Monday, July 28, 2008

Now It's Time to Say 'Goodbye' to All Our Com-pa-ny...

July 28, 2008 about noon....
(photo by Kari Greer)

Hi, friends and neighbors!

You can listen to the final "Morning Update" interview with IC Jeanne Pincha-Tulley from the Spike Camp in Jamesburg, HERE and at KUSP's website.

Our common ordeal is now coming to a close and we all have our lives to which we must return... others will tell the story "after the fire" better than I can. I'll leave it to them!

For my part, "Thank You" to all of you who made this 'blog a compelling and interesting source of information for our community.

If I try to name everyone, I'll fail... but I'd like to thank Jim Kasson, in particular, for his unfailing dedication to bringing us twice a day MODIS updates.

Dr. Eric Walters of Hastings Reserve also contributed a tremendous amount of on-the-ground reports during the Mandatory Evacuation, as did so many of our good neighbors and friends, offering pictures and information.

BIG ups to Cachagua Fire and in particular Rod McMahon, Bear Kimber, Dane Bonsper... and, of course, Bob Eaton, without whose pastures this production would have been hard to stage!

Many thanks to IC Chief Jeanne Pincha-Tulley and her staff, who reached out to communicate with the Central Coast communities about this fire, from the day she took command. Chief, the Forest Service may not know what a gem they've got in you... but we sure do!

KUSP has been an invaluable resource, my personal media outlet and a dedicated community-based medium for accurate and broad-based information on the fire. Steve Laufer, Manager of New Media at KUSP, has worked tirelessy - well, OK, he's tired - on this project. He deserves a standing ovation.

Finally, from me personally, thanks for your kind words of support and for your comments! Martha and I have met many of our neighbors for the first time; and, that's been an unexpected delight!

If you wish to express thanks financially, below are my suggestions. Each or any one of these organizations need and deserve your support... they are largely VOLUNTEER organizations:

And, finally, a BIG THANKS, to the thousands of Wildland Firefighters who came to defend our lives and property when we called.

They didn't HAVE to do this... they did it because... it's what they do.
Note on the Future of 'Life in the Fire Lane'...

My plan for this 'blog is to use it to further the community conversation about creating - at least - a community-sourced working plan for Wildand Fire Fuels Reduction and at best, working within our community to produce a Community Wildfire Protection Plan. I'll post only if there's relevant information or announcements to convey.

If you'd like to be a part of a longer-term effort putting together such plans and getting buy-in from the various agencies that govern our local public lands, you're invited and feel free to contact me.... and, thanks to those of you who have done so, thus far.

-- waves -- "Y'all come back, now... heah??"


Kelly Erin O'Brien
(831) 659-2320 home
(650) 533-1010 cell

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Evening of the 27th MODIS map...

(click to enlarge)

July 27, 2008 about 7 pm...

This map is looking pretty good!

Jim says:
"The only new fires are near the top of, and NW of, Miller Mountain.

InciWeb is on vacation this afternoon, so I can’t compare the satellite data to the plan."
Indeed, InciWeb has done it's 'vaporware' act yet again, disguising itself as a "Page not Found". When is a communications tool not a communications tool? When it's being INCIWEB!!!

I just accessed InciWeb and we are at 100% containment!!!!!

Congratulations to Chief Jeanne Pincha-Tulley and her team!

From the Summary:
"The Basin Complex Fire, which started on June 21, was declared 100% contained at 6:00pm today, July 27. The fire has burned 162,818 acres to date; however, the final acreage will be somewhat higher due to the continued burning of islands of vegetation within the fire's interior.
Approximately 560 firefighters are still assigned to the Basin Complexthis evening, but heavy demobilization of resources is underway. Some crews will remain in the area to continue mop-up and to rehabilitate fire control lines and roads."

Evening of the 27th Information Map..

(click to enlarge)

July 27, 2008 about 9 pm

100% contained!!!!!

Evening of the 27th Operational Map..

(click to enlarge)

July 27, 2008 about 6 pm... 

100 % Contained!!!

Interview with Abigail Kimball, Chief of the USFS...

July 27, 2008 about 3 pm...

Recently, I had the opportunity to interview Abigail Kimball, Chief of the USFS.  The the interview may be found
HERE and on KUSP's website.

