Yet another winter storm is slated to send more rain to Southern California this week and we at RedZone think it warrants a little inside info on the risks of post-fire debris flows. The nation is experiencing its second El Nino effect in three years with it forecast to last in to the summer. What that means, is a higher potential for land-moving rainfall rates in areas where fires have scorched the landscape. After last years tragic events that occurred in the Thomas fire burn scar, officials have not taken the potential of these continued storms lightly. So far this winter, residents have been evacuated near the Holy, Thomas, Cranston, Napa/Sonoma, and Woolsey fires (all recent burn scars from the last couple years).
Here we are dealing with yet another crazy autumn week of wildfire in California. As we noted earlier this fall, annually, Santa Ana Wind events cause new fire ignitions to become dangerously uncontrollable and have statistically caused the fastest-moving and most destructive fires on record. Now, barely a year removed from last year’s devastating October Fire Siege Northern California is dealing with the Camp Fire, now the deadliest and most destructive fire in history. Similarly, not even a year removed from the giant Thomas Fire in Ventura County, several nearby coastal communities are dealing with their own widespread evacuations and impacts from the destructive Woolsey fire. RedZone has been working tirelessly monitoring, updating, and aiding our customers in response to both of these unique and tragic events. While tracking the fires, we’ve happened upon some really sad, interesting, and heroic stories. Here are a few we found worthy to share.
Barely a year removed from last year’s devastating October Fire Siege Northern California is dealing with the Camp Fire, now by far the deadliest and most destructive fire in history.
The Search continues on Paradise Fire for the Missing
Vice News investigates the intense search for answers on hundreds of missing people in the wake of last week’s Camp Fire. Many residents are still searching for missing loved ones. Exacerbated by the fact that the 26,000 person city is known for being a large retirement community making success of evacuation even more problematic.
Ten Hours in Hell
Bill Roth was home with his fiancee and dog when the Camp Fire started. After getting them out, he stayed to try saving his house. He spent ten hours in what he called, “hell”.
A second survivor who’s friends weren’t so lucky: https://www.sfchronicle.com/california-wildfires/article/He-couldn-t-save-his-friends-Now-Camp-Fire-13382947.php#photo-16473858
The Controversial Case for Letting Malibu Burn
Professor Mike Davis has long been infamous for his stance on letting Malibu burn. This stance came around again as this month’s Woolsey fire has destroyed over 1,000 structures in exactly the fire he predicted. What’s your take on Davis’ stance that “the broader public should not have to pay a cent to protect or rebuild mansions on sites that will inevitably burn every 20 or 25 years”?
Read the following the for the recent story and backstory.
Original Take: http://www.ic.unicamp.br/~stolfi/misc/misc/SoCalFires.html
Before and After the Fire: Disaster Imagery
Pan around or search for an address on their Esri-powered site:
Mendocino Complex Fire Summary
The Ranch fire, which is being managed as a part of the Mendocino Complex, Started on July 27th on the north bound side of highway 20, east of Lake Mendocino. Fuels in this area consisted of grass, brush and Oak trees. The grasses along the highway led the fire rapidly becoming established and making a run upslope to the east. Due to winds in the area the first resources on scene were not able to catch this fire in its initial stages.
The Second fire being managed under the Mendocino Complex is the River Fire. The River Fire began on the east side of Old River Road, nearly 7 miles southeast of Ukiah, CA. Similar to the Ranch fire, the River Fire began in grasses and became rapidly established making a run up slope to the Southeast. The two incidents spread in a very similar manner for the first 3 days due to both fires burning in identical fuel types, and experiencing the same wind conditions during the initial attack phase. This is depicted very well in the fire progression map provided by the incident management team below.
Mendocino Complex as of August 16, 2018
The type-1 incident management team has been making significant progress with suppression efforts on these two fires. Currently the River fire remains with 48,920 acres burn and is 100 percent contained. The Ranch Fire has now surpassed the Thomas in acreage and claimed the title of California’s Largest Wildfire in recorded history. The Ranch Fire is currently 317,117 acres with 69 percent containment. The main influence of the Ranch Fire during the upcoming operational will be winds speeds. With the predominant winds coming from the west, the fire will continue push east. As these winds diminish this evening the primary driving factor of fire spread will switch to the local topography. This will likely change the direction of spread to the northeast. With the fire continuing to spread to the Northeast, there will be no shortage of fuel as it furthers its destruction of the Mendocino National Forest. Fire crews have constructed containment lines in this area and are preparing for a firing operation if the opportunity presents itself.
Mendocino Complex Fire Facts
- As of: August 16th, 2018
- Location: Clear Lake, CA
- Size: 366,037 acres
- Containment: 76%
- Fire Behavior: Moderate Fire spread through heavy timber and brush in steep, rugged terrain.
