Gatlinburg Devastated by Latest Southern Appalachian Wildfire

Sevier County Fires Summary

High winds, prolonged drought, and multiple fire starts have Sevier County, Tennessee as the latest victim in this fall’s wildfire barrage on the Southern Appalachians. Two alleged arsonists have been taken into custody as a string of new fire ignitions cropped up this weekend during extreme fire conditions. The Sevier County fires exhibited extreme fire behavior across steep, rugged terrain fanned by gusty evening winds. Fire officials are scrambling to corral what’s left of the 14 reported fires that impacted a ten-mile strip near Gatlinburg.

Due to the situation, 14,000 residents and visitors have been evacuated and 2,000 are currently utilizing the three Red Cross Shelters in the county. Along with hundreds of acres of forest, hundreds of structures have been reported as lost in the hills above Gatlinburg. Initial video footage from the area shows widespread devastation.  Fire officials are worried about this evening’s weather forecast mimicking yesterday’s destructive conditions. The latest weather forecasts have potential severe weather and rain moving in with the reported winds which could help or hinder operations.

Sign burned in half near Gatlinburg, TN. Photo Credit: Mark Nagi, Tennessee Department of Transportation

Sign burned in half near Gatlinburg, TN. Photo Credit: Mark Nagi, Tennessee Department of Transportation


Gatlinburg Fires Impact Thus Far

As of 11:00 PST the latest assessment of the area is as follows:

Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts: All buildings except Hughes Hall and Wild Wing survived with little damage. (More info)
Black Bear Falls: TEMA reports it was destroyed, but numerous people have contacted us to tell us that is not the case. We are working to confirm that information.
Chalet Village: Suffered damage, but not destroyed
CLIMB Works: Intact
Cobbly Knob area: About 70 homes destroyed
Cupid’s Chapel of Love: Destroyed
Dollywood: Several cabins damaged or destroyed. DreamMore resort not damaged. Dollywood park has some wind damage but no damage from fire. Park will be closed Wednesday. (More info)
Downtown Gatlinburg: Intact
Elkmont: Intact
Hillbilly Golf: Destroyed
LeConte Lodge: Intact
Little Log Wedding Chapel: Intact
Mysterious Mansion: Destroyed
Ober Gatlinburg: Intact
Park Vista hotel: Intact (More info)
Parrot Mountain: Intact
Pi Beta Phi Elementary School: Intact
Ripley’s Aquarium: Intact. Biologists at the aquarium confirm the animals are OK. (More info)
Wear’s Valley area: About 70 homes destroyed
Westgate Resort: Damaged, but not destroyed


Sources

https://www.google.com/maps/d/u/0/viewer?mid=1j7dJNKio1QPbslWy4PDNMsQkUes&ll=35.71073212501365%2C-83.54237556637577&z=15

wbir.com

http://www.wbir.com/news/local/gatlinburg-fires-whats-damaged-destroyed-and-intact/357891924

 

CAL FIRE Transitions Out of Fire Season in NorCal

Fire Season Over for NorCal

Since May 1st of this year, CAL FIRE (California’s state fire agency) has been in “fire season” mode.  This designation denotes a state of higher alert in which staffing is increased, burn restrictions are tightened, and wildfire monitoring efforts are intensified.

With the recent mild and wet weather, all Northern CAL FIRE units north of Fresno (15 of the 27 in California) were able to transition away from fire season into what they call “winter preparedness.” This change in the state’s preparedness level is typically preceded by prolonged rains and cooler forecasted temperatures across the region, lowering the threat of wildfire ignitions and allowing officials to reduce alert levels.

In Northern California, a series of storms and forecasted wet conditions have allowed all of the units to down-staff by releasing seasonal fire stations and firefighters. This also means that burn restrictions have ceased, allowing multiple prescribed fire projects to get underway in the region. The change to winter preparedness typically lasts until the following May when conditions begin to worsen as the summer months approach.

In the map below, we show the fifteen units currently out of fire season and the twelve from Southern California still prepared for higher fire activity. As drought conditions continue to have a hold on Southern and Central California, CAL FIRE will maintain fire season status and staffing to meet the continued threat there.

