Wildland Fire News

Thursday, May 6, 2021

Western Washington ‘riper for wildfire’; Skagit County declares fire awareness month

The Skagit County Board of Commissioners proclaimed May “Wildfire Awareness Month” after hearing from area wildfire experts. “It’s a great time to start thinking about this before summer, when our months get warmer and our fire potential goes up,” local wildfire resilience coordinator Jenny Coe, who works for the Skagit and Whatcom conservation districts, told the commissioners Tuesday. Coe was joined by other Skagit Conservation District staff and representatives of the Skagit County Fire Marshal’s Office and the state Department of Natural Resources’ northwest region firefighting team. “In 2020, we had 65 classified fires in our region … and the average size was at 2.95 acres,” Natural Resources Fire Operations District Manager David Way said. “That’s not the great big huge fires we see in drier ecosystems like in Eastern Washington, but it is concerning knowing we have so many houses in these forested, rural areas of Skagit County.”
Seattle Times

Tree still smoldering in California’s Sequoia National Park from 2020 Castle Fire

A giant sequoia has been found smoldering and smoking in a part of Sequoia National Park that burned in one of California’s huge wildfires last year, the National Park Service said Wednesday. “The fact areas are still smoldering and smoking from the 2020 Castle Fire demonstrates how dry the park is,” said Leif Mathiesen, assistant fire management officer for Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks in central California. “With the low amount of snowfall and rain this year, there may be additional discoveries as spring transitions into summer.” The smoldering tree was found recently by scientists and fire crews surveying the effects of the blaze, which was ignited by lightning last August and spread over more than 270 square miles (699 square kilometers) of the Sierra Nevada. It took five months to fully contain.
KTLA-TV 5 Los Angeles

Prescribed burn in South Central Oregon declared a wildfire after conditions deteriorate

A large prescribed burn that crews began on Tuesday has now been declared a wildfire amid deteriorating conditions, according to the South Central Oregon Fire Management Partnership (SCOFMP). The North 2 prescribed burn was intended to treat up to 4,000 acres. SCOFMP said that 345 acres were successfully burned on Tuesday, but officials decided to postpone further burning Wednesday morning. Regardless, "things deteriorated faster than expected," they said. With drying vegetation, low humidity, and increased fire behavior, officials decided to convert the North 2 burn into a wildfire dubbed the Meadow Fire. The fire is located about five miles northeast of Chiloquin, but is currently growing away from the community.
KDRV-TV ABC 12 Medford

Deepening Drought Holds ’Ominous’ Signs For Wildfire Threat In The West

After one of the most destructive and extreme wildfire seasons in modern history last year, a widening drought across California and much of the West has many residents bracing for the possibility this season could be worse. Anemic winter rain and snowfall has left reservoirs and river flows down significantly, even as the state experiences its driest water year in more than four decades. Today, wildfire fuels in some parts of California are at or near record levels of dryness. Fuel moisture — the amount of water inside a living plant — "is the lowest that we've recorded at these sites since 2013," says Craig Clements, director of the Wildfire Interdisciplinary Research Center at San Jose State University. "It's indicative of very dangerous conditions coming into this summer."
WBAA Public Radio

Florida fire officials remember the Mussett Bayou Wildfire one year later

Historic. Catastrophic. An event South Walton Fire District officials say they’ll never forget. “Just that quick, in the blink of an eye, it was on us,” Fire Marshal Sammy Sanchez said. The Santa Rosa Beach community was hit by a wildfire that burned more than 500 acres and destroyed 33 homes. “It certainly was impactful to our community and we do our best to move on from it as best as we can and try to prevent it from happening again,” Sanchez said. SWFD officials said the Mussett Bayou wildfire pushed them to their limits. “It was definitely larger than we could ever prepare for as a district at that time,” District Chief Chris Kidder said. But support helped them battle the flames. “When I say all hands, I mean everyone in the district was working, every division was working, our fleet maintenance was working, our life safety division was working, beach safety division was working, Walton County [Sheriff’s Office] was supporting us,” Kidder said.
WJHG-TV NBC/CW+ 7 Panama City

