Lightning Fires Across Wyoming

While many of the Midwest and Atlantic states continue to get inches of rain and worry about ongoing flooding, Wyoming’s focus is on containing several lightning fires that started over the weekend. Some light rain assisted Bureau of Land Management (BLM) firefighters’ efforts, but one of the fires continues to burn near Ten Sleep in the northern part of the state.

The Salt Center Fire continues to burn in northern Wyoming. (BLM Wyoming, Mon, 13/June/16)

The Salt Center Fire continues to burn in northern Wyoming. (BLM Wyoming, Mon, 13/June/16)

Lightning Fires

The Salt Center Fire began Friday evening along with three other confirmed lightning strike fires in the area of Ten Sleep, WY. These three other fires were relatively small and south of the town of Ten Sleep: Spring Creek Fire — 25 acres, West Rim Fire — 1 acre, and Alkali Creek Fire — 0.25 acres. The Salt Center Fire is burning approximately 9 miles north of town near the Renner Reservoir and has grown to 225 acres. As of Monday evening, it was up to 50% contained. Due to the surrounding steep, rugged terrain, access for crews is difficult. According to Sarah Beckwith of BLM Public Affairs, 3 helicopters, 3 single engine air tankers, and 1 heavy air tanker have been assisting over 100 firefighters by targeting hot spots in the interior and difficult to reach parts of the fire. Further updates on this fire can be found on the Rocky Mountain Area Coordination Center’s incident page.

Lightning fires around Ten Sleep, WY

Lightning fires around Ten Sleep, WY

Lightning without rain!

In some places around the United States, such as Southern California, lightning fires frequently start with no rain nearby. These are called Dry Lightning Fires and can be even more dangerous without any moisture assistance from increased chances of precipitation. With hurricane season underway along the Atlantic, storming conditions continuing across the Midwest spawning tornadoes, and heightened fire weather and dry lightning storms across drought-ridden Pacific states, this is likely to be a dynamic and volatile weather season.

Tenderfoot Fire: Yarnell, AZ

Firefighters continue to battle the Tenderfoot Fire near Yarnell, Arizona. As of June 10th, the fire is being reported at 3,300 acres with only 10% containment. The Tenderfoot fire was first reported on June 8th near Yarnell and threatened several homes along Crest Way which came to within 200 feet of the fire’s perimeter. Fortunately SW winds pushed the blaze to the NE, away from Yarnell, and fire crews were able to establish control lines around evacuated structures.

On June 9th, high winds expanded the fire’s range, leading to more evacuations. By mid-day June 10th, the number of firefighters deployed had increased from 250 to 400.

About 280 residents have been evacuated — about 250 from Yarnell since the fire started, and 30 from Peeples Valley (to the north), the afternoon of June 9th when strong winds fanned the flames. Officials were still analyzing whether residents could be allowed to return home later in the evening on June 10th.

Rugged terrain is hampering firefighting efforts on the ground but officials are optimistic as winds continue to push the fire to the NE, away from nearby communities. Three large air tankers and two single engine air tankers have worked the fire since its start on June 8th.

The cause of the Tenderfoot Fire is still under investigation, however, officials have ruled out lightning as a cause.

On June 28, 2013, the Yarnell Hill Fire started just across Hwy 89 from the Tenderfoot Fire. Two days later on June 30th, 19 firefighters died battling the Yarnell Hill Fire when their position was overrun by erratic fire behavior after the winds shifted and turned the fire back into town. 127 homes were destroyed in the Yarnell Hill Fire, the deadliest fire in Arizona’s history.

Yarnell_Tenderfoot_Fires

Side-by-side comparison of the 2013 Yarnell Hill Fire and the 2016 Tenderfoot Fire.

Tortoise Fire: Orange County California

After three hours, firefighters and air units contained the 4-acre Tortoise Fire that burned in the gated community of Coto de Caza in Orange County. No evacuation orders were issued.

The Tortoise Fire was first reported at 11:22 am on June 3rd. Seventy Orange County firefighters were called to the blaze as well as three helicopters. The fire briefly threatened several homes before fire crews gained the upper hand around 1:30 pm in the afternoon. By 2:15 pm fire officials declared the Tortoise Fire fully contained. Hand crews remained on scene conducting mop-up operations until approximately 5 pm.

No homes were damaged and no civilians were injured but officials did report that three firefighters suffered minor, non-life threatening injuries as a result of the fire. The cause of the fire remains under investigation.

KEN STEINHARDT, THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER, Tortoise Fire

A helicopter drops water as wildland firefighters battle a vegetation fire in Coto de Caza.

