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Thursday, May 31, 2007

Horse fire - ruled Arson

CA - Horse fire: Vegetation fire - fire at Lake Kaweah Horse Creek campground ruled arson

A fire that burned 418 acres east of Lake Kaweah and prompted the evacuation of Horse Creek campground on Memorial Day was started by an arsonist, CAL FIRE Battalion Chief Paul Marquez said Wednesday.

The fire started Monday in brush just off Highway 198 near the Horse Creek Bridge and went up a hillside covered with dry brush.

It was the largest wildland fire in the county since fire season started in mid-May.

Marquez said it didn't appear to be related to any other recent, arson-caused brush fires in Tulare County. "

CA-TNF-Kingsbury Fire

CA-TNF-Kingsbury Fire:

Air support coming from the WGB:
Tanker 25
T-11 AA7DL
Lead 26E
Helicopter 402"

Nevada - News - Industrial fire - Voluntary evacuations

Nevada - News:

Voluntary evacuations called for residents near Industrial fire

Dayton High School set up as evacuation shelter


Staff report

A voluntary evacuation is being carried out in the Industrial Park area of Mound House. State Route 341 remains closed due to the Industrial fire and traffic is slowed on Highway 50 due to the smoke.

A shelter has been set up at Dayton High School for those who choose to evacuate. The high school is at 333 Old Dayton Valley Road.

The fire began about 3:45 p.m. in the Mound House industrial area close to the gravel pit ans has grown to 450-500 acres, according to the Sierra Front Interagency Dispatch Center.

The fire is burning in brush and cheat grass and is moving into PiƱon and Juniper. It is burning between Linehan Road and State Route 341.

Since nightfall, ground resources are attacking the fire.

In its 8:30 p.m. report the Minden dispatch center said, winds are shifting and could impact structures that are about 1/2 mile away. There are no closures or evacuations at this time, but local residents should be prepared and are being contacted by Lyon County sheriff's deputies. The fire is now mostly burning BLM public lands.

The fire is burning in an active mining district and mine shafts and related equipment are in the area. No structures have been lost and no injuries have been reported.

Two airtankers, a water tender, two hand crews, one dozer, 11 engines, 170 firefighters and four command staff are on scene from the BLM, NDF, Lyon County, Carson City, Storey County, Douglas County, Lake Tahoe and North Lake Tahoe.

No estimate of containment or control has been made, but crews have made significant progress on the fire's western flank, according to the dispatch center.


North of Reno
Eleven lightning fires on both sides of U.S. 395 near Hallelujah Junction are burning in what officials are calling the Peterson complex.

Reports at 8:30 p.m. included structures being threatened west of U.S. 395.

Motorists are advised to watch for smoke and localized heavy rain.

These fires were started by lightning at about 6:15 p.m. So far, seven of the fires are staffed with additional resources en route.

The fires are burning in brush and cheatgrass

Crews from BLM, U.S. Forest Service, Sierra Fire Protection District, Reno Fire are on scene.


INDUSTRIAL Fire: Latitude 39.242 Longitude -119.663 850 acres
(Fire location provided by: TopoZone)
(Fire location provided by: Google Maps)

CA-TGU- WUF

CAL FIRE WILDLAND USE FIRE - CONTROLLED BURN - PRESCRIBED BURN

Southwest Tehama County - LARGE HEADER

Fire Location: RED BANK RD AND CAREY LN

National Fire News - Fire Information - National Interagency Fire Center

National Interagency Fire Center:

National Preparedness Level 2

(On a scale from 1 to 5)

Current hours for the National Fire Information Center are
(MST) 7:30 am - 4:30 pm, Monday - Friday
208-387-5050
This report will be updated Mon - Fri.

May 31, 2007

Fire activity continues throughout the southern states and is picking up in the Southwest as well as Nevada. Weather conditions will continue to increase fire activity this week. Fires and acres burned are currently higher than the 10-year average fire wildland fire activity.

Current information about road closures in Georgia is available through the Georgia Department of Transportation (404-656-5267).

In Florida, dial 511 from a cell phone or visit the Florida Highway Patrol web site.

Weather Discussion: The Sierra Mountains, northern California, western Nevada, and central Oregon are expected to have dry thunderstorms today. Warm and dry conditions are predicted for the remaining western states. Interior Alaska will be warm and dry with isolated thunderstorms.

Daily statistics 5/31/07
Number of new large fires 6 States currently reporting large fires:
Number of active large fires 14 Alaska (1)
Arizona (1)
Florida (7)
Georgia (2)
Nevada (1)
Tennessee (2)
Acres from active fires 725,686
Number of Wildland Fire Use (WFU) fires 0
Number of Wildland Fire Use (WFU) acres 0
Fires contained on 5/30/07 4
Year-to-date large fires contained 337
Year-to-date statistics
2007 (1/1/07 - 5/31/07) Fires: 36,416 Acres: 1,311,709
2006 (1/1/06 - 5/31/06) Fires: 41,216 Acres: 2,534,900
2005 (1/1/05 - 5/31/05) Fires: 24,763 Acres: 371,900
2004 (1/1/04 - 5/31/04) Fires: 31,843 Acres: 528,073
2003 (1/1/03 - 5/31/03) Fires: 20,972 Acres: 398,573
2002 (1/1/02 - 5/31/02) Fires: 30,205 Acres: 985,124
2001 (1/1/01 - 5/31/01) Fires: 33,638 Acres: 712,333
2000 (1/1/00 - 5/31/00) Fires: 41,104 Acres: 1,054,642
8-year average
2000 - 2007 Fires: 32,648 Acres: 936,505

Source: National Interagency Coordination Center

News- Survivor Tree story

Mount Shasta Herald- News:

Survivor Tree offspring dedicated

By Sibyl Walski

A color guard opens the dedication of the trees ceremony at the College of the Siskiyous on May 25.

A solemn presentation of colors by a local Boy Scout troop and the skirl of bagpipes by CDF firefighters opened the formal dedication ceremony of three young elm trees grown from seeds of the Survivor Tree.

The elms were planted Friday in a protected area behind the board room at College of the Siskiyous in Weed.

Three more wait in the wings for planting in what will be an oasis of quiet natural space on the campus in which to reflect and meditate - a peace garden. They are the only offspring of the Survivor Tree known to exist at any public institution in California.


Local resident Marie Mitchell, who lost her brother FDNY Lt. Paul Mitchell in the 9-11 attack, acquired the seeds at a gathering of 9-11 survivor families in 2003 as a gift from Betty Robins, a survivor of the Murrah Federal Building attack in Oklahoma City in 1996 and a founder of the Survivor Tree Program.

For three years they were nursed along by the gardener at Shasta Abbey, first in the greenhouse, then outdoors to weather-harden them. The invocation for Friday's event was delivered by a monk of the Abbey. Rev. Master Kodo Kaye spoke of “the lines of connection” among humans geographically far apart, but close in their hearts.

Betty Robins came to Weed to help dedicate the trees. A friend and colleague of Paul Mitchell, Battalion Chief Steven San Filippo, also participated.



San Filippo did not go home for three weeks after 9-11 because the enormity of the devastation kept him on the front lines.

Both also spoke of the connections, and how they all led to each other from the trial by fire they each experienced, and to Siskiyou County through Mitchell, as well.

The Survivor Tree is a 90 year old tree that once spread its canopy over the parking lot of the Murrah Building and whose shade the workers “coveted,” to use human bombing survivor Robins' word, through the hot Oklahoma summers.



It suffered severe blast damage the day the Murrah Federal Building was bombed. So severe was the damage, in fact, that after investigators finished digging shrapnel out of its wood, the plan was to take it down completely.

Then it did something to reverse the human decision. It leafed out the following spring, as it always had.

Human survivors began to see it as a symbol of resilience and recovery from trauma they could take to their own hearts, and they began to collect its seeds.



Nurserymen throughout Oklahoma began to grow seedlings and distribute them among the survivors of the Oklahoma City bombing.

The distribution spread to those individuals and communities who promised to care for the seedlings. Lines of connection spread in ways and directions the Oklahomans never anticipated via those seedlings. They are now rooted in communities all over the country.

FDNY firefighters came to Oklahoma City in the aftermath of the tragedy to assist any way they could, and a connection was forged between the two cities that brought Oklahomans in their turn to help the 9-11 families, if only to show them that they could go on.



Almost none of the firefighters who rushed to help in Oklahoma had survived the disaster in their own city, San Filippo said, but the cords of connection did.

