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THE BISCUIT'S ALMOST TOAST
SEPTEMBER 05 -- GRANTS PASS, OR: Oregon's largest fire in history is now 98 percent contained. With the help of cooler temperatures and higher humidity, firefighters were able tie the containment lines together; they're now working to secure the firelines.
The Curry Coastal Pilot reported that the fire should be contained by tomorrow night, and the focus is shifting from fire suppression to emergency actions needed to mitigate the fire's effects.
A Burned Area Emergency Rehabilitation (BAER) team has been assembled, and BAER information officer Erin Connelly said their objectives include determining immediate resource needs and human health and safety concerns. The team will work to stabilize soils, control erosion, and monitor the effectiveness of emergency treatments. They will finalize an initial assessment by mid-September and take on any needed actions before the first of November.
Local officials with the USFS and BLM were joined on the BAER Team Monday by Greg Kuyumjian from the Santa Fe National Forest in New Mexico. Kuyumjian coordinated BAER teams this summer for the Hayman Fire in Colorado and the Rodeo-Chediski Fire in Arizona. He also coordinated rehab efforts in 2000 for the Cerro Grande Fire in Los Alamos, New Mexico.
The Bear Camp Road remains closed; snags and other hazards are being removed. All other roads in the fire area remain closed, as heavy equipment and crews are working in the area for rehabilitation. The BAER team will finish their analysis today in Zone 1. In Zone 2 a Type III team from the Six Rivers National Forest is assigned.
Cool temperatures and higher humidity in Zone 3 kept fire behavior low and allowed firefighters to tie containment lines together. Mop-up and rehab continues, and the Curry County Sheriff's Department retracted pre-evacuation advisories for Pistol River, Upper Gardner Ridge, and Wilderness Retreat. All other closures are still in effect.
A public meeting is planned for tonight at the Azalea Middle School in Brookings for 7:00 pm.
The only active fire in zone 4 is in the Lawson Creek drainage; islands continue to burn well within the fire perimeter. Some individual tree torching was observed, but fire behavior yesterday was mostly low-intensity backing fire. Mop-up is proceeding well in other parts of the zone, and suppression-related rehabilitation is continuing.
Cooler weather is expected to last through the week, with daytime temperatures ranging from 54º to 67º and higher RH from 41 to 54 percent.
SENATORS PROPOSE BOOSTING SPENDING TO COMBAT DROUGHT, WILDFIRES
SEPTEMBER 04 -- WASHINGTON, DC: Senators on Wednesday introduced what could be a $5 billion package to help the nation's farmers and ranchers cope with a fierce drought, mounting a campaign-season challenge to President Bush. An AP story in the Red Bluff Daily News said that Bush last month declined to support added drought assistance in the wake of last May's enactment of a $190 billion, six-year farm bill. Last week, Bush requested an extra $825 million to battle this year's wildfires, one of the worst outbreaks on record. A bipartisan group of senators proposed language Wednesday that would provide that money, and it is expected to sail through the Senate.
This year's wildfires have burned more than 6 million acres, nearly double the average for the past decade's fire seasons. Of the money, $636 million would go to the Forest Service and $189 million to the Bureau of Land Management. The extra firefighting money was an amendment to a $19.3 billion measure financing the Interior Department and federal cultural programs that the Senate debated Wednesday. The bill already contains $2 billion for battling wildfires, $200 million less than the House version.
Another fight is expected over a plan by Western senators to let federal officials remove dead wood and sick trees from national forests to prevent wildfires. Bush has proposed a similar plan, which many environmentalists complain would allow more logging on federal lands.
CRAIG LAUNCHES FIRE PLAN
SEPTEMBER 05 -- COEUR d'ALENE, IDAHO: Idaho congressmen are introducing proposals to reduce fire hazards on some of the forests most at risk, according to a report by the Coeur d'Alene Press. U.S. Sen. Larry Craig is proposing an amendment to the Interior Appropriations Bill that would exempt 10 million acres from environmental restrictions and judicial review. His plan would give highest priority to projects near urban populations, municipal watersheds, and areas affected by disease, insects, and wind damage.
So far this year, wildfires have burned 6.3 million acres. About 2,500 homes have been destroyed, and 25 people have died fighting wildfires. That's more devastation than was wreaked by Hurricane Andrew in Florida in 1992.
"If this had been Hurricane Andrew," said Craig, "we and the full force of the government would be out there today, helping these people, rebuilding these homes and trying to solve the problem.
JUDGE RULES BARTON'S CONFESSION ADMISSIBLE
SEPTEMBER 04 -- DENVER, CO: A federal judge ruled today that Terry Barton's statements about starting the 137,760-acre Hayman Fire are admissible and can be submitted in the case against her. According to the denverchannel.com, Barton's attorneys tried to get the confession suppressed, saying that Forest Service investigators didn't advise her of her right to remain silent before she made her statements.
One of the investigators testified that there was no need to advise her of her rights because she was not under arrest at the time.
Barton faces four federal charges, including arson, for allegedly starting the largest wildfire in Colorado history that destroyed at least 133 homes and cost more than $39 million to fight. She pleaded not guilty to the charges. The Hayman Fire started June 8 north of Lake George, Colo., and took almost a month to contain. It still has not been declared officially out.
In her statements to investigators, Barton claims to have burned a letter from her husband in a campfire ring. The U.S. attorney also says Barton voluntarily handed over a matchbook from her truck, telling investigators the missing matches were the ones she used to start the fire. She was fired from the Forest Service on June 22; her trial is scheduled to begin Jan. 6.
BISCUIT FIRE CONTAINED
SEPTEMBER 05 -- GLIDE, OR: Incident Commander Mike Lohrey last night declared all the fires on the Tiller Complex 100 percent contained. "Solid firelines have been established around all the fires," he said, "and we feel confident that we can contain the fires within their current boundaries." He added that the hard work of the crews on the fire over the past 55 days was appreciated by the incident management team.
The complex of fires, about 25 miles east of Canyonville, was ignited by lightning on July 12 and burned 68,862 acres. Crews now are patrolling for hot spots and mopping up along the perimeter, and Lohrey said that will continue until the fire is controlled -- when the team is confident that there's no risk of the fires escaping the containment lines.
Infrared flights are continuing in an effort to locate hot spots. Firefighters will be mopping up to within 300 feet of the containment lines, and a major rehabilitation effort is under way.
LAST BISCUIT EVACUATIONS LIFTED
SEPTEMBER 04 -- GRANTS PASS, OR: The Curry County Sheriff lifted the final evacuation warning today on homes threatened by the Biscuit Fire, according to Associated Press reports, and residents of about 30 rural homes were finally allowed to unpack and relax.
"Getting back to normal would be wonderful," said Sandra Brugger, who owns the Chetco River Inn east of Brookings and has been living with helicopters and fire crews in her yard the past month. "This means we can move our papers and other important things back home."
The scattered rural homes were all within a few miles of the Biscuit Fire, which stood at 499,937 acres after being ignited July 13 by lighting. The massive firefighting effort, at one point the top priority in the nation, kept the flames from moving into the Illinois Valley communities of Selma, Kerby, Cave Junction and O'Brien, home to about 17,000 people.
The fire was 92 percent contained last night at 499,937 acres. It remains the biggest in the nation this summer.
