Posted on March 21, 2015 by Bob Berwyn
Continued Western drought, warmth set stage for significant wildfires later this summer
After a dry and warm winter, southern Alaska will have a better than average chance of signficant wildfire activity this spring. Map via NIFC.
By Bob Berwyn
Western wildfires have always been shape-shifting beasts, roaring to life wherever there is hot and dry weather, wind and fuel. But last year’s relatively cool and wet summer brought relief to parts of the region — including Colorado — that had been especially hard the previous few years.
The 2015 wildfire season is starting similarly slow to last year, according to statistics from the National Interagency Fire Center showing that, since January 1, there have been about 6,200 fires that burned across a 100,000 acre footprint, just 30 percent of the average from the past 10 years. Continue reading
Filed under: Environment, forest fires, forests, wildfires | Tagged: 2015 wildfire outlook, climate change, drought, Environment, forest fires, forests, Wildfires | Leave a comment »
Posted on May 1, 2014 by Bob Berwyn
Firefighters teamed up in March 2012 to quell an early season wildfire near Keystone Resort, in Summit County, Colorado. Bob Berwyn photo.
Funding shortfall has ripple effect in other public lands programs
By Bob Berwyn
FRISCO — With a dangerous fire season forecast for parts of the country, especially the drought-stricken far West and Southern Plains, federal firefighting agencies will likely once again face a huge budget shortfall. That could require the Forest Service to divert funds from other programs, according to top administration officials who presented the report to Congress.
The report projects firefighting costs of about $1.8 billion, with only $1.4 billion budgeted. The Obama administration is advocating for a budget that would close the gap by giving firefighting agencies the ability to use emergency funds separate from their discretionary budgets to fight fires.
Similar legislation is pending in Congress, where the Wildfire Disaster Funding Act is cosponsored by Sen.Michal Bennet (D-CO) and Senators Mike Crapo (R-ID) and Ron Wyden (D-OR). Continue reading
Filed under: climate and weather, Environment, forest fires, Forest health, forests, public lands, US Forest Service, wildfires | Tagged: climate change, federal budget, U.S. Forest Service, Wildfires | 1 Comment »
Posted on November 15, 2013 by Bob Berwyn
Local firefighters team up in March 2012 to quell an early season wildfire along Montezuma Road, near Keystone Resort, in Summit County, Colorado. Bob Berwyn photo.
Updated satellite instruments help refine predictions
By Summit Voice
FRISCO — As the West Fork Fire Complex roared through the spruce and fir forests of the Colorado San Juans last summer, on its way to becoming the state’s second-largest wildfire on record, communities in the region were on edge for days. Slight shifts in wind pushed the fire in new directions every other day, forcing some residents to leave their homes for weeks.
Like many large fires, the West Fork Complex even created its own weather, making it even harder for experts to project its path. But new research by scientists at the National Center for Atmospheric Research and the University of Maryland may help firefighters and resource managers get a better handle on predicting fire behavior. Continue reading
Filed under: Environment, forest fires, forests, wildfires | Tagged: NCAR, wildfire behavior, wildfire modeling, Wildfires | Leave a comment »
Posted on October 6, 2013 by Bob Berwyn
The cost of property damage caused by wildfires has spiked in recent years.
More disastrous fires ahead with sustained effort to address threat
By Summit Voice
FRISCO — Increased development in fire-prone forest lands in Colorado “ensures that the pattern of damaging wildfire will continue,” according to a state task force report released last week.
The report was delivered to Gov. John Hickenlooper and legislative after two consecutive years of deadly and destructive fires along the Front Range.