COS president David Pelham said the trees now taking root in Siskiyou County soil “are dedicated to those who lost their lives and to the concept of international understanding and peace, that these concepts be a focus in our hearts, our minds and our lives for the rest of all time.”

The original tree was nursed back to health and looks surprisingly whole. It still spreads its branches in the midst of the memorial to the event that changed it and so many others for life.

"

NEWS- Cal Fire Staffs Watch Towers Early

Cal Fire Staffs Watch Towers Early, Dry Conditions Warrant Caution

COLFAX, Calif. -- With warm dry conditions, Cal Fire official said they are worried about the fire season and off to an early start, staffing their watch towers.

Volunteers are getting ready to staff look out towers like Mount Howell Look Out Tower in Placer County as forecasters expect thunderstorms in the high sierra Thursday.

'We're experiencing July fuel moistures,' Cal Fire Capt. Steve Mueller said. 'The way the fuels appear they are six weeks ahead of what they normally should be right now.'

By June 1, controlled burn permits will be restricted to evening hours 5 p.m. to midnight, Mueller said.

Volunteers interested in helping Cal Fire are urged to call the nearest office of Cal Fire , ask for the prevention officer.

Fire watch alert today for Sierra

Fire watch alert today for Sierra


A fire watch is in effect over the northern Sierra today through this evening.

The National Weather Service in Sacramento this morning said dry forest conditions and possible thunderstorms with lightning strikes caused the alert. The storms are not expected to contain any moisture, heightening the concern.

More thunderstorms are possible Friday and Saturday across the north state, but no fire alerts have been issued yet for the weekend. Highs will continue to be in the mid-80s, with lows in the mid-50s through Sunday night.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Time to prepare for catastrophic fire?

Mount Shasta Herald, Weed Press, Dunsmuir News - Mt. Shasta News - News:

Now is time to prepare for catastrophic fire

By Paul Boerger
Published: Wednesday, May 30, 2007 2:10 PM CDT


Global warming has hit the forests says CAL FIRE battalion chief Margy Marshall, and with southern Siskiyou County having a long history of wildfires it is only a matter of time before another one occurs. Marshall says it is up to citizens to prepare the areas around their homes to defend their property.

At a May 23 presentation at the Stage Door Carbaret Coffeehouse in Mount Shasta, Marshall strongly made the case that homes with a “defensible space” have a high rate of survivability from a wildfire.

“You home will have a 86 to 95 percent chance of survival if you choose to manage the vegetation around your home,” Marshall said, noting that California law now requires 100 feet of defensible space.


Marshall showed historical maps of the large fires that have occurred around Mount Shasta, several coming right up the city boundary.

“It would be naive to think that it can't happen again,” Marshall said.

Marshall said the following step are essential in preparing for a wildfire:



€ Choose fire safe building materials whenever possible;

€ Have a “lean, clean and green zone” immediately surrounding your home that includes clearing for 30 feet and a “reduced fuel zone” for an additional 70 feet;

€ Prepare for evacuating to a safe area. Know where the safe areas are in your city; and



€ Pay attention to the “little things” during the summer such as cleaning gutters, moving wood piles away from the home and don't let flammable materials accumulate in your yard such as under the deck.

“By reducing the chance of your home igniting, you can make a difference,” Marshall said.

Marshall said the impact of global warming cannot be ignored.



“Since 1986, longer, warmer summers have resulted in a fourfold increase in major wildfires. Researchers attribute these changes to an increase in summer temperatures and earlier melting of snow pack,” Marshall said. “Snowpacks are melting one to four weeks earlier than they did 50 years ago. We are at 50 percent normal right now.”

Marshall said she has been a firefighter since 1977 and has seen a “big change” in the number of fires.

“It used to be unusual for us to deploy elsewhere,” Marshall said. “Now, hardly a summer goes by when we aren't sent somewhere.”



The Mount Shasta Area Fire Safety Plan has the following recommendations if a wildfire occurs:

€ For an evacuation, make plans for moving pets and valuables, turn off propane, dress in long pants, long sleeved shirt and cap and check on children, elderly or disabled in your community;

€ If you are unable to evacuate, stay inside your home away from outside walls. Remember it will be hotter outside that inside the home. Keep doors closed and unlocked, stay together and remain calm.



Once the fire has passed, check your home, attic and yard for burning embers and extinguish small fires if safe to do so.

If you become trapped in your car, park as far away from grass, brush, trees and power lines as possible, close doors, windows and vents. Cover yourself with a blanket or jacket.

Marshall said she was part of the crews that fought the Cedar Fire near San Diego that destroyed over 3,000 homes and killed over 20 civilians, in addition to firefighters.



“Most of the civilians who were killed, died trying to flee the fire in their cars,” Marshall said, stressing again to make your home defensible.

Marshall said CAL FIRE is available to inspect homes and make suggestions on how to create defensible space. Check local listings for the nearest station.

“The signs are all around us that a wildfire will occur,” Marshall said. “You can make a difference.”

"

Local News - Good Samaritan Rescue

MyMotherLode.com - Local News - :

Good Samaritan Rescues Accident Victim

Tuesday, May 29, 2007 - 04:25 PM
Sonora's Bill Schuler suffered a few scrapes and a sore back when his car went into a ditch (5/29/07).

Sonora, CA -- Thanks to wearing a seat belt, Sonora's Bill Schuler is alive to enjoy another day after his single vehicle accident.


Located at Hwy 108 and Via Este (5/29/07).

Early Tuesday afternoon the former president of the Tuolumne County Board of Realtors was headed eastbound on Hwy 108 in his 1992 Ford Explorer when he attempted to make a right hand turn onto Via Este. His brakes locked and the car headed straight into a ravine approximately 20-25 feet below street level.


Involved in car accident at Hwy 108 and Via Este (5/29/07).

21 year old Jeff Hike of Sonora jumped into the ravine, kicked in the back window, cut the seatbelt with his pocket knife and led Schuler to safety.

While the car suffered major damage, Schuler had only a scratch on his right elbow and some back pain to show for an incident that could have taken his life were it not for his seatbelt.

Written by bill.johnson@mlode.com

"

CAL FIRE NEWS- Grass fire burns state lands at Moss Landing beac

Salinas, CA: Grass fire burns state lands at Moss Landing beach

The North Monterey County Fire District sent two engines and a water tender to defeat a three-acre grass fire at Moss Landing State Beach on Tuesday afternoon.

The fire started off Struve Road about 2 p.m. and took 45 minutes to contain, firefighters said, but three hours to completely put out. No cause was found, they said.

Tehama County - CONTROLLED BURN PLANNED

North State Briefs: May 30, 2007 : Local:
Tehama County plans large burn

RED BLUFF -- The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection plans to burn about 2,000 acres by June 15 in Tehama County in preparation for fire season, a Cal Fire spokeswoman said.

Cal Fire will team up with a local cattle ranch in the Red Bank District and the Nature Conservancy to control invasive weeds, such as medusa head and yellow star thistle, spokeswoman Mickie Jakez said.

About 700 acres will be burned in the Dye Creek Ranch area, 400 acres between Highway 99 and the railroad tracks south of Vina, and another 870 acres near Red Bank Road and Gallatin Road, Jakez said. The burn should begin this week or the beginning of June, weather permitting."

News - Training fire to be set near Sacramento-Amador county lines - sacbee.com

News - Training fire to be set near Sacramento-Amador county lines:

A training fire will be set Wednesday on Highway 104 near the Sacramento and Amador county lines.

The Amador/El Dorado Unit of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection will be conducting training exercises Wednesday and Thursday.

Sacramento Metro Fire crews will also be on hand at the fire, which will be set about 9 a.m. at the Chance Ranch, according to a firefighters.

Firefighter Told To Move Them


Firefighter Told To Move Them
LINK:
May 23, 2007


California - The white front and red glittery strip of lights on a 1966 fire engine peeks out from behind a wooden fence in a newer suburban area. They give away a neighborhood fixture: Mark Hathaway's two historic fire engines. When Hathaway isn't at work as a city firefighter in San Jose, he is tinkering with the engines' wiring and shining their sleek red surfaces. He has become legendary at Cowell Elementary School, a couple of blocks away, for regularly giving his 7-year-old daughter, Melaine, and her friends rides to school in the engines. His 3-year-old son, Mathew, rides in a child seat.

But city code enforcement officials say the engines break a city law banning vehicles over 8,000 pounds in residential areas, even on private property. The fire engines weigh 24,000 to 25,000 pounds each. He has until June 11 to move them.

