Western States Wildfires Continue to March On

Many western states wildfires continue to burn at average to above-average levels for the month of August. Fire resources are currently working on 36 large fires that are actively burning 587,843 acres. California continues to be the focus of firefighting efforts as thousands of residents near many large fires remain evacuated from their homes. The Great Basin and Pacific Northwest Areas also have a lot of fire activity, but firefighters are beginning to gain the upper hand on these large burns.

Western States Wildfires Stress Resources

With resources assigned to fires across the states, initial attack resources are near or at draw down levels. This worries fire managers as they may not have enough manpower locally to contain new starts that they would normally be able to stop at full strength. Numerous fires in California are burning in inaccessible terrain with drought and beetle stricken fuels.

Unprecedented Behavior

Numerous western states wildfires are exhibiting behavior that 30- and 40-year veterans have never seen. The Bluecut Fire in particular burned over 30,000 acres in 24 hours, exhibiting similar conditions as the Sand fire in Santa Clarita. California firefighters’ concern may increase due to Santa Ana season being just around the corner.

Current Numbers at a Glance

  • Seven Type 1 Incident Management Teams are assigned.
  • Nine Type 2 Incident Management Teams are assigned.
  • 19,695 incident personnel are assigned.
  • Current active fires in the western states have destroyed 260 structures.

Western States Wildfires

Unprecedented Rains Create Historic Louisiana Floods

While draught and high temperatures fuel large wildfires across much of the western United States this fire season, unprecedented rains in Louisiana have resulted in historic floods which some are calling the worst natural disaster since Hurricane Sandy.  The historic Louisiana floods began on August 10th with rains pummeling the Baton Rouge area.  By August 12th, flood waters had overflowed rivers and inundated the lowlands as rains continued to spread south and east across the state.  As the waters begin to recede, residents as well as local officials are beginning to understand the extent of the damage.

By comparison, Hurricane Sandy and the recent Louisiana flooding were pale in comparison to Louisiana’s other famous disaster, Hurricane Katrina, which hit the Gulf Coast in August 2005, killing over 1,800 people and causing over $100 billion in damage.

Louisiana Floods at a Glance

  • More than 60,000 homes have been damaged with some of the hardest hit communities reporting a total loss of 75% of their homes.
  • Flooding of this magnitude is only forecasted to occur once every 1000 years.
  • 6.9 Trillion gallons of rain fell in one week with some areas experiencing over 31 inches of rainfall in less than 15 hours.
  • The Amite River reached a new record high of 46.2 feet devastating the town of Denham Springs.
  • More than 30,000 people and 1,400 pets were rescued but tragically 13 Deaths have been reported as the result of the flooding and an unknown number of people still missing.
  • 20 parishes so far have been declared as disaster areas. Over 106,000 residents have registered for federal aid.
  • FEMA has approved more than $107 million is disaster relief grants. The Red Cross estimates their costs will rise well over $30 million.
Parishes Declared as Disaster Areas from Louisiana Floods

Louisiana Parishes Declared as Disaster Areas as of 08/23/2016.

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

Bluecut Fire Engulfs 30,000 Acres in 24 hours

RedZone is monitoring the Bluecut Fire, a fast moving brush fire burning in the Cajon Pass area north of San Bernardino. The fire originated along the 15 Freeway and grew with explosive intensity to over 30,000 acres in less than 24 hours. Firefighters have struggled to gain an upper hand on the fire as it spreads rapidly across the canyons and flatlands, forcing more than 80,000 people to evacuate. Ground crews are focused on defensive firefighting, clearing brush and laying hose line, while air attacks bombard the area with fire retardant and water drops.

An unknown number of homes have been lost since yesterday but some estimates put the number over a dozen. Several businesses, utility infrastructure, a historic diner and at least one church have also been consumed by the flames.  Fortunately only minor injuries have been reported to date, but officials report that damage assessment teams and cadaver dogs will begin searching homes along Highway 138 as soon as possible.

A fire crew was overrun yesterday while defending structures, when fast approaching flames overtook their position. The firefighters were forced to take shelter as the flames encircled them and 2 crew members suffered inhalation injuries. The injured crew members have been treated and released from a nearby hospital and are currently back on the fire line helping defend positions.

Bluecut Fire Near Cajon Pass

Blue Cut Fire (08/17/2016) Near Cajon Junction Southeast of Hesperia.

Blue Cut Fire Outlook

California Governor Jerry Brown has declared a state of emergency and a National Type 1 Incident Management Team has been requested. Currently there are over 1,300 personnel on scene with multiple engines, air tankers and helicopters supporting their efforts. Additional resources are in route to the fire and the area remains under a red flag warning. The current weather conditions have contributed to the critical fire conditions with temperatures near 100 degrees, very low humidity and wind gusts as high as 30mph.

Bluecut Fire Facts (8/17/2016)

  • Started: August 16th, 2016
  • Location: Cajon Junction , CA
  • Size: 32,939 acres
  • Containment: 0%
  • Fire Behavior: Rapid fire spread through brush in hills, canyons and flatland.
  • Structures Threatened: 34,506
  • Structures Destroyed: An unknown number of structures have been destroyed.
  • Evacuations: Are in place for the communities of Wrightwood, Phelan and Lytle Creek.
  • Incident Page: Inciweb
  • News Article: LA Times

Soberanes Fire Update: now over 50% contained

Soberanes Fire Summary

The Soberanes Fire started as the result of an illegal campfire that was left unattended on July 22nd within the Garrapata State Park to the south of Monterey. The fire is now over 70,000 acres and is 55% contained. Currently, there are more than 5,300 firefighters on scene fighting the blaze. Damage assessments remain unchanged with 57 residences and 11 outbuildings destroyed, along with 3 structures and 2 outbuildings damaged, mostly in Palo Colorado, 15 miles south of Carmel-by-the-Sea. Full containment is not expected until August 31st.

