ember zone waldo

Five Areas with Higher Wildfire Risk Than You Might Think

RedZone has highlighted five lesser-known areas where homeowners have increased wildfire risk

  1. Mid-slope areas
  2. Areas Adjacent to Wildland Fuels
  3. In the Ember Zone
  4. In Urban Canyons
  5. Proximity to Highway Grade

Mid-Slope

Mid-slope is an area commonly thought of as midway up a hillside, in this case, were using in terms of how it’s viewed in a wildfire-prone area. Homes are built and bought in these areas which are one of the least safe places to be during a wildfire. Typically, wildfires burn up a slope faster and more intensely than along flat ground. The steeper the slope the longer the flame lengths and faster-moving the fire.  Any slope can potentially increase the amount of heat a structure will be subject to during a wildfire, enhancing wildfire risk.

Not only is a home in this area more at risk, fire-fighting operations there are increasingly dangerous as well. Just one example from a few years ago, a mid-slope fatality is now a lesson learned from the Coal Canyon Fire in Fall River County, South Dakota. Essentially, firefighting orders will not allow for crews to work mid-slope assignments above a fire without large defensible space or a barrier/structure. Due to the adherent wildfire risk, both Fire Prevention Divisions and Underwriting guidelines suggest an aggressive vegetation modification and maintenance plan if the home or business is located mid-slope or at the top of a steep slope. The insured must also be aware of building materials used, especially if the structure is set back less than 15 feet.

mid-slope home is a wildfire risk

A worrisome home built along a mid-slope road near Lake Elsinore, CA


Adjacent to Wildland Fuels

It is well known that neighborhoods in or bordering the Wildland Urban Interface (WUI), have a greater risk for impact by wildfire. In depth studies have learned that within those neighborhoods, homes on the outskirts have a higher risk than those located more interior. One of the main reasons why homes bordering the natural vegetation are at a higher risk of ignition is the lack of any buffer between the structure and the surrounding vegetation. These homes are located in extremely close proximity to the natural vegetation of the surrounding area and, thus, vulnerable to more direct flame impingement. This effect is exacerbated if the individual property owner has not taken the time to prepare his or her land for the occurrence of a wildland fire threatening their property.

Conversely, homes within the development have defensive barriers surrounding them. The inner structures have roads separating them from the structures bordering the surrounding natural vegetation and topography. These interior homes also are more likely to have moisture-rich vegetation such as, lawns, gardens, and manicured brush, making for more difficult sources of ember ignition.

The Sage Fire, near Simi Valley, CA is a good example of the homes located on the outskirts of these neighborhoods being at higher risk than the ones located within. As the fire made a push upslope to the ridgeline, it also spread out following property barriers on the outskirts of the neighborhood. The homes bordering the flame front were at a very high risk of the fire finding an ignition source to endanger it. Homes deeper into the neighborhood were less vulnerable because of the barriers aforementioned and those provided by the outlying homes. In the case of the Sage fire, no homes were impacted due to a small fire break in the vegetation immediately bumping the properties.

sage fire map wildfire risk

2016 Sage Fire burned between dense neighborhoods in Simi Valley, CA


In the Ember Zone

The “Ember Zone” can be defined as the area that could potentially have ember fall out due to a fire burning in the near vicinity. This zone can be up to a mile away from an active wildfire, depending on the size of the fire and wind speed. These embers are thrown from the fire and carried by the wind in the direction that it is blowing. If embers are hot enough and land in a receptive fuel bed, this can lead to an ignition of a spot fire ahead of the active fires edge. Spot fires caused by embers pose a threat because they sometimes go unnoticed for an extended period of time by fire personnel. This is especially the case when spot fires ignite at a distance away from the head of the fire.  The longer the new start has to become established, the harder it is for firefighters to respond effectively to save structures in the path of the newly ignited spot fire.