AIRBORNE ASSAULT KICKS OFFICE BRIDGE FIRE
SEPTEMBER 04 -- WESTFIR, OR: The Office Bridge Fire grew by just 10 acres on Tuesday, totaling 140 acres, as cooler weather arrived to bolster efforts of 357 firefighters and aerial crews working on steep, rocky terrain north of the North Fork of the Middle Fork of the Willamette River. The Eugene Register-Guard reported that residents of nearby communities remain under a three-hour evacuation notice. A 12-hour bombardment by three helicopters and two airtankers on Monday resulted in 25 percent containment on the fire, according to fire information officer Bernie Pineda. Three helicopters dropped 282,000 gallons of water from the river. Airtankers based out of Redmond made nine retardant drops totaling more than 20,000 gallons of retardant.
"Given the record-dry fuel conditions we face, a rapid response by ground crews and aggressive use of air resources are critical to our ability to protect adjacent communities and get the job done safely," said incident commander Dale Gardner.
Falling snags and rolling rocks added to the danger for firefighters. One injury was reported Tuesday when a firefighter was struck by a rock that tore loose and rocketed down a steep grade. According to fire information officer Peter Frenzen, crews working the night shift are assigned to areas on the east and west sides of the fire on flatter ground with fewer hazards from falling debris.
"Things that are falling are terrifying enough when you can see them coming," he said.
SQUIRREL FIRE EVACUATES SHASTA COUNTY RESIDENTS
SEPTEMBER 04 -- WHITMORE, CA: For the second time in two days, flames forced Shasta County residents to evacuate near the foothill community of Whitmore. The Redding Record-Searchlight reported that the wind-driven fire spread to 250 acres as a second fire ignited by the first scorched 75 acres. Winds up to 17 mph pushed the blaze north, threatening homes along Fern Road East, which links Whitmore with the neighboring towns of Fern and Oak Run. About 540 firefighters were on the fire, backed up by helicopters and airtankers dropping water and retardant.
The fire crowned in the trees as residents watered down yards and cut firebreaks. Though a large fire moved through the area about a decade ago, thick brush 6 to 8 feet tall provided plenty of fuel for the fire. Airtankers were grounded at dusk, but were expected to continue fighting the fire today.
A CDF Type 1 team is assigned; extreme fire behavior with spotting was observed yesterday. Structure protection is in place for 500 residences, several commercial properties and 200 outbuildings. One residence was confirmed lost; the fire last night was zero percent contained at 325 acres.
SEPTEMBER 04 -- GLIDE, OR: The 69,252-acre Tiller Complex is listed at 95 percent containment this morning, and full containment is expected today. Firefighters will continue to mop up, patrol, and initiate rehab today, and will be monitoring for hot spots within the fireline. The Umpqua National Forest has finished a rehab plan for the complex and is considering the use of a Burned Area Emergency Rehabilitation (BAER) team to prepare for secondary rehabilitation to protect life and property.
Two vehicle accidents occurred yesterday; eight firefighters received minor injuries ranging from neck strain to concussion when a crew bus on the Tiller Complex left the road. All eight were evaluated and then released from the hospital; five are assigned to light duty for up to a week. A watertender on the Apple Fire rolled over on a narrow road yesterday afternoon; the driver received only minor injuries. The watertender is being righted and retrieved today. Investigations on both incidents are under way.
The Apple Fire is 85 percent contained this morning at 14,160 acres. Weather conditions have moderated the fire behavior; mostly minor surface fire with occasional torching was observed yesterday. Burnout continued yesterday in three divisions, and all other divisions are being mopped up. The fire received light drizzle yesterday, and that, combined with higher relative humidities and lower temperatures, will help with mop-up and holding. Further burnout operations, however, will be limited by weather conditions.
Crews today will continue to burn out where possible, and substantial mop-up is planned. A portion of the 27 Road on the southwest side of the fire will be treated today for dust abatement. Also, personnel leaving the fire, whether demobilizing or headed for the Tiller Complex, are asked to stop at the weigh station west of Glide for a wash to eliminate transport of noxious weeds. On most areas of the fire today, patrol and mop-up will occur; rehabilitation operations including removal of debris have begun. Initial attack resources are being staged in the event they are needed.
SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA FIRE EVACUATES LEONA VALLEY
SEPTEMBER 03 -- PALMDALE, CA: On the north end of Los Angeles County, a fire near Leona Valley this afternoon burned more than 800 acres of brush and forced the evacuation of several homes as it raced uphill. Flames ringed a half-dozen homes on the edge of the Angeles National Forest; about 600 firefighters worked to save the homes.
The fire's burning on both sides of Bouquet Canyon, and the Canadair CL-415s leased by Los Angeles County are working on the fire.
BUS ACCIDENT ON THE TILLER COMPLEX
SEPTEMBER 03 -- GLIDE, OR: The driver of a crew bus carrying 19 Canadian firefighters temporarily lost control of the vehicle on the Little Boy Fire on the Tiller Complex this morning. As a precautionary measure, six firefighters were transported to Mercy Medical Hospital in Roseburg for evaluation; two other firefighters with minor injuries were later taken to the hospital. All have been released. The 11 others on the bus remained at the Milo base camp for evaluation and de-briefing.
"Safety is always the number one priority for the Pacific Northwest Incident Management Team 2 in all aspects of incident management," said Mike Lohrey, incident commander. "We constantly remind incident personnel of the need to follow safe practices while driving to and from the fireline."
An accident investigation team has been mobilized and includes members of Lohrey's team along with representatives from the Tiller Ranger District, Douglas County Sheriff's Department, and the bus company.
MIST ON THE APPLE
SEPTEMBER 03 -- GLIDE, OR: Firefighters on the Apple Fire and Tiller Complex were greeted with cool mist and clouds this morning, but hope to still get in some burning to reinforce lines on the Apple Fire. Even though cooler temperatures and showery conditions are expected to continue through Thursday, the burnouts necessary to contain the fire could still be successful in areas of heavy timber where precipitation is blocked from reaching the ground by heavy timber canopy above.
The fire yesterday spotted over the line on the east side of the fire, but night shift crews found and contained the spot fires. Today's crews will scout for and mop up those areas.
Yesterday afternoon the fire put up a good plume of smoke with active burning along the flank between Calf Creek and Twin Lakes, with very active fire behavior in old growth noble fir. Most of the fire, however, burned beneath the canopy.
High temperatures yesterday were 92º at the Tiller incident command post, 87º at the Apple ICP, 78º recorded by FIRE RAWS #15 on the Tiller, and 83º recorded by FIRE RAWS #6 on the Apple Fire. Low humidities ranged between 24 percent and 29 percent on both incidents. Forecasted temperatures this afternoon are a high of 78º at fire camp and a low of 45º tomorrow morning.
Firefighters were cautioned at this morning's briefing to be prepared for wind gusts to 20 mph on the ridges this afternoon; though fire behavior should be reduced by the cooler conditions, torching is still possible, especially on the southwest/west aspect slopes. Burning index has dropped from the low 60s to 54 for today.
Fire-weakened trees and falling snags are still a concern in some areas of the fire, and firefighters were urged to be cautious, particularly in areas where crews haven't yet worked.