Wednesday, May 5, 2021

North Dakota wildfire total tops 800; threat from 2 large western wildfires diminishes

Wildfires in North Dakota this spring have burned an area four times the size of Bismarck, according to data released Tuesday. Meanwhile, the threat from two large wildfires in western North Dakota was diminishing, on-scene officials reported. Wildfire officials in the state have streamlined their fire documenting system to eliminate lags in reporting, according to Beth Hill, acting outreach and education manager for the North Dakota Forest Service. There have been 806 confirmed fires burning 78,326 acres -- 8 ½ times the number of acres that burned in all of 2020. "It’s astounding to see the ... impact that these wildfires have had in our state so far this year, and it further reinforces the need for fire prevention from everyone in the state," Hill said.
The Bismarck Tribune

New Mexico’s Salt Creek Fire near Shiprock burns 422 acres, 60% contained

A brush fire broke out Sunday afternoon in Shiprock on Mesa Farms Road. The Bureau of Indian Affairs, Navajo Nation Wildland Fire & Aviation Management reports after the perimeter was remapped, the fire was determined to be 422 acres and is 60% contained as of Tuesday morning. The cause of the fire is unknown. The BIA reports that crews will be mopping up and continuing to secure the fire perimeter on Tuesday, May 4 as crews will be working near the fire’s edge and extinguishing any locations that are holding heat. Fire officials say resources will be available for initial attack for any new starts in the area of Shiprock. As of Monday, evacuations for the residents in the immediate area of the fire have been lifted. Mesa Farm Road has reopened. The BIA is asking the public to reduce their speed and drive with caution as fire resources are still in the area.
KRQE-TV CBS/FOX 13 Albuquerque

Bill to help wildfire victims rebuild gets unanimous support from Oregon House

The Oregon House voted unanimously in support of a bill "to create flexibility for property owners trying to rebuild following last year’s devastating wildfires." Lawmakers said House Bill 2289 "will remove barriers in the permitting process, and allow property owners to rebuild with reasonable alterations to the previous structure without needing to go back through the entire permitting process." Thousands of homes were destroyed in fires in the Cascades and southern Oregon amid dry, hot conditions - and unusually strong east winds - around Labor Day 2020. The Holiday Farm Fire impacted communities in the McKenzie River corridor; farther south, residents of the North Umpqua River area faced the Archie Creek Fire east of Roseburg.
KMTR-TV NBC 16 Eugene

Montana forest officials seek comment on wildfire risk reduction measures

Officials say some forests around the Missoula area are rated moderate to high for wildfire hazard. That’s why they’re coming up with an updated environmental assessment for the Wildfire Adapted Missoula Plan to reduce the risk in local communities. “One of the most important things to mention in this project is about prescribed fire,” said Missoula District ranger Jennifer Hensiek. “It’s a huge portion of this project and an essential tool in reducing hazard and risk for Missoula area communities.” In high-risk areas, there’s dense vegetation and dead trees. Experts call that fuel accumulation. It could make wildfires grow fast and far. They’re proposing vegetation treatments, like thinning trees and prescribed burning, mechanized treatments, which involve heavy machinery and nonmechanized treatments that can be done by hand.
NBC Montana

CalFire Air Attack Base in Hollister plays key role in wildfire fighting

VIDEO: The CalFire air attack base in Hollister is gearing up to again play a major role in fire fighting here on the central coast. As of two weeks ago the base was re-opened, fully staffed and already responding to fires on the central coast. “However, we can only do so much. It really takes the resources on the ground to put the fire out. We are there to hold the fire in check until we can get some ground resources to back up the work that we do,” said CalFire chief Tom Firth. With a crew of just eight, two air tankers and an eye in the sky air attack, the air base is small but plays a huge roll acting as a refill station for fire retardant. Last year when fires were burning in Monterey and Santa Cruz counties, more than a dozen air tankers lined the runway. “I haven't seen anything like that in my years of service. We had 15 tankers at Hollister air attack base here, in one day alone we pumped over 90 thousand gallons of retardant out of this base so we were very busy. Hopefully it won't be this year,” said chief Firth.

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