- Structures Threatened: 1025
- Structures Destroyed: 147 Residences/118 Other
- Structure Damaged: 13 Residences/ 23 Other
- Evacuations: Are in place
- Incident Page: http://www.fire.ca.gov/current_incidents/incidentdetails/Index/2175
- News Article: ABC 7
Last Year’s Disaster
During the massively destructive 2017 wildfire season in California, certain phrases kept being repeated. “Unprecedented”, “Uncharted territory”, “Historic”, “War zone”, “New normal”, and other descriptive phrases were used to try and give people an understanding of the magnitude and severity of the fires. People hoped 2018 would be different, but “New Normal” seems to be an accurate description of what we can expect from wildfires in California.
This Year’s Activity (So Far)
California governor Jerry Brown has started to get lawmakers and the public to brace for the increasing threat of wildfires. He was recently quoted in a SacBee article, saying that fighting wildfires in the state is “going to get expensive, it’s going to get dangerous, and we have to apply all our creativity to make the best of what is going to be an increasingly bad situation.”
Around a quarter of California’s annual fire suppression budget has already been spent; even though the fiscal year just started July 1st. Simultaneous large fires are also spreading resources thin. As of this writing, 16 large uncontained fires burning a total of 343,700 acres continue to to challenge California firefighters. The largest and most destructive of these fires is the Carr Fire near Redding, which claimed 6 lives and destroyed over 1,000 homes. It already ranks as California’s 6th most destructive wildfire. In fact, half of California’s 10 most destructive wildfires have happened in the last 4 years.
National resources are also spread thin, as the National Interagency Fire Center has upped the National Preparedness Level to 5 (out of a possible 5), indicating that resources are already fully committed to current fires. New fire starts will have a higher potential for large growth, as there will be limited resources to stop the fire before it gets established.
California Active Large Fire Facts
- As of: August 2, 2018
- Size: 343,700 acres
- Structures Destroyed: 1,000+
- Structures Threatened: 17,000
- Incident Page: http://www.fire.ca.gov/current_incidents
- News Article: https://www.sacbee.com/news/politics-government/capitol-alert/article215852940.html
The Ferguson Fire began last Friday evening (13/July) in the Savage Trading Post area of Mariposa County, CA. It quickly grew past 4,000 acres by Sunday morning. Evacuations were issued for several areas in the vicinity and parts of Hwy 140 were closed due to firefighting activities. From the beginning, crews focused on securing fire line along Hwy 140 and structure protection where needed. In preparation for the hot and dry forecast, additional resources worked to extend containment lines to the east on both north and south flanks of the fire. Daily, an inversion has kept the smoke low over the fire which limits the usage of aircraft for water and retardant drops. Another compounding factor to this very active fire is the available fuels – this area has had no significant wildfire in nearly 100 years.
The forecast has been much the same each day for the Ferguson Fire area. Today’s weather was similar to yesterday with upper 90os and into the triple digits, relative humidity around 17-20%, and light & variable west winds at 5-10 mph with gusts to 20 mph. As thunderstorms built over the area after lunch, these winds increased to 15 mph with stronger gusts. These conditions will lead to ongoing active fire behavior. As safety allowed, crews conducted burning operations along the western and eastern sides of the fire. This means they purposely burned fuel to remove it in controlled portions. Removing this fuel allows resources to better control where the fire can grow and spread next. At only 7% containment, crews are pre-positioned in the communities around the fire in case the winds drive it quickly to the houses. So far, no homes have been destroyed from this fire, but the destructive California fires of this past fall and winter remain fresh in everyone’s minds.
- As of: July 19th, 2018
- Location: Mariposa, CA
- Size: 21,041 acres
- Containment: 7%
- Fire Behavior: Moderate fire spread through brush/chapparal and light pine timber
- Structures Threatened: 108
- Structures Destroyed: zero
- Evacuations: In place for Jerseydale and Mariposa Pines to the south, Yosemite West to the east, and along Hwy 140 to the north
- Incident Page: https://inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/5927/
Late June and early July added several new ignitions to a wildfire season that was already off to an ominous start. So far in 2018 major fires have already igniting across Texas, Oklahoma, and the Southwest. The recent heat wave that swept Red Flag fueled wildfires across the US resulting in evacuations and structure loss in Colorado, California, Utah, and As we move deeper into the summer months, increasingly warm and dry conditions will continue to fuel the threat of wildfires. The National Inter-agency Fire Center released their fire potential outlook for summer months, predicting an above average fire season for all of the twelve western states making wildfire intelligence gathering even more essential.