The Apple Fire is now 75 percent contained at 13,595 acres and the Tiller Complex is 95 percent contained at 69,252 acres. Full containment on the Tiller is expected by tomorrow. Fires already contained in the complex include: Tallow, Red Mountain West, Gemstone, 2040, Quarter, Rendezvous, 2035, 2018-A and Bloomer fires. Containment for the Apple Fire is predicted for Thursday.
FREEWAY FIRE IN CASTAIC NEARS 1,000 ACRES
SEPTEMBER 03 -- SANTA CLARITA, CA: Erratic winds and scorching temperatures fanned a wildfire to nearly 1,000 acres Monday, prompting the closure of Interstate 5 and creating a traffic nightmare for homebound holiday travelers. The Pasadena Star-News reported that winds gusted to 15 mph and temperatures were over 100º as 550 firefighters fought the Freeway Fire. One hundred residences remain threatened.
"We were seeing some really aggressive fire behavior," said Roland Sprewell, a Los Angeles County fire inspector. "We had flames 100 feet high. It was a very dangerous situation." The fire was reported Sunday afternoon; it died down overnight and then took off again early yesterday.
"The fire was extremely active, as if it was burning in the middle of the afternoon," Sprewell said. "And that's unusual for so early in the morning." Three firefighters were treated for heat exhaustion and one for a minor knee injury.
Heavy smoke and visible flames prompted the California Highway Patrol to close down I-5 in both directions for most of Monday morning, creating a 9-mile-long traffic jam. "It's just a mess." said CHP Officer Doug Sweeney. "The traffic is probably the worst it's ever been."
NBC4-TV in Los Angeles reported that another fire in Bouquet Canyon north of Santa Clarita has spread over 100 acres; it's moving fast and in two directions, uphill toward Palmdale. About 250 firefighters are on the fire, and Canadian super-scoopers are dropping water on the fire the first time this season that the leased CL-415s have been dispatched on a fire.
SEPTEMBER 03 -- GRANTS PASS, OR: The Biscuit Fire last night was at 92 percent containment and 499,937 acres. Warm and dry conditions, steep terrain, lack of natural barriers, and poor humidity recovery last week postponed the expected containment of the fire. Joining of the containment lines is on track, and containment is expected Friday.
There is still about four miles of fireline to build, and interior islands continue to burn in all zones. The BAER team is expected to finish their analysis by Thursday in zone 1. They are ground-verifying satellite imagery on burn severity.
In zone 3, crews are using thermal imaging maps and walking the fire areas by grid to help identify hot spots. The remainder of the southern section of Zone 3 has remained cool, with mop-up and rehab progressing well. A public meeting is planned for 7:00 p.m. Thursday at the Azalea Middle School in Brookings.
The only active fire in zone 4 is in the Lawson Creek drainage; islands continue to burn well within the fire perimeter. Some individual tree torching was observed, but mostly it was a low intensity backing fire.
There are no restrictions on tour boats, fishing, or rafting traffic on the Rogue River. The Quosatana Campground boat ramp is open, but the Quosatana campground will remain closed for rehab. Lobster Creek and Foster Bar boat ramps are both open. More information is available at www.biscuitfire.com
MORE WINDY WEATHER ON THE CURVE FIRE
SEPTEMBER 03 -- AZUSA, CA: A wildfire that forced thousands of people to flee campgrounds in the San Gabriel Mountains during the Labor Day weekend had grown to 14,429 acres by this morning, according to a report by USAToday; the fire started Sunday about 30 miles northeast of Los Angeles, and was 5 percent contained last night. About 7,000 campers were forced to leave behind their tents, clothing and food when the fast-moving blaze headed for them. The fire destroyed 14 structures, including two homes of forest personnel.
More windy weather with temperatures near 100º was forecast for today, and firefighters are working on steep, forested hillsides at elevations near 7,000 feet.
Sections of state Highways 2 and 39 remained closed Tuesday and were being used only by fire engines carrying reinforcements, according to a report by the San Diego Union-Tribune. The firefighting force doubled Tuesday morning to nearly 1,350 personnel.
The cause of the fire has not been determined, but authorities said they had ruled out lightning. Another nearby wildfire that began Thursday in San Bernardino County, separated from the larger fire by two mountain ridges, was held at 554 acres and was 84 percent contained last night. The blaze was near the Mountain High ski resort in the Wrightwood area, about 55 miles northeast of Los Angeles.
PRE-EVACUATION NOTICES ISSUED TO WESTFIR RESIDENTS
SEPTEMBER 03 -- WESTFIR, OR: Fire-viewing was a spectator sport on Labor Day as dozens of Westfir residents watched crews battle a 130-acre wildfire burning uncomfortably close to home. The Office Bridge Fire on the Willamette National Forest is being managed by Gardner's Type 2 team; the fire made short runs with torching and spotting yesterday in brush and timber. Crews are hot-spotting and building fireline. Structure protection's in place for 85 homes, five commercial properties, and numerous outbuildings.
Three helicopters and three fixed-wings flew for most of the day, dropping water and retardant on the fire. According to the Eugene Register-Guard, the fire started Sunday afternoon on Forest Service land near Highway 58, north of the Middle Fork Willamette River. It's burning just east of last month's Hemlock Fire, which burned 136 acres.
"The first fire we had over here was a little bit of a shock," said Clif Carter, a Westfir resident who returned to his home from a vacation trip Monday morning. "I had thought we'd escaped fire for the year, but I guess not." Fire information officer Bernie Peneda said no residences are threatened by the blaze, but added that "homes of concern" on Westfir's western end have been issued two-hour pre-evacuation notices. Nearly 200 firefighters worked the fire Monday, and Peneda said officials hope to get more help from two hotshot crews that were ordered.
Peneda said crews are "far from containing" the fire, but added that if it behaves similarly to the Hemlock Fire, crews could have it contained in about a week. A swirling wind on Monday afternoon blew ashes from the fire into the Westfir community, making for smoky conditions. The fire was 10 percent contained last night.
FIREFIGHTERS AS GOOD AS WORLD CHAMPION ATHLETES
SEPTEMBER 03 -- MISSOULA, MT: If you thought Lance Armstrong was tough, consider this: Hotshots require nearly the same amount of energy as the Tour de France champion just to do their jobs. Unlike in professional sports, where an athlete's calorie and water input and energy output are carefully recorded and charted in training logs, wildland firefighters' progress is usually gauged by the miles of line they can build in a shift.
Researchers at the University of Montana and Montana University have been studying the physical strains on firefighters, according to an ABC News report, to help supervisors better supply them with adequate food, water, and rest schedules.
The U.S. Department of Defense, along with the Forest Service, has provided funding for the studies.
"I think the attractiveness of the firefighter model is we're not faking anything," says Brent Ruby, an exercise physiologist at the University of Montana in Missoula. "That means you get a non-simulated combat field-like environment physical and psychological stress included."
The Montana researchers selected the toughest of the tough hotshots as their test subjects. There are 1,360 hotshots in 68 crews nationwide; to measure the energy output of these crews, Ruby and Steve Gaskill, also an exercise physiologist at the University of Montana, used a testing device known as "doubly labeled water." This water solution is packed with tracers in the form of isotopes elements that are naturally heavier or lighter in mass.