These are the questions I asked Chief Kimbell:
  • What can community groups and individuals can do to work with Forest Service in order to promote the long-term health of the Forest, and minimize the possibilities of future wildland fires?
  • The national forests were created in part for "securing favorable conditions of water flows," the importance of which has grown as populations have grown. Evidence appears to show that we are entering a period of water scarcity not seen in our history. What difference can the Forest Service make in maintaining the balance between population growth and water sources, in the face of climate change?
  • Regarding The Forest Service's work in managing outdoor recreation, given California's extreme fire situation so early in the summer, do you support a ban on campfires on fire-prone public lands.
  • The Forest Service Burned Area Emergency Rehabilitation (BAER) program, once an assessment is made, will act to mitigate significant threats to health, safety, life and property in a watershed. Does the BAER team assess the fires effects on the river in its entirety, or just within the borders of the Los Padres National Forest?
  • The Basin Complex and the Indians Fire, between them will possibly cost $150 mllion, including BAER. Did you anticipate this year's early fire season from a budgeting standpoint? And if not, from where will the additional monies come?
Here's a bio of Chief Kimbell...
Abigail R. Kimbell, the 16th Chief and first female Chief of the US Forest Service grew up in New England, where she spent her formative years hiking, fishing, and camping on the White Mountain National Forest. She received a bachelor's degree in forest management from the University of Vermont in 1974 and later a master's degree in forest engineering from Oregon State University.

She worked as a seasonal employee before beginning her Federal forestry career in 1974 with the Bureau of Land Management in Medford, Oregon. She then joined the Forest Service as a pre-sale forester in Kodiak, Alaska, in 1977. She next worked in Oregon as a logging engineer and then a district planner. She served as a district ranger in Kettle Falls, Washington on the Colville National Forest from 1985-88, and on the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest in La Grande, Oregon, from 1988-91, and as forest supervisor of the Tongass National Forest in Alaska (1992-97) and the Bighorn National Forest in Wyoming (1997-99).

From 1999-2002, Kimbell was the forest supervisor for the Pike and San Isabel National Forests and the Comanche National Grassland—all in Colorado—as well as the Cimarron National Grassland in Kansas. In May 2002, Kimbell began work as the associate deputy chief for the National Forest System lands in the Forest Service Washington, DC headquarters. During her tenure as associate deputy chief, Gail's leadership was instrumental in helping to carry out the Healthy Forests Initiative and she provided support in the development of the Healthy Forests Restoration Act of 2003.

In December 2003, Kimbell was named as the Regional Forester for the Northern Region located in Missoula, Montana. She assumed her current position as Chief of the US Forest Service on February 5, 2007.

Kimbell is a member of the Society of American Foresters

Are we burning the wrong Bushs?

July 27, 2008 about 3 pm...

Here's an interesting article from
Natty Geographic from August 15, 2003, about the U.S. Wildfire Policy...
Is U.S. Wildfire Policy a Smoke Screen?
By Jonathan B. Tourtellot
National Geographic Traveler
Updated August 15, 2003

"Everybody is trying to hijack the fire issue for their own agendas" —Fire historian Stephen Pyne, of Arizona State University"
If you like driving among towering Sierra Nevada ponderosa pines older than the Constitution, or hiking Montana's Bitterroot in the footsteps of Lewis and Clark, you may be making one of the year's half billion visits to America's national parks and forests.

Except, of course, to the forests that are on fire. In Montana alone, 19 fires were burning at last report. One has closed part of Glacier National Park.

Wildfires have been getting worse over the years. In response, the government now plans drastic tree-thinning under its Healthy Forests Initiative. Skeptics call it a pretext for logging, one that flies in the face of our forests' overarching value as places to visit and appreciate.

Today's fires can grow unusually fierce because Smokey Bear went overboard. For decades, the well-meaning policy of suppressing all forest fires allowed too much fuel—dead wood, underbrush, small trees—to build up on public lands, especially in the fire-prone West. What might have once been a minor grass fire now turns cataclysmic, like last year's Hayman Fire in Colorado.

All parties generally agree that many forests need tidying up—by cutting, or carefully controlled burning, or both.

There, agreement ends. Citing cost efficiency, the Bush administration will invite loggers to do the thinning and let them cut what they need for profit. Critics say they'll take the best, biggest trees.

To sort it out, I consulted the nation's best-known fire historian, Dr. Stephen Pyne, based at Arizona State.
"I am dismayed that they are coupling fire management with commercial logging," he says of the White House plan. "Usually fire takes the little stuff and leaves the big, while logging takes the big stuff and leaves the little." Logging debris, he adds, is a worse hazard yet.
But both sides, Pyne says, oversimplify. Forests are naturally adapted to fire, but in different ways. The open grass-tree mix typical of ponderosa pine needs frequent, mild grass fires. The bigger trees survive, providing key habitat and pools of cooling shade. Lodgepole pine forests, by contrast, grow thickly and regenerate every century or so from "self-immolating burns," as in the seemingly catastrophic Yellowstone fires of 1988.

Jim Furnish, a former deputy Forest Service chief, agrees. In Yellowstone today, he points out, "you can see all the young lodgepoles growing the way they're supposed to. Yellowstone is performing exactly as a wild park should." Lodgepole, in fact, relies on fire to open its seed-laden pine cones.

