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Monday, February 28, 2011

Wildfires rage accross the South

As the wildfires in Virginia wind down for now they are causing lots of pain and sorry in Texas and Oklahoma. Below are links to several stories. The first few links are a series of stories from reporter Sarah Robarge with TV 3 in Winchester. After these are links to stories from TX and OK.

Stunned Texans survey homes destroyed by wildfires

Fire consumed houses in Mitchell County
At least 13 houses destroyedby flames near Colorado City

Fires in southwest Oklahoma damage up to a dozen homes
Wildfire danger remains high, the National Weather Service said, especially in western Oklahoma.

 Smokey is asking folks everywhere to do your part ... DON'T LET A WILDFIRE START

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Wildfire Activity still high in the South

Although the wildfire activity has taken arest here in Virginia with most fires from the 19th being 100 % under control and only afew smaller fires which occured Friday with the high winds, our sister sates to the south are very active.

Dangerous wildfire conditions predicted for Texas on Sunday

— Dangerous wildfire conditions predicted for Texas on Sunday
On Sunday, high-impact fire weather is predicted for the area west of I-35, particularly the West Texas Plains, according to experts with the National Weather Service and Texas Forest Service. The San Angelo area is included in this region.
In the past seven days, Texas Forest Service has responded to 61 fires burning 20,000 acres. On Thursday alone, Texas Forest Service deployed aircraft, dozer crews and fire engines to assist in suppressing 11 fires across the state. Forty-three structures were threatened and saved.
Predictions show high winds, low humidity and high temperatures on Sunday, meaning conditions could create a perfect storm for critical fire danger.

Wildfires an increasing danger here, Alabama.
Wildfire activity was high this past weekend with Alabama Forestry Commission firefighters and fire departments responding to 81 wildfires that burned approximately 3,435 acres. Warm weather, lower humidity, and gusty winds are to blame for the increase in the fire numbers.
Approximately 15 of those fires were 100 acres or larger in size. Officials with the Commission say a decrease in manpower due to budget reductions in 2010 is a contributing factor to the larger fires. The personnel decrease means fewer firefighters available to respond to fires as well as longer response times, allowing fires to grow larger in size
Although no burning restrictions have been issued at this time, State Forester Linda Casey is urging everyone to use extreme caution with all outdoor burning. Drier air being brought in by a cold front tonight is expected to send the relative humidity into the mid 30s across much of north and central Alabama and the mid to upper 40s in southern counties. Lower humidity, combined with warm temperatures and gusty winds, will increase the potential for wildfire through the remainder of the week.
In the last seven days 267 fires have occurred across the state, burning approximately 6,422 acres. For more information on the current wildfire situation, visit the AFC website at

Texas Forest Service On High Wildfire Alert
The Texas Forest Service has declared Sunday high risk for wildfires due to the drought conditions, high winds and low humidity.
The state has activated the Texas Instrastate Fire Mutual Aide System, which means 16 fire engines,and more than 30 fire fighters are deploying to areas at greatest risk, including Brownwood here in the Big Country.
Also, The Texas Forest Service has activated the Merkel Incident Command Post and has helicopters and dozers on standby. For more information on the current wildfire situation, visit the Texas website at

Fire chars 600 acres in North Brevard
Officials urge care driving interstate
Brush Fire Threatens Indian Lake Estates
35 acre brush fire threatens New Smyrna Beach homes
Brush fire balloons to 600 acres in Titusville
For more information on the current wildfire situation, visit the Florida website at

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Enjoy video clips of young Smokey Bear while I'm away

enjoy the rain!
I am not going to be posting anything for a few days. I'll be at the Fire Chiefs Conf in VA Beach for one thing and while there I will be presenting an overview of the first 2 weeks of our fire season. Included will be a powerpoint presentation with hundreds of pictures from the wildfire event of the 19th. After the conf I will be posting a link here to where you can go take a look. Thanks to lots of firefighters and others for the pictures. Till then please enjoy the 2 videos below. They are of Little Smokey Bear in the begining days of his fame and glory.
Enjoy and keep checking back!!!!
Warning they are pretty large files, with little or no audio and might take some time to load BUT they are worth it if you Love Smokey!!!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Feb 14th and 19th Wildfires in Virginia 2011

One of the many homes protected by the Virginia Department of Forestry and Fire Departments during the fires on the 19th.

