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SPOTFIRE! ~ The FUSEE Blog

It takes just one little ember to spark a Spotfire! Like fireline scouts, FUSEE’s crew of bloggers size up emerging incidents and issues, report back vital information, and mark the route for others to follow.  Here you will find news and views you can use to promote safe, ethical, ecological fire management. We hope interested readers and investigative reporters will follow up on our blog posts to get the whole story of wildland fire.

A New Hotlist, A New Fire, and a Tragedy

Ferguson Fire looking southeast from Greeley Hill – July 14, 2018

Tragically, a CalFire dozer operator was killed this morning in a rollover accident on the new emergent Ferguson Fire on the Sierra National Forest.  The Ferguson Fire started yesterday evening near the bottom of the Merced River Canyon near the junction with the South Fork of the Merced River, and is forcing evacuations throughout the river canyon.  Hot temperatures today spurred the fire growth to over 1000 acres.  The Central Sierra Type 2 IMT is taking the Fire and the Incident Command Post (ICP) has been established at the Mariposa County Fairgrounds.  Yours truly, HunterX, will be joining the effort as Fire Behavior Analyst, briefly abandoning my own team, with the understanding I be released if NorcaL Team 1 gets assigned.  The fire may burn into Yosemite  National Park, and could be a threat to Yosemite West, El Portal, or even Wawona, in the days to come.  The area around Cedar Lodge has been evacuated.

Wildweb Information

Ferguson Fire MODIS Imagery (Yosemite National Park boundary in green)

For those that miss the Hotlist from the now defunct wildlandfire.com website, I stumbled upon a Reddit thread that led me first to this site, and finally to https://forums.wildfireintel.org, which looks like it is going to take off with a brand new 501c3 non-profit to curate it.  It has a nifty new look and workflow and is getting quite a bit more traffic than the earlier attempted replacement.  Both are mostly picking up California action, but that will likely spread.  The wildland fire technology company Redzone has taken the initial steps to get the site up and running, but the plan is to hand it over entirely to the non-profit once a revenue stream is secured.  This looks like it will be a great resource for getting real-time posts by wildland firefighters en-route and assigned to incidents.  There is also a moderated Facebook Group called National Fires R.O.C. that also seems to be acting as a Hotlist surrogate.  R.O.C. stands for Report on Conditions.  There will likely be some competition between these sites, but wildfireintel.org gets my vote, for now.

Drop the Rhetoric, Work Together

I’ve spent most of my career working in fire management, reaching back to the 1970s when we knew very little about the behavior of wildfires and often took a seat-of-the-pants approach.

Now we have solid science and skilled fire professionals to guide our response to wildfires, but unfortunately that knowledge and experience has not yet been put to full use. In our hyper partisan age, the issue of fire management is becoming as politicized as timber management was in the 1980s.

read more…

Managing Wildfire: What Works and What Doesn’t

We now have solid science and decades of experience managing western wildfires. But in our hyper-partisan age, the issue of fire management is becoming as politicized as timber management was in the 80’s and 90’s. In an attempt to contribute to a fact based debate, I present a brief summary of respected, published findings on wildfire management.

The fire management status quo is not working

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FUSEE Radio Podcast 001 – Risk Management Assistance Teams

Good morning.  I’m pleased to present FUSEE’s first in a series of podcasts.  In this installment, we interview Dr. David Calkin about the Risk Management Assistance Teams (RMATs) – his involvement, the team’s purpose, and what to expect from them during the upcoming fire season. Dave is a Research Forester for the U.S. Forest Service at the Rocky Mountain Research Station,  He lives and works in Missoula, Montana, and is currently focused on risk management in wildland firefighting.