What are national forests for? A faithful political conservative on most matters, Furnish wants "to manage forests for values like wildlife and recreation." Economics back him up: Whether fishing or camping or touring, visitors now account for 78 percent of the national forests' contribution to the overall economy, according to a 2000 Department of Agriculture report. Logging has slipped to only 12 percent.

Furnish offers a way to have both visitors and timber, minus fire: He started demonstration plots in the 1990s to show how loggers can thin second-growth forests, leaving the large trees and using new lumber technologies to get the most out of smaller ones. [Indeed, the market for old-growth timber is declining. Few mills can still handle the big logs, as thick as 50 inches (127 centimeters), but political pressure to cut old growth persists.]

Furnish wants to see forest habitats preserved, not just for that feathered political football, the spotted owl, but for whole ecosystems, including vulnerable salmon streams. Take away the big trees, he says, "and you're taking away the engine that God built."

Geo-savvy tips: To see what a ponderosa forest should look like, check out the one that the logging town of Condon, Montana, created around its Swan visitor center (406-754-3137). In Yellowstone, take a ranger-led tour of the open, now flourishing areas burned in '88. For a taste of logging traditions, many of which are themselves endangered, visit Libby, Montana, next July for Logger Days (406-293-4167).
More from Stephen J. Pyne of ASU...
"We've lost control," said Stephen J. Pyne, a professor of life sciences at Arizona State University and the nation's preeminent fire historian.

This "ecological insurgency," as Pyne calls it, has varied causes. Drought is parching vegetation. Rising temperatures associated with climate change are shrinking mountain snowpacks, giving fire seasons a jump-start by drying out forests earlier in the summer. The spread of invasive grasses that burn more readily than native plants is making parts of the West ever more flammable.
 - LA Times, July 27, 2008

And you think that your garden hose is a pain?

July 27, 2008 about 11 am...

While in Strike Camp here in Jamesburg, recently, I took note of an ongoing operation in the supplies area.

It's the hose inspection, cleaning and coiling works, that goes on most of the day and night.

The deal is this... the crews bring in used hose (they lay it out about 100 feet at a time, in sequence. At each junction there may be a "Y-valve" - also called a "siamese" - with a smaller diameter hose taken off the one are of the "Y"... there's hella' hose to lay out and then pick up.

After they laid out repeated runs of hose, then they have to collect it and bring the hoses back to camp at the end of the shift. A reel of 1 1/2 inch hose weighs about 15 pounds... some crew grab a few to haul uphill, in addition to their pack and tools.

On top of all this, outgoing crews need hose ready to go - HRG ;-) - to take with them to the fireline. 

This group makes it all possible!

LA Times Series on California Wildfires....

Kate, of the Big Sur Kate 'blog, just passed on a link to a 5-part LA Times series on California Wildfires

The video of the 2700-acre South Lake Tahoe Fire that consumed 176 structures, is stunning... the mandatory evacuation sequences and the backfire attempt to create a firebreak, that failed in the face of an abrupt shift in the weather gives an indication of the bullets we dodged in Carmel Valley.

Thanks for the link, Kate!!!

Click here for an impressive interactive graphic on the cost of fighting wildfires from the LA Times.

Fabulous and Fascinating Fun Facts for Friends and Family...

A ways back in the 'blog, the term "chain" was used to describe length. Here's the scoop on it, regarding wildfires:
"A chain is a unit of length; it measures 66 feet or 22 yards (20.1168m). There are 10 chains in a furlong, and 80 chains in one statute mile. An acre is the area of 10 square chains (that is, an area of one chain by one furlong)."The chain was commonly used with the mile to indicate land distances and in particular in surveying land for legal and commercial purposes.
The clergyman Edmund Gunter developed a method of surveying land accurately with low technology equipment, using what became known as Gunter's chain; this was 66 feet long and from the practice of using his chain, the word transferred to the actual measured unit. His chain had 100 links, and the link is used as a subdivision of the chain as a unit of length. 
In countries influenced by English practice, land plans prepared before about 1960 associated with the sale of land usually have lengths marked in chains and links, and the areas of land parcels is indicated in acres. 
A rectangle of land one furlong in length and one chain in width has an area of one acre.
In United States the chain is normally used as the measure of the rate of spread of wildfires (chains per hour), both in the predictive National Fire Danger Rating Systems as well as in after-action reports."

Sunday Morning MODIS and a Proposal...

(click to enlarge)

July 27, 2008 about 8 am...

I know that people are beginning to lose interest in this fire... we all want to just get on with it and put this behind us.

But it's important to remember:
  1. that this fire is not over yet,
  2. the future of wildfire in our area is fairly predictable.
  3. though the  danger posed by wildfire within the National Forest has been mitigated for a few years, we still have enormous potential for wildfire in the outlying residential areas of Big Sur, Carmel Valley Village, Jamesburg and Cachagua; and, 
  4. climate change - global warming - may make prolonged drought and the risk of fire a rule.