"The reason I bought my house was because it would house my fire engines," said Hathaway, 36, who moved to Woodside Way about 5 and a half years ago and bought one of the engines soon after. "I chose the city of Manteca. It is supposed to be 'The Family City' and my fire engines are part of my family. I have two young kids who would be very sad to see them leave, and so would I."

The hoses and exterior fixtures would be vulnerable to vandalism at a storage park for recreational vehicles, he said. Replacing the windshield on the 1966 fire engine would cost at least $1,000, and the round, metal siren proudly centered on the vehicle is $1,400.

A well-wisher whom Hathaway had never met showed up at his door and offered him a spot of land for the trucks, but Hathaway said he would have to put money into a shed to house them securely.

Hathaway grew up next to San Jose's Fire Station 9. By age 5, he had acquired a love for the engines, visiting the station and then saving up money for toy engines. The first real one came when he turned 18. It was a 1970 fixer-upper he later sold to San Jose Del Cabo, Mexico. He bought the 1966, his most recent, about three years ago.

Trouble arrived April 28 when someone sent an anonymous, online complaint to the city's government outreach site reporting the engines and a camper in the driveway. An anonymous caller also left a voice message with a complaint about the camper protruding onto the sidewalk.

The city sent a courtesy letter to Hathaway on May 1 stating the camper couldn't be parked in the driveway and the engines violated the weight rule.

School, neighborhood support

Neighbors praised Hathaway and signed 24 letters to the city asking that the engines be allowed to stay. But the City Council voted 4-0 Monday evening not to pursue changes to the code or an exception for Hathaway.

"I support you," Councilman Vince Hernandez said. "It is all those 12 or 13 or 14 other people who will line up behind you and say, 'What about me?' (that I can't support)," he said. "It's a difficult situation."

Hathaway supporter Jim Rachels, a lifelong Manteca resident whose children, ages 7 and 10, have attended field trips to Hathaway's trucks, scoffed at implying that letting the engines stay would open a Pandora's box to comparable requests.

"It's embarrassing, quite frankly," Rachels, 44, said. "Mark has been there for 5 and a half years without any issues. He offers a community service. He has field trips, he is at every event, and his passion as a firefighter is an asset to our community."

Cowell Principal Harriet Myrick shook her head at the possibility of no longer seeing children arrive at school on the engine.

"It won't ever be the same," she said. "Kids will never have that thrill of riding to school in a fire engine. How many kids get to do that?

"He offers a free service, and in education today, there is not a lot of that."

The city's Fire Department does presentations only for students in grades 2-4, she said. Hathaway has given his presentations to students at Cowell and at Woodward elementary schools and brought his truck to community events.

The effort earned him the name "The Fire Engine Guy" and sometimes, "The Fire Truck Guy."

"I don't know what I'm going to do," Hathaway said. "If I can talk to a lawyer and take it to court? I don't know. I don't think it is fair."

Written by Modesto Bee

FIRE WEATHER WATCH

CRITICAL FIRE WEATHER PATTERN DEVELOPING FOR THURSDAY

From the National Weather Service - Sacramento:

LOW PRESSURE APPROACHING THE CALIFORNIA COAST WILL CAUSE DRY THUNDERSTORMS THURSDAY AND THURSDAY NIGHT.
AN OUTBREAK OF DRY LIGHTNING IS POSSIBLE FROM LATE THURSDAY MORNING AND THROUGH AROUND MIDNIGHT THURSDAY NIGHT...

HOWEVER NOCTURNAL STORMS ARE POSSIBLE ALONG THE WEST SLOPES OF THE SIERRA AND MOTHERLODE THURSDAY NIGHT INTO FRIDAY MORNING.
FUELS HAVE EXPERIENCED RAPID DRYING OVER THE LAST COUPLE OF WEEKS. THEREFORE A FIRE WEATHER WATCH WILL BE IN EFFECT FOR DRY LIGHTNING DURING THIS PERIOD. ...

FIRE WEATHER WATCH IN EFFECT FROM THURSDAY MORNING THROUGH THURSDAY EVENING...

THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE IN SACRAMENTO HAS ISSUED A FIRE WEATHER WATCH...WHICH IS IN EFFECT FROM THURSDAY MORNING THROUGH THURSDAY EVENING.
AN UPPER LEVEL LOW PRESSURE SYSTEM WILL BRING SCATTERED DRY THUNDERSTORMS TO THE AREA THURSDAY AND THURSDAY EVENING. FUELS HAVE EXPERIENCED VERY RAPID DRYING OVER THE PAST FEW WEEKS. 1000 HOUR FUELS ARE NOW AT LEVELS USUALLY OBSERVED IN LATE JULY OR EARLY AUGUST."

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

City of Sacramento Fire Department - Reward For Union Pacific Trestle Fire

City of Sacramento Fire Department: Press Release

Reward For Union Pacific Trestle Fire
Sacramento Fire Department Logo
May 24, 2007
For Immediate Release
Incident No.
Senior Special Agent Nina Delgadillo
Phone: 1-888-416-4533
nina.delgadillo@atf.gov

Date/Time of Occurrence: May 24, 2007 - 3:30p.m.
Type of Incident: Announcement
Location: 5770 Freeport Blvd, SACRAMENTO

The Sacramento Fire Department and the ATF Announce a Reward For Union Pacific Trestle Fire

Sacramento- the Sacramento Fire Department and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) will announce a reward for information that leads to the arrest and conviction of the person or persons responsible for the Union Pacific Railroad Trestle Fire in Sacramento on March 15, 2007.

The fire destroyed a 1300 foot section of elevated railroad trestle at approximately 5:30 p.m. near Exposition Parkway and Tribute Road and investigators later determined the cause of the fire was incendiary in nature.

ATF and Investigators from the Sacramento Fire Department and Sacramento Police Department have information which they believe is valuable, however they need additional information from the public which may assist them in solving this case.

Investigators and volunteers will be distributing leaflets to the public; the area of distribution will include numerous transient camp sites along the American River Parkway.

Anyone having information and seeking to receive a reward , should call 1-888-ATF-FIRE.




DBA: Sacramento Fire Department

Cal Fire Suspends All Outdoor Burning - News Story

Cal Fire Suspends All Outdoor Burning

"Cal Fire has suspended all outdoor burning because dry weather this winter has led to a rise in wildfire danger.
The state usually sees a peak in fire danger in summer and fall, but the lack of rain and snow has made this winter different than most."We didn't have a choice," Cal Fire spokeswoman Tina Rose said. "You have to cut off the burning. If there is going to be the dry conditions we're experiencing plus north winds, it would be insane not to."
As for rainfall, the Sacramento region experienced the driest January on record.
Cal Fire crews said in a matter of seconds, a debris fire can quickly get out of control.
"All up and down Northern California right now, we're seeing fires that we'd not normally see until June," Rose said. "For the last two weeks we've run from one escaped debris pile to another."
In Lincoln, on McCourtney Road, two homes were saved from controlled burns that got out of hand.
Lincoln resident Ron Allbirtain said he just found out about the burn ban."It means we can't clear our property like we want to," he said. "Sometimes there are rules we have to follow that we don't like, but it's for our benefit."

Fatal Wildfire Brings Policy Questions



Sunday May 27, 2007 11:46 PM

By GILLIAN FLACCUS

Associated Press Writer

RIVERSIDE, Calif. (AP) - A blaze that killed five federal firefighters last year has emboldened those who question the cost of saving the ever expanding number of homes on the fringe of wilderness.

The five perished last fall while protecting an empty mountain vacation home from the Southern California fire, which authorities say was started by a 36-year-old auto mechanic now charged with murder.

However, the deaths also were blamed on social and political pressures and decisions to put homes before the safety of firefighters, according to a report last week from the California Department of Forestry & Fire Protection.

As another fire season heats up, some U.S. Forest Service officials say a shift in strategy is inevitable as firefighters increasingly risk their lives defending communities that have been built in prime fire territory.

``We are not going to die for property,'' said Tom Harbour, national director of fire and aviation management for the Forest Service. ``It's time for homeowners to take responsibility for the protection of their homes.''

Chief Forester Gail Kimbell would not say whether the service is considering a change in policy on defending homes in certain fire conditions, but the agency plans to address flaws in the response to the deadly fire in remote Twin Pines, about 90 miles east of Los Angeles, and is conducting a longer-term review of overall firefighter safety.

Firefighters' attitudes also are an issue in protecting homes.

