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Thursday, June 23, 2011

A Tragic Loss in Florida and Wildfires in several states, let’s look at FL and NC

 Firefighters everywhere morn the loss of 2 Floridia Division of Forestry Employees.

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Two Florida forest rangers were killed when a small, smoldering wildfire flared up and trapped them, state officials said Tuesday. Two comrades trying to rescue them also were injured.
It's the first time since 2000 that a forestry division employee has died fighting a wildfire. The rangers were plowing with bulldozers Monday to contain a 12-acre blaze on the Georgia line that's among 400 wildfires currently burning. The Blue Ribbon Fire about 85 miles northeast of Tallahassee had previously been declared contained, but it flared back up.
"The weather can change in Florida very quickly and that's what we experienced," said state forestry director Jim Karels.
Forestry officials and the local sheriff's office are investigating exactly how the fire killed 31-year-old Josh Burch of Lake City and 52-year-old Brett Fulton of White Springs, authorities said.
The Division of Forestry's last fatality in the line of duty came in 2000 when a helicopter pilot crashed after dumping water on a blaze near Fort Myers. The last time a ranger or firefighter died battling a wildfire on the ground was 1985.
Two other rangers, Robert Marvin and Stephen Carpenter, suffered smoke- and heat-related injuries in a rescue attempt Monday. They were treated and released.

Karels called their rescue effort "very heroic" but said they had to turn back because of tremendous heat and smoke. The Blue Ribbon Fire, which had been burning since June 16, was later contained.
Both of the deceased rangers were married. Fulton had two grown children and Burch had two sons, ages 4 and 5, said Agriculture Department spokesman Sterling Ivey. Burch had been with the department's Division of Forestry for ten years and Fulton for 12 years.
"They don't do it for the money," Karels said. "They love the job. They do it to serve the citizens."
Rain forecast for Wednesday could aid firefighters around the state, though Karels cautions that accompanying lightning could create sparks before trees and underbrush become damp enough to resist burning.
He said Florida is running a rainfall deficit this year, and temperatures of up to 104 degrees have made some areas very dry. Already, 2011 is the state's 11th-worst year on record for wildfires — with more than 3,600 blazes burning over 190,000 acres. Florida firefighters have been facing an average of more than 31 new wildfires every day.
Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam met with the families of the rangers who died.
"We can rebuild the structures and restore the land, but the lives of these two heroes can never be replaced," Putnam said in a statement.

Although we cannot be there physically we can honor those who gave their life in the line of duty with a moment of silence.

A Sea Of Wildfires In 2011.

A sustained ("exceptional") drought across the south, coupled with low humidity levels and gusty winds (and a few random cloud to ground lightning strikes) has ignited an unusual number of wildfires for so early in the season. NOAA has the latest: "Wildfires have plagued much of the Southern U.S. in 2011. The data shown here plots the locations of all wildfires detected by sensors aboard the NOAA AVHRR and GOES Imager, and NASA MODIS satellite sensors over the entire year-to-date. Each red point is one fire - and there are thousands of them plotted here. The data shows over 346,000 fires - though that is an overestimate since different satellites may double-count the same fire "target," but some may not see any at all. NCDC has tallied the number of U.S. wildfires at 33,109, but this number relies on human observations on the ground, which is probably an underestimate. The Okefenokee Swamp fire near the Florida-Georgia border, along with the Wallows fire in eastern Arizona are clearly visible as large red areas. The Okefenokee has been burning for months, and the Wallows is now the largest in Arizona history. Persistent droughts and high winds throughout much of the Southwest have created conditions ideal for wildfires during much of the winter and spring of 2011. Many of the fires in Texas, Oklahoma, and Nebraska are also drought-induced. The large fire signatures south of Lake Okeechobee in Florida are agricultural in nature."

The Drought/Heatwave of '11. Here are some amazing statistics about the expanding heat wave gripping much of the south.
Last "below average" day in the temperature department:

·         Memphis: May 27
·         Houston: May 18
·         San Antonio: May 16
·         Atlanta: May 19
·         Savannah: May 19
·         Mobile: May 19

The 95 or above club:
  • Houston, Texas: Through Thursday, 21 of the last 23 days have been 95 degrees or higher.
  • Dallas, Texas: Through Thursday, 17 of the last 21 days have been 95 degrees or higher.
  • Shreveport, La.: Thursday was the 16th day in a row with 95+ degree heat.

A month worth of 90s already:
  • Atlanta, Ga.: Typically averages 9 to 10 days during June with 90-degree temps. June 2011 tally: 15
  • Charlotte, N.C.: Typically averages 8 to 9 days during June with 90-degree temps. June 2011 tally: 11
  • Birmingham: Typically averages 11 days during June with 90-degree temps. June 2011 tally: 16

Largest "Exceptional Drought" Area On Record. Summer heat usually peaks in August - it's unusual, almost unprecedented, to have such a huge amount of the USA experiencing severe/exceptional drought conditions in mid June. More details from The Weather Channel: "If it feels like your lawn is ready to shrivel up and blow away, you may not be wrong. According to the new drought monitor, 9% of the continental U.S. is in exceptional drought which is the worst drought level possible. This is the largest area of excpetional drought on record!
Drought Statistics

--281,000+ square miles in drought
--An area equal to the 13 Northeast states and Washington D.C.
--7.54% of U.S. (including Alaska, Hawaii, and Puerto Rico) in "exceptional drought"

"This is part of a remarkable meteorological 'haves and have-nots' story," says The Weather Channel Expert Stu Ostro. "(You have) record flooding and exceptional drought, and those two opposites occurring in close proximity to each other."
For the past few months, Texas and the Southwest was the main drought region."

June 23, 2011

Southern Area Preparedness Level: 5

While there are wildfires burning in several states and the epicenter for activity seems to change as the weather changes, one day it’s AZ then West TX then FL, back to west TX and then to East TX  and now NC. The fires in NC might not be getting the big news coverage that others are but they are significant in their own right. The Forestry Department in NC is doing an outstanding job as their resources are being stretched to the limit. The “new” fire in NC (Juniper Road) went from a few thousand this morning to over 18,000 acres in one very long day.

Located about 10 miles from the coast due west of Sneeds Ferry.

Who said if it's green it WON'T burn ?

Smoke from the NC fire are impacting folks in VA. The VDOF has taken several calls from concerned citizens and govt officials.

The Juniper Road Fire in Pender County, which has burned more than 18,200 acres, prompted some voluntary evacuations of homes west of U.S. Highway 17 between the Onslow County line and Sloop Point Loop Road. A shelter was opened at Topsail Elementary School at 17385 U.S. Highway 17 in Hampstead. 
Name: Juniper Road Fire
Location: Pender County.
Size: 4,800 acres
Containment: 0%
Number of Personnel Assigned: 36
Responding Agencies:NCDF; National Weather Service; Pender County Sheriff Department; The Nature Conservancy
Summary: Transition will be taking place tonight and tomorrow with a NC Type II Incident Management Team. Pre-suppression lines and contingency points are being established.

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