The question before us as a community is: 

Can we live with the social, economic, ecological and personal disruption and tragedy that massive wildfire brings to our area... about every ten years or so? If not, shall we work together over the long term to effect USFS Forest Management policy in Los Padres National Forest?

There some facts that make this question more relevant than at other times:
  • Climate change may cause the wildfire season to arrive much earlier and stay a bit later.
  • The U.S. Forest Service budget is under extreme duress due to firefighting expenses... essentially, the USFS is - financially speaking - eating itself from within by cannibalizing the budget of its other programs, which include forest management and wildfire mitigation.
  • While the next federal administration may bring change, regardless of who is elected, the legacy of the current administration leaves a tough card to be dealt (to either McCain - who has experience with wildfire in his home state of Arizona - or Obama). The Iraq War, the state of Medicare and Social Security, the state of the economy, the principal and interests we owe to China, the fall of the dollar and dependence on oil put "emergencies" on a first come, first served basis.
  • The government may not be able to help us except in an emergency, like the fire, and their resources may be strained or spread out, as we saw when this fire season began.
These fires combined, will cost us - as taxpayers - more than $150 million dollars. Should we not attempt to devise a locally-sourced approach - one that involves periodic, sensible wildlands management - rather than disgorging massive funds every ten years or so?

From the Los Angeles Times, July 27 2008:
"Wildfire costs are busting the Forest Service budget. A decade ago, the agency spent $307 million on fire suppression. Last year, it spent $1.37 billion.

Fire is chewing through so much Forest Service money that Congress is considering a separate federal account to cover the cost of catastrophic blazes.

In California, state wildfire spending has shot up 150% in the last decade, to more than $1 billion a year."
If we as a community, formed a working group do study and understand the implications, options and limits of issues such as firebreak maintenance and periodic prescribed burns in the Los Padres National Forest (LPNF), AND WE FORMULATED A RECOMMENDATION from a citizens' group, in the form of a report, to the U.S. Forest Service - LPNF, we could perhaps effect the way our "local" national forest is managed.

If there is a future for this WebLog - Life in the Fire Lane - then perhaps it might be as a voice advocating for such a citizens' group?

If you are willing to be a part of bringing together a community group, the goal of which, over the course of a few years, will be to recommend to the USFS - LPNF a Forest Management Plan that protects our local economy, property and the quality of our watershed, feel free to email me: or call: (831) 659-2320 or (650) 533-1010 cell. I'll use what resources I have to assist in bringing together those who are interested in working together.

There is a precedent for such action, by the way, in Idaho, which I shall write about, here, in the near future. And, I believe that we have allies politically here in the State of California, who would support a sensible community approach develop from a citizens' group.
Some key points from InciWeb... why there still danger...
  • Containment remains at 85% as of today (still a' ways from 100% - KEO)
  • Intense backing fire of interior fuels in the upper Carmel River and Arroyo Seco drainages occurred. Other interior pockets of fuel continued to burn. Containment lines held.
  • Critically dry fuels conditions still exist with the potential for extreme fire behavior. 
Jim's comments about MODIS:
A cool, humid night. The fog is back. Even so, there was a fair amount of burning north, NW, and NE of Miller Mountain. There are no other new hotspots.

InciWeb’s “planned actions” for today is written in the past tense, so it’s hard to tell if any more burnouts are planned for today: “Crews continued to improve containment lines and complete burnout operations of interior islands. Significant progress was made on rehab in the Indians Fire and rehab operations continued on the East Basin Fires. Most of the hand line on the East Basin has been rehabbed.“
Thanks, Pete!!

Thanks so much to Warren "Pete" Poitras, Director of the Carmel Valley Fire Protection District, for this link to a story and some extraordinary pictures of the firefight in the backcountry. The story is on the Carmel Valley Rotary website under "Press Releases" and it really warrants a visit!!

Saturday, July 26, 2008

What's for dinner??? MODIS!!!!!!

(click to enlarge)
July 26, 2008 about 7 pm...

Jim's provided us with the afternoon MODIS and a few words... thanks, Jim, for your continued support!!!
"Hot day today. I can’t tell how much activity is from burnouts and how much from wildfire, but this fire is most certainly not out.
  • A lot of action all around Miller Mountain
  • One lone hotspot just south of the MIRA Observatory.
  • Quite a bit of fire SE of Tassajara Hot Springs."
85% containment and counting!!!!

Want to do Something Meaningful for the Firefighters??

July 26, 2008, about 3:30 pm...