Public expectations can sometimes lead to bravado and a cavalier mind-set among firefighters, experts say. A recent investigative report in the five deaths listed overconfidence, excessive motivation and risk-taking as contributing factors.

``One of the standard fire orders states: 'Fight the fire aggressively having provided for safety first,''' said Peter Leschak, a 26-year firefighter and a commander for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources' Division of Forestry. ``There has been an argument recently to change that because we don't need to encourage firefighters to be more aggressive - half the time we're holding them back.''

Federal firefighters could scale back structural protection without too much political fallout, but that would not be easy for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, which answers to the governor, said John Maclean, a federally certified firefighter and the author of several books on wildfire disasters.

The state agency spends 44 percent of its budget on wildfire suppression annually, he said, and much of that work means protecting homes where suburbs collide with wilderness.

More than 6 million homes in California stand in wildfire ``red zones'' - areas defined in part by their thick brush and steep slopes - and that number is expected to grow by 20 percent in the next decade, according to a recently released insurance report.

``There is an expectation on the part of a lot of people that somebody better get in there and do or die for their house,'' Maclean said. ``If you stop doing that and you stop taking reasonable risk to protect structures, you'd have a new governor in about five minutes.''

David Kassel, who rebuilt his San Diego home after it burned in 2003, said he would be shocked if firefighters started backing off structural protection.

``What is the purpose of the fire department? Are they just going to stand around and watch?'' Kassel said. ``If the structures are being left to the local departments to take care of, isn't that simply shifting the risk from one department to another? I wouldn't want to be the fireman who would say, 'I'm going to leave this to you because we can't handle something risky.'''

---

On the Net:

Esperanza fire report: http://www.fire.ca.gov/fire-er-memorial-esperanza.php

CA-TCU- LIME IC VEG FIRE

FULL VEGETATION RESPONSE 1 TO 2 ACRES, MODERATE ROS

ALL COLUMBIA AIRCRAFT

HIGHWAY 108 AND LIME KILN ROAD/SANQUINETTI

ST 9275G
WT 549
CDF TAC 8

CA-SCU-DEL VALLE - NEW START

CA-SCU-DEL VALLE IC

NEW START FULL WILDLAND RESPONSE

2-DOZERS
1-AA
2-AT
1-EPRP (EAGLE 1)
2- DELTA CREWS

Alaska-Intense Wild Fire Burns On for 5 days | 16,465 acres

Intense Wild Fire Burns On for 5 days -16,465 acres

INTERIOR OF ALASKA – Firefighters are, and have been tackling several fires burning in Alaska right now! The largest of the fires is the Mooseheart fire – the fire began on Wednesday, May 23, 2007 and officials estimate that the size of the fire is more than 16,465 acres- fire Managers report that the fire was still burning intensely, in some areas, on Monday afternoon.

The Mooseheart fire is located about 25 miles southwest of Manley Hot Springs and is said to have been ignited by Lightning.

At least 75 fire fighting personnel are working to control the fire and there are seven Smoke jumpers also on site, mopping up around structures where a successful burnout was conducted over the weekend.

Red Flag Warnings for high winds from the southwest could hamper visibility and precautions to residents who live near Manley Hot Springs, that also have respiratory problems, have been issued, due to the smoke."

Monday, May 28, 2007

CA-MMU- Moccasin - Contained

MyMotherLode.com -
CA-MMU- Marijuana fire:

Moccasin Fire Contained

Friday, May 25, 2007 - 02:05 PM

Moccasin, Ca -- CAL Fire officials in San Andreas report that the vegetation fire near Marshes Flat Rd. in Moccasin has now been contained.

Crews, however, will continue to be on scene this afternoon and likely into this evening. The cause of today's fire has yet to be determined."

LAFD: Firefighters Swiftly Tackle Tujunga Brush Fire

LAFD News & Information: Firefighters Swiftly Tackle Tujunga Brush Fire:

Firefighters Swiftly Tackle Tujunga Brush Fire

"On Sunday, May 27, 2007 at 3:30 PM, 14 Companies of Los Angeles Firefighters, 2 LAFD Rescue Ambulances, 1 LAFD Brush Patrol, 1 Arson Unit, 2 Helicopters, 1 EMS Battalion Captain, 3 Battalion Chief Officer Command Teams and 1 Division Chief Officer Command Team, a total of 88 Los Angeles Fire Department personnel, responded to a Greater Alarm Brush Fire near 10021 Amanita Avenue in Tujunga.

Because the site was in a Mutual Threat Zone, the aforementioned LAFD responders were joined in Automatic Aid by the Glendale, Burbank and Pasadena Fire Departments, as well as Angeles National Forest Firefighters and the Los Angeles County Fire Department, with all personnel operating under Unified Command.

Los Angeles Firefighters arrived first in a period of High Fire Danger to find as much as one acre of medium-to-heavy brush ablaze, being fanned by light winds and threatening several homes.

The first arriving Firefighters quickly anchored the flames of the terrain-driven blaze and were joined by their ground-based colleagues in flanking the fire. Fire Department helicopters soon thereafter commenced a synchronous barrage of water and foam drops to stem the head of the fire before any structures were damaged.

This swift and well-practiced multi-agency effort of more than 100 Firefighters on the ground and in the air limited the fire to two acres.

The blaze was extinguished in less than 48 minutes, and an overhaul of the rolling terrain was subsequently accomplished by four Los Angeles County Fire Department handcrews promptly and proactively dispatched to the scene.

There were no injuries or formal evacuations.

The cause of this fire remains under active investigation."


Submitted by Brian Humphrey, Spokesman
Los Angeles Fire Department

Labels: , , , , ,

CA-NEU-Crosby IC

CA-NEU-Crosby IC :

CA-NEU-Crosby IC
5-10 acres in grass with moderate ROS.
Located on Crosby Herold rd, north east of the City of Lincoln, Placer Co.
Initial dispatch: 5 engines, 1 dozer and 1 handcrew.

Due to heavy loom up, BC requested one AT, one Air Tanker, and 1 Type II copter plus four additional Type III engines. Tactical: CDF Tac 5. ( 151.250)"


UPDATE: CA-NEU-Crosby
Fire contained at around 1900 hrs. One out building lost. Approx. 8 acres in size.

CA-MMU- Marijuana fire

MyMotherLode.com:

Marijuana Garden Campfire May Have Caused Moccasin Blaze


Monday, May 28, 2007 - 01:00 PM
Bill Johnson
MML News Director

Sonora, CA -- While there was no definitive proof, CAL FIRE's Dennis Townsend says there is little doubt that Friday morning's Moccasin area vegetation fire off Marshes Flat Rd. was caused by an out-of-control campfire in a marijuana garden.

CAL FIRE personnel detained 47 year old Vicente Reyes-Figueroa of Turlock. He was then turned over to Sheriff's deputies and booked into the County Jail. He is being charged with marijuana cultivation and is on an I.N.S. hold for immigration violation.

Detectives from the Tuolumne Narcotics team eradicated approximately 1,000 small marijuana plants.

Townsend added that it is not at all uncommon to discover that marijuana grow campfires are the cause of fires in isolated areas.

The fire covered approximately 25 acres. No injuries or structure damage was reported.

Written by bill.johnson@mlode.com"

CA-TUU - Horse vegetation fire

CA-TUU - Horse -:

CA-TUU - Horse

Lake Kaweah NE of Visalia

4+ CDF Tankers ordered reloadPorterville.

Typ 3 Strike Team, and crews requested from FKU.

CHP CAD as of 1232 HRS - East side of lake near Horse Creek.


Lake Kaweah Incident - Tulare County:

Latest on Horse Creek fire....

500 plus acres
several hundred firefighters on scene, Resource orders for more
structure protection in place--there are concerns that the fire may get into the town of Three Rivers (over the ridge to the east)
Horse Creek Campground evacuated
this area hasn't burned in years, so it's ripe
according to Channel 30 news, 30% contained

Lake Kaweah Incident - Tulare County

Five engines from SLU just got ordered to Station 31 (Shandon) to form up
Strike Team 9340 Charlie for an out of county assignment."

Channel 30 news By Jessica Peres

05/28/2007 - It started Monday afternoon, in the hills east of Visalia near Lake Kaweah, and by the evening had already blackened more than 500 acres.
The fire is about 30% contained, but the dry and windy conditions, and the rough terrain, are making it difficult for firefighters.

Air drops are being done to try and contain the flames. A nearby campground was evacuated as a precaution. No homes are currently threatened.