The harder a person works, the more calories a person burns, and the more tracer isotopes leave the body. To measure calorie output, Ruby and Gaskill had men and women hotshots firefighters drink small cups of the water solution every morning for a week; they then took urine samples each morning before the 'shots set off to work. The results, published in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, showed that daily energy expenditure ranged from 4,000 to 8,000 calories a day. In comparison, Tour de France trainers have reported their cyclists in the three-week race typically burn about 6,500 calories a day.
"It's staggering," he says. "This is one of the highest values in an occupational setting."
The Montana team also found that women firefighters burn an equivalent number of calories on the job as their male counterparts when figures were adjusted for weight differences.
ANOTHER FIRE BURNING NEAR WESTFIR
SEPTEMBER 02 -- WESTFIR, OR: Firefighters spent Sunday evening working to contain a 60-acre wildfire that started just east of where last month's Hemlock Fire burned. Fire information officer Jonie Quarnstrom of the Willamette National Forest said the Office Bridge Fire started at 4:30 p.m. and was burning through timber and brush on Forest Service land near Highway 58 north of the Middle Fork Willamette River.
No homes are threatened by the fire, according to a report by the Eugene Register-Guard. Initially reported as a three- to five-acre fire, the blaze spread during the late afternoon hours to about 20 acres when the wind picked up. Crews put in a dozer line north of the fire, but the eastern and western edges were unsecured Sunday evening. "We're not even thinking containment yet," said Quarnstrom. A Forest Service fire investigator was en route Sunday night to try to determine what caused the fire.
WYOMING FIRE BLOWS TO 800 ACRES
SEPTEMBER 02 -- KEMMERER, WY: Sandman's Type 2 team is now managing the Commissary Ridge Fire 20 miles north of Kemmerer. Extreme fire behavior with 200-foot flamelengths was a problem yesterday, with fire whirls and spotting up to a half mile ahead of the front. The fire made sustained crown runs of 75 to 100 acres downhill through subalpine fir; it's burning in mixed conifer forest, sagebrush, and grass, and is headed east. Crews and dozers are flanking the fire with direct attack fireline, but steep, rocky terrain, dry fuels, and high winds are challenging firefighters. Crews have been working on establishing defensible space and preparing to burn out around threatened residences. The Spring Creek Ranch and Commissary Ranch subdivisions, summer homes, and cabins have been evacuated. The fire last night was at zero percent containment.
SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA FIRE EVACUATES 8,000 HOLIDAY CAMPERS
SEPTEMBER 02 -- AZUSA, CA: Thousands of holiday campers fled a wildfire that quickly spread across 10,000 acres of the Angeles National Forest yesterday. Several said they were separated from friends and family and had to leave their belongings behind, according to a story in USAToday.
"They told us we had ten seconds to get out, to run," Lisette Cardenas told KABC-TV in Los Angeles. "You could see the smoke right behind us."
The Curve Fire took off Sunday afternoon and burned north on both sides of Highway 39 north of Azusa, about 30 miles east of downtown Los Angeles. Possible causes included a lightning strike or a propane tank explosion. It was listed last night at 10,000 acres and zero percent containment. Studebaker's Type 1 team is on the fire. Extreme fire behavior with flamelengths of 100 feet was observed in mixed conifer forest and heavy brush; crews are constructing fireline with support from aerial resources. Steep and rugged terrain, limited access, high temperatures, and gusty winds are delaying suppression efforts. Structure protection is in place for 200 residences. Campers in the Coldbrook, Crystal Lake and East Fork Road areas have been evacuated, and two homes were confirmed lost.
The Freeway Fire northwest of Santa Clarita is 61 percent contained at 800 acres. The fire spotted across containment lines several times, but full containment is expected today.
In Wrightwood, about 55 miles northeast of Los Angeles, the 554-acre Lytle Fire was 61 percent contained Sunday. Dietrich's Type 2 team is assigned to the fire, which is 12 miles north of Rancho Cucamonga. Progress was limited by the discovery of a possible explosive device. The San Bernardino Sheriffs bomb squad responded to investigate and dispose of the object. According to CNN reports, investigators determined that the device was drug manufacturing equipment for a mobile methamphetamine lab. Investigators were trying to determine whether the charred body and the device were connected to the ignition of the fire.
In El Dorado County, about 40 miles east of Sacramento, another fire destroyed one house as it burned 770 acres. It threatened 100 other homes and forced evacuations; dozens of El Dorado County residents, according to the Sacramento Bee, were allowed to return to their homes yesterday as a large wildfire between El Dorado Hills and Cameron Park began to burn back onto itself. A 15-year-old boy was detained in connection with the fire. Another 15-year-old boy was released to his family on Saturday after being questioned by authorities.
APPLE FIRE OVER 13,000 ACRES, TILLER ALMOST CONTAINED AT 69,252 ACRES
SEPTEMBER 01 -- GLIDE, OR: Burnout continued today on several divisions of the Apple Fire, and mop-up is continuing in most divisions.
Fire behavior moderated some today, with only occasional torching and short uphill runs. The fire's estimated at 75 percent containment tonight with 3 more miles of line to build. Winds were in the 5-12 mph range, with temperatures ranging between 75º and 85º across the fire area.
Firefighters on night shift were cautioned at tonight's briefing to be prepared for an upcoming weather change that's expected to bring temperatures down into the 40s at night, with increasing humidities and a chance of showers by Tuesday night.
Projected final size on the fire at full containment is estimated at 20,000 acres. Fire managers are evaluating the need to burn out one of the divisions on the southern portion of the fire, and may be using both helitorch and TerraTorch® operations to strengthen the line in burnout areas. Moderate expansion of the acreage is expected because of burnout operations.
The Tiller Complex is listed at 95 percent containment tonight, with full containment likely for tomorrow. Crews have only 120 chains of line to complete. Conditions today were smoky, with smoldering and creeping surface fire and low spread rates in heavy fuels. Crews are patrolling and mopping up to within 300 feet of control lines. Rolling debris and hazard trees continue to pose hazards to firefighters, who have had problems with transport to drop points because of downed snags and debris. Lohrey's Type 1 team will take over the incident tomorrow morning.
WHITE MOUNTAIN APACHES BEGIN REHAB AND SALVAGE
SEPTEMBER 01 -- HEBER-OVERGAARD, AZ: Tribal leaders are trying to salvage what they can of land once covered with pine and juniper forests that burned on the Fort Apache Reservation. The White Mountain Apache tribe is focusing on halting erosion on denuded hills, according to Associated Press reports; the Rodeo-Chediski Fire was the worst wildfire in Arizona's history. It destroyed at least 467 homes and scorched nearly 469,000 acres. The Bureau of Indian Affairs says 300,000 of those acres were tribal grounds.
On Tuesday, officials will start aerial mulching to prevent erosion, hold moisture, and hold soil in place. Thousands of bales of straw will be dropped by helicopter over the burned area. The mulching will increase soil stability for grass seeds dropped last month. "It can take 100 years to regrow a tree," said BIA forester David Raney. "It can take 300 to 500 years to replace soil."
Meanwhile, desperate economic straits are forcing the tribe to sell logs for the first time in its history. In the past, the tribe sold only processed lumber, a business that provided jobs. But the fire left about 800 million board feet of dead timber, far more than can be handled at tribal mills.
The Arizona Republic reported that communities north of the reservation are rebuilding homes while the tribe tries to halt the inevitable erosion and rebuild an ecosystem from the burned forests that once were a legacy for their children.
"The fire isn't over here," said Raney.
