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May 31, 2008

The State Of Incident Blogging

The first fire I ever followed in blog form was the Rodeo-Chedeski Fire in 2002.

A local woman, a Show Low Arizona web designer offered a running update of the fire based on information from a scanner and friends who phoned her with first hand updates. She may have been the first incident blogger. Her constant updates were picked up by the major newspapers in Arizona including the Arizona Republic in Phoenix and the Arizona Daily Star in Tucson. I followed her updates every waking hour of the day. I had a family member on the fire and wanted to know what he was up against.

A new form of reporting emergencies was born and it found an instant audience. Incident blogging then became the domain of individual bloggers posting links and maps of major wildfires. Pre-2007 it was easy pickings for bloggers. Blogs trumped the newspapers. By the time the newsrooms were filing their evening or morning feature their info was old news.

In 2007 newspaper media woke up to the fact readers wanted more than the once or twice daily article or feature dedicated to a local fire.
There are probably other examples but for me the bridge was crossed with coverage of the Angora Fire by The Tahoe Daily Tribune. They didn't call their updates a blog but it was a blog. It was a preview of things to come.

When the Witch and Harris Fires scorched San Diego last Fall area newspapers began blogging. Newspapers bring journalists, supporting IT staff, including photographers, videographers and editors to a story.
Another example is how the L.A. Times covered the Santiago Canyon and Big Bear fires last fall. Their fire coverage and fire blogging efforts are superior.

Fast forward to 2008 and the Summit Fire above Santa Cruz. The Mercury News hit their 'incident' blogging stride with coverage of the Summit Fire offering maps, photos, and interviews backed by good journalistic instinct.

Newspapers own the high ground of incident blogging now.

Individual bloggers are relegated to the niche stories surrounding these fires. Bloggers like me who follow major incidents still have an advantage of instant publishing. Breaking news is indexed quickly by Google, often within minutes. This is a small window where independent bloggers can beat the mainstream folks to the news. The initial attack phase of a major fire is the most interesting to me so I'll concentrate on that when I can.

Honestly the initial attack and the first 24 hours of a fire was the only part of firefighting that was really fun to me. Nothing compares with responding to the unknown, arriving on a running fire, self deploying on scene and kicking butt.
Few things in life compare to that kind of adrenaline rush.

Generally after the first day it becomes predictable as resources file in and an incident base takes shape. If you are a line officer or firefighter you are assigned to a division building line, running a crew, laying fire hose, mopping up or providing structure protection.
The incident command team pulls out maps and start plotting a course of action based on experience and fire science.

Unless you are in on the planning or assigned to an active division it can get monotonous in a hurry. The further away you get from the incident base the more more boring it gets. There are guys and gals that love to build hand line for days and miles but not me. Been there and done that.

Same with blogging fires. Once the initial attack phase has been concluded and potential for further property damage has been mitigated I'm generally done.

If I'm a Fast Attack Craft, then newspapers are an Aircraft Carrier with a full carrier group deployed in support on day two. Their big guns in the form of a half dozen or more reporters arrive and dispurse, combing the fire ground and incident base to paint a more complete picture.

As incident blogging evolves I expect to see more firefighters blogging from the scene. Mobile blogging allows this (i.e. Raleigh's blog), publishing photos and video to Flickr and video blogging via Youtube and the many Youtube clones have not been fully exploited. I don't know why this hasn't become popular considering most crews that are made up of smart, computer savvy young people.
The best new tool on the web for instant communication is Twitter. I would add/follow the "Twits" of any firefighter posting from a major incident.

As this summer progresses I intend to blog fires as they break and until the initial threat has diminished. Once major media establishes their incident blogs I'll link to them while looking deeper for local blogger perspective and firsthand firefighter accounting's.
I'm not done here, just being flexible as times dictate.


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May 26, 2008

No Memorial Day Doodle From Google

Loren Baker from Search Engine Journal points out that Google passed on honoring Memorial Day with one of their clever holiday doodles.

Shame really, you would hope they would honor our fallen considering they found it in their hearts to honor these "all important" days..........................

Persian New Year Day March 20, 2008

.....and 125th Birthday of Walter Gropius - May 18, 2008
Talk about ridiculous!