Another way the Ember Zone can pose a threat to a homeowner would be the process of the embers being blown into uncovered vents on the home, or an ignition source located near or inside the home, resulting in a fire starting in the structure itself. An example of how the Ember Zone proved catastrophic is in the Waldo Canyon Fire near Colorado Springs, Colorado. This fire experienced a drastic wind shift during the second operational period. This wind shift threw embers upwards of half a mile in the direction of the structures located in Colorado Springs. 346 homes were lost in the tragic fire of 2012, some of these were a direct result of ember fall out. Others were lost because of their direct contact with the active fires edge.

waldo 2013 wildfire risk

Embers contributed to many of the 346 homes lost on the Waldo Canyon Fire in 2013 in Colorado Springs, CO


In Urban Canyons

San Diego is known for its mix of wild canyons in between urban, even historic, developed neighborhoods. Most canyons have homes butting up adjacent to the canyon walls, due to San Diego’s unique mesa and valley/canyon landscape. These canyons offer convenient hiking trails and a natural landscape that is unique in an urban environment.  They also provide heavy fuels, steep slopes, and human activity that lead to dangerous fires that often threaten homes. A relatively small wildfire can threaten many homes in these environments.

Examples of wildfires starting in urban canyons:
  • Poinsettia Fire – Destroyed 22 homes and burned 400 acres. Fire started on a golf course and rapidly spread up the canyon.
  • City Heights Fire – Less than 2 acres, but came within a few feet of homes within an hour of a fire being reported.
  • Manzanita Canyon – Several instances of homeless cooking fires getting out of control in the canyon.
urban canyon brings wildfire risk

Homes with little to no defensible space in a San Diego Urban Canyon


Proximity to Highway Grade

If you are considering buying a home near a highway grade, you may get a nice view but could also be at higher risk for wildfires. Steep highway grades add additional complexity and stress on vehicles. Traffic collisions, mechanical failure, electrical issues, and fuel system malfunctions can cause vehicle fires that can extend to vegetation as well. According to the National Fire Protection Association, there is an average of 152,000 vehicle fires per year in the United States. Poorly maintained vehicles, put under stress while climbing up or braking down grades, can break down. As the driver pulls over to the shoulder or off the road entirely, catalytic converters, brakes, dragging exhaust parts, or cigarette butts can ignite dry grasses along a highway. Also, improperly loaded trailers can drag chains; creating sparks that can ignite grasses as the vehicle passes by unknowingly. All of these things can happen at any point along a highway, but the added stress and heat generated by steep grades increases the likelihood of a fire starting and therefore wildfire risk.

Examples of large wildfires starting on major highways:
  • Blue Cut – Highway 15 along the Cajon Pass. Destroyed 105 homes and burned over 36,000 acres.
  • Springs Fire – Highway 101 along the Conejo Grade. Caused by an undetermined roadside ignition. Fire burned 15 homes but threatened 4,000 and burned 24,000 acres.  The fire burned until it hit the coast.
  • Grade Fire – Ridgewood Grade on Highway 101. Caused by a vehicle fire spreading to grass. Burned 900 acres.

SOURCES:

http://www.fire.ca.gov/fire_protection/downloads/redsheet/Jesusita/JesusitaReviewReport.pdf

http://www.firehouse.com/article/10469914/which-factor-is-present-in-most-wildland-firefighting-fatalities-and-burnovers

https://apps.usfa.fema.gov/firefighter-fatalities/fatalityData/detail?fatalityId=3935

http://www.firesafemarin.org/topography

http://www.readyforwildfire.org/Vehicle-Use/

http://www.nfpa.org/public-education/by-topic/property-type-and-vehicles/vehicles

http://nvlpubs.nist.gov/nistpubs/TechnicalNotes/NIST.TN.1910.pdf

https://books.google.com/survivingwildfire

hurricane harvey spins in gulf

Hurricanes Harvey and Irma batter Southern US

Hurricane Harvey (August 26-31st)

On August 17th,  the National Hurricane Center identified Tropical Storm (TS) Harvey just before it passed through the Lesser Antilles, the islands that form the eastern boundary of the Caribbean Sea with the Atlantic Ocean. Over the next two days TS Harvey moved swiftly to the west into the Caribbean under the influence of an expansive ridge of high pressure but the storm began to rapidly lose energy on the 19th of August and was subsequently downgraded to a tropical depression (TD). As TD Harvey moved from the northwestern Caribbean Sea into the Gulf of Mexico over the next four days it gained strength and was upgraded again to a Tropical Storm (TS). By the 24th of August TS Harvey had rapidly intensified in the Gulf of Mexico and was upgraded to a Category 3 Hurricane. Hurricane Harvey made landfall in the early morning of 26 August in Rockport, Texas as a Category 4 Hurricane with a reported 130 mph maximum sustained winds. Harvey’s center of circulation stalled over South Texas for four days dumping 40 and even 50 inches of rain in the Houston and Beaumont areas. The storm moved slowly east back into the Gulf of Mexico before making a final landfall near Cameron, Louisiana, on August 30th and finally dissipating to the north in the days following.

