Alberta’s Fort McMurray Fire Rages On

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

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

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


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




16-Mile Fire: Pennsylvania

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

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

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

16 Mile Picture

Copiague Fire: Long Island, NY

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

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

Copiague Fire Map

Rocky Mountain Fire: Shenandoah National Park, VA

The Rocky Mountain Fire was first reported on Saturday April 16th, 2016, in the South District of the Shenandoah National Park.  Crews are working hard to keep the fire within the park boundary along Skyline Drive. Due to the complexity of the incident, a Type 1 Incident Commander and the Southern Area Red Command Team will take over management of the fire on Wednesday April 20th.  As of April 19, resources have mapped the fire at 2,094 acres with no reported containment.

The fire has prompted the closure of 15 trails within the park, including a 4 mile section of the popular Appalachian Trail. These closures are in effect until further notice.  No structures or buildings have been reported as damaged to date.


Rocky Mountain_Blog Image_20160419

Newhall Fire: Valencia, CA

A 2-3 acre fire was reported around 7:15 a.m. near Newhall Ranch Road and Copper Hill Drive in Valencia, California on April 15th. The fire grew to 33 acres by 1:00 p.m. due to 25 mph winds in the area. Helicopters were on scene to support firefighters on the ground.

No buildings or houses were damaged, but nearby Albert Einstein Academy was voluntarily evacuated due to the fire. Fire officials have stated that they have the fire 65% contained and have stopped forward progress. Firefighters were expected to extinguish any remaining hot spots in the area throughout the day.


A screen capture from RedZone’s RZAlert Dashboard


History of Women in Firefighting

Women have been firefighters for over 200 years. The first woman firefighter was Molly Williams, who was a slave in New York City and became a member of Oceanus Engine Company #11 in 1815. During the blizzard of 1818, Molly was credited with pulling the pumper to fires through heavy snow and was known to be just as hard working as her male counterparts.

In Pittsburgh in 1820, Marina Betts made history serving as the first women volunteer firefighter for the city. Betts was said to have never missed an alarm during her 10 years of service, and was remembered for pouring buckets of water over male bystanders who refused to help put out fires.

Lillie Hitchcock Coit is also considered to be one of the first female firefighters in America. In 1859, Coit (who was still a teenager at the time) became an honorary member of San Francisco’s Knickerbocker Engine Company No. 5, when she helped the company haul the engine to a fire on Telegraph Hill.

By 1910 all-women volunteer fire companies were running in Silver Spring, Maryland, and Los Angeles, California. During World War II, many women entered the volunteer fire service to take the place of men who had been called into active duty service for the military. Two military fire departments in Illinois were staffed entirely by women for part of the war. In 1942 the first all-female forest firefighting crew in California was created

After the passage of the Civil Rights Act in 1964, fire departments could no longer prevent women from applying for jobs as firefighters. Many women went to work for the departments but were still ostracized by their male colleagues and much of the protective equipment they were issued did not fit properly. Another major hurdle to entrance into firefighting for women was the lack of facilities. The immediate problem of sleeping quarters and bathing areas had to be solved before women could participate fully in firefighting as an occupation and as a culture. Communal showers and open bunk halls were designed for men only. Today, most stations are now designed to accommodate firefighters of both genders. Despite those issues, women continued to make great strides in the firefighting profession that still continues to this day. Presently, over 7,000 women now hold career firefighting and fire officer’s positions in the United States, with thousands more in Canada, Great Britain, and other countries throughout the world.

lillie_hitchcock.jpgLillie Hitchcock Coit, one of the first female firefighters in America.

Source: History of Women in Firefighting

Powerline Fire in Big Bend National Park nearing full containment

A wildland fire started in Big Bend National Park, Texas, around 5:00 PM on Monday, February 1st, when heavy winds caused a power line to fall. The fire burned grassland and brush habitat, and is estimated to have been around 1,800 acres in size.  It is now 100% contained.


Powerline Fire as seen in our Incident Dashboard

Heavy winds originally pushed the fire to the east and northeast of Panther Junction during the evening of February 1st, and the fire covered 500 acres by Monday evening. By Tuesday afternoon the fire had spread to over 1,000 acres as winds continued to blow. A combination of National Park Rangers and fire crews battled the fire, working 10-12 hour shifts at a time. Higher humidity, colder temperatures, and somewhat diminished winds on Wednesday helped slow the fire during the evening hours, along with firefighter efforts to work hot spots along the fire perimeter.

Electrical power was initially lost to the Panther Junction, Chisos Basin, and Rio Grande Village areas, but was restored as of February 3rd. Additionally, two park roads, the road to Rio Grande Village and Old Ore Road, were closed as a precaution but both roads were re-opened on February 2nd.

No park structures were damaged, and no injuries were reported during the initial fire or suppression efforts.

Source :

Fuel Reduction Practices and Purpose

The practice of hazardous fuel reduction is most often associated with moderating the flammable vegetation around the defensible space of individual homes and communities. But this proactive approach to fighting wildland fire comes in many other forms and, unlike fire-fighting in most areas, is a year-round practice. 



Ridgeline fuel break example on the left and a road brushing/shaded fuel break on the right.

The basic function of a fuel-break is to impose some obstacle to the spread of potential fire, and also to provide access to the fire should one break out. Fuel breaks are designed to change the behavior of a wildfire by reducing the quantity, density, and configuration of potential fuels that the fire encounters when it enters the fuel break. 

Breaks are constructed for a number of purposes:

  • To act as a barrier to control the spread of a fire to a particular area or property.
  • To contain the spread of a fire from a fire source.
  • To break up large fuel areas (i.e. where fire may spread rapidly or be difficult to control, a system of firebreaks is sometimes established to aid in confining the fire to a relatively small area).
  • Reduce a crown fire to a fire burning on the ground. 

Fuel Breaks are most effectively located in the following areas:

  • Along ridges, where fires naturally slow their progress under most conditions.
  • 100 feet to 200 feet around structures, where fires are likely to start.
  • Along roads, power lines, and pipelines, where openings already exist.
  • Around wet areas, rock outcrops, mined areas, and other topographically strategic locations where fire spread may be reduced.
    • Adjacent to areas where fuel reduction treatments, such as thinnings and surface fuel treatments, have already been performed, where fire intensity and spread are already reduced.
    • Connecting to existing fuel breaks, to expand protected areas in a systematic way.

Natural Resources Conservation Service (CA) – Code 383