Soberanes Fire Perimeter (8/12)

Soberanes Fire Location (8/12), between Big Sur and Carmel Highlands south of Monterey

Soberanes Fire Outlook

The fire had minimal growth in lower elevations again Thursday night as the marine layer kept the fire in check. Yesterday’s firing operation on the north part of Coast Ridge continued to be hot overnight with new MODIS heat detections picking up where an island of unburned fuel burned off near Dani Ridge. Morning reports had the high elevation areas near Ventana Double Cone as having actively burned yesterday and overnight as well. The majority of fire activity has been limited to the area of Uncle Sam Mountain and Coast Ridge, exhibiting mostly backing, creeping, and smoldering along with a few sustained uphill runs.

As mentioned, firing operations took place yesterday (8/11) along Coast Ridge and are being planned–dependent on weather–for the coming days to strengthen containment lines in the Big Sur area. This could close Highway 1 periodically over the next few days. Specifically, fire managers are trying to prevent the fire from crossing the Big Sur River Gorge where it could make a hard uphill run, and aiming to keep the fire out of the inhabited coastal canyons above Nepenthe, Pfeiffer Falls, and Big Sur Lodge.

Air quality in the Big Sur area will be poor again today at the lower elevations. The warming and drying trend that began yesterday will continue today as high pressure builds. Areas removed from the marine layer will see their hottest conditions since last week. Overnight humidity recoveries will be poor over the upper slopes and ridges. The warming trend will bring slightly more intense fire conditions above the marine layer, with areas below it continuing the low intensity and minimal spread.

Soberanes Fire Facts (8/12)

  • Started: July 22nd, 2016
  • Location: Big Sur, CA
  • Size: 70,615 acres
  • Containment: 55%
  • 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: Are in place
  • Incident Page: CALFIRE Information
  • News Article: KSBW News


RedZone Aides In Wildfire Mitigation Education

The Cold Springs fire – July 2016

On July 9, 2016 the Cold Springs Fire in Nederland, CO destroyed 8 homes and over 600 acres, prompting more information about wildfire mitigation to be taught to homeowners living in Boulder County, CO. RedZone is driving the educational cause by partnering with Wildfire Partners, a wildfire mitigation program in Boulder County that provides assistance to homeowners attempting to create a strong defensible space against wildfires. Whether it be scheduling Mitigation Specialists to provide an on-site assessment with homeowners, creating accurate and detailed reports outlining mitigation work that needs to be done, or organizing community events educating homeowners on the benefits of mitigation, RedZone, along with Wildfire Partners,  is working hard to make wildfire mitigation the top priority for homeowners.

The Effect of Wildfire Mitigation

Although the Cold Springs Fire destroyed 8 homes, an additional 8 homes within the fire perimeter survived. These 8 homes are all enrolled with Wildfire Partners and had completed their required mitigation tasks. Many homeowners called our team members to tell us their success stories, and more importantly, to thank the program for prompting them to mitigate their property. This is the response that Clark Woodward, founder of RedZone, envisioned when he agreed to collaborate with Wildfire Partners.

RedZone’s Role

As wildfires continue to burn throughout the country, RedZone is making wildfire mitigation education a top priority. As the partnership with Wildfire Partners continues, so will the cause to create defensible spaces surrounding property in order to make the lives of both homeowners and firefighters much more safe.  

Soberanes Fire Burns 45,000 Acres, Forces Evacuations

Soberanes Fire Forces Evacuations

The Soberanes Fire started burning the morning of July 22nd within the Garrapata State Park to the south of Monterey. As of August 3rd, it had grown to over 45,800 acres forcing some 350 residents to evacuate. Damage assessments report 57 residences and 11 outbuildings burned, along with 3 structures and 2 outbuildings damaged (mostly in Palo Colorado).

Tragically, one fatality has occurred as the result of the fire. Robert Oliver Reagan III, 35, of Friant in Fresno County was killed when his bulldozer overturned while helping to battle the fire in the remote southeast region of the fire.

Firefighters On Scene

Currently, there are more than 5,300 firefighters on scene fighting the blaze in remote and rugged terrain. Crews have established five fire lines around the valley, and in the last few days have lit several backfires on the south end of the fire perimeter to slow the spread.  Six power outages have been reported since the fire’s inception and flames continue to threaten infrastructure.  Pacific Gas and Electric crews have begun the task of repairing powerlines and hope to return service to the areas affected as quickly as possible.

CalFire reports that full containment is not expected until August 31st, and the final burn scar could potentially reach 165,000 acres.  RedZone will continue to closely monitor the fire’s growth to the south and east in the coming days and weeks.


Soberanes Fire Perimeter

Soberanes Fire Facts As of 08/03/2016:

  • Location: Carmel, CA
  • Size: 45,800 acres
  • Containment: 25%
  • Fire Behavior: Fire spread through steep, rugged and inaccessible terrain.
  • Structures Threatened: 2,000
  • Structures Destroyed: 57 homes, 11 outbuildings
  • Incident Page: http://inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/4888/#

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