Fort McMurray Area Ready for Residents to Re-enter

Exactly one month after the historic wildfire began and forced thousands to flee, residents of the Fort McMurray area are finally set to re-enter the city.  Starting June 1st the city’s four-day, five-zone, phased re-entry plan will commence. If that sounds complicated, its because it was. The city’s officials and emergency managers had to mutually agree to move forward with the plan, which was contingent upon five infrastructure and safety criteria being met:

  • Wildfire is no longer an imminent threat to the community;
  • Critical infrastructure is repaired to provide basic service;
  • Essential services, such as fire, EMS, police and health care, are restored to a basic level;
  • Hazardous areas are secure;
  • Local government is re-established.

Even though the minimum criteria have been met, the area will be assessed daily. The plan’s phases allow residents of the least-damaged areas to return home first, though not all residents will be allowed to return to the city. The presence of harmful chemicals (including arsenic) in the ash, soil and air may delay residents’ permanent return in the communities of Abasand, Beacon Hill, and Waterways. Officials are understandably cautious for those areas and will base the permanent re-entry in those three neighborhoods (seen as ‘x’ on in Figure 1) on future non-toxic test results. Homeowners will merely be able to visit on June 4th but will need other permanent accommodations for the foreseeable future. “Despite the significant work that has been done, the city today is not the city that residents left behind a month ago. A boil-water advisory remains in effect, some health-care services are not available, and many businesses will not be open,” the Alberta Premier Rachel Notley said.

Re-entry Dates and Communities:

  • June 1st: Lower Townsite, Anzac, Fort McMurray 468 First Nation, Gregoire Lake   Estates (Zone One)
  • June 2nd: Parsons Creek, Stone Creek, Timberlea, Eagle Ridge, Dickinsfield (Zone Two)
  • June 3rd: Thickwood, Wood Buffalo (Zone Three) AND Gregoire, Prairie Creek, Saprae Creek Estates (Zone Four A) 
  • June 4th: Waterways, Abasand, Beacon Hill, Grayling Terrace, Draper (Zone Four B)

Fort McMurray

Figure 1: Re-entry plans for Fort McMurray. X’s represent non-permanent re-entry.

Fort McMurray Wildfire update

As for the Fort McMurray fire itself, it has been mapped at 1000 km or 580,000+ hectares (1,434,780 acres), and is now 40% contained.  The fire officially impacted 567 homes and 12 apartment complexes in Fort McMurray, with 85-90 percent of residences seeing no damage. 2,400 buildings and 665 work camp units have been reported as lost overall. Initial insurance payout estimates are around 9 billion Canadian dollars, making this disaster the most expensive in Canadian History by a hefty margin of 7 billion. Oil sands operations in the area have halted, costing ‘Big Oil’ an estimated 1 billion ca dollars as well.

The fire continues to scorch remote forests of Alberta and even a small portion of Saskatchewan. Extreme burning conditions are still being seen in some areas of the fire. Higher humidities and the potential for rain should aid the fire fight in the near future, but firefighters from seven Canadian provinces and two countries (USA & South Africa) remain assigned to continue the containment battle across Alberta.


 

Sources: Alberta.ca Wildfire Update, Huffingtonpost Canada, Wikipedia

 

Wheatland Fire in San Fernando Valley Scorches Nearly 200 Acres

LAFD and Angeles National Forest firefighters responded Monday (May 23) to a fast moving brush fire off Wheatland Avenue in the hills above Lakeview Terrace. Around 3 pm, the (then reportedly 8 acre) slope- and wind-driven fire moved north into a canyon and away from nearby structures. As the fire grew to 50 and then 100 acres, it moved into the Angeles National Forest where firefighters established a containment line and aggressively suppressed the flame front with air resources. By late Monday evening, the Wheatland fire had reached the peak of the small range above the fire’s origin and stalled as humidity rose and the sun fell. As of this morning (May 24), the fire is estimated at 183 acres and is reportedly 35% contained.

RedZone’s intelligence center (RZIntel) watched the event unfold as the fire marched up the mountainside using live helicopter coverage from several Los Angeles media sources. RZIntel updated the Wheatland Fire situation as numerous resources were ordered, hazards were identified, command of the fire changed hands, and the fire’s extent progressed up the mountainside. An estimation of Wheatland fire’s total progression is shown the map below.

wheatland-fire

Wheatland Fire Perimeter Estimate as of May 24, 2016 0900 HRS

The US Forest Service has established an incident page for the Wheatland Fire which can be seen here.