There's no update for today from Chief Jeanne Pincha-Tulley. We agreed this morning that when she had more to report - rather than a simple reiteration of last night's community meeting at Tularcitos School in Carmel Valley - then, I'll interview her.  The next scheduled update is on Monday morning.

One thing DID come up... what could people do to really say "Thanks!" to the firefighters.

While they appreciate the signs A LOT, what would really be a help would be if you made a donation to the Wildland Firefighter Foundation (WFF).

Who are WFF and what do they do??

Who they are:
"They are federal, state and local firefighters, private sector firefighters, interface firefighters, and volunteers from rural communities and towns across the United States. Many are long-time career professionals, some much newer to the job. They're ordinary people doing an extraordinary job – a community of committed individuals who work and train to protect our private and public lands."
What they do:
"We provide financial assistance, immediate and ongoing emotional support, advocacy, and recognition to fallen and injured wildland firefighters. We present program information and in some instances, onsite crisis support, to government and private fire agencies and other organizations.

Survivor family members are forever a part of the Foundation's purpose. We continue to provide emotional support and in some cases financial support many years after a
firefighter's death. We will not forget."
So where federal assistance falls short, these folks go long. What the Forest Service won't pay for, they will... your donation helps WFF to:
  • Provide immediate travel assistance to get an injured firefighter's family to their firefighter's bedside and assist with expenses for families while their firefighter is recovering.
  • Arrange travel for crews to be able to take their fallen brothers home.
  • Network crews and families with information and support after an injury or fatality.
  • Give financial assistance to families of firefighters killed in the line of duty, ensuring the home is maintained and children are provided for.
  • Help an injured firefighter meet their financial needs until they receive benefits, or are able to go back to work.
  • Track injured firefighters to ensure they are receiving worker's comp benefits.
  • Assist children returning to school after the loss of a parent.
  • Ensure survivors are able to attend "Family Fire" the Foundation's annual gathering of families, co-workers, and wildland fire service personnel. Families share their path of healing and their children meet other kids struggling with the loss of a parent.
  • Organize a Disneyland trip for children of our fallen wildland firefighters.
If you'd like to know more about wildland firefighting, here's a link to the WFF store, where there are many products of interest, the proceeds from which go to the Foundation.

And here's the Operations Map...

(click to enlarge)
July 26, 2008 about 8:30 am...

Here's yesterday's Operations Map, on which you can clearly see the "island" of fire around Carmel River...

Vente MODIS latte, please....

(click to enlarge)
July 26, 2008 about 8:15 am....

Lot's of smoke this morning, but not a lot of crew traffic up to Chews Ridge...

Cachagua Fire was BUSY yesterday, using their own home-made "TerryTorch:
"Cachagua's Torch 77 crew, composed of Skee Stanley, Terry Bishop, Tim Koster, Cassidy Johnson, and Dane Bonsper successfully "created some heat" with Terry's new TerraTorch that he built. It uses gasoline and a gelling agent to create the perfect flame-thrower. Using the torch, our crew moved along the dozer line so efficiently that air operations asked us to slow down, so we stopped and waited for the helicopters to catch up. Thanks to the US Forest Service, Cal Fire and cooperating agencies, all fire crews on the lines were always safe. The operation ran smoothly. It was nice to see the system working so well. 100 ft. flames danced and swirled as they slowly, and then more rapidly, moved down the ridge away from our community.

TerraTorch 77 a.k.a. Terry'Torch 77 was a stunning success. It created fire instantly and a heat draw that drew in the fire below, created later by the amazing helitorches. It was like an air-show and ballet combined, well maybe not...
...following Thursday's burn, there is no fuel load to support a fire of any kind on the "black" side of the dozer lines. "Lower" and "Upper" Cachagua are now relatively safe from this fire."
Jim's comments reflect what appear on the "Information Map" (next post) for yesterday... the "island" that Jeanne has been talking about is clearly seen in the Info Map and in the Operations Map as well... that little - well, not so little - viral area around Carmel River.

Off in a minit to interview JP-T for the morning update... see you soon!

"Just four hotspots overnight, all in the vicinity of Miller Mountain. Could be burnouts; could be wild fire."

As of 7:00 this morning (just updated), InciWeb says the plans for the day are: “Fire personnel will continue with mop up and patrol in the areas of Paloma Creek, Miller and River Canyons. Crews will progress with burnout operations around the communities of Arroyo Seco, Tanbark and South of the Los Padres Dam will continue as needed to improve perimeter line and mop up 300’. The Southern perimeter will be patrolled by air. Continue rehab for the East Basin and Indians Fire.“

Evening MODIS map...

July 25, 2008... late!!!

Both shall be available as soon as possible, along with morning coffee with Jeanne...

