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


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

Is Wildfire Modeling Behind the Times?

Wildfires are one of the most difficult natural disasters to model. Some argue wildfire modeling is 20 years behind hurricane modeling — and that’s not inaccurate. Hurricanes occur frequently, take several days to form and can be monitored via satellite. Hurricanes are also enormous and can be over 50 miles in radius. They are not obstructed by buildings and, while complex, are affected by fewer variables than wildfires.

Now, consider wildfires. A wildfire can start in seconds by a lightning strike or a dropped cigarette. Oftentimes, the source of ignition is concealed. A wildfire can smolder for days before significant smoke is reported and others can become destructive in a matter of minutes. A small burn — just a few acres — can destroy homes and other structures. Wildfires are affected by a myriad of factors from roads to fuel moisture and type to relative humidity. Sometimes, wildfires are so short-lived that these variables are not recorded; other times, a wildfire covers so many ecosystems that each area of the fire is impacted differently.

File:Propagation model wildfire.png

RedZone Improvements to Wildfire Modeling

Neither hurricane modeling nor wildfire modeling is an easy task. However, wildfires present so many distinct challenges that it’s difficult to even compare the two types of storms. But wildfire modeling isn’t inaccurate — and we’re making strides to make wildfire modeling more accurate than ever before.

Take the Waldo Canyon Fire in Colorado, for example. A simplistic wildfire model didn’t account for many of the devastating factors that ultimately destroyed properties. One of these factors was ember showers, which caused homes to burn that were outside of the assumed danger zone. RedZone’s solutions, developed by expert wildfire analysts, take into account these lesser-known variables that can have devastating effects on properties during a wildfire. RedZone wildfire modeling also takes several scenarios into account at the same time. For example, it asks: If the wildfire goes in direction A, how far will it go? If the wildfire goes in direction B, how far will it go? And so on. By taking into account the likelihood and severity of every possible scenario, and every variable that goes with each, we are reaching a new standard for wildfire modeling.

RedZone looks at wildfire modeling from a loss-prevention perspective. Therefore, while a model might be good, if homes are unnecessarily destroyed, the model isn’t good enough. We’re developing wildfire modeling so it’s a standard, scientifically peer-reviewed model, which will prevent the loss of structures, homes and land. This model is mutually beneficial for both homeowners and insurance companies — and insurance companies would likely see an obvious and significant ROI increase from adopting it.

The good news is that researchers around the world are working to develop this “holy grail” of wildfire modeling software. Between RedZone, researchers at the University of California at San Diego and other scientists, we expect that wildfire modeling will soon match the accuracy of hurricane modeling.

Florida Wildfires Provide Big Start to 2017 Fire Season

Florida wildfires have already produced unprecedented statistics for the 2017 wildfire season. Spring is wildfire season for the region, but the acreage burned to date has far exceeded the past decade’s averages. Wildfires throughout the Southern Plains in early March made up much of the acreage when more than a million acres collectively burned. So far, almost 2.2 million acres have burned according to data from the National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC). In the past ten years, the annual average by April 13th is over four times lower at 434,696 acres.

Southern Area Fire Outlook

In their April 1st Outlook Report, NIFC’s Predictive Services attributed the uptick in activity to warmer and drier than normal conditions in several southern states. Florida especially has taken the brunt of the action of late with drought conditions persisting in the height of their fire season. Since February, prolonged fire activity has scorched 70,000+ acres there this spring with 19 structures collectively lost. Currently, there are 31 active wildfires over 100 acres and more than 100 fires statewide.

Florida Wildfires Prompt State of Emergency

Due to major fires currently burning and the fire potential related to the ongoing and forecasted dry conditions, a state of emergency was initiated on Tuesday (April 11th) by Florida Governor Rick Scott. Also, several Central Florida counties have implemented burn bans to prevent future starts as humans have caused most of the activity impacting the state. The seven-day forecast currently shows no help in terms of rainfall relief for ongoing drought there. Florida’s outlook is bleak, as chances for wildfires will remain heightened with hotter temperatures and low rainfall typical for spring. Thus, the fire danger for Floridians may last until late spring or early summer when the air becomes more humid and afternoon thunderstorms return.

Florida Wildfires

April 13th Wildfire Activity Map from Florida Forest Service

Sources:

https://www.predictiveservices.nifc.gov/outlooks/monthly_seasonal_outlook.pdf

http://wlrn.org/post/severe-drought-developing-florida

https://www.nifc.gov/fireInfo/nfn.htm

https://weather.com/news/news/florida-wildfires-governor-impacts

 

infrared view of southern plains wildfires

Southern Plains See Record Wildfire Activity

Southern Plains Wildfires

This week, unprecedented fire activity swept through the southern plains. Multiple counties of Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas saw critical fire weather conditions Sunday through Wednesday that fanned dozens of fires. Huge smoke plumes stretching for miles have been visible on NASA’s earth imagery for the area. As of March 9, seven people have died, five firefighters have been injured, thousands have been forced to flee their homes, heavy agricultural damage has been incurred, and more than a million acres have collectively burned.