The White Mountain Apache Tribe is online at www.wmat.nsn.us
APPLE AND TILLER TO BE CONSOLIDATED TOMORROW MORNING
SEPTEMBER 01 -- GLIDE, OR: Mike Lohrey's Pacific Northwest Team 2 took over the Apple Fire yesterday evening, and tomorrow morning the team will take on the Tiller Complex, too. The management of the fires will be consolidated with the incident command post situated at the Apple base camp near Glide. The base camp at Milo will be scaled down as the Tiller Complex nears full containment and moves into rehab. Some resources, such as the GIS unit and other communications, will be reassigned from the Tiller ICP to the Apple ICP for coordinated management of the two incidents.
Starting Tuesday, only one incident action plan will be prepared for the combined Apple Fire and Tiller Complex. Night operations on both incidents are expected to wind down significantly.
A slight increase in fire behavior was expected today, but the hot and windy conditions should moderate by Tuesday, with clouds moving in and humidities increasing. Rain showers are possible Tuesday night.
Firefighters were cautioned this morning to be alert and aware of the snag hazard in the fire area, and to watch out for rolling materials, which are still coming down on roadways and in mop-up areas.
LIGHTNING FIRE SOUTH OF TUCSON AT 130 ACRES
SEPTEMBER 01 -- GREEN VALLEY, AZ: A wildfire ignited by lightning has burned about 130 acres on a ridge in the Sierrita Mountains south of Tucson. The S.P. Fire, about 10 miles west of Green Valley, started Thursday about 3:50 p.m., according to the Arizona Daily Star. According to the Southwest Area Coordination Center, the fire's burning in heavy brush and was 20 percent contained this morning. Crews today will build more line and burn out, but very steep terrain with no access is slowing firefighters' efforts. Two wildfire crews one from Rural/Metro and one from Douglas are on the fire. There was no aerial assistance to the 52 firefighters.
Steep and rugged country has also been a challenge for firefighters on the Pack Rat Complex, which includes the Pack Rat Fire and the 5-Mile Fire. The complex is being managed by Humphrey's Type 1 team.
Burning 15 miles north of Payson along the Mogollon Rim, the complex has grown to 3,000 acres in mixed conifer and chaparral. It's 80 percent contained, with no estimate for full containment. Burnout operations last night from Miller Point toward the East Verde headwaters are continuing east and then south. Aerial ignition below the rim is also ongoing. Considerable effort has ben made to protect the powerline and to assure that minimal watershed damage results from the burnout. The 5-Mile Fire was fully contained yesterday at 376 acres. Crews continue to mop up, patrol, and pull hose.
WILDLAND FIRE USE IN THE HIGH UINTAS
SEPTEMBER 01 -- MIRROR LAKE, UTAH: Highway travelers and campers near Mirror Lake may have been surprised the past 10 days to see a substantial wildfire burning in the High Uintas without any suppression. No helicopters, no firefighters in sight. But there's nothing to worry about, according to a report by the Deseret News. The fire, southeast of Bald Mountain, is the first wildland fire use blaze in the High Uintas.
The Pinto Ridge Rire, five miles east of the Mirror Lake Highway in the Margo Lake area, is one that the Wasatch-Cache and Ashley National Forests will cautiously let burn. Ignited by lighting on the evening of August 19, it is now estimated at 135 acres. Because it's burning in a 10,000-foot-elevation wilderness area, Forest Service officials believe this is a fire that can do far more good than harm.
"These types of forests need this kind of event," said Brett Fay, U.S. Forest Service fire use manager. "When it gets dry enough at this elevation, it recycles itself with fire." The fire is spotty, but it is helping clear out dead timber and diseased trees. Fay says most of the healthy trees will survive the blaze. The aftermath of the fire will also produce more grasses for animals, open some seeds that only sprout after a fire, and help start new aspens.
Wildland fire use allows a fire to run its natural course and achieve benefits that would otherwise cost tens of thousands of dollars to achieve. The Forest Service has had a plan in place since 1999 to manage a beneficial fire like this. Four Forest Service employees have been monitoring the fire; a crew of a half-dozen firefighters will ensure it doesn't spread west. It will be stopped from entering the Duchesne River corridor, if necessary, but can go north, south, or east at will.
"It probably sounds like an odd thing, that we're letting this fire burn in light of a ban on campfires," said Kathy Jo Pollock, USFS information officer. "But costwise, it's very effective." The Forest Service has spent only $10,000 on the fire in 10 days, and the cost to suppress it probably would have been about $160,000.
BISCUIT EVACUATIONS LIFTED
AUGUST 31 -- GRANTS PASS, OR: Evacuation warnings for residents of communities threatened by the Biscuit Fire were lifted yesterday in the communities of Agness, Illahe, and Oak Flat. An AP story in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer said pre-evacuation notices remained in effect for the upper Pistol River drainage and the Wilderness Retreat subdivision on the Chetco River east of Brookings.
Life along the Rogue River upstream of Gold Beach is returning to normal, with less smoke and more campers moving into the Agness RV Park for the Labor Day weekend, said owner Serene Ireland.
"It's still a little smoky, but it's different now much thinner, up higher, and it's easier to breathe now," said Ireland. "We actually see some blue sky." More information is online at www.biscuitfire.com the Biscuit Fire website.
CARLY PEARSON GOES HOME TO TENNESSEE
AUGUST 31 -- MARYVILLE, TN: The 26-year-old woman paralyzed from an injury while working on the Tiller Complex in Oregon went home to Tennessee yesterday to begin her rehabilitation. "It always feels good to come home," said Carly Pearson, "but it never felt better than today." Pearson will spend several weeks in rehab at Patricia Neal Rehabilitation Center in Knoxville; the Forest Service, according to the Maryville Daily Times, arranged for her flight from Medford.
Pearson was in Oregon on temporary detail from the Great Smoky Mountains National Park when she fell about 20 feet onto a rocky river bank on August 17. She was working as a helicopter manager on the fire on the Umpqua National Forest. When she was injured, she was transported to Rogue Valley Medical Center in Medford, where she underwent surgery to stabilize three crushed vertebrae in her lower back. Her father said she has recovered from the surgery but is still paralyzed from her waist down.
Pearson's family said they have been told that people all over Blount County and across the country are praying for her recovery. Jim Pearson said there are no words to express the gratitude the family feels for the community's prayers and other help they have received.
NEW MANAGER FOR BUSH'S FIRE PLAN
AUGUST 31 -- WASHINGTON, DC: The man chosen to head the Bush administration's wildfire prevention program doubts the existence of ecosystems and says it would not be a crisis if the nation's threatened and endangered species became extinct. Allan Fitzsimmons was named yesterday to head up the program to reduce fire danger on lands managed by the Interior Department. But Fitzsimmons' background, according to the Seattle Times, alarms environmental groups. He's worked as a free-market policy analyst and has written for libertarian and conservative think tanks, and the environmental groups say Fitzsimmons' appointment confirms their fears that the recently announced program the administration calls the Healthy Forests Initiative is a smokescreen for a return to unfettered logging.
"How can a man who doesn't understand ecological systems and community values for wildlife run a program that's supposed to protect forests and communities?" asked John McCarthy, spokesman for the Idaho Conservation League. "People won't have confidence in this guy. He'll be divisive, it will all be based on junk science."