In the meantime, here's this evening's MODIS map, with Jim's comments:
"This afternoon’s MODIS map is lit up like a Christmas tree. Let’s look at what InciWeb has to say about today’s activities, changed shortly after 7:00 this morning."
" 'In the areas of Paloma Creek, Miller and River Canyons, mop up and patrol will continue. Interior burnout operations south of the Los Padres Dam will continue as needed and mop up. Crews will complete burning operations and mop up around Arroyo Seco and provide contingency resources and mop up for the affected area of Tanbark. The Southern perimeter will be patrolled by air.' ”

"So the backburning is not complete. In fact there is scheduled burning everywhere we see red dots on the map. So we’ll have to wait at least another day to see what the remaining wild fire looks like."

Friday, July 25, 2008

The Morning Update for 7/25 with IC Jeanne Pincha-Tulley

July 25, 2008 about 9:30 am...

This morning's update with IC Jeanne Pincha-Tulley and Chief Rick Hutchinson of CalFire can be accessed right HERE and at KUSP's website.

This morning's update should be of particular interest, since the chiefs discuss the residual prevailing conditions and the threat those dry - and getting drier - very hazardous conditions pose to our residences, after this incident is secured.

Now is the time to take further actions and precautions to protect your home, and the operative word is "Clearance"... as much as you can get!

I think you'll enjoy this morning's interview... it's more than just an update!

MODIS decaf macchiato with soy, please....

(click to enlarge)
July 25, 2008 about 7:30 am

According to Jim, this morning’s MODIS data shows:
  • Some more fire along the Div LL lines. Probably late backburning.
  • Concentrated activity near China Camp.
  • An isolated hotspot on the eastern slopes of Miller Mountain.
"According to the 7:00 update of InciWeb, backburning is not yet complete: “Mop up and patrol will continue in the areas of Paloma Creek and River Canyon. Burnout operations are progressing south of the Los Padres Dam to the southern portion of Miller Canyon. Contingency resources for the affected areas of Tanbark and Cachagua are in place. The Southern perimeter is being patrolled by air. In the northern portion of the Indians Fire crews will scout and determine needs for rehab.”

"I thought they finished the burnouts yesterday. Maybe they didn’t update today’s planned actions when they updated the rest of the site. Tonight’s MODIS data will tell the story. If the burnouts were completed last night, all we’ll see on the MODIS map is what’s left of the fire."
We are at 79% containment as of last update on InciWeb. According to InciWeb, the final piece of containment line was burned out in yesterday's activity, tying in the containment perimeter. And for today...
"Burning operations using aerial ignition will continue in the interior of the fire to remove the threat from unburned vegetation that could spot over the containment lines. These burnouts will be low intensity (see below regarding fire burn intensity) to help protect the watershed."
Also - BIG news! - with the successful progress on the fire, the Monterey County Sheriff will lift all Voluntary Evacuations and road closures at 6 pm this evening, July 25, 2008.

Back in a few hours with "Fridays in the Morning with Jeanne" - the daily update with IC Jeanne Pincha-Tulley.
Whoa, that's INTENSE!
Fire intensity is a term used to describe the amount of heat a fire produces - it will be a hot, cool, or moderate fire

Most people have heard about the fire that burned out of control near Tok, Alaska, during the summer of 1990. There have been many other fires in Alaska that firefighters were not able to stop. These fires are often controlled only after a change in weather helps to cool the fire. What makes these fires burn so hot? Topography, ground slope, humidity, temperature, and the amount of fuel all work together to determine fire intensity.

Topography is important when discussing fire intensity. Slopes that face south, southwest, and west tend to be warmer and drier because they receive more sun. Fires on these slopes will burn more readily than fires on north-facing slopes. Fire will burn up a steep slope more rapidly than on level ground because the fire and heat move up more quickly and dry out the vegetation.

Moisture in the air and air temperature also affect how fuels burn. Fires that occur in the spring burn less intensely than fires during the dry summer months because of lower temperatures and increased moisture in the soil and air. While rain can cause fires to cool down and lessen in intensity wind can fan a fire and cause the intensity to increase.

A low intensity fire means that the fire is burning slowing and is not very hot. These usually occur in moist areas, in wetter months, low winds, and minimal fuels.

A moderate intensity fire is faster burning and very hot. They usually occur in dryer months and in moderately dry conditions. There are adequate fuels to continue the fire.

A high intensity fire is one that burns very fast and extremely hot. These usually occur in dry months with dry soils and a large amount of fuels. These fires are very hard to contain and ignite other areas quickly often traveling great distances.

The amount and condition of available fuels will also influence fire intensity. There are three basic types of fires: surface, ground, and canopy (crown) fires. Each burns differently depending on the kind of fuel present.