CALFIRE Unit Fire Season status as of November 2016

CALFIRE Unit Fire Season status as of November 2016

Weather Outlook

The outlook for the Northern California region has improved significantly since earlier this year. Much of the region has been in a long-term drought for years, which has lengthened and stregthened each coinciding fire season. Over the course of this year, the worst of the drought has slowly crept south with mostly moderate drought conditions remaining for areas north of Fresno. Part of the reason has been the return of regular precipitation in northern areas. Rain began to fall in early October and a series of storms at the end of October and through November produced heavier precipitation. As winter sets in, more wet weather systems are expected to continue to bring precipitation to the region, leaving large fire potential at minimal levels through next February.


Sources:

CAL FIRE: Fire Season Status

Lake County News

Sierra Star

North Ops Outlook

GOES-R Environmental Satellite Launched

On November 19, NASA celebrated the successful launch of its latest weather satellite, the revolutionary GOES-R (named GOES-16 once it is operational). This next generation Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite (GOES) will deliver better weather forecasting, severe storm tracking, and space weather monitoring for Earth’s entire western hemisphere.

GOES-R Liftoff on November 19, 2016

GOES-R Liftoff on November 19

GOES-R_Spacecraft

GOES Mission Overview

Positioned roughly 22,000 miles above Earth’s surface, GOES satellites continuously monitor the Western hemisphere, including the United States, the Pacific and Atlantic oceans, Central and South America, and Southern Canada. GOES satellites fly in a geostationary orbit, meaning they rotate around the Earth at the same rate as the Earth spins, so their view of the Earth’s surface never changes. The coverage, along with the sensor suite, allows for constant, near real time coverage of Earth’s weather, climate, and large storm events. GOES also has sensors looking toward the sun and space, measuring solar and space weather.

Why the GOES-R Satellite is Significant

The most exciting update to GOES-R in relation to disaster intelligence is the updated Advanced Baseline Imager (ABI). The image above describes the improvements to the new sensor. Below are the benefits related to these improvements.

  • Improved hurricane track and intensity forecasts
  • Improved route planning for aviation
  • More advanced warning for severe storms
  • More advanced warning for air quality warnings and alerts
  • Better fire detection and intensity estimation
  • More and better quality data for long-term climate variability studies

This is only one of several next-generation advanced sensors onboard GOES-R. Other sensors will help researchers study tornado warnings, climate, and space and solar weather. It’s no wonder that people are excited about this momentous launch!

Source(s):

http://www.goes-r.gov/

https://www.nesdis.noaa.gov/content/6-reasons-why-noaa%E2%80%99s-goes-r-satellite-matters

Eastern Appalachian Fires Continue to Threaten

Slow Burning Wildfires Grow Larger

Many of the eastern Appalachian fires we wrote about last week continue to burn. The National Parks Service has imposed an outdoor fire ban as of Thursday, November 17th, and closed just over 60 miles of the Appalachian Trail from North Carolina to Georgia. While areas west of the mountains are receiving rain, none is forecast for the upcoming week in areas where fires are most intense. With winds continuing for the next couple days in excess of 20 mph and warmer-than-normal temperatures, the weather will not be favorable for firefighting crews struggling to increase containment.

Current Appalachian Fires in the Southeast

Appalachian Wildfires

Wildfires in Southeast United States

Updated Fire Outlook

Several fires reported on by RedZone last week have grown significantly as these dry and windy conditions continue to impact the region.