Investigators are still trying to determine the cause of the fire.


CA-LPF - Vegetation Fire - new start

CA-LPF - Vegetation Fire:

SKINNER IC


"CA-LPF - Vegetation Fire
Infomation coming in about a new start in the Ventana Wilderness, Monterey Ranger District. Last report was smoke showing and building."


UPDATE(1): CA-LPF - SKINNER IC

Air Attack 430 is wanted over the fire again tomorrow and a Gavilan Crew is on
the fire


UPDATE(2): CA-LPF-Skinner Fire

from this AM 209

about 5 acres
Botchers Gap, 12 mi NE of Big Sur

This is a remote extreme terrain location with heavy fuels classified as "6 dormant brush and hardwood slash"

2 hotshot crews and 2 type 2 crews are continuing to secure the line and mop up
2 type2 helos
5 engines
5 0verhead

no projected movement

CA-MMU- Vegetation Fire

MyMotherLode.com - Local News - Serving Tuolumne, Calaveras and Amador Counties:

Friday San Andreas Fire Biggest Of The Year In Calaveras County

Monday, May 28, 2007 - 06:00 AM
111 acre fire in Calaveras County at Murray Dale Lane near West Murray Creek (5/25/07).

San Andreas, CA -- The Friday afternoon and early evening 111 acre vegetation fire at Murray Dale Lane near West Murray Creek is the largest of the year to date in Calaveras County.

According to CAL FIRE Battalion Chief Jeff Millar the fire started at approximately 2:30pm when a Thursday debris fire became unmanageable. Ironically the extremely remote location is only two to three miles from the CAL FIRE Emergency Command Center on Mountain Ranch Rd. in San Andreas.


Calaveras County fire blackened 111 acres (5/25/07).

CAL FIRE responded with four air tankers, two helicopters, two water tenders, a dozer and five ground teams including two truckloads of Sierra Conservation Center fire base camp inmates.

The fire was 100 percent contained by 7:30pm according to CAL FIRE's Nancy Longmore. CAL FIRE crews spent the majority of Saturday on site preventing any reignition of the fire. There were no injuries or damage to any structures.

"

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Helicopter aviators weigh nighttime water drops - News for Inland Southern California

See story at: Helicopter aviators weigh nighttime water drops "

By RICHARD BROOKS
The Press-Enterprise

From Griffith Park to Catalina Island, helicopter pilots periodically battle wildfires at night in Los Angeles County, and now at least two agencies are considering bringing night water drops to the Inland area.

"We've been working on it for the last year or two," Chief Mike Padilla said of Cal Fire's study of how night water drops might be made by his statewide helicopter fleet. "LA. County (Fire Department is) probably the most experienced agency in night firefighting.

"We're talking to them ... and assessing what we want to do."

Story continues below
Greg Vojtko / The Press-Enterprise
An inmate fire crew practices exiting a helicopter at Prado Helitack Base in Chino. The Inland area is considering nighttime water drops, which must be made from a lower altitude, raising the risk of collisions with power lines and other helicopters.

Preliminary evaluations may be made with one or two of Cal Fire's 11 Vietnam War-era military-surplus helicopters, including one stationed in Hemet. But a full-scale program would require newer and specially equipped choppers, which are at least three or four years away, Padilla said.

Cal Fire is responsible for fire protection on state lands and it serves as Riverside County's fire department.

In San Bernardino County, the sheriff's 15 helicopter pilots and their supervisors have been discussing the possibility of making nighttime water drops.

Every fire season, one of the sheriff's 11 helicopters is assigned full-time to daylight firefighting duty under a contract with Cal Fire.

"We have the ... ships, the night-vision goggles, the (water) buckets and pilots," Lt. Tom Hornsby said. "So from the policy decision to do it, it would take us two months (to develop guidelines and to train an initial group of pilots). But that would be hard-charging. And then we'd have only three or four pilots to drop water at night on goggles."

Nine additional months would be required to train the remaining pilots, he estimated.

But Hornsby emphasized that no policy decision has been made for sheriff's pilots to do nighttime firefighting.

That decision -- for the Sheriff's Department, Cal Fire and any other agencies that might consider night drops -- depends partly on whether the benefits are worth the risk to pilots, who would be flying low over turbulent fires, surrounded by wires and other obstructions, in the dark, officials agreed.

Benefit vs. Risk

"The benefit of (night water drops) is: Fire isn't as intense at night so you can get a greater effect from your water dropping," said Chief Bill Smith of the Running Springs Fire Department in the San Bernardino Mountains.

But even at night, water drops must be made from low altitude, which raises the specter of collisions with everything from power lines to other helicopters.

In July 1977, two water-dropping helicopters -- whose pilots were using night-vision goggles -- collided while preparing to land at a reloading point in the Angeles National Forest. One pilot was killed. Another was critically injured.

"That pretty much put a damper on any night flying," recalled Smith, a U.S. Forest Service retiree.

The Forest Service, which operated one of those helicopters, no longer conducts night water drops and has no plans to resume them, said spokeswoman Rose Davis.

The other helicopter was operated by LA County Fire Department, whose crews didn't return to using night-vision goggles until 2001 -- and then primarily for nighttime rescue missions.

"It took us from 2001 to 2005 flying goggles in our area until we felt comfortable doing night firefighting," recalled Tom Short, senior pilot for LA County Fire Department. "We did not just jump into this."

Story continues below

Night goggles amplify existing light, everything from starlight to streetlights. Pilots say they use the goggles on nearly every night firefighting flight, though not necessarily during the water drop.

"I'll flip the goggles up because I have enough light around the fire to see," Short said. "It's when I'm going to and from my water source that I'll use the goggles."

Ponds, lakes and other water sources often are in unlighted locations and close to wires that are difficult, sometimes impossible, to see from the air even during the day, requiring pilots to search for the poles or towers that support the lines.

So it's important for pilots to be familiar with an area in daylight before they attempt night drops there, Short said. For that reason, he says it's especially reasonable for Cal Fire to proceed slowly.

"I think it's a very wise thing (for Cal Fire) to be wary ... because of the large area in which their pilots respond. It's impossible to have (detailed) knowledge of the whole state," said Short, who had flown in Los Angeles County for about 10 years before he attempted water drops there with night-vision goggles.

Now, 30 years after the first goggle-related collision of two firefighting helicopters, Short and others say the collision is worth remembering as an indication of the potential and the risks of night firefighting.

"The technology of those goggles was nothing like we have now," he emphasized. "But that accident sticks in our minds."

Military Leads Way

As Cal Fire and the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department each consider nighttime water drops, their pilots with military flight experience tend to be the most comfortable with the idea.

"I've got 300 or 400 hours in night-vision goggles ... with the military," said Padilla, Cal Fire's top-ranking aviation official. "The last time I flew them was in Bosnia in '99."

One of his staff officers wore goggles when he was in the Marine Corps and flew Marine One, the president's helicopter.

At the sheriff's helicopter unit, three former military pilots have become the agency's night-vision goggle instructors.

Beginning last year, the San Bernardino County sheriff's pilots have been using the goggles to fly at night on their police patrols. And six of their newest helicopters are capable of making night water drops.

Because it takes time to become comfortable using the goggles during all conditions, each pilot uses the goggles on flights over urban areas before progressing to more difficult geographical areas. Remote portions of the desert are particularly dark. And in dark mountainous areas, the terrain creates additional hazards.

"We may add (rescue) hoist operations as the next mission," said Hornsby, the unit's lieutenant. "And after that, firefighting, or maybe not."

A key consideration before risking pilots and spending perhaps $100,000 on equipment and training, Hornsby said, is determining how often night water drops would be needed.

That question remains unanswered, he said.

"We're not there yet."

Reach Richard Brooks at 909-806-3057 or rbrooks@PE.com

"

CA-MMU- Hwy 120 & Tulloch Rd. Vegetation Fire

Hwy 120 & Tulloch Rd. Vegetation Fire

Thursday, May 24, 2007 - 11:25 AM
Bill Johnson
MML News Director


San Andreas, CA -- According to CAL FIRE officials and the Highway Patrol, there is a vegetation fire on Hwy 120 at Tulloch Rd.

The fire was caused by a trailer that disengaged from a vehicle. CAL FIRE crews have been dispatched from stations as well as the Columbia Air Attack Base. CHP officers are also enroute to that location.

According to crews on site, the fire is covering between three to five acres on the south side of the highway."