A surface fire burns fuels that are on the ground as well as shrubs and trees. Fuels small in size and very dry (e.g. branches, bark, broken and downed trees, dead shrubs, etc.) will cause a fast moving fire. Grass fires generally produce lower temperatures and burn quickly. A fire through brush such as alder or willow burns quickly with high temperatures because of the woody fuel. Some shrubs, such as Labrador tea, have an oily sap that is very flammable. If a fire burn fast, but without much intensity, the soil and trees are often not damaged. Surface fires can help keep surface fuels from building up and will stimulate herb and shrub regrowth.

A ground fire can occur when the duff layer becomes very dry. Duff is the organic layer of the soil consisting of decaying leaves and other plant parts, dead branches, and wood. It can be from a few inches to several feet thick. A ground fire can creep slowly through the duff, similar to the way charcoal burns. It not only burns the dead leaves and wood, but will also burn the roots of living trees and plants. Generally ground fires are of moderate intensity but, like the charcoal on a grill, can smolder and burn much longer than a surface fire.

A canopy (crown) fire burns the higher leaves and branches of trees and shrubs, moving from tree to tree through the treetops. The worst canopy fires occur in dense forests.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Know why your cat just ran out the door??... ask your dog...

July 24, 2008, about 8 pm ...

Life for dogs, cats, kittens and puppies just got a whole lot better!

Turns out, that at the Cachagua Store... THIS VERY Sunday... the SPCA will be giving away - yes! that's right... giving away! - free food...

Say it again... FREE FOOD this Sunday between 10 am and 2 pm!

All your pet has to do is stand in line and pick up his/her ration. OK, OK, maybe you could do it instead. Or, have Room Service at the Jamesburg Hilton do it for you...

I KNOW that they'll do it for you at the Cachagua Ritz-Carleton.

NO JOKE, neighbors... word... 'dis is legit, nome-sayin'? Rod McMahon, PIO of Cachagua Fire, called to tell me to tell you about it.

Free dog and cat food, courtesy of the SPCA... it's Christmas for our furry friends right here in July!

Now tell your horse to get out of that dog suit he's wearing!

The Event of the Season...

Don't forget to getcha seff over to Tularcitos School in Carmel Valley Village on Friday evening at 7 pm - NOT 6 pm - for what just might be the very LAST Community Fire Information Meeting and a chance to say "goodbye" and "moochis grashis" to the Unified Commanders and others in attendance.

This evening's MODIS map...

(click to enlarge)
July 24, 2008  about 8 pm....

Here are Jim's comments:
  • We are now seeing the results of today’s backfiring along the Div LL and Div MM firelines. Looks like they got pretty much the whole distance backfired, as was the plan, though the hotspot pattern gets a little sparse as you move south. The red dots on the wrong side of the fire line are probably MODIS errors.
  • The Miller Mountain fire continues, and has moved back into the area SW of Pine Valley Camp.
  • The four new hotspots near China Camp may be backfires.
  • Still more burning SE of Tassajara Hot Springs.

Fireman Sam's Wildlands Fire School, Part 2...

July 24, 2008 about 3 pm...

I have word from the Public Information Office of a fire information meeting in Carmel Valley at Tularcitos School tomorrow night starting at 7 pm rather than 6 pm

In the meantime, some further information about the tools used in wildland firefighting may be of interest.
Would you like to touch my Driptorch?

Driptorch... you've heard the term a few times if you've attended fire information meetings... but just what IS a driptorch???

You've come to the right place because....

Fireman Sam's Wildlands Fire School has a course in driptorching!

In Welsh - Fireman Sam's native language - a driptorch is called "geiriadur cryno chwiliadwy."

I'll stick with 'driptorch'...

A driptorch is a tool used in wildland firefighting, controlled burning, and other forestry applications to intentionally ignite fires.

The driptorch consists of a canister for fuel with a handle attached to the side, a spout with a loop to prevent fire from entering the fuel canister, a breather valve to allow air into the canister while fuel is exiting through the spout, and a wick from which flaming fuel is dropped to the ground. 

The wick is ignited and allows the fire to be directed to where you want it. 

The fuel is a mixture of gasoline and diesel. You can add heavier oils to the mix, so that the liquid fuel sticks to the vegetation, thus increasing burn time and heat.
Why What You've heard on the TV News about Ideal Weather Conditions is Wrong