Hey Google, a little love for the guys and gals that served and died in defense of our freedoms.

Here is an easy one!

Just a link would have been fine!

Arlington National Cemetary

ANWR; We Need To Drill NOW


Everyone I know over 40 believes we should be tapping oil resources in ANWR so this post is directed at the genx, millennials and third graders who stumble onto this blog.

Where is Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR)?

Barrow Alaska (image ANWR.org)

The people in Barrow and the rest of Alaska support drilling in ANWR 3 to 1 according to the pro-drilling site ANWR.org. Lots of good reading there and much more here.

I paid $4.25 a gallon to fill my car last week. I drove for take out yesterday and chose the closest option rather than the restaurant I preferred a few miles down the road as a protest.

The food at the restaurant is more expensive today than it was last month. It costs more for beef, rice and the noodles to be delivered to the restaurant so the restaurateur has to pass it on. Eventually her business will be affected as her customers stay home instead of burning gas to pay for her high priced food.

She will have to lay off staff, busboys first, then wait staff. Her rent won't go down because the strip mall owner faces the prospect of losing all his tenants, he's holding on too.

Where is your psychological breaking point on a gallon of gas? $5.00, $6.00, have you thought about it? At what price do you begin reallocating discretionary household funds. You Genx and Millennial folks generally don't cook so at what price do you begin rethinking your Starbucks and Burger King budget?

Empty strip malls.

So what you may say but the strip mall is the heart and soul of small retail business in America. These are the small businesses Walmart could not kill, restaurants, laundry, specialty gift, flower shops etc.

They are the canary in the coal mine. As they go, so go we.

What does this have to do with ANWR?

Once we decide to drill a positive chain of events will unfold almost immediately.

Oil futures will fall as traders bail, reversing long positions in favor of a hedge. OPEC, who are not the enemy by the way, will convene and plot a new course. The prospect of being reduced to selling oil to China, India and a miserly (greening) Europe scares them. India and China subsidize their growing oil demand. The Saudi's and the OPEC nations worst nightmare is to be stuck selling their oil to countries that bargain.

Watch how fast oil drops below $90 a barrel once our intentions to drill in ANWR is announced.
ANWR's oil as I see it is a gigantic bargaining chip. It's also a bridge that will deliver us to the next energy source. I suggest that that the 30 year supply in ANWR will never be fully exhausted. Within that 30 years we will be driving battery or hydrogen powered vehicles.

In the meantime we can't allow ourselves to be beaten down by foreign suppliers. I mentioned above that they are not our enemies. They are businessmen. They have the goods and we buy their goods. If we are too stupid to get in the business ourselves then we can't blame them for making bank.

Let's not forget what they will never forget. Before oil reserves were discovered in the Arabian Gulf region the world treated Gulf residents as ugly stepchildren. The tables turned, call it Karma, I call it poor planning on our part, but they hold the goods and could care less whether you or I cancel our summer trip to Lake Tahoe or Mt. Rushmore.

We need to grow up about Alaska oil. The caribou will be just fine. Those that shed a tear for caribou and the other critters of the tundra should know hunting is allowed on the refuge. What? Bet the armchair environmentalists didn't realize that. The horror!

Let's start the drilling and wake up to the fact our economy, lifestyle and national security are impacted by not doing so.



May 25, 2008

Memorial Day: God Bless America


Country Rides

Where We Play

What We Grow

How We Roll

Why We Can!

May 23, 2008

Summit Fire Response, Be Proud California


The morning report from the Summit Fire Incident Command points to limited perimeter growth as winds abate and fire crews establish lines and begin mop up operations.

Watching this event from a distance it was easy to guess this fire would impose a deeper scar. I am amazed and impressed by the response of CalFire (CDF) and supporting municipalities including volunteers.

It didn't hurt that CalFire has engines at the ready in the Santa Cruz area. From Swanton to Felton, Morgan Hill to Smith Creek, Calfire has dozens of manned engine crews that are within an hour from Loma Prieta.

CalFire operates an air base in Hollister, a quick 5 minute flight over Gilroy and the Hecker Pass to the fire lines.
Copter 504 is based at Lexington Reservoir, less than 10 miles from the area of the Summit Fire.