Party Rock Fire

  • Date of origin: November 5, 2016
  • Location: Chimney Rock State Park, Lake Lure, NC
  • Size: 7,171 acres (last week: 977 acres)
  • Containment: 36% (last week: 15%)
  • Fire Behavior: Continues growing to the north
  • Incident Page: InciWeb
  • News Article: WYFF4 News
Appalachian Wildfires - Party Rock Fire Perimeter

Party Rock Fire

Tellico Fire

  • Date of origin: November 3, 2016
  • Location: Almond, NC
  • Size: 13,874 acres (last week: 6,839 acres)
  • Containment: 81% (last week: 18%)
  • Fire Behavior: Minimal smoldering and creeping, nearing containment with a few areas of isolated heat
  • Incident Page: InciWeb
  • News Article: UPI News

Maple Springs Fire

  • Date of origin: November 4, 2016
  • Location: Lake Santeetlah, NC
  • Size: 7,788 acres (last week: 5,083 acres)
  • Containment: 51% (last week: 10%)
  • Fire Behavior: Slow spread through litter and understory
  • Incident Page: InciWeb
  • News Article: Incident Press Release
Appalachian Wildfires - Maple Springs Fire Perimeter

Maple Springs Fire

Boteler Fire

  • Date of origin: November 11, 2016
  • Location: Hayesville, NC
  • Size: 8,967 acres (last week: 4,767 acres)
  • Containment: 70% (last week: 12%)
  • Fire Behavior: Minimal smoldering, backing downslope with up to 2 foot flame lengths
  • Incident Page: InciWeb
  • News Article: Clay County Progress Local Paper
Appalachian Wildfires - Boteler Fire Perimeter

Boteler Fire

Rough Ridge Fire

  • Date of origin: October 16, 2016
  • Location: Cisco, GA
  • Size: 27,004 acres (last week: 10,336 acres)
  • Containment: 40% (last week: 20%)
  • Fire Behavior: Rough terrain continues to impede control and containment efforts.
  • Incident Page: InciWeb
  • News Article: Atlanta NBC11
Appalachian Wildfires - Rough Ridge Fire Perimeter

Rough Ridge Fire

Rock Mountain Fire

  • Date of origin: November 9, 2016
  • Location: Dillard, GA
  • Size: 9,382 acres (last week: 300 acres)
  • Containment: 30% (last week: 2%)
  • Fire Behavior: Anticipated spread in all directions due to elevation and leaf litter, limited spotting.
  • Incident Page: InciWeb
  • News Article: Atlanta NBC11
Appalachian Wildfires - Rock Mountain Fire Perimeter

Rock Mountain Fire

Major Quake Rattles North Canturbury, New Zealand

New Zealand Earthquake Situation

Residents in the North Canterbury region on the South Island of New Zealand were awakened by a major earthquake just after midnight on Monday morning (11/14). The 14-mile-deep quake, which killed two people, triggered a small tsunami, twenty aftershocks, and tens of thousands of landslides across the region. In the two days since, officials have been assessing the situation as the quake and subsequent aftershocks have caused widespread damage to the region. Early cost estimates of the impact are in the hundreds of millions, if not billions.

Following the initial tremor, four aftershocks over 6.0-magnitude (and another sixteen under 6.0) also rattled the area, helping set off thousands of landslides in the steep and coastal terrain.  The coastal town of Kaikoura, north of the epicenter, seems one of the hardest hit with both roads in and out of town cut off by the moving earth.  Heavy rains Tuesday have also complicated rescue and aid efforts.  The situation has prompted a massive evacuation operation by air and sea for the small coastal city’s 2,000 residents. The latest reports state that some locals (and infamous cows) remain stranded with limited supplies. Several New Zealand Navy ships, as well as a US destroyer, are set to help provide needed supplies as well as allow tourists and others to leave Wednesday morning.

Canterbury area, New Zealand Earthquake and aftershocks (Source: USGS Latest Earthquakes)

Canterbury area, New Zealand Earthquake and aftershocks (Source: USGS Latest Earthquakes)


Long Term Impact

Similar to the Christchurch disaster of 2011, New Zealand will undoubtedly feel an economic punch from this week’s events. Countless residents have been displaced and infrastructure and land damages are widespread. At least dozens of homes and businesses in the region have been red- and yellow-taped for structural vulnerability. But, unlike the February 2011 quake, the rural epicenter and comparably miniscule population of the affected areas should ease some of the economic and insurance cost concerns.