Red Flag Warning For Eastern Lassen Co.(5/27/07)

Red Flag Warning For Eastern Lassen Co:

RED FLAG WARNING
EASTERN LASSEN COUNTY SOUTH OF SUSANVILLE

NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE RENO NV
620 AM PDT SUN MAY 27 2007

CAZ278-NVZ450-453-458-272300-
/O.NEW.KREV.FW.W.0001.070527T1800Z-070528T0300Z/
EASTERN LASSEN COUNTY-WESTERN NEVADA SIERRA FRONT-
WEST CENTRAL NEVADA BASIN AND RANGE-NORTHERN WASHOE COUNTY-
620 AM PDT SUN MAY 27 2007

...RED FLAG WARNING IN EFFECT FROM 11 AM THIS MORNING TO 8 PM PDT
THIS EVENING FOR WIND GUSTS NEAR 30 MPH AND HUMIDITY BELOW 15 PERCENT..

THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE IN RENO HAS ISSUED A RED FLAG
WARNING...WHICH IS IN EFFECT FROM 11 AM THIS MORNING TO 8 PM PDT
THIS EVENING.

...THIS RED FLAG WARNING EFFECTS THE FOLLOWING AREAS..
IN NORTHEASTERN CALIFORNIA
FIRE ZONE 278. ..EASTERN LASSEN COUNTY SOUTH OF SUSANVILLE

IN WESTERN NEVADA
FIRE ZONE 458. ..NORTHERN WASHOE COUNTY SOUTH OF GERLACH
FIRE ZONE 450. ..THE RENO, CARSON CITY, MINDEN AREA
FIRE ZONE 453. ..PERSHING, CHURCHILL AND NORTHERN LYON COUNTIES
WEST OF HIGHWAY 95

LOW PRESSURE WILL MOVE INTO THE PACIFIC NORTHWEST TODAY AND PUSH
A FRONT ACROSS NORTHERN NEVADA. AHEAD OF THE FRONT...WINDS IN THE
WILL INCREASE LATE THIS MORNING WITH GUSTS NEAR 30 MPH MOST OF
THIS AFTERNOON AND EVENING. DRY AIR AHEAD OF THE FRONT PRODUCED
POOR HUMIDITY RECOVERY THIS MORNING AND WILL ALLOW HUMIDITY TO
DROP BELOW 15 PERCENT THIS AFTERNOON.

A RED FLAG WARNING MEANS THAT CRITICAL FIRE WEATHER CONDITIONS
WILL OCCUR. IF YOU HAVE OUTDOOR PLANS TODAY USE CAUTION NEAR DRY
FUELS.

Why firefighter set forests ablaze remains unclear

Van BatemanEditor- This is a great must read story...

Why firefighter set forests ablaze remains unclear:



Explanations bewilder Forest Service colleagues


Dennis Wagner
The Arizona Republic
May. 27, 2007 12:00 AM

On June 23, 2004, a 55-year-old man stopped his pickup truck along a dirt road near a mud bog nestled in Ponderosa pines 45 miles south of Flagstaff.

It was not unusual for Van Bateman, fire management officer for the Mogollon Ranger District, to be out in the woods, especially during wildfire season.

But on this date, the U.S. Forest Service boss did something peculiar: After hiking down a short trail, he picked up a handful of dry pine needles, ignited them and placed them next to a dead oak tree.""It smoldered," Bateman later told investigators. "I just thought after I lit it, I thought, 'Hell, we'll just have a lightning fire here today for the boys to do something.' I knew the fire was going to grow and not go out."

That statement, and the act it describes, ended the career of a federal employee who spent more than three decades protecting the West's wild lands. It also bewildered friends and colleagues who knew Bateman as a conscientious firefighter.

In fact, he had become a near legend in the world of smoke jumpers and disaster-planning experts. The Federal Emergency Management Agency honored Bateman as one of 13 "everyday heroes" for his Sept. 11 emergency management in New York after terrorists attacked the World Trade Center. A year later, he oversaw elite teams battling the 469,000-acre Rodeo-Chediski Fire, Arizona's largest known blaze.

For a man who began beating down flames and saving lives at age 20, the role of firebug seemed unthinkable. Yet the fire at the Boondock Tank bog was not an isolated incident. Bateman also confessed to setting the nearby Mother Fire six weeks earlier. And investigative records indicate he was suspected of starting other blazes.

Why?

That is the question asked by friends, family and hundreds of colleagues who risked their lives beside him on the fire line.

Why would an expert on the lethal devastation of wildfires suddenly begin setting them after 34 years of public service?

Why would a guy with no criminal record, mental health history or financial motive try to burn down the Coconino National Forest?

Bateman remained mute on those questions for three years. He let attorneys argue legal technicalities until he lodged a guilty plea in October.

A few weeks ago, with a federal court sentencing set next month, Bateman returned to the crime scene with an Arizona Republic reporter to explain his conduct.

"I'm not lily-white on this," he said, pointing to remnants of the Mother Fire, which burned a pile of debris in an area the size of a small patio. "I'm saying I came out here, and I was doing my job. I came out, and I lit this thing. Did I obtain the proper authorizations? No, I did not . . . (But) I wasn't trying to start an arson fire. I was just trying to clean this piece of country up. . . . I would be shocked if there's anybody who's spent their career in forest management who hasn't done this."

Assistant U.S. Attorney Kimberly Hare, the federal prosecutor, points out that Bateman raced away from the fire scenes after igniting the blazes during peak fire season.

"Anyone who sets a wildfire and leaves it unattended is committing what I think is a criminal action," Hare said. "There are reasons why there's a prescribed policy for doing a controlled burn."

Bateman, now 57, pulled out a map and showed how, in his view, the Mother Fire could not have spread out of control. He said it was a humid day with no wind. He said he merely used flame to eliminate logs and debris.

"I just helped Mother Nature along," he said. "Did this fire pose any threat? No."

An hour later, touring a ravine where the Boondock Fire burned 21 1/2 acres, Bateman again said his only motive was "fuels reduction," a term for using fire to purge an area of deadfall and underbrush.

Planned fires are a part of sound forest management. In fact, weeks after the Mother Fire, Bateman received an award from the Department of Agriculture for his use of prescribed burns to cleanse these same woods. In those instances, however, he filed the required paperwork.

Bateman admits violating protocols with the Mother and Boondock fires. But he insists that forest supervisors frequently come across areas that "need a little fire put on them" and handle the problem instantly.

"I burned 'em," he said. "That's all there was to it. I did not go through the proper steps."

Joe Walsh, a U.S. Forest Service spokesman in Washington, D.C., declined comment on the criminal case but said his agency "does not condone any actions of our Forest Service employees that are contrary to law, regulation and standing policy governing prescribed burns."

In Arizona, Mogollon Rim District Ranger Mindee Roth said she is not aware of employees igniting the woods without approval. "That's highly unusual," Roth said. "Things have changed. That's not appropriate in this day and age."

Unanswered questions

When Bateman pleaded guilty last fall, then-U.S. Attorney Paul Charlton said the Forest Service officer had joined "a small universe of firefighters who, for reasons we may never fully understand, violated the public's trust by igniting fires, not extinguishing them."

Several wildfire experts interviewed for this story said that they believe Bateman's account and that it seems to explain his conduct, if not justify it.

Still, the explanation leaves unanswered questions:


• Why did he lie to Department of Agriculture investigators when they first confronted him about the fires, denying responsibility? Why did he sign a statement, written by investigators, that says, "I have not started any fires that were not prescribed, authorized or controlled burns on Forest Service land"? Why did he confess only after being told that GPS tracking records and tire prints placed him at the scene of each blaze?

Bateman says he thought the interrogation was part of an administrative procedure and he was trying to dodge disciplinary action.


Why did Bateman not claim even once in a four-hour interview with investigators that he set the blazes for fire management purposes?

Bateman says investigators told him not to answer their questions with fire science terminology because they wouldn't understand, so he didn't explain his motive to clean the forest.


Why did Bateman say a fine line divides a firefighter and an arsonist?

Bateman says the written line was based on a response he gave to an investigator who observed there are similarities between cops and criminals. "I have a large mouth," he said. "They can spin this any way they want."


Why did Bateman sign a plea deal?

Bateman says he set timber afire without authorization, so he is guilty of that offense. If he went to trial and lost, he might face up to five years behind bars. Under terms of the plea agreement, arson charges (malicious fire-setting) were eliminated along with two other counts. He hopes to get probation rather than prison time.