The chaotic fire activity began this weekend when multiple starts forced residents from their homes in Central Kansas. The Highlands and Jupiter Hills fires in Hutchinson burned more than 6,000 acres between them. In the Texas Panhandle, three large fires broke out over the past three days, burning over 400,000 acres. The Perryton fire was the largest at 318,056 acres, rapidly spreading through grass and brush. Another Texas fire, the Lefors East Fire, ultimately claimed the lives of three of the seven reported deaths.

Roughly 60 miles to the north, three major fires burned along the Kansas and Oklahoma border, totaling another 800,000 between them. The three fires were merged into one, now called the ‘Northwest Oklahoma Complex Fire’. The fire is comprised of the Starbuck, Selman and the 283 fires. Authorities said the fires in Kansas and Oklahoma were actually the largest in the histories of both states.

On Wednesday (March 8), Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin declared a state of emergency for 22 counties affected. These historic fires can be seen in the top of the NASA imagery below. RedZone has used the imagery and MODIS heat detections to estimate the fires’ perimeters, as none of the fires have had official perimeters released.

March 7th view of Southern Plains Wildfires

NASA Imagery shows fires spewing smoke across the Southern Plains on Tuesday, March 7th

 

Southern Plains Fire Outlook

Wednesday marked the end of the critical fire danger period for the Southern Plains. There will, however, continue to be RH minimums in the teens (but light winds) for at least one more day in counties of western Oklahoma and the northern Texas Panhandle. The area had been dealing with low RH minimums, poor overnight recoveries, dry fine fuels, and breezy winds. A change in weather conditions will arrive Thursday bringing relief in the form of higher RH and potential for wetting rains. Nevertheless, a type-1 Incident Management Team (Dueitt) is already in route to take over command of NW Oklahoma Complex. The weather break is expected through next week and should reduce the fire concern and help aid in control and containment.

Historically, the spring wildfire season in Kansas, Texas, and Oklahoma can be very active. High fine dead fuel loading is already present and has been supporting large fire growth in Texas and Oklahoma since the start of the year. For the region, a longer than normal spring fire season is anticipated due to current drought, fuel conditions, and predicted warmer and drier than average weather. In turn, the regional fire managers caution that future weather systems could return this week’s fiery conditions to the region.

Regional Fire Statistics

  • As of: March 9th, 2017
  • Location: Southern Kansas, Panhandle of Texas, & Oklahoma
  • Size: 1,000,000+ acres
  • Number of Large Fires: 12
  • Fire Weather: Rapid fire spread through tall grass, agricultural areas, and brush.
  • Structures Threatened: 10,000+
  • Structures Destroyed: 13 Residences, 23 outbuildings
  • Evacuations: Are in place
  • News Article: CBS News

Sources

CBS News, NASA, NBC News, wideopencountry.com, Southern GACC

Rain fuels fire

Does Heavy Rain Actually Fuel Wildfires?

It may seem contradictory, but the recent drought-quenching rains seen across much of the west may actually lead to a higher potential for wildfires.  Thus far, 2017 has brought severe winter storms and record rainfall. These drenching rains have been a welcome respite to many areas suffering from multi-year drought conditions.  The excess water, however, has also brought flooding, landslides and the potential for increased wildfire risk.

Fine Fuel Growth

In areas that have experienced prolonged drought conditions or recent wildfires, rains often lead to an explosive growth of new vegetation.  Much of this vegetation growth is in the form of native and non-native grasses. Moist fuels are an ideal fire retardant, but these grasses are very susceptible to drying out after just a short period of low humidity and high temperatures. Once dried, these “fine fuels” are easy to ignite. Something as small as an errant cigarette butt or a spark from a vehicle tail pipe is a sufficient catalyst to spark a wildfire. Once active, these wildfires can move rapidly and are prone to “spotting”. Spotting occurs when embers are blown to nearby fuels and cause multiple ignitions, making the wildfire difficult to contain.

Rain fuels fire

Rapidly Spreading Fire in Fine Fuels.

Preparation

The ease with which these fine fuels can quickly dry and lead to hazardous conditions is one of the main factors fire managers consider when scheduling prescribed burns. Firefighters use prescribed burns to reduce the build up of fine fuels, thus decreasing the risk for wildfires in the future. Prescribed burns can also be used to establish fire breaks so that a small fire doesn’t become unmanageable. Individual homeowners can help with fire mitigation efforts by mowing grasses around their property and creating a defensible space.