The hardest hit areas affected by this week’s disaster total a populous only in the thousands, whereas Christchurch’s population is around 370,000. Economists expect the overall impact on the fast growing economy will be small and nowhere near the 45 billion dollar bill from five years prior. What is certain, however, are negative future impacts on tourism for the beautiful Kaikoura area (see below), which lay in crumbles.

North Canterbury coastal town Kaikoura, NZ hit hardest by Monday’s 7.9 Magnitude Earthquake

North Canterbury’s Kaikoura, NZ hit hardest by Monday’s 7.9 Magnitude Earthquake (source: newzealand.com)


New Zealand Earthquake Statistics

  • Magnitude: 7.9
  • Origin Time: 1103 UTC – Nov 13 2016
  • Epicenter: 42.8 South 173.4 East
  • Depth: 23 km
  • Location: near South Island, New Zealand
  • Impact: Two confirmed deaths, widespread damage and power outages, hundreds evacuated
  • Incident Page: USGS Overview
  • News Article: The Weather Channel

Sources: USGS, CNN, The Weather Channel, stuff.co.nz, Radio New Zealand

A Look Back at 100 Years of the National Parks Service

Over 100 years ago, the National Parks Service did not exist in the U.S. No lands were federally protected, and logging companies were increasing their efforts in response to huge demands for lumber. At last, a few key voices catching the attention of the right people changed it all.

Who will speak for the land that cannot speak for itself?

Individuals such as naturalist John Muir, with the backdrop of such unique surroundings as Yosemite Valley, stepped forward to save the land from the growing number of settlers moving westward. Responding to pleas of Muir and others, Congress and President Abraham Lincoln put Yosemite under the protection of California during the Civil War. Later, in 1872, under President Ulysses S Grant, Yellowstone became the world’s first true National Park, along with several other areas later in the 19th century.

In 1903, Teddy Roosevelt was campaigning on a whistle-stop tour around the U.S.  He had arranged to explore the Yosemite wilderness with naturalist John Muir–without his Secret Service personnel–while he was in California. Roosevelt wanted to experience the land as authentically as possible. The result of this 4-day visit and Roosevelt’s subsequent presidency, led to the foundation of five national parks as well as several national monuments, national bird sanctuaries and wildlife refuges, and national forests. Despite this “national protection” designation, no management or organization was in place to oversee the funding and care of these Parks.

President Teddy Roosevelt & Naturalist John Muir in 1903, Yosemite, CA.

President Teddy Roosevelt & Naturalist John Muir in 1903, Yosemite, CA.

 

Establishment of the National Parks Service in 1916

In 1915, backed by millionaire industrialist Stephen Mather and National Geographic Society, momentum grew toward establishing a distinct federal organization dedicated to preserving and controlling protected areas.  The National Parks Service was officially created in 1916, and Stephen Mather became its first director. This moved 14 national parks and 21 national monuments under the management of the NPS.

Stephen Mather and his National Parks Service staff in 1927/1928.

Stephen Mather (Front-center) and his National Parks Service staff in 1927/1928.

The Century that Followed

Mather was the first of 18 NPS Directors the institution has had in its history. Throughout the years, many subsequent Acts have been signed to further protect and provide for the federally protected land areas and expand the scope of the National Parks Service. John Jarvis was sworn in as the current National Parks Service Director on October 2, 2009.  He currently oversees more than 400 national parks, monuments, and refuges. The National Parks Service is supported by approximately 22,000 permanent, temporary, and seasonal employees and 400,000 volunteers. Last year a record number of visitors experienced the national parks, totaling over 305 million guests to the more than 84 million available acres!

Given the continued increase in the number of total annual visitations, interest in these National Parks among the public is at an all-time high. Recently, MacGillivray Freeman Films released a new film called the National Parks Adventure which is now showing in IMAX theaters across the country. Sponsored by Expedia, Subaru, VisitTheUSA.com, and REI, the viewer gets a rarely-seen insight into several incredible parks.

Due to the bold and ongoing efforts of so many people focused on preservation and conservation, these parks and natural experiences will continue to be shared for many years to come.