  • ‘Wheatland’ Fire
  • Started 2:23 PM Monday, May 23rd
  • Angeles National Forest above Lakeview Terrace
  • 183 Acres
  • 35% Contained
  • Planned Action: Mop-up and Patrol

Fort McMurray Area Under Control According to Fire Officials

Late Tuesday (5/10) Fort McMurray Fire officials were optimistic regarding the status of the devastating blaze. The worst of the fire activity near McMurray, which has spanned ten days, is now under control according to Chief Darby Allen who updated the public in a video posted last night. Allen said “We think we’ve got this thing beat in McMurray.” With that good news, officials are now working on plans to re-open Highway 63, repair infrastructure, and return the estimated 80,000 evacuees to their homes in the fire-ravaged city.  Crops of fresh firefighters are arriving this week to give the exhausted fire crews some relief as the now over-565,000 acre fire is still active to the south of Fort McMurray and the firefight there continues.

mcmurray_table

Fort McMurray Fire Statistics

Google’s Crisis Map has an event map page which has outlined the most impacted neighborhoods in Fort McMurray. We at RedZone have estimated the fire perimeter and outlined those neighborhoods in the web map below. Digital Globe has also published new satellite imagery this week showing the destructive impact of the fire in those neighborhoods. The reported structure loss is estimated at 2,400 since the fire began.


 

Fort McMurray Fire perimeter and damaged neighborhoods


 

Source: postabit.com article

Alberta’s Fort McMurray Fire Rages On

The Fort McMurray Fire has destroyed tens of thousands of acres and hundreds of structures since it ignited early Monday (May 2). Fueled by extreme fire weather and dry conditions, the wildfire has completely decimated the Fort McMurray area in Northern Alberta. Multiple videos have surfaced online as 80,000 evacuated residents scrambled to get out of the way of the flames when it ripped into the city and destroyed whole neighborhoods. NASA fire detection satellites mapping the fire show it starting west of Fort McMurray, growing steadily northeast into town all day Tuesday (May 3) and into Wednesday (May 4) morning. An even bigger push started Wednesday night into Thursday (May 5) as the fire barreled to the south and east, backed by 70km/h winds and grew from 10,000 hectares (ha) to around 85,000 ha. Damage estimates today (May 6) include another 12 structures involved in the Anzac area on top of the estimated 1,600 structures lost in Fort McMurray earlier in the week. So far 88,000 people have been evacuated. The fire’s size is now (May 6) estimated at 85,000 hectares (210,000 acres), it’s continuing to move to the southeast with multiple fingers and spot fires, and with no signs of stopping.

The weather isn’t expected to provide much help in fighting the fire, with only slight cooling this weekend following this week’s lack of rain and record hot temperatures. “Another period of hot and mostly dry weather is forecast for the region this weekend as another ridge builds over Western Canada,” warns Weather Network meteorologist Brett Soderholm. “Widespread rainfall across the region is looking unlikely during the next week.” 

For more information on the McMurray Fire visit : Fort McMurray Wildfire from Global News

mcmurray

Estimation of Fort McMurray Fire Perimeter (as of May 6th) with Fire Detection points visible

 

 

 

16-Mile Fire: Pennsylvania

The 16-Mile Fire was first reported on April 20th near Sixteen Mile Run, east of Cresco, Pennsylvania. By April 23rd the fire had consumed over 4,000 acres and destroyed one structure. As of April 27th, the fire has burned more than 8,000 acres and is now 60% contained. So far, 11 structures have been destroyed; two cabins, three seasonal homes, and six outbuildings. No injuries have been reported as a result of the fire.

Despite heavy rains recently, fire crews continue to monitor the fire while improving containment lines on the fire’s flanks. Control lines have been established along the southern and western sides of the fire. In the north, control lines have been completed and improved. Crews will continue to provide structure protection for cabins near the Pine Flats Cabin Colony and the Beaver Run Club (to the east) according to Bureau of Forestry officials. There are an estimated 140 structures that are still threatened in the general area of the fire. Forecasted rain showers should help reduce the possibility of new spot fires outside of containment lines.

The Department of Conservation and Natural Resources said that the 16-Mile Fire is the second largest fire in the state of Pennsylvania in 26 years. In 1990 a wildfire consumed more than 10,000 acres in Sproul State Forest. Fire investigators believe the 16-Mile Fire was intentionally set and have offered a $5,000 reward for information that leads to an arrest.

16 Mile Picture

Copiague Fire: Long Island, NY

The fire started on April 20th at a home on E. Santa Barbara Road in Lindenhurst on Long Island. Firefighters were unsuccessful in their attempt to keep the fire from spreading and it quickly moved to four additional houses nearby before jumping Strongs Creek, sparking a brushfire on Indian Island, a nearby wildlife refuge. Five houses were damaged by the fire with three of those being totally destroyed.

Strong northerly winds gusting to 20 mph helped fuel the fire as it spread to roughly 54 acres on Indian Island before fire boats contained the blaze several hours later. A total of 200 firefighters from 15 different departments were called to the scene. No residents were injured as a result of the fire but two firefighters suffered smoke inhalation and one was hospitalized. Arson Section detectives believe the fire to be non-criminal in nature. The investigation is continuing.

Copiague Fire Map