Friday, September 14, 2018

Green Sheet: Firefighter's death and three injuries in Mendocino Complex Fire caused by retardant drop from 747

Firefighter's death in Mendocino Complex Fire caused by retardant drop from 747, report finds

MENDOCINO COUNTY, Calif. -- A firefighter battling the largest wildfire in California history was killed last month when thousands of gallons of flame-suppressing liquid were dropped from a Boeing 747 mistakenly flying only 100 feet above the treetops, according to an official report Friday.

The pilot and a supervisor flying ahead in a small guide plane led the giant modified jetliner nearly into the trees on Aug. 13 because the pilots failed to recognize that there was a hill in the flight path, according to the Green Sheet report by the state's firefighting agency.

Because of the near ground-level release, the retardant struck with such force it uprooted an 87-foot tree that fell on Matthew Burchett, a 42-year-old battalion chief from Utah helping with the Mendocino Complex Fire north of San Francisco.

Another large tree was snapped by the force of nearly 20,000 gallons of liquid and three firefighters were injured, one seriously.

The guide pilot "made a 'show me' run" for the 747 pilot over the intended path for the retardant drop, and marked the path for the jet with a smoke trail, according to the report.

"Obscured by heavy vegetation and unknown to the (747) pilot, a rise in elevation occurred along the flight path." The ground sloped up about 170 feet so quickly that the 747 cleared the hilltop in just two seconds, according to the report.

The guide planes have two people aboard, a pilot and an "air tactical supervisor." California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection spokesman Mike Mohler could not immediately say if either would face investigation or discipline for not identifying the hill.

The retardant drops were intended to help secure a fire break cut through the trees by a bulldozer to stop advancing flames. Burchett and the other three firefighters were working on the hill next to the firebreak when the drop was announced over a radio and firefighters were told to "Clear the area out."

The four did not respond to the warning, though the report says that "when personnel are working under a tree canopy, supervisors must ensure the drop path is cleared."

It is not uncommon to have firefighters under retardant drops, Mohler said, though he could not say if the four firefighters knew they were in the flight path or why they didn't acknowledge or act on the radioed warning.

"We have ground troops under aircraft, it's not unusual at all. It's part of what we teach," he said.

A firefighter who can't move out of the way is trained to lie spread-eagled, face down, toward the oncoming aircraft, one hand holding the top of the helmet as it takes the brunt of the impact from the falling slurry and air turbulence that can threaten to lift a firefighter off the ground.

Burchett, a suburban Salt Lake City firefighter, was crushed by the uprooted tree, while the others were struck by falling tree debris. Two had deep muscle contusions and ligament damage. One also suffered broken ribs, while the fourth firefighter had scratches and abrasions.

The report warns that some firefighters have used their cellphones to record retardant drops, which can be distracting and harm their ability to recognize the danger and take evasive action. But it does not say if any of the four injured firefighters was taking video at the time.

Original Article:

Monday, September 10, 2018

CAL FIRE SCU San Mateo – Santa Cruz Unit Bans All Burning #BurnBan

CAL FIRE San Mateo – Santa Cruz Unit Bans All Burning

Felton – As of Tuesday, September 11, 2018 at 8:00 a.m. the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE) San Mateo – Santa Cruz Unit has banned all outdoor burning.

This is due to the extreme menace of destruction by fire to life, improved property and natural resources caused by critical fire weather, acute dryness of vegetation and fire suppression forces being heavily committed to control fires within Northern California.

This ban affects all state responsibility area lands within the counties of San Mateo and Santa Cruz and all CAL FIRE contract areas within same counties.
All campfire s, open pit fires , open pit cooking fires, warming fires and ceremonial burns are prohibited.
The only exception would be a fire with all of the following protection measures:
  •  Completely contained in a metal or ceramic fire pit no larger than 18” wide and 12” deep,
  •  Completely covered by a ¼” or smaller mesh screen
  •  10’ of bare mineral soil clearance around the pit
  •  No flames taller than 12”.
  •  In a designated campfire area with written permission of the landowner
  •  Under the direct supervision of an adult having appropriate fire suppression tools including water.

Keep in mind, now is the time to start planning your defensible space around your home for next year’s fire season. This will allow adequate time to obtain the tools and other resources needed to adequately prepare your property during the wet season.

For more information visit: or
Be Fire Safe!

Saturday, September 8, 2018

Snell Fire: Butts Canyon 400 acres with the potential to grow to 5,000 acres.

#SnellFire Update 09:00 9/9/18 - Butts Canyon Rd and Snell Valley Rd, 7 miles SE of Middletown (Napa County) is now 1,900 acres and 10% contained.

#SnellFire Update 20:00 9/8/18 - Butts Canyon Rd and Snell Valley Rd, 7 miles SE of Middletown (Napa County) is now 1,700 acres and 10% contained.