A New Source for Wildfire Intelligence
Understanding the need for real-time wildfire intelligence, a conversation started between group of devout users and former moderators. This group came together to revive a forum that once popular among the fire community. For a variety of reasons they ultimately decided it was best to spin-off a new website. This new website, branded wildfireintel.org, was created as a non-profit with the mission to create a free public forum for discussing “topics important to the fire community”. Relevant subjects include fire related “incidents, jobs, industry, safety, and health”.
Recent Fire Activity Drives Traffic and Additional Users to the Website
Although it’s still in the initial stages of development, wildfireintel.org is up and running and gaining traction. WildfireIntel.org is quickly becoming a trusted source for accurate, real-time information. Recent fire activity is helping increase traffic to the forum, with the last 30 days adding over 200 new users and almost a million page views. Knowing that forums survive by the active participation of its users the founders of the website are encouraging the fire community to continue to contribute to the site. The founders hope that with increased participation an “active and sustainable wildfire community” will again foster and provide much need wildfire intelligence. For more information, please visit the wildfireintel.org website and/or become more involved by registering.
Colorado has already seen its fair share of wildfires this season. The 416 and Burro Fires ignited in early June and are still raging. Almost daily Red Flag conditions have punished the state and resulted in explosive fire growth. Late Wednesday evening (June 27th), strong winds and exceptionally dry conditions resulted in another new start close to the New Mexico border.
The Spring Fire broke out just east of Alamosa, Colorado and quickly began spreading towards the community of La Veta. On Thursday a sparse crew of firefighters accompanied by limited air resources attempted to gain the upper hand but had to retreat as the fire, pushed by 35+ mph winds, tore through over 4000 acres of rough terrain.
Today (Friday June 29th), fueled by another day of Red Flag conditions, the fire exploded to over 24,000 acres and has jumped CO 160, forcing the closure of the highway. Over 2,500 people have been evacuated from the area between Fort Garland and La Veta. A Type II Incident Management team arrived with additional resources this morning to manage the large out of control wild fire.
- Location:10.2 Miles W of La Veta, CO, Huerfano County
- Size: 33,956 acres
- Containment: 0%
- Fire Behavior: Rapid fire spread due to erratic winds, dry conditions, and high temperatures.
- Structures Destroyed: Structures reported lost but no official number released at this time.
- Incident Link: Inciweb
- Weather Forecast: Weather.gov
The Red Flag Warning remains in effect until tonight at 2100 MDT but will likely be renewed tomorrow due to another day of high temperatures, low humidity, and winds reaching 20 mph. With temperatures being in the mid 80s well into next week, it’s not likely that crews will contain this wildfire anytime soon.
The 2018 wildfire season is already off to a strong start. So far this year major fires have already igniting across Texas, Oklahoma, and the southwest. As we move into the summer months, increasingly warm and dry conditions will continue to fuel the threat of wildfires. The National Inter-agency Fire Center released their fire potential outlook for summer months, predicting an above average fire season for all of the twelve western states making wildfire intelligence gathering even more essential. This foreboding outlook comes on the heels of an oft dubbed “unprecedented” 2017 wildfire season that shattered multiple records.
A Trusted Source Lost
2017 thrust the threat of wildfires back into the public spotlight. Numerous fires across the United States grabbed nationwide media attention but none more than the two most significant California fires; The October Fire Siege in Napa/Sonoma and the Thomas Fire in the Ventura/Santa Barbara area. With broadcast and social media flooding in, one trusted source of wildfire intelligence was surprisingly absent from the conversation. Without notice, during the late season chaos of the Thomas fire, the WildlandFire.com forum was taken offline and all the data was lost.
What was WildlandFire.com?
WildlandFire.com was conceived in the early nineties as a way to provide, “a quick, reliable system to allow firefighters and other employees (and their families) the ability to voice their thoughts, ideas, experiences, or even ask a few simple questions.”. By the late nineties the forum gained traction, soon becoming a trusted source within the firefighting community.
Wildfire Intelligence Forum
Understanding the essential role this type of web forum plays, a conversation started on how to revive the website. A group of “devout users and former moderators” ultimately decided it was best to spin-off a new website. This new website, branded wildfireintel.org, was created as a non-profit with the mission to create a forum for discussing “topics important to the fire community”. Relevant subjects include fire related “incidents, jobs, industry, safety, and health”.
For More Information and How to Register
Although it’s still in the initial stages of development, wildfireintel.org is now up and running. Knowing that forums survive by the active participation of its users the founders of the website are encouraging the fire community to contribute to the site. The founders hope that with increased participation an “active and sustainable wildfire community” will again foster. For more information, please visit the wildfireintel.org website and/or become more involved by registering.