Harvey’s slow movement from 26-30 August resulted in catastrophic flooding in southeast Texas. Numerous flash flood emergencies were issued for the Houston and Beaumont metropolitan areas as well as Bastrop County and nearby communities. Wind gusts from Harvey exceeded 100 mph in many locations, leading to widespread destruction of homes and buildings. Thousands of homes were affected by Harvey, including over 9,000 that were completely destroyed and more than 185,000 that sustained damage according to the Texas Department of Public Safety. Close to 700 businesses were also reported as damaged. Throughout Texas, more than 300,000 people were left without electricity and as of September 6th, at least 70 deaths have been confirmed as a result of Hurricane Harvey.

Additional Info:

NHC NOAA Harvey Event History

Fox News Harvey Article

 

harvey gif

Hurricane Harvey hangs over coastal Texas from August 23rd to September 1st


Hurricane Irma (September 3-11th)

Hurricane Irma reached the United States Sunday Morning, making landfall in the Lower Florida Keys as a Category 4 Hurricane. A few hours later, Category 3, it made landfall a second time just south of Naples, FL on the Southeast coast of Florida. Due to the extreme size and major hurricane status, most of Southern Florida was warned to evacuate ahead of the storm late last week. Upon landfall, extreme winds battered both southern coasts as wind speeds were recorded at 142 mph in Naples and 99 mph in Miami Beach. Storm Surge from the large powerful storm was reported in many places near ten feet along both coasts affected. On Monday, Irma brought heavy rain and wind through the northern Florida city of Jacksonville where 350 people were rescued from the flooding. Irma also pummeled the Charleston area on Monday with over 8 inches of rain and a nearly 10-foot storm surge. The past 48 hours, evacuated Floridians are again dealing with bumper-to-bumper traffic heading home to face monumental cleanups throughout the state.

Wednesday the 13th, the storm has finally completely broken up, and the National Hurricane Center has stopped updating their reports on the storm. In the wake of the storm, President Donald Trump announced this afternoon that he is set to travel to Florida on Thursday. Moody’s estimates Irma caused $83 billion in damage and 77 deaths have been attributed to the storm. Florida utilities have made good progress in restoring power to communities, as 60% of power has been restored, but 4.6 million people are still without power. It could be months before power is restored to some of the islands that were devastated by the storm.

Florida Keys:

The Florida Keys were the hardest hit and today is the first day that the roads were cleared for people to return to their homes for most of the keys. All 42 bridges along US 1 have been inspected and cleared by the Florida Department of Transportation. 80% of the roads across the keys are cleared. Power is restored to 30% of residents, but over 300 major power lines remain downed. Unofficial estimates from FEMA, according to an ABC News report, state that 25% of homes in the keys were destroyed and 90% had damage of some kind. Big Pine Key and Cudjo Key were hit the hardest, as the storm was still a category 4 when it hit them. Few people have returned to those keys, and most utility services are still unavailable. Fuel remains an issue, especially in the areas without power. Most hospitals remain closed, but some with power or backup power have reopened their emergency rooms. Key West was initially thought to have suffered heavy damage, but once people started returning and assessing the damage, most structures were not impacted, just lots of debris and downed trees.

Additional Info:

NHC NOAA Irma Event History

ABC Irma Update

irma gif

Hurricane Irma moves into and through the Caribbean from Sep 3rd through the 11th

Sources:

National Hurricane Center, NOAA, NASA Worldview

http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/nationworld/ct-hurricane-harvey-flooding-houston-20170829-story.html
https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/aug/26/texas-cities-catastrophic-flooding-hurricane-harvey
https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/sep/01/hurricane-harvey-death-toll-rises-houston-residents-return
https://weather.com/storms/hurricane/news/tropical-storm-harvey-forecast-texas-louisiana-arkansas
http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/archive/2017/al09/al092017.update.08241656.shtml

helo wildfire

Wildfire 101: Modern Warning Systems

In the United States, effective systems are in place to help us plan for, respond to, evacuate from, and cope with dangerous and difficult emergency events.  Traditionally in the late twentieth century, mass media (television and radio) were relied upon to inform the general public of impending or ongoing dangerous situations. Previously, older technology like sirens were utilized for warning of impending situations, especially severe weather. While all are still prevalent today, much of the public were left uniformed if not within nearby proximity to one of these alert platforms. Today we have many more options at our disposal.