For the past 10 years, Fitzsimmons has operated his consulting firm, Balanced Resource Solutions in Woodbridge, Virginia. He's also held policy-setting jobs in the Interior and Energy departments.
Fitzsimmons said his goal in forest policy is not to tilt toward either heavy logging or excessive protections.
"The intent is to get that pendulum as close to the center as you can," he said. "It's not devious. It's certainly not a cynical attempt to turn chainsaws loose from sea to shining sea with smoke from forest fires as a cover."
Sen. Larry Craig of Idaho is expected to introduce legislation next week that would carry out at least some of Bush's forest management ideas. Bush wants to have logging companies do thinning in exchange for the ability to harvest larger trees. The plan would suspend environmental rules and tighten the process for appeals. The President's Healthy Forests Initiative is available online.
APPLE FIRE CHANGES HANDS
AUGUST 30 -- GLIDE, OR: On Oregon's 11,000-acre Apple Fire, which was listed at 70 percent containment this morning, Howard Carlson's NorCal II team is transitioning with Mike Lohrey's Type I team, who will take over management of both the Apple Fire and the Tiller Complex tomorrow evening.
Crews last night burned out on the southwest flank of the fire, and got in more than a mile of new line. Indirect line construction to connect the east and west sides of the fire along the south flank is nearing completion. Burning operations continued today on the southwest flank, and rehab work has begun, including waterbarring firelines and removal of hoses.
The North Umpqua and Tiller Ranger District, along with the Copeland Creek drainage of the Diamond Lake District, are closed to all public access because of extreme fire conditions. All other areas on the Umpqua National Forest are open. The Boulder Flat, Eagle Rock, Bogus Creek, Cool Water, and Wolf Creek Campgrounds on the North Umpqua Ranger District are open with restrictions. No campfires are allowed, smoking is allowed only in designated areas or enclosed vehicles, or in a 3-foot cleared area. Vehicles are not allowed off designated roads. For more information call the North Umpqua Ranger District at (541)496-3532 or check the Apple Fire website online.
NASA TRACKS FIRES WITH SATELLITE
AUGUST 30 -- GREENBELT, MD: Using instruments aboard a spacecraft named Terra, NASA scientists have generated a new set of maps showing the distribution of all fires worldwide over the course of an entire year. A CNN report said the maps will create a long-term record of fire activity to help scientists better understand how fires affect the climate.
NASA's Terra satellite was launched in 1999, and its Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer, called MODIS, has been monitoring for fires every day since February 2000. Its operators say its fire-sensing capabilities far surpass those of any other Earth-observing satellite. MODIS detected nearly a million fires from August 2001 to August 2002. Though the large wildfires in the Western United States have garnered most of the media's attention, the new NASA maps also highlight the smaller but far more frequent blazes across the Southeast.
OREGON FIRES: MOUNTAIN LIONS, NO TIGERS, AND BEARS
AUGUST 30 -- GOLD BEACH, OR: Black bears evacuating the area of the Biscuit Fire have become firefighter nuisances, according to the Medford Mail-Tribune. Bears are hanging around fire crews, snacking on leftover sack lunches, and drinking water from tanks that crews use in mop-up.
"These bears are looking for a free handout of food," said biologist Mark Vargas of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. "And that can definitely create some problems, some conflicts, down the line."
The bears have lived with limited or no human contact in the Siskiyou National Forests Kalmiopsis Wilderness Area; associating food with people is a dangerous lesson for them to learn. "Once they've developed that attraction, it'll be virtually impossible, a nightmare, to get rid of them," said John Thiebes, another ODFW biologist.
APPLE FIREFIGHTERS MAKE IT THROUGH THE NIGHT WITH NO COUGARS
AUGUST 29 -- GLIDE, OR: One piece of good news at this morning's briefing on the Apple Fire was that night shift crews had no encounters of the cougar kind, and another was that the safety record on the Apple Fire has been outstanding.
"I want to congratulate all of you," Safety Officer Jeff Zolfarelli told firefighters. "You have managed to maintain a really impressive safety record for this incident."
Considering the rough terrain, numerous snags, heavy timber, and hazards including cougars, bees, and sheer drop-offs, a number of injuries would not be surprising.
Steve Femmel, fire behavior analyst on the team, cautioned firefighters this morning about extreme fire behavior and burning potential.
"Expect a full range of fire behavior today," he said, "including torching and short-range spotting. You can expect surface fire flamelengths of up to 6 feet, and upslope runs in the Calf Creek drainage this afternoon."
The 10,200-acre fire is estimated at 70 percent containment this morning; that increase, according to Incident Commander Howard Carlson, is attributable to the persistent hard work by night shift crews and another 1½ miles of line established last night. Considerable progress was made on burnouts and line reinforcement overnight, following yesterday's barrage of bucket work by helicopters and burnouts by crews.
A portable retardant base was established on the southeast side of the fire to allow helicopter drops on areas considered critical for containment.
"We put 78,000 gallons of retardant on the fire yesterday," said Chuck Frame, air operations branch director. "We'll put more on today to reinforce the line and reduce the possibility of spotting."
Some aerial ignition is planned for today with a Bell 206 helicopter. Three medium helicopters, three light helicopters, and four heavies are working the fire.
NEW FIRE ON THE COCONINO
AUGUST 29 -- STRAWBERRY, AZ: A third wildfire is burning in Northern Arizona; the Five Mile Fire on the Coconino National Forest has grown to 200 acres. Burning three miles north of Strawberry, the fire is threatening a Forest Service radio tower. A report by Arizona's 12news.com noted that some crews from the Pack Rat Fire have been taken off the line to battle this latest blaze.
Near Payson, residents of more than a dozen summer homes were evacuated as the lightning-caused Pack Rat Fire burned closer to the Washington Park area. Most of the residents of 13 summer homes packed up and left when they were warned Monday of possible evacuations. Information Officer Jim Payne said a guest ranch was the only home still occupied. "The fire is now one-quarter mile northwest of the park's guest ranch," he said. "But at the guest ranch, we have already built a fireline all the way around it. We have multiple firefighters and engines on standby."
WILDFIRE CLOSES TRANS-CANADA HIGHWAY
AUGUST 29 -- KAMLOOPS, BC: The Trans-Canada highway has been closed because of a wildfire near Chase in the southern interior, according to a report by canada.com, and smoke from the fire has reduced visibility on the road. Fire information officer Kevin Creery said the blaze is about one hectare in size and is being fought on the ground and by airtanker.
APPLE FIREFIGHTERS' HEADACHES: HEAT AND CATS
AUGUST 28 -- GLIDE, OR: Crews on the day shift on Oregon's Apple Fire today had to deal with not only the heavy timber and snags and slopes of up to 80 degrees that they've been working on since the fire began, but today's temperatures were in the 80s and 90s across the fire area. Weather and safety personnel, in an ongoing effort to help provide good sleeping conditions during the day for night shift firefighters, surveyed the base camp today and found that crew sleeping areas were considerably cooler than the 95º heat at most of the base camp.
Quality rest has been an issue on this fire because of the active fire behavior, nasty terrain, and difficult conditions encountered by night shift crews, and the incident management team has told firefighters at each evening briefing, "If we can improve your daytime sleeping conditions, let us know."
