Lightning Fires Across Wyoming

While many of the Midwest and Atlantic states continue to get inches of rain and worry about ongoing flooding, Wyoming’s focus is on containing several lightning fires that started over the weekend. Some light rain assisted Bureau of Land Management (BLM) firefighters’ efforts, but one of the fires continues to burn near Ten Sleep in the northern part of the state.

The Salt Center Fire continues to burn in northern Wyoming. (BLM Wyoming, Mon, 13/June/16)

The Salt Center Fire continues to burn in northern Wyoming. (BLM Wyoming, Mon, 13/June/16)

Lightning Fires

The Salt Center Fire began Friday evening along with three other confirmed lightning strike fires in the area of Ten Sleep, WY. These three other fires were relatively small and south of the town of Ten Sleep: Spring Creek Fire — 25 acres, West Rim Fire — 1 acre, and Alkali Creek Fire — 0.25 acres. The Salt Center Fire is burning approximately 9 miles north of town near the Renner Reservoir and has grown to 225 acres. As of Monday evening, it was up to 50% contained. Due to the surrounding steep, rugged terrain, access for crews is difficult. According to Sarah Beckwith of BLM Public Affairs, 3 helicopters, 3 single engine air tankers, and 1 heavy air tanker have been assisting over 100 firefighters by targeting hot spots in the interior and difficult to reach parts of the fire. Further updates on this fire can be found on the Rocky Mountain Area Coordination Center’s incident page.

Lightning fires around Ten Sleep, WY

Lightning fires around Ten Sleep, WY

Lightning without rain!

In some places around the United States, such as Southern California, lightning fires frequently start with no rain nearby. These are called Dry Lightning Fires and can be even more dangerous without any moisture assistance from increased chances of precipitation. With hurricane season underway along the Atlantic, storming conditions continuing across the Midwest spawning tornadoes, and heightened fire weather and dry lightning storms across drought-ridden Pacific states, this is likely to be a dynamic and volatile weather season.

Tenderfoot Fire: Yarnell, AZ

Firefighters continue to battle the Tenderfoot Fire near Yarnell, Arizona. As of June 10th, the fire is being reported at 3,300 acres with only 10% containment. The Tenderfoot fire was first reported on June 8th near Yarnell and threatened several homes along Crest Way which came to within 200 feet of the fire’s perimeter. Fortunately SW winds pushed the blaze to the NE, away from Yarnell, and fire crews were able to establish control lines around evacuated structures.

On June 9th, high winds expanded the fire’s range, leading to more evacuations. By mid-day June 10th, the number of firefighters deployed had increased from 250 to 400.

About 280 residents have been evacuated — about 250 from Yarnell since the fire started, and 30 from Peeples Valley (to the north), the afternoon of June 9th when strong winds fanned the flames. Officials were still analyzing whether residents could be allowed to return home later in the evening on June 10th.

Rugged terrain is hampering firefighting efforts on the ground but officials are optimistic as winds continue to push the fire to the NE, away from nearby communities. Three large air tankers and two single engine air tankers have worked the fire since its start on June 8th.

The cause of the Tenderfoot Fire is still under investigation, however, officials have ruled out lightning as a cause.

On June 28, 2013, the Yarnell Hill Fire started just across Hwy 89 from the Tenderfoot Fire. Two days later on June 30th, 19 firefighters died battling the Yarnell Hill Fire when their position was overrun by erratic fire behavior after the winds shifted and turned the fire back into town. 127 homes were destroyed in the Yarnell Hill Fire, the deadliest fire in Arizona’s history.

Yarnell_Tenderfoot_Fires

Side-by-side comparison of the 2013 Yarnell Hill Fire and the 2016 Tenderfoot Fire.

Tortoise Fire: Orange County California

After three hours, firefighters and air units contained the 4-acre Tortoise Fire that burned in the gated community of Coto de Caza in Orange County. No evacuation orders were issued.

The Tortoise Fire was first reported at 11:22 am on June 3rd. Seventy Orange County firefighters were called to the blaze as well as three helicopters. The fire briefly threatened several homes before fire crews gained the upper hand around 1:30 pm in the afternoon. By 2:15 pm fire officials declared the Tortoise Fire fully contained. Hand crews remained on scene conducting mop-up operations until approximately 5 pm.

No homes were damaged and no civilians were injured but officials did report that three firefighters suffered minor, non-life threatening injuries as a result of the fire. The cause of the fire remains under investigation.

KEN STEINHARDT, THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER, Tortoise Fire

A helicopter drops water as wildland firefighters battle a vegetation fire in Coto de Caza.

Another Epic Flood Hits Texas in May

A year to the day since the devastating flood of 2015 pummeled the Austin & San Antonio areas of Texas, other parts of Texas received in excess of 9″ of rain in 3 hours around Houston, accumulating over 12″ over 12 hours as the storm passed through the region. As of Friday, May 27th, 2016, two fatalities have been reported – 1 from drowning, 1 from heart attack after driving through high water. Local highways remain closed as riverbanks are not high enough to contain the resulting floodwaters. These images were taken just 24 hours apart in Brazos County.

During & After of neighborhood drainage flooding

 

More flooding anticipated

While many streams and rivers are seeing floodwater levels diminish, those areas downstream of the harder hit areas are now dealing with the added water flowing throughout the watersheds racing toward the Gulf of Mexico. The Advanced Hydrologic Prediction Service (AHPS) from NOAA observes and predicts river stage levels across the country. Each gauge has a chart that indicates what water levels would cause the river to overrun its banks and flood the surrounding areas. As shown below, the Brazos River is forecast to continue dropping while the West fork of the San Jacinto River (farther east, toward the Gulf of Mexico) is expecting to reach ‘major flood stage’ levels prior to returning to normal. The recently observed readings are shown on the left, leading up to the forecasted levels along the right side of each chart.