When I was a Fire Crew Supervisor working out of Ben Lomond Youth Conservation Camp we had a crew working year round on the Loma Prieta fuel break. CalFire has the Santa Cruz Mountains surrounded.

Residents of rural California have little idea how well protected they are. The State of California has the best trained, most dedicated and professional wildland fire protection service in the world situated to respond to emergencies.

This has never been more evident than the quick action we saw yesterday.

Makes me proud to say I once worked for them.

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Summit Fire Should Peak at 7,000 Acres

Information from the Incident 209 Report filed 1800 hrs yesterday.

Total Personnel Assigned (as of 1800 hrs 5/22)

Size/Area Involved
3,000 ACRES
% Contained or MMA
15 Percent

"Today's observed fire behavior (leave blank for non-fire events):
Extreme fire behavior was influenced by an abnormal weather phenomena for this area. Strong, dry winds contributed to rapid fire growth in an area that usually has a very strong coastal/humid influence. Potential for 5000-7000 acres before containment.

Major problems and concerns (control problems, social/political/economic concerns or impacts, etc.) Relate critical resources needs identified above to the Incident Action Plan.
Evacuations of all residents in the area of Eureka Canyon Road area and Ormsby Cutoff Road,Lower Hiland area which includes Buzard, Lagoon,Vaca De Sol area which are all in Santa Cruz County, Summit Road. Steep terrain, heavy thick dead fuels. Strong winds are making it very difficult to get crews ahead of the fire. Fire continues to spot across Eureka Canyon Road.

For fire incidents, describe resistance to control in terms of:
Growth Potential - Extreme
Difficulty of Terrain - Extreme

Fire is currently burning with extreme rate of spread in heavy fuels. Evacuations are currently in progress through the reverse 911 system. Cal Fire Incident Command Team 4 will transition tonight at 2000 Hrs. Potential for 5000-7000 acres.

Forecasted Weather for next Operational Period
Wind Speed (mph): 37 Temperature: 50-75
Wind Direction: N N/E Relative Humidity: 20

Fuels/Materials Involved: 2 Timber (grass and understory)
Timber and brush

Cooperating and Assisting Agencies Not Listed Above:
Cal Fire, County, OES, CHP, Sheriff

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May 22, 2008

Summit Fire Map

The map link was submitted in the comment section in one of my earlier posts. Thanks Bob!

View Larger Map

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Summit Fire; Links, Satellite Image, Web Cam, Map


Summit Fire Taking Out Structures & Acreage

The combination timber/brush fire has burned close to 2,000 acres in addition to numerous structures and vehicles as it tracks South towards the town of Corralitos.

Fire area weather calls for sustained wind gusts 15 to 20 mph through the daylight hours.

One news channel mentioned the town of Corralitos is being prepped for evacuation but I have not seen anything official.

Wouldn't be a bad idea to pack up a few items if you live in the path of this one.

This fire has the potential to plant a scar on the area for some time to come. I would not be surprised to see 100 plus structures touched before containment.

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SUMMIT FIRE: Evacuations In Santa Cruz County

A wind driven timber fire in Santa Cruz County California has consumed 1000 acres so far. The fire was reported just before dawn today and is being pushed by onshore winds.

WildlandFire.com has a running thread on the progress of the fire.

Local news streaming video of the Summit Fire.
More video coverage here.

The fire is headed in the direction of Corralitos

Structures have been lost, more to come.

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May 20, 2008

Google Responds To Quake With Tech Aid


In what may be the first large scale response by a tech company to a natural disaster, Google has jumped to the aid of the Chinese government and people in the wake of the massive Sichuan Quake.

China based Shanghaiist Blog offers this summary of the Google quake response;

"With over 30,000 dead, another tens of thousands missing, and 200,000 injured, coupled with a broken down mobile/land line and transportation system, many people are on a frantic search for each other, and Google mobilised 100 of its employees to help create a custom search engine entirely dedicated to helping people find their friends and loved ones. Other nifty tools found on this feature-rich page include Google Maps integrated with the latest earthquake and relief......"

Well done Google.

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May 14, 2008

China Quake; Entire Cities Flattened

China Earthquake Video- Links

More earthquake video on Todou.com.

Take your pick of the various China Earthquake Relief Funds.