Modern Warning Systems

In June 2006, following criticism over the government’s response to Hurricane Katrina, President George W. Bush signed Executive Order 13407, ordering the Secretary of Homeland Security to establish a new program to integrate and modernize the nation’s existing population warning systems. Installment began on a nationwide system now known as the Integrated Public Alert and Warning System, or IPAWS.  IPAWS is an alert and warning infrastructure that allows Federal, State, and local authorities to alert and warn the public about serious emergencies using the Emergency Alert System (EAS), Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA), and other public alerting systems from a single interface.

EAS is used to send emergency messages through cable, broadcast, and satellite television, as well as landline phone recordings. WEA refers to messages, similar to text messages, which appear as a notification to your mobile phone. They are sent by an authorized government authority through your mobile provider. Registration is not required for the national alerts through IPAWS, but a compatible phone and provider are required. The message contains information such as the type of alert, the time of the alert, the issuing agency, and any steps the recipient should take. The types of alerts include AMBER alerts for child abductions, extreme weather alerts, Presidential alerts during a national emergency, or other threatening emergencies in your area. Who receives the alerts is based on connectivity to the affected area’s cellular towers, so the alert is determined by the current location of the cellular device and not the address of the wireless phone owner. Of course, the benefit of this is if you are away from home and an emergency occurs in the area you are visiting, you will still receive the alert through the local cellular tower.

Reverse 911 sends a warning to the public of emergency situations

Reverse 911 is widely used for local emergency situations to be broadcast to email, home, and mobile phones

Other Alert Systems

Many local government agencies have additional alert services that offer greater detail to local emergencies through recorded messages, text alerts, or emails. In order to take full advantage, make sure to check local emergency services options (such as Reverse 911). Often, a registration process is required before you will receive the alerts. Similarly, other modern alert systems allow for notifications of other local emergency situations that also could prompt action.  A few examples:

  • PulsePoint is a mobile application which connects the local dispatch system with CPR-trained bystanders (and the location of the closest AED) regarding a nearby cardiac emergency event… effectively enabling “citizen superheroes.”
  • Google’s ‘Waze’ mobile app is a social-mapping-based means of reporting real-time accidents and traffic alerts.
  • The Incident Paging Network has also proven to be a useful tool for being alerted regionally within the network for a wide range of event types.
  • Here at RedZone we especially appreciate the advent of public alert and advance warning regarding an impending or ongoing disaster. Our RZAlerts are built on the success of this premise.

Sources:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Integrated_Public_Alert_and_Warning_System

fema.gov/integrated-public-alert-warning-system

What is a Fire-Use Wildfire and How is it Beneficial to Forests?

Not every naturally occurring wildland fire is actively suppressed. Naturally occurring wildland fires are normally caused by lightening strikes in areas with fallen trees and other dry accumulated fuels. Under certain circumstances, some wildland fires will be allowed to actively burn in order to help clear these fuels and promote forest health. When a wildland fire is allowed to burn within a pre-defined area to achieve a resource or protection objective it is referred to as a Fire-Use Wildfire. A fire-use fire is different from a prescribed fire in which firefighters intentionally set fires to achieve similar objectives. In addition, federally mandated guidelines state that every human-caused wildland fire will be suppressed and will not be managed for resource benefits. Additionally, once a wildland fire has been managed for suppression objectives, it may never be managed for resource benefit objectives. In other words, a wildland fire must either be suppressed or used for a resource/protection objective but not both.

The Departments of Interior and Agriculture, together with tribal governments, state governments, and local jurisdictions, have the responsibility for protection and management of natural resources on public and Indian Trust lands in the United States. A wildland use fire is one option available to Federal agencies that have an approved land use plan and need to achieve a resource or protection objective. Contributing factors that help steer a fire managers decision-making process are often incident specific. Location, available resources, predicted weather, topography, air quality, and predicted fire behavior are all factors that contribute to fire management decisions.