Weather Outlook

Few meteorologists predicted the unprecedented rainfall that has impacted the majority of the United States so far this year. The recent storms have saturated fuels, likely delaying the onset of fire season. The threat, however, will not be all together eliminated. Long range weather predictions are vague at best. The Old Farmer’s Almanac suggests that the majority of the United States should see a hotter, but wetter than normal summer. The National Interagency Fire Center is also somewhat optimistic, predicting a delay of fire season until at least June. It remains to be seen if the recent storms will be enough to help combat the increasingly hot summers and severity of recent wildfires.

Sources

https://www.firescience.gov/projects/05-2-1-13/project/05-2-1-13_05-2-1-13_JFSP_Final_Report_05-2-1-13.pdf

https://www.fs.fed.us/fire/management/rx.html

http://hppr.org/post/last-years-rains-bring-increased-fire-risk-2017

http://www.auburn.edu/academic/forestry_wildlife/fire/fuels_effect.htm

http://www.canberratimes.com.au/act-news/heavy-spring-rain-has-boosted-fuel-loads-ahead-of-fire-season-20161023-gs8jvy.html

Milne fire

Milne Fire Prompts Evacuations Near Colorado Springs

Milne Fire Summary

The Milne Fire began Monday (2/27) afternoon in the Hanover area southeast of Colorado Springs, and burned over 7,000 acres in roughly 2 hours.  The initial report listed the originating location near Milne & Squirrel Creek Roads (southern tip of estimated fire perimeter below).  Sustained winds over 20 mph were observed along with relative humidity levels under 20%. The gusty winds have blown out of the southwest, fanning the fire to the north and east.  Given the rapid spread of the fire, it is not surprising that the fire area had been under Red Flag Warning conditions most of the day.

The El Paso County Sheriff’s office promptly evacuated over 600 residences in the fire area, and sent local school kids home early. The latest update from Hanover Fire Chief, Carl Tatum, stated that the fire had peaked at 7,000 acres by 5pm MST with an unknown number of structures involved. RedZone’s estimated perimeter in the map below reflects the nearly 7,000 reported acres.

Milne Fire in Hanover, CO

Milne Fire shown Southeast of Colorado Springs on RedZone’s Incident Dashboard

Milne Fire Outlook

Several local fire departments had taken over unified command of the fire as of Monday evening. Since the Milne Fire area is flat and mostly grassy, mop up and containment efforts shouldn’t be too difficult, and it’s likely firefighters caught the active fire front within hours. Flare-ups and spotting are possible with resources working to knock these down and gain containment on the bulk of the fire area. Crews continued to fight the blaze until around 9pm MST Monday while monitoring overnight.

Monday’s gusty winds and low RH are set to both improve by Tuesday, with the majority of the extreme fire threat moving further south and east into New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Texas. The National Weather Service is forecasting extreme fire conditions for a 32,000 square mile area in the Southwest, well south and east of the Milne Fire Location. The area includes Lubbock and Levelland, TX, as well as Hobbs, Artesia, Carlsbad and Hobbs, NM.

Milne Fire Facts

  • As of: February 27th, 2017
  • Location: Hanover, CO
  • Size: 7,000 acres
  • Containment: unknown
  • Obs. Fire Behavior: Rapid fire spread through tall grass.
  • Structures Threatened: 602 (reported)
  • Structures Destroyed: unknown/none reported
  • Evacuations: Have been lifted as of 6:45pm MST
  • News Article: The Gazette

Sources: The Gazette, KKTV11News, El Paso County Sheriff’s, Hanover Fire

UPDATE (2/28 8:30PST)

Late last night (2/27), it was reported that the Milne Fire actually burned 5,000 acres, or 3,275 acres if unburned fuel within the fire perimeter isn’t included. This number was reduced from its original estimate of 7,000 acres after aerial mapping was conducted of the fire yesterday evening.

Wildfire Partners Cold Springs Fire

RedZone is Excited to Support Wildfire Partners

Wildfire Partners is a home mitigation program aimed at helping Boulder County residents prepare for wildfire. RedZone, in cooperation with the county, is beginning its second year of facilitating the program. The goal of Wildfire Partners is to assist homeowners who live in the mountains and foothills, and guide them through the process of hardening their home to survive a wildfire. Some of those tasks may include clearing combustible material around the house, clearing trees that could convey fire to the structure, and adding flashing between the home and wood surfaces such as decks or fencing.

Want to learn about how Wildfire Partners could be implemented in your community? Please contact RedZone for more details.

Since 2014, more than 1000 participating homeowners and 30 partner organizations have helped make this program a success. Wildfire Partners is a nationally recognized model for wildfire mitigation that is incorporated into the county’s building code. The program is funded by Boulder County, along with a $1.5 million grant from the Colorado Department of Natural Resources and a $1.125 million grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

“The old approach was firefighters were responsible for saving homes from wildfire. The new approach, the new emphasis, is shifting responsibility to homeowners. This program empowers homeowners to be able to take that personal responsibility,” said Jim Webster of Boulder County.