Bending the rules

Bateman's supporters - and there are many among firefighters - focus on another question:

Is it possible a man with so much training and experience would twice attempt to incinerate forests, failing both times?

Their answer: No, it defies belief.

"If Van wanted to do arson, he could have burnt down Flagstaff," said Larry Humphrey, a retired wildfire supervisor for the Bureau of Land Management in Safford. "He knows the topography, the conditions and the fuels. . . . There's nobody who knows fire, from beginning to end, better than Van does."

Humphrey, who shared incident command duties with Bateman on the Rodeo-Chediski blaze, described his friend as "the best fireman I've ever seen in my career," a master of using prescribed burns to protect forests and human populations. "If I was in a tight spot, he's the person I'd want to watch my back."

Humphrey said unsanctioned blazes are set all the time by Forest Service supervisors who want to reduce fuels without filing 30 pages of paperwork.

"That's a damned minor infraction," he said. "There's not a fire management officer who didn't do that sort of thing. . . . If you had to bend the rules a little, you bent the rules.

"There are so many people who think the Forest Service screwed him," Humphrey said. "My take on it is that Van got too famous. The Forest Service does not like any lower-level employees to get any kind of fame."

Charlie Denton, a 43-year Forest Service employee who retired as fire operations officer for Arizona and New Mexico, scoffed at the notion of Bateman as a felon.

"I have never met anybody who thought Van would do anything of a criminal nature," said Denton, now a forestry consultant at Northern Arizona University.

Jim Paxon, a retired Forest Service supervisor who now works for Channel 12 (KPNX), said Bateman's fire-setting is not unusual: "I was in the Forest Service 34 years. I've done exactly that. I can't tell you how many times."

Paxon said Bateman was known as a risk-taker and expert in using prescribed burns and backfires to prevent or defeat deadly blazes. He described Bateman as dedicated, gregarious, friendly - hardly the stereotypical arsonist.

"This was just very strange," he said. "There almost appears to be a vendetta. Somebody had it in for Van."

Losing a career

Bateman is a mountain of a man with the rugged features of actor Wilford Brimley and a grandfatherly gruffness to match.

He started working on a Flagstaff hotshot crew at 21 and wound up with a lifelong career. "Hell, I liked it," he recalled. "And I just stayed with it through a hell of a lot of work and just worked my way up through the organization."

Coconino National Forest, always Bateman's base, provided plenty of opportunities to combat fire by leading the nation in lightning- and human-caused blazes. So he gained experience and ascended from grunt to crew leader to forestry technician to forest management officer. He was schooled in fire behavior analysis.

By 1996, Bateman was a Type 2 incident commander, overseeing major wildfire operations throughout the West. In 2000, he was named a Type 1 commander, responsible for managing hundreds of emergency workers at the largest fires and national catastrophes.

On Sept. 11, 2001, Bateman and his team were working a fire in Montana when they received instructions to head for New York, where terrorists had toppled the World Trade Center. Their aircraft, with a fighter-jet escort, was among only a handful in the U.S. skies on Sept. 12. New York officials relied on Bateman to plan day-to-day logistics for rescue operations. Bateman was invited back later to teach incident command practices. When Hurricane Katrina struck, Bateman was brought to New Orleans as a liaison.

That was in August 2005, more than a year after Bateman lit the Mother and Boondock fires near Flagstaff.

According to court records, an arson investigator with the Forest Service suspected Bateman even before the fires were set in mid-2004, which is why a tracking device was installed on his truck.

What remains a mystery is why the government allowed a suspected arsonist to continue work in a vital position for at least 16 months before investigators finally confronted him.

One possible explanation: Authorities were confused because a second fire-setter also had been working the area. In January 2006, two months after Bateman's indictment, Jesse N. Perkins of nearby Happy Jack was arrested by a Forest Service law enforcement officer. According to federal court records, Perkins was a meth addict, artifact looter and "self-proclaimed pyro" who admitted setting numerous wilderness fires over the years. He pleaded guilty and was sentenced last May to six months in prison.

Bateman speculates that investigators thought he was responsible for fires set by Perkins and targeted him for prosecution because of the number and danger of those blazes.

He says he will never understand why federal agents charged him criminally or why none of his bosses spoke with him about the allegations. Rules were broken and lies told, he admits, but everyone knew unauthorized blazes were set to avoid the red tape.

Bateman says he loses sleep worrying about a prison sentence but has managed to stay busy while the justice system grinds. For the past few weeks, he has been helping a private landowner develop plans for a prescribed burn.

"I gave the outfit everything," Bateman said, referring to the Forest Service. "I felt that after 34 years, if nothing else, the very least they owed me was to set me down and talk to me. And the fact that they wouldn't even do that, I thought, was pretty chicken. . . . It took 34 years of hard work to get a reputation as a good firefighter . . . and that went down the tubes."

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Firefighter worked around clock at Ground Zero Murdered

911 Rescue and Recovery workers:
Salvatore Princiotta

Firefighter worked around clock at Ground Zero Murdered

Associated Press

May. 26, 2007 11:59 AM

NEW YORK - Firefighter Salvatore Princiotta worked around the clock at the World Trade Center site after the Sept. 11 attacks: Family members say he helped put out fires, led injured people out of the area, and spent a week digging through the smoking rubble for his uncle, a deputy fire chief.

He eventually got sick with lung problems, retired from the fire department and recently moved to Arizona, hoping the abundance of sun and fresh air would be just what his ailing body needed.

But on May 14 - five years to the day after the remains of his uncle, Chief Raymond Downey, were found at ground zero - Princiotta was found dead in his Arizona apartment. Police said there were bullet wounds in his decomposing body.

On Friday, the suspect in the slaying committed suicide after police cornered him in California, authorities said.

Police are saying little about the suspect and nothing about why he killed Princiotta, only adding to the mystery surrounding the former firefighter's final days.

But one thing is for sure - Princiotta is one of hundreds of first responders who got sick after Sept. 11 and now blame their health woes on the toxic fumes and dust at ground zero.

In January, Princiotta moved from his Manhattan apartment to Arizona because he was having trouble breathing. After several hospitalizations, he retired from the FDNY four years ago.

"He was brokenhearted," said his brother, Joseph Princiotta of Deer Park, a Long Island community where family members have lived in six houses along Oak Street for decades.

"You could say Sal was a victim of 9/11," the brother said. "He would never have moved to Arizona if 9/11 hadn't happened."

Hundreds of miles from the haunting memories, in Scottsdale, Ariz., the 43-year-old retired firefighter hoped for a new life in a near-perfect, sunny climate. He was getting disability pay - three-quarters of his firefighter salary - supplemented by income from day-trading stocks.

Photography was his pastime and passion and he planned to use his new home as a base to keep traveling the world. His photos - posted on his Web site - are from Turkey, the Czech Republic, Italy, Mexico, Greece. In the clear Arizona air, he could ride his new bike.

Three months after the terror attacks, the image of Princiotta atop a road bike was seen across the country when he and five other firefighters cycled 3,000 miles from New York to California - to say thank you to fellow Americans, especially firefighters and police in other states, for coming to New York's rescue in its hour of need.

Princiotta and his group of FDNY firefighters raised $29,000 for the Uniformed Firefighters Association Widows' & Children's Fund. His firehouse - Ladder Co. 9, Engine Co. 33 in lower Manhattan - had lost 10 of its men on Sept. 11.

Princiotta, a muscled, tattoed man friends called "Sally Boy," would donate gifts to orphaned children each Christmas, but didn't want anyone to know, said his best friend in New York, Gus Thomas.

During his almost 15 years with the FDNY, Princiotta received two citations for bravery; in one instance, he walked into a burning house to pull out a trapped firefighter.

An online guestbook with comments from friends, relatives and strangers includes an entry from the firefighter Princiotta saved, Hank Porcaro, now retired in Las Vegas.

"Sal saved my life at the very moment I was dying. Out of air, lost, and tied up in fallen cables, I knew I was breathing out my last breath," he writes, adding that the flames were blowing over his head and he was losing consciousness.

"Then I heard my miracle. A big strong voice telling me I got you, brother' sounded to me like an angel. I felt his strong arms pull my tied up body and I knew I would be OK."

Just outside Princiotta's old firehouse, a makeshift memorial still sits on a windowsill by the sidewalk - a wooden box with a glass lid that holds photos of him both in uniform and in casual attire, always in the company of his firefighter buddies.

In New York, he remains a hero, a friend, a beloved son, brother, uncle and decorated former firefighter. He was also "a consummate bachelor, outgoing and gregarious," his brother said with a chuckle.