If a fire is located in remote, steep, rugged or highly inaccessible terrain and people are not threatened, managing the fire as a wildland use fire to meet a protection objective may be more appropriate and can help avoid putting firefighters in unnecessary danger. A wildland use fire can meet resource objectives like helping to maintain healthy forests by supporting a diverse ecosystem. Some wild plants and trees even need fire in order for their seeds to germinate. A carefully monitored wildland use fire can also help reduce naturally occurring fuels accumulation, which could lead to an even bigger wildfire if left unchecked.

Current Large Fire-Use Wildfires

Empire Fire – Yosemite National Park – 1,797 acres

Empire Fire-use Fire Near Yosemite

The Empire Fire burning near Yosemite National Park was caused by lightening and is being managed to promote the health of the ecosystem and protective objectives.

Young Fire – Six Rivers NF & Siskiyou Wilderness – 2,200 acres

Sources

https://www.fws.gov/fire/what_we_do/wildland_fire_use.shtml

https://www.nps.gov/fire/wildland-fire/learning-center/fire-in-depth/ecology.cfm

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/07/160705141437.htm

 

helo wildfire

Mias Fire Burns 540 Acres in Riverside County

UPDATE 8/20/17 @ 4:49 p.m. – The fire is now 100% contained at 545 acres.
UPDATE 8/19/17 @ 6:47 p.m. – The fire remains 545 acres and is now 98% contained.
UPDATE 8/18/17 @ 6:05 p.m. – The fire remains at 545 acres and is now 97% contained.
UPDATE 8/18/18 @ 8:22 a.m. – The fire remains 545 acres and is now 95% contained.
UPDATE 8/17/17 @ 6:40 p.m. – The fire remains 545 acres and is now 90% contained.
UPDATE 8/17/17 @ 7:45 a.m. – The fire remains 545 acres and is 85% contained.
UPDATE 8/16/17 @ 5:45 p.m. – The fire is 545 acres and 80% contained.
UPDATE 8/16/17 @ 7:45 a.m. – The fire remains at 540 acres and is now 50% contained.
UPDATE 8/15/17 @ 7:28 p.m. – The fire is 40% contained and remains 540 acres.

Mias Fire Summary

The Mias fire was reported around 3:45 pm on Monday, August 14th near the 10000 block of Mias Canyon Rd in Banning, California. Due to the abundance of medium and heavy vegetation in the area, the fire quickly spread to the southeast towards the Morongo Indian Reservation. By 4:45 pm the fire had already burned 50 acres but was not immediately threatening any homes or structures in the area. By Monday night the fire had grown to 540 acres and had destroyed a small chapel on a private ranch. Firefighters from Riverside County, the Mongo Fire Department, and the U.S. Forest Service were coordinating efforts to combat the blaze. In total, 278 ground personnel, seven fixed-wing aircraft, three water-helo’s, and three bulldozers were assigned to the Mias fire and had achieved 5% containment by 7:30 pm Monday night. Investigators determined that the fire, bizarrely started when a tree branch fell onto a power line. The branch was weakened due to an active bee hive that was inside of the tree.

Mias Fire RZDashboard

Quick Look at the Mias Fire in RedZone’s Dashboard

Mias Fire Outlook

Due to the fire’s location, smoke impacts will affect the local area and move into Coachella Valley through tomorrow morning. The South Coast Air Quality Management District issued a smoke advisory for the unhealthy air quality expected. Otherwise, fire officials are fairly confident that the fire will be fully contained by Thursday with small areas still burning today and crews in mop up and contain mode for the remainder of the fire’s tenure.

Mias Fire Facts

 

Sources: Riverside County Fire, CALFIRE incidents, KESQ

detwiler thumbnail

Detwiler Fire Scorches Over 80,000 Acres

Detwiler Fire Summary

The Detwiler fire started in the afternoon of July 16th along Detwiler Rd and Hunters Valley Rd, approximately two miles southeast of Lake McClure in California. The fire quickly spread to the southeast due to ample fuel and steep terrain and was an immediate threat to nearby structures. Mandatory evacuation orders were quickly issued for all homes along Detwiler Road, Hunters Valley Road, and Hunters Valley Access Road. Just 24 hours later, the fire had grown to 11,000 acres and by 18 July the fire jumped the Merced River. By 23 July the Detwiler fire had grown to 76,000 acres. Sixty-three single-family residences had been destroyed, with 13 damaged. One commercial structure had been lost with 67 minor structures having been destroyed, and 8 damaged. The losses dwarfed those of the Whittier and Brianhead Fires previously covered this summer by RedZone. As of 28 July the fire is estimated to have burned 81,650 acres but firefighters have worked hard to achieve 75% containment. No additional homes or structures have been lost or damaged. The cause of the fire remains under investigation.