Valentines Day was a bad day in paradise and the 19th was even worse. In fact it was the second single worst fire day in DOF in modern history.  We have been asked numerous times today what was the worst and what were the numbers, so here are the official numbers you should refer to if asked.
The single worst day as far as fires and numbers go was Feb 10, 2008 when we had 354 fires that burned 16,112 acres. On these fires there were 30 homes/other structures damaged and 248 were protected.
For us Protected = If it was not for the suppression actions of Forestry and Fire Departments these structures would have been a statistic in the other column.
On Feb 14th, Valentine’s Day, we had 103 fires for 828 acres.  On these fires there were a total of 18 homes/structures damaged and 218 Protected.
The Feb 19th fires by number are as follows (these are the best facts we currently have), a total of 190 fires burned 7,608acres with 104 homes/structures damaged and 896 protected.
A BIG fact is that if we include the Feb 14th and Feb 19th fires together we can say that we have had more homes/people evacuated-impacted by wildfires during these 2 weeks than we have had in ANY previous year.  These figures further emphasize the challenge we are facing in Virginia related to increasing population and growth in the Wildland Urban Interface.  FIREWISE is more important than ever and needs to be more than a catchy phrase.  We need to promote it vigorously and homeowners and community leaders need to know what they can do to help mitigate the impact from wildfires.  The following link, www.firewisevirginia.orq, is a very good website to go to for information. Also, is another good site to visit get more information on the recent fires and other fire-related information.
One important “fact” is that we have had NO serious injuries or fatalities in suppressing these fires. While there have been a few injuries on the fireline, as far as we know everyone was either treated on scene or in the emergency room and all of them have returned to work or been released to go home.

Major fire activity Acres and other stats are current as of 2/22/2011

  • Louisa County: (Chopping Road Fire), Estimated at 900 acres; 2 structures destroyed and 7 structures minor damage. 75 homes protected.
  • Louisa County-Garners Rd Fire- 75 ac with 20 homes protected.
  • Louisa County Buckner Fire: 65 acres with 15 homes protected.
  • Albemarle County: (Ragged Mountain Fire); 700 acres 61 structures protected.
  • Albemarle County: Esmont Rd. Fire-40 ac with 10 homes protected.
  • Amherst County:
    Pendleton Drive
    Fire At 100 ac with 25 homes protected.
  • Shenandoah County (Crooked Run Rd) 332 acres..
  • Goochland County: 273 acres with 25 protected 1 destroyed.
  • Gloucester County: 400 and 229 acres.
  • Middlesex County: 524 acres.
  • Brunswick County: 2 fires 80 acres each.
  • Fauquier County: Thompson Mill Rd. Fire- 200 ac with 5 homes protected.
  • New Kent County: 55 acres; closed I-64 for a short time.
  • Chesterfield: numerous fires largest was 30 ac on the 19th juveniles playing with lighters were the cause of two significant fires.
  • Bedford County: 35 acres.
  • Rockingham County: Kauffman Fire-1,262 ac-Private and 1,200 federal with 120 homes protected.
  • Shenandoah County: Crooked Run Fire- 300 ac with 11 homes protected with an evacuation.
  • Scott County: (Midol Fire) on Powell Mountain, 550 + acres.
  • Warren County: Lookout Mtn Fire- 24 ac with 57 homes protected and one destroyed.
  • Warren County: Brown Town Fire- 200 ac private with 20 homes protected.
  • Fort Pickett Fire: estimated 5000 acres burned since 14 February in live fire impact areas; fire is contained and did not threaten neighbors off post.
  • Fort A.P. Hill: estimated 4500 acres; this fire got off post for about 6 acres.
  • George Washington National Forest and the Shenandoah National Park report four large fires. The Pickle Branch Fire (Craig-Roanoke County) at 665 acres, The Coffman Fire(GW/JEFF NF), 1,262 ac on private land and 1,293 ac on federal lands and Chestnut Fire (Shenandoah National Park), 135 ac on private land and 965 ac on federal lands in Rockingham County combined into 1 big fire. ) at 3,655 acres,  many structures located south of the fire, some evacuations were completed. And the Smith Run Fire (Warren-Rappahannock County) at 1,950 acres.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011