The Tinder fire was ignited Friday April 30th in the Blue Ridge area about 50 miles southeast of Flagstaff. RedZone began actively monitoring that afternoon as it grew to 50 acres. By Saturday night the fire slowly grew to 230 and then 500 acres only. On Sunday, things changed drastically. Fanned by strong southwest winds, the Tinder fire made an 8,000 acre run to the Northeast. The run pushed the fire into and beyond the community along Hwy 87 threatening homes in the Moquis Ranchettes, Starlight Pines, Clear Creek, Timber Ranch, Tamarron, Pine Canyon, Blue Ridge Estates, Ponderosa Pines and Mogollon Ranches areas.
Tinder Fire Slows its Growth
Monday, the fire has grew to over 11,000 acres with most of the growth, luckily, on the right or eastern flank where there are no homes or neighborhoods. Fortunately, despite strong winds continuing in the area, only 300 acres of growth was seen yesterday. In addition, the fire area experienced precipitation of snow and light rain overnight that should assist firefighters’ progress (from only 7% as of 5/2/18) with containment lines. Furthermore, with an estimated 30 homes impacted, damage assessments were completed Monday by the IMT. But, as of today, there were still no results released to the public. As a result of the fire situation, road, area and trail closures are in effect.
Tinder Fire Facts: (As of May 2, 2018)
- Location: Blue Ridge Reservoir, 48mi SE of Flagstaff, AZ
- Cause: Investigators have confirmed that the cause of the blaze was an abandoned illegal campfire.
- Size: 11,736 acres
- Containment: 7%
- Fire Behavior: Moderate fire spread through timber and chaparral.
- Structures Threatened: _1,700_ PRIM; __COMM; __OUTB
- Structures Destroyed: _UNK_ PRIM; __COMM; __OUTB
Additional Tinder Fire Info:
For further info, please visit:
UPDATE 01/03/18 @ 4:49 p.m. – The fire is now 92% contained at 281,893 acres.
Thomas Fire Summary
The Thomas Fire began in Ventura County just north of Santa Paula around 630pm on Monday December 4th. Under Red Flag and Santa Ana Conditions the fire quickly made a push along Hwy 150 to the south and parallel to Hwy126 to the west threatening Santa Paula and Ventura the first night. The fire continued its push west, crossing Hwy 33 and reaching the ocean at Hwy 101 shortly after. Over the course of the next week the fire slowly boxed in Ojai, eventually surrounding it, and pushed its way further west towards the Santa Barbara County line. By this time, the majority of the 1,330 structures impacted already had been. A few days later, the fire used a new round of overnight wind gusts to make a big run on the morning of Sunday Dec 9th, establishing itself above Carpinteria and Montecito. The following Saturday another round of morning winds forced the fire down into the fringe of Montecito, forcing a wall of engines into a several hour battle to push stall its progress. Luckily, by this time over 8,000 firefighters were assigned to the fire, and up to the task of suppression the big morning run. Thanks to their efforts, of the reported 1,300 homes threatened on Dec 16th, only 15 or so were impacted.
Since that push, the fire’s progress has stalled and containment has increased to 65%. Still over the last 17 days, the fire is only 500 acres shy of topping the Cedar Fire for largest in California history. A burn operation is expected to add the acres needed with a few thousand more before all is said and done. Luckily, the firefighters necessary to see the fire out have been halved since the peak last week, but the suppression costs could eclipse last summer’s costly Soberanes fire in well short of the time. The full containment of the historic fire is not expected until after 2018 has begun.
Thomas Fire Major Developments:
- Yesterday’s wind event produced 50 mph gusts, but fire activity remained minimal.
- The firing operation was stalled yesterday due to high humidity and some snowfall. It was able to continue in the afternoon, and further firing is planned today for the Rose Valley area.
- The fire area effectively endured two straight weeks of high to extreme fire weather conditions. Over that period, RH dropped as low as 3-5% and wind speeds were recorded over 60mph.
- The fire is 500+ acres shy of passing 2003’s Cedar Fire for largest (in terms of acreage burned) in recorded California history.
- Total fire suppression costs have ballooned to $170 million in just 17 days. It took last year’s Soberanes Fire twelve weeks to cost its total of $236 million.
Thomas Fire Facts:
- Location: Fillmore all the way to Santa Barbara, both Santa Barbara and Ventura Counties
- Size: 272,800 acres (as of 1/3/18 – 281,893)
- Containment: 65% (as of 1/3/18 – 92%)
- Fire Behavior: Light fire behavior with interior burning on the northern portions of the fire
- 1,063 structures have been destroyed and 267 more have been damaged.
- 18,000 Structures remain threatened.
- All Mandatory Evacuations have been lifted.
Wikipedia – List of California Wildfires