In Arizona, the New York hero has become a victim in a murder mystery.

The suspect killed himself Friday night at a motel in San Bernardino, Calif., said Sgt. Mark Clark, a Scottsdale police spokesman.

When approached by police, the suspect fled on foot. After a short chase, he pulled out a gun and committed suicide, Clark said. The name of the 56-year-old man was being withheld until relatives could be notified, Clark said.

The question now is: What was the motive for Princiotta's slaying?

His nephew, also named Salvatore Princiotta, discovered his uncle's body on May 14, Joseph Princiotta said. Family members had been trying to reach Princiotta for about a week, after not hearing from him for a while. A niece got no reply to cell phone text messages and e-mails.

Finally, the nephew, a student at a nearby college, went to check on his uncle, using his own key to enter the condominium in his gated, low-crime community.

It appeared Princiotta had been dead for days, police said. There was no evidence of a break-in.

Thomas visited Princiotta about a month ago. He remembers answering several calls from a man named "Jeff" who would abruptly hang up when told Princiotta was still asleep. Princiotta said the man lived in California and had sold Princiotta a safe to store his coin collection after the two met in Las Vegas.

"I told him, you don't buy a safe from a stranger!" Thomas said.

The Manhattan restaurant owner said he was pleased that police found a suspect, but still sad about the loss.

"I haven't slept in weeks since he died," he said.

At first, his family in New York believed Princiotta might have died of the post-Sept. 11 lung complications. On Tuesday, a day after he was buried on Long Island, police in Arizona announced they were conducting a homicide investigation.

Princiotta was flown home to New York from Phoenix, where his coffin rode atop a fire engine to the airport. When the plane landed at New York's LaGuardia Airport, 60 firefighters saluted as the flag-draped casket emerged from the aircraft.

He was buried Monday at the St. Charles Cemetery in Pine Lawn, Long Island, near his childhood home.

Vegetation Fire Near San Andreas

MyMotherLode.com
Clean-up Following San Andreas Vegetation Fire Continues Today
Saturday, May 26, 2007 - 07:00 AM
BJ Hansen


San Andreas, Ca -- Crews will be on hand today to continue the effort to extinguish yesterday's 111 acre vegetation fire northeast of San Andreas.

We have plans for another 10 engines to come in, with six hand crews and two water tenders says CAL Fire Battalion Chief Jeff Milar. He says the official cause of yesterday's fire has yet to be determined, but it appears it may have been from a burn pile that got out of control.

CAL Fire Crews Gather At Friday's Vegetation Fire Near San Andreas

The fire was reported at 2:30pm and contained at 7:30pm.

Firefighters have been busier than normal for this time of year. This is a fire we'd expect in July and August, adds Milar. The fire season has been moved up and that translates into a longer and busier fire season. We need the public to be more careful with everything they do when they are out in the wild lands."

Liability a burning concern among firefighters

Liability a burning concern among firefighters:
10:00 PM PDT on Friday, May 25, 2007
By LORA HINES, KIMBERLY TRONE and BEN GOAD
The Press-Enterprise

Some state and federal fire officials are worried about criminal or civil liability as the U.S. Agriculture Department's inspector general's office begins its investigation into the Esperanza Fire that killed five U.S. Forest Service firefighters in October.

Firefighters across the country say they are less likely to accept fire assignments and more likely to avoid supervisory roles because of the possibility of criminal charges being filed against fire-incident commanders. Meanwhile, fire supervisors have been encouraged to buy professional liability insurance to protect themselves if prosecuted.

"Fear of prosecution is frightening to everybody," said Chuck Bushey, president of the International Association of Wildland Fire, a nonprofit professional firefighting organization. "A lot of them are thinking about not going out on fires for which they're qualified. Some of them are thinking about getting out of fire altogether. We deserve to have some immunity."

By law, the inspector general must investigate deaths of federal firefighters who are killed in burnovers or entrapments.

This week, a joint Forest Service and Cal Fire investigation report showed that mistakes made during the fire led to the firefighters' deaths.

Previously, two fire commanders were charged in the deaths of federal firefighters in Washington and Idaho.

'Our Complete Attention'

Terry McHale, public policy director for CDF Firefighters, a state firefighter union, said concerns about potential lawsuits or criminal prosecution of firefighters who made decisions battling the deadly blaze has "our complete attention."

"These people work under extreme duress in the worst of conditions. Then, to suddenly say you are subject to civil or criminal liability is the most severe and perverse case of Monday-morning quarterbacking," McHale said.

Laurie Levenson, a professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles, said she doesn't believe firefighters will be charged.

Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty against Raymond Lee Oyler, who faces five counts of murder in the arson that killed the Engine 57 crew.

"They've already got their bad guy," Levenson said. "He's the key."

Prosecutors would undermine their case against Oyler if they blamed someone else for the firefighters' deaths, Levenson said. Firefighters would more likely face disciplinary action, she said.

Cal Fire officials want to keep firefighters from jeopardizing the case against Oyler. As an example, Cal Fire Southern Region Chief Candace Gregory last month issued an e-mail memo suggesting that employees avoid talking about the Esperanza Fire.

Giny Chandler, Cal Fire's chief attorney, refused to provide a copy of the memo, calling it privileged legal advice.

The Press-Enterprise obtained it this week from an outside source.

Call for Safeguards

McHale said lawmakers must create safeguards for firefighters, who don't have time to second-guess themselves while trying to protect people and their homes.

Bushey said he plans to make lawmakers aware of the anxiety created when firefighters have to worry about choices they make while doing their jobs.

Earlier this year, Bushey's organization conducted a survey that indicated firefighters nationwide fear decisions they make while battling blazes could put them at risk of criminal prosecution.

The survey was done after former U.S. Forest Service supervisor Ellreese N. Daniels was indicted on charges of involuntary manslaughter and lying to investigators following firefighter deaths in the 2001 Thirtymile Fire in Washington.

The charges came in December, five years after the blaze trapped Daniels, 13 other firefighters and two campers. All but four firefighters survived.

The deaths in the Thirtymile blaze prompted Congress to pass a law in 2002 requiring the U.S. Department of Agriculture's inspector general to investigate all entrapments and burnovers involving federal firefighters.

Mixed Reactions

More than a quarter of the 3,083 full-time firefighters who responded to the survey said Daniels' prosecution would not affect their careers. A little more than a quarter of them said they would respond to fewer wildland blazes.

About 17 percent said they would change their qualification documents to prevent being assigned to some fires. Another 16 percent said they would not take an incident-command assignment.

The inspector general's office pursued involuntary manslaughter charges against the incident commander after a fatal 2003 Idaho blaze, known as the Cramer Fire, in which two Forest Service firefighters died.

It was the first fatal blaze to be investigated by the inspector general. The U.S. attorney's office filed charges against the fire's incident commander, Alan Hackett, who was found to have been negligent in his management of the blaze. Hackett wouldn't comment Friday.

He agreed to 18 months of federal probation to avoid possible indictment and conviction. Hackett successfully completed his probation last year.

Federal fire officials say they understand prosecution fears threaten firefighter morale, recruitment, retention and safety.

Officials from several federal firefighting agencies issued a memo last month saying they were considering providing firefighters with more liability information and loosening rules to give them more freedom to assess a fire's risk and make decisions accordingly.

Dick Mangan, who served four decades as a Forest Service firefighter, said the threat of criminal repercussions could leave supervisors looking for reasons not to attack a blaze. He has conducted numerous studies on wildland fire deaths.

Mangan and others said many firefighters in supervisory roles are buying professional liability insurance to protect themselves in the event their decisions come under scrutiny.

The policies cost just under $300 a year and cover up to $100,000 in legal fees, along with $1 million in liability coverage.

Results from the fire association's survey shows that 85 percent of respondents didn't have professional liability insurance. Twenty-one percent said they would buy it this year.

San Bernardino National Forest Fire Chief Mike Dietrich said he has attended two presentations given by federal attorneys recommending that officials get the insurance.

"You respond to an incident in the middle of the night or whenever with good-faith interests and then, poof, something happens . . . and you find yourself under investigation -- criminal investigation," he said.

Reach Lora Hines at 951-398-9444 or lhines@PE.com

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****REMINDER**** Every fire has the ability to be catastrophic. The wildland fire management environment has profoundly changed. Growing numbers of communities, across the nation, are experiencing longer fire seasons; more frequent, bigger, and more severe, fires are a real threat. Be careful with all campfires and equipment.
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