Sources:

https://www.nps.gov/yose/learn/historyculture/muir-influences.htm
https://www.nps.gov/parkhistory/hisnps/NPSHistory/timeline_annotated.htm
http://vault.sierraclub.org/john_muir_exhibit/people/roosevelt.aspx
http://travel.nationalgeographic.com/travel/national-parks/early-history/
https://www.nps.gov/aboutus/faqs.htm

Soberanes Fire over 100,000 acres, costs crest $200 million

Soberanes Fire Summary

The Soberanes Fire is eight weeks old today, starting way back on July 22nd. We have been closely monitoring the blaze as it has burned most of the summer. This month, the fire has well surpassed 100,000 acres and is still only 57% contained. Early on, the fire destroyed 57 residences and 11 outbuildings in Palo Colorado Canyon. Currently, there are more than 1,437 firefighters on scene fighting the blaze which is primarily in the rugged Ventana Wilderness of the Los Padres National Forest (LPF). 410 structures remain threatened with evacuation warnings in effect. Full containment is not expected until September 30th. A few highlights on the fire are seen in the eight-week timeline below.

Picture2

Soberanes Fire has been burning for eight weeks and counting


Soberanes Fire Outlook

The fire has been predominantly growing south and east in the Ventana Wilderness of the LPF for the last couple weeks. Due to good work by crews and holding containment lines the fire has stayed east of Big Sur and west of Carmel Valley Road. Yet firing operations on the east side of the fire remain the main objective of late, as fire crews try to further increase containment by connecting indirect line near Chew’s Ridge in Divisions J, K, and L to the completed line north of the Los Padres Dam.  Consequently, a successful effort in the coming days will add both acreage and containment in those divisions. Furthermore, air attack activity will pick up as their resources will assist in keeping fuels adjacent to the indirect fire line from igniting.   Meanwhile, on the southern, coastal side of the fire, crews continue to work hard securing and improving the established containment lines. They have been successful holding the fire east of an established dozer line on the ridge above Big Sur.

Next week, the Soberanes fire will reach its ninth week (and on the 23rd, enter its third month). The fire has burned 65% on federal lands and 35% on state lands. Suppression costs for the entirety have soared to over $200 million with an average of $3.58 million spent each day. If the fire were fully contained today, the feds would be on the hook for over $130 million and CALFIRE for the other $70+ million. At that rate, if firefighters were to reach full containment on September 30th, the suppression cost would eclipse $250 million (not including costs from damages incurred). If they can’t connect containment lines in the near future, likely the fire will continue to burn until fall weather, rains, or cooler temperatures stall its activity.

Soberanes Fire near Big Sur, CA is now over 100,000 acres and still growing

Soberanes Fire Progression: Continues burning near Big Sur, CA and is now over 100,000 acres and growing


Soberanes Fire Facts (9/16)

  • Started: July 22nd, 2016
  • Location: Ventana Wilderness, Big Sur, CA
  • Size: 108,031 acres (70,285 acres CA-LPF; 37,194 acres CALFIRE)
  • Containment: 57%
  • Fire Behavior: Slow fire spread through timber, chaparral, and tall grass in steep, rugged terrain.
  • Structures Threatened: 410 (reported)
  • Structures Destroyed: 68 (57 primary, 11 outbuildings)
  • Evacuations: Warnings remain in place
  • Cost to Date: $200.4 million
  • Incident Page: Inciweb
  • News Article: Big Sur News

Sources:

  • Big Sur Kate
  • Inciweb
  • NIFC

Fires Devastate Tiny Portuguese Island of Madeira

Madeira Fire Summary

Last week, multiple destructive wildfires scorched the steep mountainsides of Portugal’s famous Madeira Island. Madeira is the largest of an archipelago of four islands (an autonomous region of Portugal), located off the northwest coast of Africa. The fires ignited after weeks of hot and dry weather and quickly spread with strong winds up the steep terrain of the island, forcing hundreds to evacuate in two heavily populated areas. The firefight was complicated by the fact that Madeira has no firefighting aircraft.  Neighboring countries hundreds of miles across the Atlantic lent spare helicopters and a water-scooping aircraft, but those assets took precious time to arrive, and allowed the fires to rage uncontrolled under only a ground attack.