Detwiler Fire NASA Photo

NASA’s view from space of the Detwiler Fire on July 19th, 2017


Detwiler Fire Outlook

There are currently 3,553 personnel assigned to the Detwiler fire including 246 engines, 47 water tenders, 96 hand crews, and 28 dozers. Numerous helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft are also working the incident. Ground crews worked through the night to build and reinforce containment lines, including the 100-acre spot fire that broke out yesterday afternoon in the Hunters Valley area. Hot and dry conditions are expected throughout the next few days as air and ground resources continue to put out hot spots and watch for flare-ups. Steep, rugged terrain makes access difficult in some areas, but firefighters are making good progress.

Detwiler Fire Progression

Infrared Perimeter Progression of the Detwiler Fire from July 18-25


Detwiler Fire Facts

Sources: Inciweb, NIFC, MyMotherLode.com


august 2017 regional wildfire forecasts

Regional Wildfire Forecasts: July – August 2017

According to the National Interagency Fire Center, June 2017 saw record-setting heat events throughout the western United States, while the southeastern wildfire season diminished due to precipitation. The southwestern wildfire season (through Arizona and New Mexico) is expected to end with rains at the end of July, which is typical. However, Southern California will continue to experience wildfire events due to heat and critically dry fuel. The following regional wildfire forecasts for late July and August 2017 are based on predictions and research from the National Interagency Fire Center.

july 2017 regional wildfire forecasts

august 2017 regional wildfire forecasts

Alaska: Throughout August, fuel dryness and wildfire potential is high in the Upper Yukon Valley and other parts of northern Alaska. Likelihood of wildfires is lower for the second half of the summer than the first half throughout the state. Late-August rains are expected to end fire season.

Northwest: The remainder of July will see typical rainfall and temperatures. Conditions warmer and drier than average will likely occur in August, but significant large wildfire potential will remain normal. Fire potential will start to decline at the end of August.

Northern California + Hawaii: Above average wildfire potential is expected in the San Francisco Bay area, the mountains surrounding the San Joaquin Valley and the western side of Hawaii’s Big Island. Wildfire potential is below normal in the Northern Sierras due to above average precipitation in the spring, and wildfire potential is normal for the east side of the region through August.

Southern California: In July and August, fire potential is higher than expected in the higher elevations of the Sierras and above normal fire potential is expected in the foothills and inner valley areas. Everywhere else has average expected wildfire potential. The high wildfire potentials are due to extended heat waves in June, which may cause critical dryness to be reached by the end of July.

Northern Rockies: Central-eastern Montana and western North Dakota experienced little rain in June, resulting in drought conditions and above average wildfire potential through August. Normal potential is expected in the rest of the region. The entire region will likely experience above average temperatures into September.

Great Basin: Before July, the region experienced weather extremes, with temperature being ± 20 degrees compared to the historical average. The high elevations of Wyoming and Idaho will see below normal wildfire potentials through August, while the lower elevations of Utah and Nevada will see above normal fire potential.

Southwest: Northern Arizona and the Four Corners region is expected to see above average wildfire potential until August, when significant wildfire potential will go back to normal. The rest of the region will see normal wildfire potential through July and August. The summer monsoon season is expected to start on time according to historical data.

Rocky Mountain: After above average June temperatures and precipitation deficits, above normal fire potential will develop through August in western Colorado and parts of North and South Dakota. Normal wildfire potential is expected in the rest of the region, except the mountains of Wyoming, which have lower than normal wildfire potential.

Eastern Area: Normal fire potential is expected in this region through August. Above normal precipitation occurred over the beginning of the summer and will continue through the end of the summer.

Southern Area: Below normal wildfire potential is expected in the majority of the region through August due to high humidity and elevated fuel moisture levels.