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May 13, 2008

Firebugs Working Florida, 100 Homes in Flames

More than 100 homes have burned as fast racing blazes leapfrog over dry ground helped by strong winds off the Atlantic Coast.

Firefighters are stretched. An example is this snippet of information from the Incident Status Report for the Osage Fire near Babock in Brevard County.

Reported 1800 hrs 5/12--


Observed Weather for Current Operational Period
Peak Gusts (mph): 19 Max. Temperature: 87
Wind Direction: W Min. Relative Humidity: 19

The Osage Fire had consumed 5 homes at the time of the report.

List of fires currently burning in Florida-

NEW Osage (Florida Department of Forestry): 1,900 acres at zero percent contained. This fire is located four miles southwest of Malabar. Structures are threatened and Interstate 95 is closed.

NEW LPGA (Florida Department of Forestry): 1,000 acres at zero percent contained. This fire is six miles west of Dayton Beach. Structures are threatened and smoke is impacting Interstate 95.
Grassy Island (Florida Department of Forestry): 5,600 acres at 50 percent contained. This fire is burning three miles north of Clewiston.

Tyler (Florida Department of Forestry): 900 acres at 80 percent contained. This fire is burning seven miles west of Newberry.

Myakka Cut (Florida Department of Forestry): 3,000 acres at 50 percent contained. This fire is burning five miles east of Clewiston.



May 12, 2008

China Quake Video From The Ground


Tudou, China's version of Youtube offers video from the ground. Most of the videos you see here have not made it to the major media outlets yet!


Immense Sadness In China Quake Aftermath


Quick facts

  • 7.9 Magnitude Earthquake
  • Sechuan Province, China
  • Intitial Reports of Dead, 9,000
  • 900 Middle School Children Trapped
  • 80% of Buildings in Beichuan County Leveled
  • 5,000 Feared Dead in Beichuan County
  • 2,300 Cell Phone Towers Down
  • Ammonia Factory Damaged Releasing 80 Tons

May 11, 2008

Dubai Fire; When Money is No Object

I admit a fascination with Dubai. Over the top architecture, man made island cities and a place where Chevy Corvettes arrive at an emergency scenes before fire suppression apparatus.

Yes it's true and you can read about it here, where you will also read about the fleet of Hummers they operate;

"Brigadier Rashid Thani Al Matroushi, Director of Dubai Civil Defence, said the civil defence will soon start using a customised Corvette car to attend to fires quickly, to prevent them spreading.He said the car is a small, light and fast car which can beat traffic and contains highly-effective firefighting and prevention systems in addition to rescue equipment in cases where people are trapped in cars.Equipment in the car includes a portable fire extinguisher, hydraulic equipment, firefighting equipment and first aid equipment.Brigadier Al Matroushi who suggested the idea of developing a sports car and followed up its development daily, said one of the reasons behind a fire getting worse was the distance between civil defence centres and accident locations."

...and they have numerous of each!

The rationale is superb. A couple of first responders race to the scene to size up or initiate a rescue. Think about it, how many times have you arrived at a fire scene and thought if only you were a few minutes faster?

Fire service in Dubai is facilitated by the Dubai Civil Defence, under the Ministry of Interior. The DCB website reveals a surprising few fire stations (8) for a city of almost 1.5 million with a projected annual growth rate of 6%.

Dubai World, (the offshore island city) and other water front properties have their own emergency and fire service, Dubai World Fire Department who also work closely with Dubai Civil Defence under a mutual aid arrangement.

Bloggers in Dubai describe a city with a fair share of major fires and vehicle fires as a result of collisions. Dubai Thoughts blog notes the prevalence of vehicle fires as a result of collision and reports the government is investigating the anomaly.

The city suffers tragedy like every other major city. The Oz expatriate authors of Dubai Thoughts blog offered a heroes tribute to two fallen firefighters.

Gulf News reports;

"Dubai: Two firefighters, including an Emirati officer, died while battling a fire that broke out in a building under construction at Palm Jumeirah on Friday, Gulf News has learnt.

According to official sources, the firefighters died of asphyxia and their bodies were recovered from the gutted building early on Saturday. Thick smoke engulfed the seven-storey building and hampered the search for the bodies till the morning, officials said."


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