mopping up the stubble.

(Sat. Image Rapidfire Gallery)

According to the NICC Morning report site this fire season will surpass acreage burned in the 2006 season (6.3 million) by the end of the weekend.
The ten year average is roughly 5 million acres.

There are currently 23,000 fire personnel assigned to 215 large fires nationwide. Including;
197 Helicopters
15 Air takers (?)
1,231 Five person fire engines
529 Twenty person fire crews
5,500 + Overhead

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August 16, 2007

Zaca Fire Maps & Satellite Photos

Back on July 27 the Zaca Fire was stalled in the 40,000 acre range as the head of the fire looked to be moving generally southward towards populated areas.

Note where they lost the fire on July 27, 28 to where we are today, 65,000 acres and almost three weeks later. It's easy to play keyboard quarterback but you have to ask why that was allowed to happen. A lot of prime Federal wilderness has gone up in smoke because of what might be considered tactical missteps.
Considering there has been an average of one firefighter injury per day on the Zaca it's fair to start questioning current policy for fighting fire in wilderness designated areas.

(Maps; Inciweb.org)

More Satellite images from NASA and associated government offices.
(click to enlarge photos)

Image taken on 8/14 credit RapidFire

Zaca Fire satellite image taken August 7

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Bee Columnist Jabs State On DC-10 Supertanker

The Sacramento Bee's veteran political columnist Dan Walters got it all wrong in his recent piece questioning the motivations behind the Cal Fire's contracting of the DC-10 Supertanker. He tries to draw a parallel to contracts for other aircraft made under the Davis administration to the Supertanker contract Governor Schwarzenegger signed earlier this year.

Walters employs old media tactics in his piece citing unknown and unnamed "rank and file firefighters";

"Some rank-and-file firefighters were dubious, as well, that a plane designed for level, high-altitude flight could perform the low-level maneuvers required of firefighting planes and dubbed it "Air Hummer," a jab at Schwarzenegger's favored mode of personal transport."

I doubt that but then again he can write what he likes, true or not. His readership will believe there are some "rank and file firefighters" running around questioning the need for such a tool true or not. Walters writes for the Sac Bee and is read by the hundreds of politicos in the capital city. A fair percentage of state level politicians read his word as fact and form opinion based on those slim facts.

These are the same people who fund Cal Fire.

Had Walters wanted to be fair he would have researched the issues surrounding the current state of firefighter aircraft nationwide. The Feds grounded the C-130 force due to a crash in 2002 and there are simply not enough (3,000 gallon capacity) P-3A/P-3B "Aerostar" Orion's to go around.

The decision by Governor Schwarzenegger and Cal Fire to sign the DC-10 Supertanker was made based on considerable testing and a dose of pragmatism. You can read CDF Director Ruben Grijalva's reasoning here.

The Chief sums up the Tanker 910 issue in his final sentence.

"The public safety, firefighter safety, and pilot safety issues, while not immediately measurable, may also be significant."

Nowhere in Dan Walters column was firefighter safety or any of the environmental (acreage saved) concerns mentioned.
Hopefully if the California Assembly or Senate ever debate this issue they read a little bit further than their favorite local columnist.

Tanker 910 Fact Sheet

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