 

For more information on wildfire outlooks and regional wildfire forecasts, visit NICC Predictive Services.

 

whittier fire smoke

Whittier Fire Prompts Evacuations in Santa Barbara County

Whittier Fire Summary

The Whittier Fire is suspected to have been sparked by an emergency vehicle accident around 1:30 pm Saturday afternoon and quickly spread to vegetation in the middle of the weekend’s red flag warning conditions. Officials stated that temperatures were over 110 degrees at the origin of the fire and within 2 hours the fire had spread to both sides of Highway 154 forcing the closure of the highway and evacuation of area camp grounds. Early on, Whittier Camp was evacuated and it was learned that the nearby Circle V Camp had dozens of children present. That camp was immediately threatened with no transportation for a safe evacuation as their escape route was cut off by the growing fire. In a press briefing today (7/14), several emergency responders shared the harrowing details of the evacuation of the Circle V Camp. The story describes how one Forest Service patrol and one dozer amazingly made it to the 80 camp counselors and children. The heroes assured them that they were safe while helping coordinate their evacuation to safety. A video was also released showing a sheriff’s deputy forced into turning around due to fire activity up the road. A timeline of the events can also be seen here.

whittier fire progression map

Whittier Fire Progression between July 8th and 14th. Now over 13,000 acres.

Whittier Fire Outlook

As you can see from the Santa Ynez Peak webcam below, fire activity has increased significantly today with the return of high pressure. The system is set to bring increased fire activity through Sunday. As the fire has grown this afternoon, the IMT is particularly worried about forecasted gusts of 25-30 mph through passes and gaps in the vicinity of the fire. As a contingency plan, ranch roads, dozer lines, and hand lines have been built and improved upon over the last couple operational periods. The idea here is to create large buffers between Goleta-area homes and the fire area due to the potential for the currently ongoing sundowner winds. Nonetheless, additional Evacuations have been ordered in the last three hours. Reports have significant activity occurring on both east and west sides of the fire, and especially to the south as the fire is headed in three different directions. The fire is actually approaching last year’s Sherpa Fire burn scar near Goleta.

Whittier Fire Evacuations

  • All of Winchester Canyon Road excluding the community of Wagon Wheel, Langlo Ranch Road and Winchester Commons west to El Capitan Ranch Road.
  • Calle Real north to West Camino Cielo from Winchester Canyon Rd on the east to El Capitan Ranch Road on the west.
  • Paradise Road
  • Rosario Park and all of Stagecoach Road
  • Farren Road and Las Varas Canyon Road
Santa Ynez Peak Cam

View looking West from Santa Ynez Peak Cam Friday Afternoon (July 14th)

Whittier Fire Facts

  • As of: July 14th, 2017
  • Location: Lake Cuchuma, Santa Barbara County, CA
  • Size: 13,199 acres
  • Containment: 52%
  • Fire Behavior: Rapid fire spread through thick brush and timber in steep, rugged terrain.
  • Structures Threatened: 1500 (reported)
  • Structures Destroyed: Eight homes and 12 outbuildings have been destroyed
  • Evacuations: Are in still in place
  • Incident Page: http://inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/5339/
  • News Article: KEYT Santa Barbara

Sources: Inciweb, KEYT, Los Padres National Forest, http://www.rntl.net/santabarbaracountyfirecams.htm

RFW in Santa Barbara

Weekend Red Flag Conditions for Santa Barbara County

Santa Barbara area expecting Sundowner Winds with Red Flag

The National Weather Service has issued a Red Flag Warning for the Santa Barbara County Mountains and South Coast region for Thursday from 0900 hours through Saturday 1000 hours PDT. The area will see sundowner winds gusting up to 40 mph and relative humidity as low as 10%. These conditions, combined with temperatures reaching into the mid 90’s in the afternoons and 100’s in isolated locations, may contribute to explosive fire behavior. The regions most at risk are the foothills and through the passes and canyons.

A sundowner wind is an offshore northerly Foehn wind that occurs near Santa Barbara, California. The winds surface when a ridge of high pressure is directly north of the area, and they blow with greatest force when the pressure gradient is perpendicular to the axis of the Santa Ynez Mountains which rise directly behind Santa Barbara. These winds often precede Santa Ana events by a day or two, as it is normal for high-pressure areas to migrate east, causing the pressure gradients to shift to the northeast.