Hasty Evacuations

As the flames bore down late Tuesday (8/9) residents and visitors in areas in the outskirts of Madeira’s capital city, Funchal, fled their homes and hotels in order to escape. Portuguese media had footage of a elderly facility being evacuated in the middle of the night (Tuesday), some with no shoes or in their wheelchairs. Others looked on helplessly as the flames engulfed their homes. Tragically, three elderly residents at that facility were not able to evacuate in time and one other was seriously injured.

Madeira Fire Locations

Estimated Fire Perimeters near Calheta to the west and Funchal to the east


Madeira Fire Aftermath

Many evacuated residents have returned in the past week to find their homes damaged or even destroyed. A reported assessment of the impact found 300 residences affected by the incident with 177 of them completely wiped out. More than just residences were lost, as a well-known hotel–the Choupana Hills–was also one of the casualties. NASA’s infrared images of the fire helped RedZone estimate the acreage at over 18,000 acres (around 7400 hectares).

Long-term Effects

The Madeira fires have impacted the island’s infrastructure and may damage the appeal to the roughly one million tourists who visit the island each year. Cruise ships have had to cancel activities this week in Funchal due to the fire’s impact. Madeira officials have estimated that the fires will cost the island around €61 million ($69 million USD) in repairs in Funchal alone. Cristiano Ronaldo, a native of Funchal and national hero, was devastated by the news and has pledged financial support to his home island in the wake of the devastation.

Madeira Fire Facts

  • Started: Monday, August 8th, 2016
  • Location: Madeira, Portugal
  • Size: 18,822 acres (Estimated using NASA Imagery)
  • Structures Affected: 300
  • Structures Destroyed: 177
  • Evacuations: Hundreds were evacuated
  • News Article: Portugal News


Sources: Portugal News, Wildfire Today, NASA

Cliff Creek Fire Burns 11,000 Acres Near Jackson, WY

The Cliff Creek Fire was first discovered on July 17th approximately 5 miles north of the town of Bondurant, Wyoming. The lightning-caused fire quickly spread in thick, contiguous timber. It burned across and subsequently closed highway 191/89 which connects Bondurant to Jackson in Teton County.

Cliff Creek Fire near Bondurant, WY

Cliff Creek Fire near Bondurant, WY

Great Basin Incident Management Team 7 has command of the fire as of July 22, 2016. Since it originated, the Cliff Creek Fire has burned across Hwy 191/89, up Game Hill, and NE towards Granite and Shoal Creek, burning from 5 acres to now well over 10,000. The fire initially prompted evacuations of campgrounds, residences in Dell and Jack Creeks, then Granite Creek homes, and closed both roads and recreation areas nearby. Structure protection groups took over many of those areas, prepping the 50 threatened structures and homes and reducing hazards near them. Direct attack from ground and air has kept the fire out of Granite Creek and other populated areas so far, but a future threat remains.

Cliff Creek Fire Outlook

Contingency lines, structure protection, and containment line construction remain the main goals of the command team. The Great Basin Coordination Center has now assigned a Type 1 Team as the full containment effort will require a significant boost in resource commitment to ensure success. The fire continues to move to the north and east and is expected to increase in activity due to critical fire weather conditions in the area and the fire falling in alignment with creeks and drainages.  In total, 619 firefighters and personnel are on scene to suppress the blaze.

Cliff Creek Fire Facts:

  • Location: 5 Miles north of Bondurant, Wyoming
  • Size: 11,534 acres
  • Containment: 10%
  • Fire Behavior: Rapid fire spread with increased fire behavior to the east. Fire activity expected to intensify with Red Flag Warnings and a Haines Index of 6 in the area.
  • Structures Threatened: 50
  • Structures Destroyed: 1
  • Inciweb Page: http://inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/4865/
  • Cliff Creek Updates also at: Teton County Emergency Management