AHPS of a couple Texas river levels

Observed and forecasted river level charts from AHPS-NOAA.

 

Additional damage and dangers

In addition to the widespread flooding, many reports of hail and tornado touchdowns spanned the area. Some local residents in Bryan, TX took cell phone videos as the tornado passed through the Wheeler Ridge neighborhood. As the weather clears and river levels return to normal, the damage and impact can begin to be addressed. More flooding and tornadoes are forecast across the Southeastern US in the next few days as the storm system continues moving east.

 

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.

Newhall_Fire

A screen capture from RedZone’s RZAlert Dashboard

 

RedZone attends risk management RIMS Conference!

RedZone joined over 400 other exhibitors from around the globe at the RIMS Conference on risk management in San Diego on April 10th – 13th. Attendees were able to learn about RZRisk and RZAlert products and how these tools could benefit their companies. RedZone CEO Clark Woodward and VP of Business Development Michael Flannery represented RedZone’s Headquarters from Boulder, CO, accompanied by Intel Analysts from the RedZone Intelligence Center in San Diego, CA.

RedZone Team at RIMS 2016.

RedZone Team at RIMS 2016.

Exhibitors and attendees came from diverse backgrounds such as Property/Casualty Claims Services, Risk/Loss Control/Safety Services, Workers’ Compensation, Physical and Mental Health Services and Providers, and Human Resource Solutions. Additionally, several attendees were from the educational fields and product delivery services — risk assessments, analysis, and mitigation are necessary for all industries in some capacity. Several visitors to the RedZone booth discussed their need for monitoring the safety of employees during natural disasters as well as non-naturally occurring crisis situations.

If you’re attending the conference, stop by booth #3501 to speak with the RedZone Team about your needs.

Michael discusses RedZone's capabilities with an attendee.

Michael discusses RedZone’s capabilities with an attendee.

Up next: Look for RedZone’s Michael Flannery as he visits San Antonio, TX, for the PLRB Claims Conference, April 17th – 20th.

Black Friday Brushfires

On Friday January 13, 1939, Victoria, Australia suffered one of the worst wildfires in history. These fires came to be known as the Black Friday brushfires. They burned nearly 5 million acres and 71 people lost their lives after several towns were destroyed.

Prior to Black Friday, Victoria had experienced a long, dry, and hot summer coupled with a drought that had lasted several years. Many creeks and rivers had dried up and high temperatures and hot winds had left the forest floors extremely dry. Several small fires were already burning since December. Some of these fires could not be extinguished while others were left unattended to burn under “controlled” conditions. However, high temperatures combined with strong northerly winds on Friday the 13th strengthened these fires causing them to combine into a massive fire front which swept over the mountains into Victoria. Over 1,000 homes were burned, and the towns of Narbethong, Noojee, Woods Point, Nayook West, and Hill End were completely destroyed. The fires had burned for three days when the area was hit with heavy rains Sunday evening which eventually extinguished the blaze.  

After the fires, the Australian Royal Commission attributed blame for the fires to careless burning, such as those used for campfires and land clearing. The Commission made a number of recommendations to improve forest management and safety, such as the construction of fire towers and access trails. It also encouraged the creation of a fire administration which would be responsible for supervising controlled burns. The Black Friday brushfires contributed directly to the passing of the Forests Act, which gave the Forests Commission responsibility for wildfire protection on public land.

 

WoodsPointBig.jpg

The town of Woods Point after the Black Friday brushfires.

Image courtesy of the Victoria State Government

As Autumn Looms, So Does the Threat of Santa Ana Winds

Annually, the onset of the fall and winter seasons brings the highest chance for Southern California’s famed Santa Ana winds.

Typically Santa Ana air mass conditions are brought on by high pressure inland and lower pressure off the Pacific Coast which brings very hot and dry weather along with strong, down-slope winds.  In the past, the critical fire weather conditions that accompany Santa Ana winds turn the typically dry chaparral of Southern California into explosive fuel.  Some of the country’s costliest fires in history have taken place in these conditions.

Santa Ana Winds derive from High Pressure in the Great Basin

Interestingly, this year meteorologists are expecting an El Niño cycle to begin affecting the area with rains by November.  In the meantime, as the tropical air mass that has brought this summer’s rain gives way to autumn’s Pacific air mass, a few Santa Ana events should precede the El Nino’s wetting effect.

 

Clear Lake area hit with another major wildfire

The Elk fire is yet another new start in Lake County in 2015. To date, the three major fires shown on the map below alone have burned over 95,000 acres. As of Friday morning the Elk Fire is still only 35% contained.

 clearlakefires_2015.png

Lake County is at it again, with its third major wildfire of the summer. Following in the footsteps of the Rocky and Jerusalem fires from earlier last month the Elk Fire started yesterday and is only 25% contained as of last night. The Clear Lake area has now seen over 95,000 acres burn along with three different evacuation orders – though the Elk fire’s have already been lifted. Wildland fire potential in many areas of the state, including Lake County, is predicted to remain well above normal as Fall approaches.

  

IGNITION FIRE ACRES CONTAINMENT
JUL 29 ROCKY 69,438 AUG 15
AUG 9 JERUSALEM 25,118 AUG 23
SEP 2 ELK 670 35%

  

 

I want more information about RedZone