Setting backing fires, or backfiring, requires certain conditions for it to go well....
A backing fire is started along a baseline (anchor point), such as a road, plow line, stream or other barrier, and allowed to back into the wind. Variations in wind speed have little effect on the rate of spread of a fire burning into the wind. Such fires proceed at a speed of 1 to 3 chains (one chain=66 feet) per hour. Backing fires are the easiest and safest type of prescribed fire to use, provided wind speed and direction are steady. They produce minimum scorch and are especially useful in heavy fuels and young pine stands.
Major disadvantages of backing fires are the slow progress of the fire and the increased potential for feeder-root damage with increased exposure to heat if the lower litter is not moist enough. When a large area is to be burned, it often must be divided into smaller blocks with interior plow lines (usually every 5 to 15 chains). All blocks must be ignited at about the same time to complete the burn in a timely manner. In-stand winds of 1 to 3 mph at eye level are desirable with backing fires. These conditions dissipate the smoke and prevent heat from rising directly into tree crowns.
When the relative humidity is low, a steady wind is blowing, and fuels are continuous, an excellent burn can be anticipated once the fire backs away from the downwind control line. Under such conditions, however, extra care must be taken to make sure the initial fire doesnt spot across the line.
Factors Associated with Backing Fires:
  • Must be ignited along the downwind control line.
  • Use in heavy roughs.
  • Use in young stands (minimum basal diameter of 3 inches) when air temperature is below 45oF
  • Normally result in little crown scorch.
  • Costs are relatively high because of additional interior plow lines and extended burning period resulting from slower movement of the fire.
  • Not flexible to changes in wind direction once interior lines are plowed.
  • Requires steady in-stand winds (optimum: 1 to 3 mph).
  • Will not burn well if actual fine-fuel moisture is above 20 percent.
  • Requires good fuel continuity to carry well.
  • A single torch person can progressively ignite lines.

Wildland Fire Glossary...
(from the Santa Barbara Independent of Thursday, July 10, 2008)

Firefighters who battle blazes throughout America speak in a technical language entirely their own. In the past week, you may have heard some such phrases tossed around in media reports or by the firefighters themselves. Here’s a rundown of the latest firefighting lingo.

Backfire: Set by firefighters inside established fire containment lines to consume the fuel in a wildfire’s path. Similarly, “burn outs” are used to fine-tune containment areas.

Blow-up: A sudden increase in fire activity that temporarily prevents control, often accompanied with large columns of smoke.

Bump up: To move locations, whether it’s an individual working on a fire line or an entire crew moving to a different wildfire. “Bump back” means to return to your location.

Cold trailing: Part of “mopping up,” firefighters employ this technique when they use their hands to feel the ground warmth, and then dig out every live spot and trench every live edge.

Contain a fire: This happens when a full fuel break—including natural barriers, dozer and hand lines, and roadways—are surrounding a fire.

Control a fire: Following containment, this is when a fire is completely extinguished and the fire line is strengthened to prepare for flare-ups.

Crowning: When the fire moves through trees and high shrubs above the ground fire.

Defensible space: Zones where flammable materials have been cleared or treated to act as a barrier between wildfires and humanmade structures. These are at least 30 feet by definition, but the larger the flames, the bigger defensible space required.

Direct attack: Using all firefighting resources, from hand crews to air tankers, to put out the fire where it’s burning.

Drip torch: Hand-held tank with a spout that’s used for igniting backfires and burn-outs by dripping a flaming mix of diesel and gasoline.

Flanks: The burning regions that are parallel to a wildfire’s spread.

Flare-up: Sudden burst of wildfire, but unlike a blow-up, is short and doesn’t affect control plans.

Hand line: A fire line built with hand tools.

Hotshots: Highly trained firefighters who build hand lines. They usually work in a hand crew of 20 people.

Indian pump: Five-gallon backpack water carrier with hose and pump to be used on hot spots and during mop-ups.

Initial attack: The actions taken by the first resources to arrive at a wildfire to protect lives and property, and prevent further extension of the fire.

Ladder fuels: Materials that allow a fire to jump from ground to trees with ease. These are crucial for homeowners to eliminate.

McLeod: A combined rake and hoe used in building hand lines.

Mop-up: After a fire is controlled, this process reduces smoke, ensures that the burning has stopped, and removes potential dangers such as falling rocks.

Nomex: The brand of a fire-resistant material used in firefighter’s jumpsuits.

Pulaski: Also known as a “P-tool,” this combined ax and hoe is used for building hand lines.

Rate of spread: The amount of fire activity extending in a horizontal direction, usually expressed in chains (one chain=66 feet) or acres per hour.

Red flag warning: The term used by meteorologists to indicate a critical fire weather pattern.

Relative humidity: The ratio of current moisture in the air to the maximum possible amount of air moisture. Below 20 percent allows fires to spread easily; below 10 percent can lead to extreme fire behavior.

Retardant: The substance, typically dropped from air tankers, that reduces flammability in the brush. It does not put out a fire, but slows it down so firefighters can attack directly.

Slop-over: When a wildfire jumps an established containment line, usually occurring along roads, ridges, and/or lines cut by dozers or fire crews.

Snag: A dead tree that can be hazardous to firefighters.

Spot fire: Small blazes that start outside the main wildfire due to flying embers.

Spotting: When a fire is actively shooting out sparks that cause spot fires.