 

Red Flag in Santa Barbara

Red Flag warning area of Santa Barbara County

Significant Santa Barbara Sundowner Events

Sundowner winds are dried and heated by the warm inland valleys and deserts. As narrow canyons and valleys compress the winds, they become stronger and overpower the diurnal winds. Firefighting efforts during a sundowner wind event can become extremely dangerous as well as difficult. Three significant fires in the last three decades have resulted in part because of sundowner conditions.

  1. The Jesusita fire in May 2009 burned 8,733 acres and destroyed 80 homes while damaging 15 more. Most of the destruction occurred while sundowner winds pushed the main fire through populated areas.
  2. The Painted Cave Fire during June 1990 rapidly grew to 5,000 acres, destroying 427 buildings and killing 1 civilian.
  3. The Sherpa Fire grew to 4,000 acres overnight due to the sundowner winds, damaging the water system for El Capitán State Beach in the middle of June of last fire season.
three major red flag sundowner fires

Three significant Sundowner fires in Santa Barbara County

 


Sources: Wikipedia, NIFC Fire history, LA Times, KEYT Santa Barbara

Brian Head 4-day Fire Progression

‘Extreme’ Brian Head Fire Destroys 13 Homes

Brian Head Fire Summary

The Brian Head fire started around noon on Saturday, June 17th along State Road 143, north of the Utah resort town of Brian Head. RedZone first learned of the fire at 50 acres with evacuations reported on the north and northeast ends of town. Multiple pictures surfaced that afternoon as the fire grew to 500 acres and dangerously close to town, eventually prompting an expanded evacuation of the entire town around 3pm. A type 3 team assumed command of the fire Saturday evening and gave way to the Great Basin Type 2 Incident Management Team 4 (Roide) at 6 AM, Monday, June 19. Roide’s team has had command ever since. Due to the evacuation situation, remote location, and lack of radio traffic, the extent of Saturday and Sunday’s fire growth wasn’t known until the first official perimeter came out Monday morning. That perimeter, shown in yellow in the map below, first put the fire at 957 acres, having also burned four homes in north Brian Head during those first 36 hours.

Brian Head 4-day Fire Progression

Brian Head Fire Progression Map (Operational Periods of 6/19 to 6/22)

As strong high pressure moved into the area early in the week, the fire picked up steam on the north side and ran north and east growing quickly through dense timber. The Brian Head fire nearly tripled in size each day starting Monday recording roughly 2700 acres Tuesday, 10,000+ acres Wednesday, and over 27,000 acres this morning (6/23). During yesterday’s 17,000-acre run, more structures were lost and much of the Panguitch Lake area along the eastern portion of SR 143 was added to the growing mandatory evacuation list. Prevailing winds were pushing the fire north and east until late in the afternoon on Wednesday when winds shifted the fire in a new, southeasterly direction. Clear Creek and Horse Valley were impacted and nine additional residences and six outbuildings were lost. This brings the total number of structures lost to 13 residences and eight outbuildings.

Brian Head Fire IR Map

Thursday Morning’s IR Map from the Brian Head Fire


Brian Head Fire Outlook

Containment is still only 5% with red flag conditions continuing again today and is forecast again tomorrow. Fire officials are projected 2-3 miles of more growth to the southeast and northward down SR 143. Weather concerns are abundant as dry conditions are forecast to continue through Sunday with ongoing well above normal temperatures, low RH, and very unstable atmospheric conditions. There are 11 helicopters, 34 engines, and 23 crews for a total of 809 firefighters on scene. Full containment is not expected until July 5th.


Brian Head Fire Facts

  • As of: June 23rd, 2017
  • Location: Brian Head, UT
  • Size: 27,744 acres
  • Containment: 5%
  • Fire Behavior: Extreme fire spread with spotting and dangerous rate.
  • Structures Threatened: Yes
  • Structures Destroyed: 13 residences and eight outbuildings
  • Evacuations: All of Brian Head, UT. Horse Valley, Clear Creek, Beaver Dam, Blue Springs, Panguitch Lake Campgrounds, Mammoth Springs Campground, Rainbow Meadows, and Mammoth Creek.
  • Incident Page: http://inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/5253/
  • News Article: Desert News Utah

Sources: Inciweb, Desert News Utah, Utah Fire Info, NIFC