The Wildfire Partners Process

Homeowners in the program actively participate in a comprehensive assessment of their home with a Wildfire Mitigation Specialist, and receive a customized report that identifies the weak links in your home’s defenses. This report will include a checklist of items to mitigate, annotated photos of vulnerabilities, and additional information on wildfire mitigation and preparedness. Homeowners may also be eligible for financial reward after completing all the required mitigation actions, and upon completion, will receive a mitigation certificate which is recognized by many national insurance carriers.

Wildfire Partners Results

Homeowners who live in the wildland urban interface (WUI) have already seen successful results, in particular with the Cold Springs Fire in Nederland, Colorado, in July of 2016.
The video below, “Home Survival Success Stories”, contains interviews of actual homeowners affected by the Cold Springs fire, and contains aerial drone footage of homes in the Nederland area which were completely surrounded by fire, but which survived the blaze nonetheless.

By completing mitigation measures correctly, homeowners will rest easy knowing they have acted responsibly to help protect their families and the first responders who may be called upon in the event of a wildfire.

Chile Wildfire Outbreak “Worst in Country’s History”

Chile Wildfires Displace Thousands

For the past three weeks, wildfires have ravaged Central Chile in an event President Michele Bachelet called the “greatest forest disaster in our history”. Strong winds, hot temperatures and a prolonged drought have created chaos in seven separate regions with over a hundred wildfires burning this month.  The fires have scorched hundreds of thousands of hectares from Santiago to Concepcíon, burning homes and displacing thousands of residents (see photos at this link).

As a result, at least eleven are dead including seven emergency responders (five firefighters and two policemen).  Authorities have called a state of catastrophe in the central regions of O’Higgins and El Maule. Help in the form of funds and even manpower have been pouring in from nine different countries, including the United States.

Chile wildfire smoke

View from NASA Satellites of the Central Chilean Wildfires on January 25th

Cause Still Under Investigation

As the fires have cooled down in most areas, determination of the cause of the wildfire outbreak has been found to be part negligence and part criminal. As of January 30th, local authorities had detained 43 Chileans for suspected arson.

Chile Wildfire Outlook

Fires are common in the summer in Central Chile, but the area is drier than normal, contributing to the dangerous conditions. Hot and windy weather is forecasted to remain prevalent, meaning the fires could continue to spread. The over 4,000 emergency responders deployed to the area will aim to prevent that in the coming weeks.

Chile Fire Outbreak Facts

  • As of: January 31st, 2017
  • Location: Central Chile
  • Size: 180,000 hectares
  • Containment: Around 35 of 100+ fires remain out of control
  • Fire Behavior: Rapid fire spread, fanned by strong winds, hot temperatures and a prolonged drought.
  • Structures Destroyed: 1000+ (estimated)
  • Evacuations: 4,000 reported by the  National Emergency Office
  • News Article: The Guardian

Sources

NASA’s Earth Observatory, The Guardian, NBC News, Wildfire Today, Yahoo

East Peak Fire

Join RedZone at the 2017 WUI Conference

RedZone is happy to be taking part in the annual Wildland Urban Interface (WUI) Conference to be held this year in late March at the Peppermill Resort in Reno, Nevada. This event, hosted by The International Association of Fire Chief’s (IAFC), offers invaluable hands-on training and interactive sessions designed to address the various challenges presented by wildland fire.

The WUI conference brings together wildland firefighters, federal and state-agency personnel, and land-use community planners to collaborate on emerging issues in wildland fire management. Attendees are able to make valuable industry connections while learning the latest in wildfire tools and strategies.

“The IAFC Wildland Urban Interface Conference is integral in helping me to learn about new science and innovative projects that are helping to drive us forward”, says Clark Woodward, RedZone’s CEO. “I have been attending for years and never fail to learn something new.”

Those responsible for protecting local forests or educating landowners and communities about the importance of land management may want to consider attending.

Led by industry experts, sessions and workshops are divided into three tracks:

  • Fire adapted communities
  • Operations and suppression
  • Wildland fire policy and tools

Learn – Topics include innovative Programs such as Ready, Set, Go! and the FAC Learning Network will be covered. Operational considerations such as lessons learned from Type 1 IC’s and tactical operations in Open Space Islands will also be covered.
Connect – Federal, state and local wildland fire personnel come together in a collaborative environment for idea sharing and future planning.
See – The Exhibit Hall provides a great opportunity to explore the tools, technologies and resources available to help you mitigate and respond to WUI challenges.

WUI Conference Information

Conference: March 21-23, 2017
Peppermill Resort – Reno, NV

Want to save $25 on your registration? Use marketing code: 159 to get a discount at http://events.iafc.org/wui