Wildland Fire News

Friday, December 4, 2020

The U.S. is on track to shatter the record for the average size of wildfires this year

While all the wildfire statistics for 2020 are not yet available, the data through December 2, 2020 shows that the United States is on track to shatter the record for the average size of wildfires. Looking at the last 35 years, the average size of fires this year was the highest ever, 168 acres. This number has been growing rapidly year to year (see the chart above). The second highest was 145 acres in 2018, and third highest was 132 in 2017. From 1985 through 1990 the average size was 31 acres. The number of fires may be declining because we are better at preventing them. NFPA data shows the number of highway vehicle fires has declined from 456,000 in 1980 to 182,000 in 2018. The highway vehicles fires per billion miles driven has decreased over that same period from 299 to 56. In addition, we may have better spark arrestors on equipment, and, fewer people are smoking and those that do, smoke less.
Wildfire Today

Calmer winds help fight against 6,400-acre Bond Fire in California; Evacuations in effect

With the help of calmer winds, firefighters on Friday morning continued to make progress on a brush fire in the Silverado Canyon area of Orange County that's consumed at least 6,400 acres while prompting mandatory evacuations and leaving two firefighters injured. Orange County Fire Authority crews responded to the 29400 block of Silverado Canyon Road at about 10:15 p.m. Wednesday and attacked the blaze from the ground and air after the flames spread from a house fire. Amid elevated fire danger due to strong winds, officials estimated the so-called Bond Fire grew to 7,200 acres, but the OCFA later downgraded acreage to 6,400 due to more accurate mapping. Containment is at 10%. The ferocious winds that hampered efforts during the early morning hours Thursday died down at night, enabling firefighters to make progress, although hot spots were still flaring up on the Silverado Canyon hillsides.
KABC-TV ABC 7 Los Angeles

After fighting historic Oregon wildfires, nine Marion County firefighters will be laid off

Months after helping fight the worst wildfires in Oregon history, nine firefighters from Marion County Fire District No. 1 will be laid off. After voters rejected the second operations levy in as many elections, the fire district that covers 55,000 people over 80 square miles of Marion County was forced to cut $2.4 million from its $19.7 million budget. Marion County Fire District No. 1 laid off three firefighters after the first levy failed in May – the first one it ever had that failed – and will trim its staff to 41 people, including 32 in operations as firefighters or paramedics, after failing again in the Nov. 3 election. “It’s the toughest thing that I’ve had to do in my fire service career,” Marion County Fire District No. 1 chief Kyle McMann said. “I’ve lost a lot of sleep since May knowing that we lost a levy for the first time in our history.”
Statesman Journal - Metered Site

Here’s how new heli-hydrants can help firefighters during wildfire season

With the Santa Anas are moving in, red flag warnings are going up, and that means extreme fire danger. Crews in Orange County have a new tool to help in the firefight: a type of fire hydrant for water-dropping helicopters. With wildfire season a year-round threat in Southern California, firefighters need all the help they can get to keep up with the all too familiar wind-driven infernos. In October, the Blue Ridge Fire damaged seven homes and destroyed another - but Orange County Fire Authority Capt. Greg Barta says it could have been much worse without the efficiency of this heli-hydrant. "We were able to utilize this heli-hydrant to refill helicopters rapidly so they could continue making water drops which saved countless homes," Barta said.
KABC-TV ABC 7 Los Angeles

Scientists say Washington wildfire management must go beyond forests

Turning left off U.S. Highway 2 into the Moses Coulee Nature Preserve in Central Washington, the land changes from crisp golden bunchgrasses to ash. Flames have licked at the basalt cliffs on the sides of the coulee, leaving only black shadows on the rocky edges. This rangeland burned in the massive Pearl Hill Fire on Labor Day weekend near Bridgeport, a town in Douglas County. The flames then traveled into this prime sage grouse and pygmy rabbit habitat less than 24 hours later. Firefighters caught it at the highway. “Right now, it looks like a moonscape, whereas before, it was this diverse shrubland, with a lot of life and flowers and grasses and wildlife,” says Corinna Hanson, Moses Coulee land manager at The Nature Conservancy. In Washington, the shrub-steppe ecosystem historically covered about one-third of the state. Now, it’s estimated less than half of that is still intact.
Chewelah Independent