  • Use caution and exercise good judgment when re-entering a burned wildland area. Hazards may still exist, including hot spots, which can flare up without warning.
  • Avoid damaged or fallen power poles or lines, and downed wires. Immediately report electrical damage to authorities. Electric wires may shock people or cause further fires. If possible, remain on the scene to warn others of the hazard until repair crews arrive.
  • Be careful around burned trees and power poles. They may have lost stability due to fire damage.
  • Watch for ash pits and mark them for safety. Ash pits are holes full of hot ashes, created by burned trees and stumps. You can be seriously burned by falling into ash pits or landing in them with your hands or feet. Warn your family and neighbors to keep clear of the pits.
  • If a power line or pole should fall next to you, hop out of the area. You are less likely to be shocked if you are hopping.
    • Returning to Your Home
    • If there is no power, check to make sure the main breaker is on. Fires may cause breakers to trip. If the breakers are on and power is still not present, contact the utility company.
    • Inspect the roof immediately and extinguish any sparks or embers. Wildfires may have left burning embers that could reignite.
    • For several hours afterward, recheck for smoke and sparks throughout the home, including the attic. The winds of wildfires can blow burning embers anywhere. Keep checking your home for embers that could cause fires.
    • Take precautions while cleaning your property. You may be exposed to potential health risks from hazardous materials.
      • Debris should be wetted down to minimize health impacts from breathing dust particles.
      • Use a two-strap dust particulate mask with nose clip and coveralls for the best minimal protection.
      • Wear leather gloves to protect hands from sharp objects while removing debris.
      • Wear rubber gloves when working with outhouse remnants, plumbing fixtures and sewer piping. They can contain high levels of bacteria.
      • Hazardous materials such as kitchen and bathroom cleaning products, paint, batteries, contaminated fuel and damaged fuel containers need to be properly handled to avoid risk. Check with local authorities for hazardous disposal assistance.
    • If you have a propane tank system, contact a propane supplier, turn off valves on the system and leave valves closed until the supplier inspects your system. Tanks, brass and copper fittings and lines may have been damaged from the heat and be unsafe. If fire burned the tank, the pressure relief valve probably opened and released the contents.
    • If you have a heating oil tank system, contact a heating oil supplier for an inspection of your system before using. The tank may have shifted or fallen from the stand and fuel lines may have kinked or weakened. Heat from the fire may have caused the tank to warp or bulge. Nonvented tanks are more likely to bulge or show signs of stress. The fire may have loosened or damaged fittings and filters.
    • Visually check the stability of the trees. Any tree that has been weakened by fire may be a hazard. Winds are normally responsible for toppling weakened trees. The wind patterns in your area may have changed as a result of the loss of adjacent tree cover.
      • Look for burns on the tree trunk. If the bark on the trunk has been burned off or scorched by very high temperatures completely around the circumference, the tree will not survive. Where fire has burnt deep into the trunk, the tree should be considered unstable.
      • Look for burnt roots by probing the ground with a rod around the base of the tree and several feet away from the base. Roots are generally six to eight inches below the surface. If the roots have been burned, you should consider this tree very unstable, and it may be toppled by wind.
      • A scorched tree is one that has lost part or all of its leaves or needles. Healthy deciduous trees are resilient and may produce new branches and leaves as well as sprouts at the base of the tree. Evergreen trees may survive when partially scorched. An evergreen tree that has been damaged by fire is subject to bark beetle attack. Please seek professional assistance from the forestry service concerning measures for protecting evergreens from bark beetle attack.

      Drinking Water
    • Wells at undamaged homes should be safe, unless affected by a fuel spill. If you are in doubt of water safety, contact your local public health officials.
    • If your house was damaged, disinfect and test water before consumption. The water system may have become contaminated with bacteria due to loss of water pressure in the plumbing.
    • If you use water from a public well, have a water sample collected and tested before allowing the water to be consumed. Water may have been contaminated with bacteria due to a loss of water pressure in the plumbing.

Monday, February 21, 2011

“The facts ma’am just the facts!”