Crews tonight are expecting temperatures in the high 40s and low 50s with humidities of 55 to 75 percent. Light winds should diminish tonight, with an inversion beginning before midnight that will hold smoke in the valleys till mid-afternoon tomorrow. The fire's expected to burn actively all night, with torching and short-duration runs.
Firefighters were also cautioned to be on the lookout tonight for cougars; a number of the big cats have been sighted in the fire area, and there have been reports of cougars stalking firefighters. The Roseburg News-Review reported that increased nighttime contacts with cougars had occurred in the Twin Lakes area. There was one reported incident of a cougar following a hotshot for about 20 minutes.
LAKES FIRE IN NEW MEXICO EVACUATES LA CUEVA
AUGUST 28 -- FENTON LAKE STATE PARK, NM: Another small community was evacuated yesterday ahead of the 3,000-acre Lakes Fire, according to a report by the Daily Camera. The Lakes Fire is burning through ponderosa and piñon on the Santa Fe National Forest in northern New Mexico's Jemez Mountains.
Smoke from the fire, which destroyed four summer homes south of Fenton Lake on Monday, could be seen at least 50 miles away in Albuquerque. Officials began evacuating La Cueva early Tuesday; the community, a few miles east of Fenton Lake, has about 200 homes.
Hefner's Type 1 team is managing the fire. Active fire behavior was observed in ponderosa pine and grass as the fire advanced northeast yesterday. Steep terrain, heavy fuel loading, low relative humidity, and low fuel moisture are slowing suppression efforts. Residents of Seven Springs and Thompson Ridge residential areas, along with Fenton Lake State Park, remain evacuated, and State Route 126 is closed.
ARIZONA FIRES UPDATE
AUGUST 28 -- PAYSON, AZ: Crews were building firelines and burning out yesterday on two northern Arizona wildfires the Pack Rat Fire near Payson and the Trick Fire southeast of Williams, according to a report by Arizona's 12news.com. The fires are the first major wildfires in the state since the Rodeo-Chediski Fire in July.
Humphrey's Type 1 team is managing the Pack Rat, and information officer Jim "Mr. Arizona" Payne said the fire was 25 percent contained. Firefighters yesterday concentrated on the Mogollon Rim plateau, using both roads and the control road as containment lines.
The fire is threatening several small communities east of Pine; there are some 190 lots in the four communities, but it was not known how many homes were built on those lots, Payne said. Officials advised area residents Monday night to be ready in case of an evacuation order.
"The fire has been burning up and down canyons near the top of the Rim, and they're concerned about the potential of the fire to burn to the northeast and more of the Coconino National Forest," said Payne. "It's as dry right now on the Rim in most places as it was in June."
The 3,800-acre Trick Fire 15 miles southeast of Williams on the Kaibab National Forest was 30 percent contained Monday night.
NORTHWEST FIRES UPDATE
AUGUST 28 -- GOLD BEACH, OR: Fire managers report that the 500,023-acre Biscuit Fire is now 90 percent contained, and full containment is predicted for Saturday.
A report by KATU-TV noted that burnout operations to strengthen firelines had pushed the acreage over the 500,000-acre mark; crews have just 10 miles of fireline left to build. A number of spot fires were suppressed on the west perimeter, and crews are building direct attack fireline to tie up the northwest and west flanks.
The Curry Coastal Pilot reported that fire managers are already planning for rehabilitation of the area. The Curry County commissioners were briefed Tuesday afternoon on the progress of the fire and plans for the future. Dave Dash, the new incident commander for Zone 3 in south Curry County, said the fireline is established along the entire western front of the fire. He explained that it is now being tested by high temperatures, low humidity, and predicted high winds. If the fireline holds, the fire will be declared contained on Saturday. If the fire spots over the line or breaks through, then more work will be done to strengthen the line.
The Apple Fire on the Umpqua is listed at 9,800 acres this morning and 20 percent containment. Full containment is expected for Thursday, September 5. Increased fire behavior yesterday included torching, short runs, and short-range spotting; higher temperatures, increased ignition potential, and spotting are expected today. Burning operations on the east flank were completed last night. A priority for today will be to hold those burnouts and build more indirect line.
The Tiller Complex, which includes 8 large fires and numerous small fires, is 75 percent contained at 65,824 acres. Burnout on the west flank went well, and mop-up is under way on several divisions.
On the Okanogan National Forest in Washington, the Quartz Mountain Complex has grown to 812 acres and is listed at zero percent containment. Cones' fire use management team is assigned to the fire, which is in the Pasayten Wilderness Area northwest of Winthrop.
More information's available from the Northwest Area Coordination Center.
HELICOPTER CRASH ON COLORADO FIRE INJURES FOUR
AUGUST 28 -- SAGUACHE, CO: A Bell 206 on the Trickle Fire southwest of Denver crashed Monday afternoon, according to a report by thedenverchannel.com; four people were injured. The helicopter went down about 4:30 p.m. Two people had minor injuries and were taken to Alamosa hospitals; two others were airlifted to Pueblo and Colorado Springs hospitals.
One person suffered severe head, back, and neck injuries. The other three had minor injuries; two were listed in serious condition Monday night at Parkview Medical Center in Pueblo, while the others were in stable condition at the San Luis Valley Regional Medical Center in Alamosa.
A Flight for Life helicopter was sent to the crash site about two miles north of Colorado 114, according to a story by the Billings Gazette.
FIRE RAWS UNITS ON GUARD FOR FIREFIGHTERS
AUGUST 27 -- GLIDE, OR: Two enhanced Remote Automated Weather Station (RAWS) units set up on the Apple Fire are monitoring weather conditions for changes that could increase fire hazards to firefighters.
Portable weather stations are nothing new and have been used on fires for years. But the NIFC FIRE RAWS units can detect any unusual measurements such as high winds or changes in temperature or humidity and then automatically warn firefighters with this information over the radio system.
Corey Prescott and Jon Bianchini are RAWS technicians assigned to the fire. "My first fire assignment this year was the Penasco Fire in May," says Prescott. "We put up an early warning system after the fire in a canyon. The units were set up to monitor for rainfall to help warn about mudslide possibilities after the fire." Prescott has been out on eight fires this year.
Bianchini, who works on the Mendocino National Forest, handles maintenance on 11 RAWS stations there four portable units and seven permanent stations. "I first went out this year in June, and have been on six fire assignments. Mark Barbo, the RAWS dispatcher in Boise, called yesterday, and I got up here today." The FIRE RAWS units were ordered for the fire because they can be set up in a location that will give the incident meteorologist and the fire behavior analyst the on-site weather data that allows for more accurate and useful weather forecasts and fire behavior forecasts for the crews on the fire.
FIRE RAWS #6 was set up on Division B on Panther Ridge, in an open area exposed to the north and west winds. Unit #5 is east of Divisions X and W on an open grassy knoll. Prescott and Bianchini along with the IMET and FBA on the team have been monitoring the weather data all day. The stations are programmed to issue an audible warning over the radio if any one of these conditions are met: relative humidity that drops to 20 percent, temperature that reaches 85 degrees, or wind speed that reaches 25 mph. Each of these conditions have been determined as points that firefighters should be aware of.
The FIRE RAWS technicians can manage multiple units on a fire, or work more than one fire in an area. "We will have a crew here in the area till the fire behavior analyst assigned to the incident releases the units," says Prescott.