As an outgrowth of the Forest Service’s Life First initiative, the RMAT role was articulated in an agency presentation by Becki Heath, Acting Associate Deputy Chief for State and Private Forestry, in Reno this spring at the Cohesive Strategy workshop, sponsored by the International Association of Wildland Fire (IAWF)

⇒ RMAT role was to bolster the Line Officer’s ability to examine alternative strategies that better consider:

  • inherent tradeoffs of exposure
  • risk to highly valued assets
  • opportunities for fire benefits

⇒ They tested an effort to address Line Officer’s needs for:

  • decision-making tools
  • enhanced analytics and alignment with response strategies

⇒ Intent was to enhance capacity, apply decision support tools with risk expertise, and improve the

effectiveness and efficiency of our fire management response.

read more…

Science Continues at the Continuum

Hey, dear readers. Your stalwart voice for ecological fire management here, HunterX.  I was just up on the mesa top in Canyonlands National Park gazing into the Maze, and I wondered what Heyduke, Edward Abbey’s fictional proto-enviro, would make of humanity’s pickle today.  Likely he would have had to take a road trip somewhere, tossing beer cans as he went, and would ultimately have concluded it was an apt fate for humanity, preferring to work on issues in his own backyard – a strong statement for grassroots organizing!  But, oh the intersectionality of it all!  That word recently burst forth implying areas of overlapping social concern. In the world of natural science, it’s called ecology, following one of Barry Commoner’s four laws of ecology, “Everything is connected to everything else.” It’s a basic Buddhist precept, and It is turning out to be true in climate change, as well.  We see this as, one-by-one, other environmental issues trace their origin or accelerant to be a warming Earth.  “The new normal” as Califonia Governor Jerry Brown has said of wildfire’s increasing occurrence and impact. Making my way north off the Colorado Plateau and over the Eastern Uintas, I crossed the Big Horn River, and I’m reminded this is the anniversary of the Battle of the Little Bighorn – A perfect metaphor for America’s losing war on Fire.   As I dropped into the Clark Fork drainage, it’s banks were swollen, leaking toxic sludge into swirling waters. It was peak runoff, but officials were concerned about the minimal snowpack in the Colorado and Utah mountains and the heightened fire risk for the summer.  I would probe these questions and others with scientists and wildland fire professionals from around the world at the Fire Continuum Conference on the beautiful University of Montana campus in Missoula.

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2018 California Incident Management Team (IMT) Workshop Notes

What If?

What if?  That was the ominous theme for participants when the California Wildland Fire Coordinating Group (CWCG) held their annual IMT Workshop at the Wildland Fire Training Center in McClellan Park on the first three days of May.  Incident Commanders (ICs) from all the Federal Type 1 and Type 2 IMTs from both Northern and Southern California were in attendance, along with other team members.  The purpose of this annual gathering is to receive guidance from agency heads and set the tone for the upcoming wildland fire season.  read more…

Hype Conversion Burn

The conversion of the Sims Prescribed Fire to the Grape (Wild)Fire brings up a scary ghost from the past.

In 2000, the crew managing the Upper Frijoles Prescribed Fire in Bandelier National Monument had difficulties getting the fire to ignite and spread.  Test burns were ignited in moist grassy fuels at the top of a mountain in 50 degree air temperature with upslope winds 1 to 2 mph. Hardly a reckless action, but, mistakes were made in the planning process that resulted in a smaller crew size than could handle the fire as it progressed downslope, moving from grassy fuels to shrubs and eventually timber stands with lots of downed fuel. When a 30 x 30 foot slopover at the top of the unit occurred, the National Park Service crew put in a request to the U.S. Forest Service to get some extra “contingency” resources to bring the “escaped” fire back into prescription. This is where things went terribly wrong. read more…

Prescribed Fire Escape – Six Rivers National Forest

Wildfires are already a hot button in California, following on the heels of the deadliest and most destructive wildfires in the State’s history just last year.  Governor Brown holds up the wildfire impact as a certain indicator of climate change in the State’s suit against the U.S. Government headed by climate denier-in chief, President Trump.  Local governments are joining in the fray.  2018 looks to be no different.

The Grape Fire was an escaped prescribed fire being jointly conducted by the Six Rivers and Shasta-Trinity National Forests at the end of last month.  According to the Redding Interagency Command Center WildCAD records, the Sims burn was converted from a prescribed fire to a wildfire and renamed as the Grape Fire at 4:59pm on April 24th.  read more…