And ever since we put out that the 2/19 fire run was the second single worst fire day in DOF modern history we have been asked numerous times today what was the worst and what were the numbers. So here are the official numbers you should refer to if asked
The single worst day as far as fires and numbers go was Feb 10, 2008 when we had  354 fires that burned 16,112 acres. On these fires there were 30 homes/other structures damaged and 248 were protected.
For us Protected = If it was not for the suppression actions of Forestry and Fire Departments these structures would have been a statistic in the other column.
The Feb 14th  Valentines Day Fires we had 103 fires for 828 acres with 18 homes/structures Damages and 218 Protected
The Feb 19th fires by number are as follows (This is the best facts we currently have)  143 fires burned 4,581 acres with 51 homes/structures and 718 protected.
A BIG fact is that if we include the Feb 14th and Feb 19th fires togther we can say that we have had more homes/people evacuated-impacted by wildfires during these 2 weeks than we have had in ANY single year previously. This goes  to further the challenge we have in Virgina with the increasing population and growth in the Wildland Urban Interface.  FIREWISE is more and needs to be more than a catchy phrase. We need to promote it and homeowners and community leaders need to know what they can do to help mitigate their impact from wildfires.   www.firewisevirginia.orq and are 2 very good websites to go to for information.
Other good facts are  that we have han NO serious injuries or fatalities. There have been a few fireline injuries but everyone as far as we know were either treated on scend or in the emergency room and have returned home or to work.

The George Washington and Jefferson NF USFS and Shenandoah NP have orderd up the Southern Red Team to manage the 4 major fires they have currently in Virginia.

The total acres burning currently on those 4 fires are slightly over 5,000 acres.

Hopefully the cooler damper weather will hold down any fire activity for at least a while.

Safety First Time Every Time, First Fire Every Fire

ONLY 2 weeks into Fire season and its been BUSY !!

This is as close as it can get and NOT burn any homes. Wildfire burned right up to homes in Chesterfield  and firefighters had to “backfire” using the sidewalk as a fire break.

Virginia’s Spring Wildfire Season is barely 2 weeks old and we have already had 2 significant weather drived wildfire events. The first occurring February 14th and 15th during which more than 200 fires burned more than 1200 acres. In addition 17 homes or other structures were damaged and over 150 were protected and would have burned if not for direct actions of the firefighters.
The numbers are still coming in on this last rash of wildfires but currently we are reporting more than 150 fires for nearly 2,000 acres. With an additional 17 homes and other structures burned and 138 protected.

4 of Virginia’s Governor McDonnell’s staff tour several of the wildfires that have ravaged Virginia recently.

Carl Garrison (State Forester), Todd Haymore (Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry), Marla Decker (Secretary of Public Safety), and Martin Kent (Chief of Staff) took a helicopter flight yesterday to view first hand some of the devastation and visit with many of the firefighters, home owners, community leaders and those folks who came to the support of the response efforts.

Carl Garrison, State Forester climbs aboard the State Police helicopter that will take him and others on their flight.

Major fire activity
§  Rockingham County and George Washington Jefferson National Forest; North River Ranger District (Coffman Fire): roughly 100 acres on private lands, 2000+ acres on National Forest; many structures located south of the fire, some evacuations were completed
§  Warren County, Bentonville area, and Shenandoah National Park near Chester Gap (Smith Run Fire): 1000+ acre fire burned up and over the
Shenandoah Drive
and is also now threatening the Rappahannock County side of the park and continues to threaten structures.
§  Louisa County: (Chopping Road Fire), Estimated at 1300 acres; 2 structures destroyed and 7 structures minor damage. Fire is now contained, mop-up will continue tomorrow.
§  Albemarle County: (Ragged Mountain Fire); 100 acres
§  Shenandoah County Crooked Run Rd 80 acres
§  Goochland County: 264 acres
§  Gloucester County: 570 acres
§  Middlesex County: 524 acres
§  Brunswick County: 79 acres
§  New Kent County: 55 acres; closed I-64 for a short time.
§  Bedford County: 35 acres, 60% contained
§  Scott County: (Midol Fire) on Powell Mountain, 550 + acres; 90% contained
§  Fort Pickett Fire: estimated 2000 acres burned since 14 February in live fire impact areas; fire is contained and did not threaten neighbors off post

§  Fort A.P. Hill: estimated 900+ acres; contained on post
§  National Forests report two other large fires (Pickle Branch and Chestnut Fires) both fires are now several hundred acres and have no resources assigned until 02/21/11.


Saturday, February 19, 2011

fires quickly taxing resources

As of 1:00 PM Rockingham County has banned all burning until further notice due to the dry, windy conditions.
The Rockingham ECC is reporting that there are several large wildfires in progress throughout the county.
Multiple agencies are on the scene of a brush fire on Route 33 West near Coffman Lane and Coopers Mountain Road.
Robby Talbert with the Virginia Department of Forestry says that the fire has already consumed about 300 acres.
Winds out of the west are blowing smoke and ash from that fire towards the City of Harrisonburg.
Talbert says the fire has good containment on the western front and that structure containment is in place.
There are currently no evacuations in place and there are no critical homes in the path of the fire.
Crews in Page County are on the scene of a brush fire on Hook Hill Road near 340 North.
Shenandoah County officials are reporting several brush fires in the county.
WHSV is following all of these fires and will provide updates throughout the day.