The report calls for rating the wildfire risks on individual properties, and facilitating mitigation and prevention measures at the local level. Property owners in the red zone should be primarily responsible for adressing wildfire dangers, to the point of paying special fees to help fund mitigation efforts. Continue reading
Filed under: Colorado, Environment, forest fires, Forest health, forests, global warming, wildfires | Tagged: Colorado General Assembly, Colorado State Forest Service, John Hickenlooper | Leave a comment »
Posted on August 8, 2013 by Bob Berwyn
Researchers say Russian fires reflect global trends of increasing wildfires
Acquired by MODIS on July 25, 2013, the natural-color image shows smoke billowing from fires in the Khanty-Mansiyskiy and Yamal-Nenetskiy districts. Red outlines indicate hot spots where MODIS detected abnormally warm surface temperatures associated with fire.
By Summit Voice
FRISCO — A heat wave caused by a “stuck” weather pattern contributed to the intensity of Siberian wildfires in 2012, according to NASA, which warned that similar conditions could prevail this year after another unusual heat wave brought a surge of fire activity in northern Siberia in July.
The persistent high pressure over the Russian Arctic—a blocking high — drove temperatures up to 90 degrees Fahrenheit in the northern city of Norilsk, where summer temperatures generally average about 61 degrees.
Russia since the mid-1970s has been more rapid than most areas — about .51 degrees Celsius per decade compared to about .17 degrees Celsius globally, according to a study by Anatoly Shvidenko of the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis. Continue reading
Filed under: climate and weather, Environment, global warming, wildfires | Tagged: climate change, extreme weather, global warming, heatwaves, Russia temperature increases, Siberian wildfires | Leave a comment »
Posted on July 30, 2013 by Bob Berwyn
Sen. Mark Udall pressing Defense Department to transfer unneeded cargo planes to U.S. Forest Service as soon as possible
A C-27J in flight. Photo courtesy U.S. Air Force.
By Summit Voice
FRISCO — U.S. Forest Service efforts to modernize its firefighting air tanker fleet aren’t moving fast enough for Sen. Mark Udall, a Colorado democrat who has been pushing for more wildfire resources on all fronts.
This week, Udall pressed the U.S. Defense Department to quickly transfer excess military aircraft to the U.S. Forest Service. In a bipartisan letter, spearheaded with Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.), Udall said the Pentagon isn’t using its authority to transfer its excess aircraft at no cost to taxpayers.
According to the letter, the Forest Service was unable to meet about half of the requests for firefighting air support in 2012. The Air Force is nearing completion of a divestiture plan for the C-27J Spartan aircraft, and Udall wants to see at least some of those planes put to work fighting fires. Read the letter here. Continue reading
Filed under: Colorado, federal government, forest fires, Forest health, public lands, US Forest Service, wildfires | Tagged: Aerial firefighting, airtankers, Alenia C-27J Spartan, Mark Udall, United States Forest Service, Wildfires | Leave a comment »
Posted on July 26, 2013 by Bob Berwyn
Test sites proposed to learn how drones could improve wildfire monitoring, mitigation, and containment
Images taken from space can provide a lot of information about wildfires, but low-level flights by unmanned aircraft could help make firefighting safer and more efficient, some experts believe. This image of the West Fork Fire Complex in the San Juan Mountains of southern Colorado was taken June 26 from the International Space Station. Visit this NASA Earth Observatory page for more information about the image.
By Summit Voice
FRISCO — A pair of U.S. Senators wants to get a leg up on wildfires by spurring the use of unmanned surveillance aircraft to make firefighting efforts more efficient.
“Extreme wildfires have become an all too common occurrence in Colorado, leaving families without homes and hundreds of thousands of charred acreage in their paths,” said Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO). “We need to employ every tool available to help firefighters in their battles. This bipartisan amendment will help us develop UAS technology and teach us more about how they can strengthen our fights against wildfires more quickly and safely.”
Bennet (D-CO) and Jeff Flake (R-AZ) this week introduced an amendment to create two additional test sites for unmanned aerial systems, with a focus on how they could be used for firefighting. Continue reading
Filed under: Colorado, forest fires, Forest health, public lands, wildfires | Tagged: drones, Federal Aviation Administration, Jeff Flake, Michael Bennet, UAS, unmanned aerial systems, Wildfires | Leave a comment »