More information on the FIRE RAWS units is available on the RAWS website.
CREWS ON APPLE FIRE EXPECT HOT BURNING TODAY
AUGUST 27 -- GLIDE, OR: Fire behavior took a turn for the hot yesterday with hotter and drier weather on the 9,300-acre Apple Fire; torching and spotting was common. Crews worked hard to contain a small slopover on the east side of the fire, and night shift firefighters contained and flagged a number of spot fires.
Division supervisors were cautioned at this morning's briefing to be alert for weather changes and extreme fire behavior today; a dry north-to-northeast flow is expected across the area, with temperatures up and humidity down. Gusts to 15 mph in the morning and wind shifts in the afternoon are expected, according to Todd Carter, incident meteorologist on the team.
"We're pretty sure we know how conditions will change today," he said, "we just don't know about the magnitude."
Two FIRE RAWS units have been installed at strategic points on the fire; the portable Remote Automated Weather Stations are programmed to monitor conditions such as temperature, wind speed and direction, wind gusts, and relative humidity changes the weather conditions that affect fire behavior. Key changes and current conditions on-site are available to firefighters by radio, and can contribute substantially to increased safety on the fire.
Temperatures to 85º and gusty winds should produce increased fire activity, according to Steve Femmel, fire behavior analyst. "Potential for spotting has increased to 70 or 80 percent probability," he explained this morning. "Conditions are favorable for burnout, but the winds are likely to make for poor work conditions along the control lines."
Helicopter operations were busy yesterday and may be even busier today; crews were urged to call in for air support if needed. A number of lakes and ponds in the area are available for draft sites and water sources for helicopters. Chuck Frame with air operations explained that helicopters will be flying the Apple Fire again today and should be available for support on burning operations and line reinforcement.
Nearly 1,100 firefighters are on the fire and hail from all over the U.S. and five foreign countries. The helibase manager is with the Rural Fire Service in New South Wales, Australia, according to pilot Kenny Chapman of Erickson Air-Crane. "He's been giving us language lessons each morning," said Chapman. "We're learning to speak Australian."
For more information on the FIRE RAWS units, check the national RAWS website. For updates on status of Highway 138 road closures, call (800)977-6368 or check with DOT online for current status on the incident. Updates on the Apple Fire and the Tiller Complex are available online from the Umpqua National Forest.
SOUTHWEST AREA FIRES UPDATE
AUGUST 27 -- JEMEZ PUEBLO, NM: The Lakes Fire on the Santa Fe National Forest, 15 miles north of Jemez Pueblo, has grown to 3,000 acres. Containment is estimated at 10 percent, and Hefner's Type 1 team has been ordered. The fire's burning in ponderosa and grass, and extreme fire behavior was observed yesterday. Fenton Lake State Park and two residential areas were evacuated.
The Pack Rat Fire on the Coconino, 25 percent contained at 1,210 acres, is 8 miles east of Pine. It's exhibited very active fire behavior with rapid runs, torching, and spotting. Numerous spot fires were contained yesterday with support from aerial resources, but very steep, rugged, and rocky terrain is slowing containment efforts. The fire's threatening 137 homes; Humphrey's Type 1 team is managing the fire.
The Trick Fire on the Kaibab, 26 miles southwest of Flagstaff, is being managed by Broyles' Type 2 team. Dozers are cutting line with support from aircraft, and crews have been burning out along the rim of Tule Canyon. The fire's 30 percent contained at 3,795 acres.
More information's available from the Southwest Area Coordination Center.
APPLE FIRE IS A REAL CREW SHOW
AUGUST 26 -- GLIDE, OR: Unlike many fires on which the aircraft costs account for most of the fire suppression bill, Oregon's Apple Fire has been a real showcase for the groundpounders. Most of the work on the fire, which was listed at 20 percent containment and 9,000 acres this morning, has been accomplished by hand crews and firefighters on those crews have traveled here from more than two dozen states and five other countries.
Crews from Delaware to Alaska, from California to Virginia, from Canada, Australia, Argentina, Chile, and Cuba are digging line and burning out on the Apple Fire. As many as 27 states have been represented here, and for the very first time, a wildland fire crew from Iowa is fighting fire in Oregon.
Two county conservation fire officials invited people in Iowa to sign up for fire training and the pack test. Word spread about the opportunity to join a handcrew for the 2002 fire season, and 20 people signed up. They bought their own PPE and asked for vacation time so they could be available for a fire assignment. The crew got the call they were needed on the Apple Fire and 28 hours later they were in Oregon.
A total of 1,014 personnel were on the fire this morning, including 28 crews, 35 engines, 11 dozers, 10 watertenders, and 9 helicopters. Helicopters on the fire have accounted for only $754,000 of the total suppression cost of $4,134,000 an unusually low amount for aircraft on a fire like the Apple. Equipment (such as engines, water tenders, and dozers) has run $891,900. But $1,223,500 of the total has paid for crews mostly Type 2 crews.
Good linebuilding and burnout progress on the fire is expected today after a couple days of cooler weather and higher humidities slowed or even prevented planned burnouts necessary to contain the fire. "The fire was active today because of lower humidities," said Cathleen Thompson, information officer on the fire. "The RH recovery should be poor tonight, which will make for better conditions for burnout operations. Crews will have to be more alert for spotting over the lines, but this will allow us to make some serious progress on strengthening our firelines tonight."
Goals today included heavy helicopter work on a ridge on the east side of the fire; fire managers last night were concerned that the unsecured ridge posed a risk for the fire to escape. Better weather conditions today are expected to assist in the effort to secure and burn out that section of the fire's perimeter.
For a while, the humid weather and even fog and drizzle forced firefighters to play a "hurry up and wait" game with some planned burnouts on the fire. "We were waiting on the fire," said Brad Smith, training specialist on the incident management team. "But it was like the fire was waiting on us, too. And the first one who gets impatient loses."
APPLE FIRE ON THE UMPQUA GROWS TO 8,100 ACRES
AUGUST 25 -- GLIDE, OR: What began on August 16 as a small but fast-growing fire on the fir-covered slopes of the Umpqua National Forest has grown to a blaze of 8,100 acres and it's only 17 percent contained.
Thirty crews, nine helicopters, 32 engines, 11 water tenders, and 11 dozers are working the fire. The fire's being managed under unified command between Carlson's Type 2 team and the Oregon Department of Forestry.
Managers said this morning that firing operations have begun along Twin Lakes Ridge and Panther Ridge. Rugged terrain and poor access have been problems, though, and there are safety concerns about numerous snags in the area. Limited availability of Type I crews is stalling efforts at building direct line; inversions and higher humidities are hampering burning operations on 12 miles of prepped lines.
"If conditions are right today, we are going to continue burnout and holding operations along Panther Ridge and Twin Lakes Ridge," said Joe Molhoek, day operations section chief on the fire. "We are also going to initiate prepping and constructing indirect line along the south flank of the fire with dozer and hand lines."
Teams on both the Apple Fire and the Tiller Complex are working to keep the Apple Fire and the Tiller Complex apart; the Roseburg News-Review reported that firefighters are trying to pinch off the south-moving Apple Fire near Twin Lakes. The fire's due north of the Tiller Complex.
"At some point, there is a fear that the two fires could link up," said Bob Miller on the Tiller Complex. "We aren't going to let that happen."