When Wildfire Threatens

Reread the post yesterday.

AN escape plan is more than how to get out of your house. When do you go? What do you take? Where do you go? Who do you tell?

Emergency Supplies
When wildfire threatens, you won’t have time to shop or search for sup­plies. Assemble a Disaster Supplies Kit with items you may need if advised to evacuate. Store these supplies in sturdy, easy-to-carry containers such as backpacks, duffle bags, or trash containers.
A three-day supply of water (one gallon per person per day) and food that won’t spoil.
One change of clothing and footwear per person and one blanket or sleeping bag per person.
A first aid kit that includes your family’s prescription medications.
Emergency tools including a battery-powered radio, flashlight, and plenty of extra batteries.
An extra set of car keys and a credit card, cash, or traveler’s checks.
Sanitation supplies.
Special items for infant, elderly, or dis- abled family members.
An extra pair of eye- glasses.


When Wildfire Threatens
If you are warned that a wildfire is threaten­ing your area, listen to your battery-operated radio for reports and evacuation information. Follow the instructions of local officials.
Back your car into the garage or park it in an open space facing the direction of es- cape. Shut doors and roll up windows. Leave the key in the ignition. Close garage windows and doors, but leave them un- locked. Disconnect automatic garage door openers.
Confine pets to one room. Make plans to care for your pets in case you must evacuate.
Arrange temporary housing at a friend or relative’s home outside the threatened area.

If advised to evacuate, do so immediately
Wear protective clothing -- sturdy shoes, cotton or woolen clothing, long pants, a long-sleeved shirt, gloves, and a handkerchief to protect your face.
Take your Disaster Supplies Kit.
Lock your home.
Tell someone when you left and where you are going.
Choose a route away from fire hazards. Watch for changes in the speed and direction of fire and smoke.
If you’re sure you have time, take steps to protect your home
Close windows, vents, doors, blinds, or noncombustible window coverings and heavy drapes. Remove lightweight curtains.
Shut off all utilities if possible, including bottled gas.
Open fireplace damper. Close fireplace screens.
Move flammable furniture into the center of the home away from windows and slid- ing glass doors.
Turn on a light in each room to increase the visibility of your home in heavy smoke.
Seal attic and ground vents with precut noncombustible coverings.
Turn off propane tanks.
Place combustible patio furniture inside.
Connect the garden hose to outside taps.
Set up a portable gasoline-powered pump.
Place lawn sprinklers on the roof and near aboveground fuel tanks. Wetting the roof may help if it is shake-shingled.
Wet or remove shrubs within 15 feet of the home.
Gather fire tools.

Practice Wildfire Safety
People start most wildfires …find out how you can promote and practice wild­fire safety.
Contact your local fire department, health department, or forestry office for information on fire laws.
Make sure that fire vehicles can get to your home. Clearly mark all driveway entrances and display your name and address.
Report hazardous conditions that could cause a wildfire.
Teach children about fire safety. Keep matches out of their reach.
Post fire emergency telephone numbers.
Ensure adequate accessibility by large fire vehicles to your property.
Plan several escape routes away from your home -- by car and by foot.
Talk to your neighbors about wildfire safety. Plan how the neighborhood could work together after a wildfire. Make a list of your neighbors’ skills such as medical or technical. Consider how you could help neighbors who have special needs such as elderly or disabled persons. Make plans to take care of children who may be on their own if parents can’t get home.
Keep important family documents in a waterproof container. Assemble a smaller version of your kit to keep in the trunk of your car.
Wildfires often begin unno­ticed. They spread quickly, igniting brush, trees, and homes. Reduce your risk by preparing now -- before wildfire strikes. Meet with your family to decide what to do and where to go if wildfires threaten your area. Follow the steps listed in this brochure to protect your family, home, and property.

Things can be replaced, its devastating to lose your valuables, your memories but as long as you have you those things can be replaced. PLEASE obey all warnings and orders to evacuate.
Tip of the Blog
Make a list NOW you have 5 minutes to evacuate your home and community.
What do you take?
Where do you go?
Who do you tell?
Make the list NOW you only have 4 minutes and 45 seconds .....