Thursday, December 3, 2020

California’s Bond Fire sparked by house fire prompts mandatory evacs, scorches 3,600 acres

A vegetation fire in Silverado Canyon, dubbed the Bond Fire, quickly consumed over 3,600 acres and prompted mandatory evacuations after it was first sparked by a house fire late Wednesday night. Orange County Fire Authority crews responded to the 29400 block of Silverado Canyon Road at about 10:15 p.m. and attacked the blaze from the ground and air. Amid elevated fire danger due to strong winds, the blaze grew from 7 acres to 3,650 and was 0% contained as of 6 a.m. Thursday, according to OCFA. The blaze forced mandatory evacuations for residents in the Silverado Canyon and Williams Canyon areas as it continued to grow at a rapid rate of speed. Modjeska Canyon is also under mandatory evacuation orders, and residents in the area of Borrego Canyon and other nearby communities were also warned to prepare to evacuate.
KABC-TV ABC 7 Los Angeles

Severe wildfires burning 8 times more area in western U.S., study finds

As we move into winter and what is typically the wet season for the western U.S., the 2020 fire season is finally winding down. But the damage is done: nearly 14 million acres have burned across the nation, about double the 10-year average and the most acres burned since reliable record-keeping began in 1983. Five of the six largest fires in California history and three of the four largest in Colorado history all burned this year. This dramatic increase in the acres burned by immense wildfires is being driven by fires which are burning hotter and more intensely than they used to. In fact, according to a new study, there's been an eight-fold increase since the mid-1980s in annual area burned by high-severity wildfires — defined as a fire that kills more than 95% of trees. The transformation in fire behavior has happened fast, with this exponential increase happening in just one generation over the course of 30 years.
CBS News

Washington-based company is using drones to replant forests devastated by wildfires

The United States has had its most devastating wildfire season on record, with more than 8 million acres of land burned across the country this year. Regenerating the forests that sat on much of that land would ordinarily take years and involve hundreds of people manually replanting saplings grown in dedicated nurseries. Seattle-based DroneSeed has what it says is a much faster and more effective solution. As the company's name suggests, it uses fleets of drones (also known as drone swarms) to reforest areas that have burned down, dropping what it calls "seed vessels" into areas where they have the best chance of growing back. The eight-foot drones, up to five at a time flying together on pre-programmed routes, can cover up to 50 acres a day and each carry as much as 57 pounds of seed vessels, DroneSeed CEO Grant Canary told CNN Business.
KITV-TV ABC 4 Honolulu

’Thirstier’ Atmosphere Will Increase Wildfire Risk out West

Recent years have seen the largest, most destructive wildfires on record in California. Accompanying these extreme events have been extreme levels of evaporative demand—the degree to which the atmosphere “wants” to evaporate water from plants and the ground, regardless of how much water is available. A new analysis of global climate model simulations by McEvoy et al. suggests that evaporative demand will increase in California and Nevada through the end of the century, driving increased risk of more extreme wildfires and drought. High evaporative demand—a “thirstier” atmosphere—can boost wildfire danger by drying out vegetation and making it more flammable. Previous research has explored how climate change will affect fire risk in the California-Nevada region, but the specific influences of future changes in evaporative demand have been unclear.

How a rare squirrel Arizona could reveal changes in a forest ecosystem damaged by wildfire

There was a crunch with every step Melissa Merrick took as she veered farther off trail. She wasn't looking at the leaves littering the ground, but at the branches they fell from. Through her binoculars, Merrick scanned every treetop for a sign of a nest. Any cluster of leaves could be home to the rare species she was looking for: the Chiricahua fox squirrel. The Chiricahua squirrel is a subspecies of the Mexican fox squirrel and is native to the Chiricahua Mountains of southeastern Arizona. After the 2011 Horseshoe II Fire scorched over 220,000 acres of the Chiricahua National Monument, the survival of the bushy-tailed critter and the state of its habitat in the monument was uncertain.
The Arizona Republic

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