Fast-growing fire threatening Berryessa Estates in Napa County

NORTHERN CALIFORNIA – A wildland fire first reported on Saturday afternoon has begun to spread rapidly and has led to a call for evacuations in and around Berryessa Estates in Napa County.

The Snell fire was first reported shortly after 2:30 p.m. by a resident in the Jerusalem Valley area near Middletown, according to radio reports.

Cal Fire said the blaze is located in the area of Butts Canyon and Snell Valley roads, seven miles southeast of Middletown.

Firefighters accessed the fire off of Butts Canyon Road at Snell Valley Ranch, finding it to be about 10 acres and pushed by a west wind when they first arrived shortly after 2:45 p.m.

Within a half hour, the fire was up to between 20 and 30 acres, with a fast to dangerous rate of spread and more air resource requested.

Several tankers as well as Cal Fire’s Copter 101 and Copter 104 were working the fire according to .

Just after 3:30 p.m. incident command estimated the fire was up to 35 acres and was located three-quarters of a mile northwest of the Berryessa Estates, a subdivision of close to 200 homes on Putah Creek north of Lake Berryessa in Napa County.

Less than 15 minutes later, the Napa County Sheriff’s Office issued a Nixle alert for a mandatory evacuation of Snell Valley Road, all roads to Snell Valley and Berryessa Estates.

At 3:50 p.m., the fire was reported to be 200 acres, with spotting ahead of the main fire, according to reports from incident command.

At that point incident command requested 10 four-wheel-drive engines to access the fire and 10 other engines to protect structures in Berryessa Estates.

At 4:20 p.m., incident command reported the fire was holding at 250 acres.

By 5 p.m., incident command reported that the fire was up to 400 acres, it had spotted across Putah Creek and was moving away from Berryessa Estates, with the potential to grow to 5,000 acres.

At 5:15 p.m., the Napa County Sheriff’s Office issued an additional evacuation order, this time for the west side of Berryessa Knoxville Road from the Pope Creek bridge to the county line.

Temporary flight restrictions have been put in effect in the fire area, according to radio reports.

Authorities said Snell Valley Road has been closed to inbound traffic, with one-way traffic outbound only.

The Napa County Sheriff’s Office said an evacuation center for residents of Snell Valley Road and Berryessa Estates has been set up at the Pope Valley Farm Center, 5800 Pope Valley Road.

Original Article:

Thursday, September 6, 2018

CAL FIRE Director Ken Pimlott asked lawmakers for another $234 million to keep the agency’s firefighting budget from being exhausted.

Cal Fire makes earliest request ever for more firefighting dollars in record year

 As fires continued to rage in the state, Cal Fire on Thursday asked lawmakers for another $234 million to keep the agency’s firefighting budget from being exhausted.

Such requests are typical for Cal Fire, but Thursday’s request by Cal Fire Director Ken Pimlott marked the earliest the agency has ever asked for additional funding, said spokesman Mike Mohler.

Barely two months into the new fiscal year, Cal Fire has already spent $431 million fighting fires, he said, out of a total budget of $443 million. Another $234 million would increase the budget by about 50 percent.

Although the legislative session ended last Friday, H.D. Palmer of the Department of Finance said emergency funds can be transferred quickly to Cal Fire with approval from the Joint Legislative Budget Committee.

“Firefighting will not stop,” Mohler said.

Mohler said the agency isn’t out of money, but is seeking the additional funding because “we’re planning ahead....We’re seeing a record fire season, obviously.”

Also Thursday, the state announced that the two biggest fires this summer caused at least $845 million in property damage.

Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones, who released the figures, said the costs are likely to climb “as insurance companies process claims and more claims are filed.”

The figures reflect the property damage from the Carr Fire, which destroyed entire neighborhoods in western Redding, and the Mendocino Complex Fire in Mendocino and Lake counties.

The Mendocino Complex, which is 98 percent contained, is the largest fire in the state’s history in sheer size, at 459,123 acres. The Carr Fire, which chewed through 229,651 acres, is the seventh-largest California wildfire.

The bulk of the property damage occurred in the Carr Fire, where losses total $788 million.

Jones released the data as another dangerous fire flared up in Northern California. The Delta Fire in Shasta County was at 15,294 acres Thursday and caused the shutdown of a long stretch of I-5 north of Redding. The commissioner noted that California’s fire season traditionally peaks in September and October.

“The worst may well yet be to come, based on past history,” Jones said at a press conference in San Francisco. “The next couple of months, we could see additional fires with catastrophic losses.”

Original article:

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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.

"I am a firm believer in the people. If given the truth, they can be depended upon to meet any national crisis. The great point is to bring them the real facts, and beer." --Abraham Lincoln

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