Go out to fire, police, and emergency medical people. In order for “the rest of us to have it off” there are people sweating their butts off to keep the country intact.
Had a call this morning from firefighter/EMT son George II who’s working a big forest fire up in Oregon. As a CV-19 technical specialist.
People who live in cities don’t think much when terms like 17,000 acres are tossed-around. But, when you live in the woods and realize there are 640-acres in a square mile, then push out the math, that is well over 26-square miles.
On the Northwest Coordinating Center regional map, this is the White River fire. About 1,200 people are working this one… As of this morning:
Big Fire – Type 1
One of the distinctions of this fire is a helicopter went down fighting it last week. That’s one of the criteria that bumped this from being a lesser-ranked fire into a Type -1. That’s when “things have gotten complicated.”
The fire management approach to to these big fires is divided up into Incident Command levels. You can read about that on this National Park Service page over here.
Basically, though, a Type 5 is a simple fire – the most complex are the Type 1’s.
As of this morning’s briefing (done on radio so everyone at all four camps is looped in) great progress had been made and fire behavior was (for now) staying in expectations.
Unfortunately, there’s what’s called a “wind event” on the horizon. Keeping control and lines works when it’s in the mid 90’s and humidity in the teens today. Winds 3-6 knots. The larger headache is how the wind event will play out.
Source of this one was lightning – so can’t even blame humans for it. This is one of of those “Nature Happens” deals.
Why Mention It?
There has been as fair increase in jitters about the possibility of an asteroid strike on earth. Maybe not this fall, but eventually it’s bound to happen again.
One things most people don’t consciously remember is that the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 was not caused by any Mrs. O’Leary’s cow, or other such (fake news even then) tripe. Instead, it was likely caused by a meteor shower.
Because on the same night, one of the most damaging fires in American history took place in Peshtigo, Wisconsin. There, incoming meteor fragments likely set off the firestorm described in Wikipedia this way:
“The setting of small fires was a common way to clear forest land for farming and railroad construction. On the day of the Peshtigo fire, a cold front moved in from the west, bringing strong winds that fanned the fires out of control and escalated them to massive proportions. A firestorm ensued. In the words of Gess and Lutz, in a firestorm “superheated flames of at least 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit … advance on winds of 110 miles per hour or stronger. The diameter of such a fire ranges from one thousand to ten thousand feet … When a firestorm erupts in a forest, it is a blowup, nature’s nuclear explosion … “:101
By the time it was over, 1,875 square miles (4,860 km2 or 1.2 million acres) of forest had been consumed, an area fifty percent larger than the U.S. state of Rhode Island. Twelve communities were destroyed.
An accurate death toll has never been determined because all local records were destroyed in the fire. It’s estimated that anywhere between 1,200 to 2,500 people lost their lives. The 1873 Report to the Wisconsin Legislature listed 1,182 names of dead or missing residents…”
And it didn’t stop there…. a whole line of fires was started that night.
Beyond Firestorm: Was it Methane?
A number of scientists have been coming around to the idea that it may have been more than a “conventional” firestorm.
Reason? It’s becoming clear – as the impact of Shoemaker-Levy into Jupiter demonstrated – that asteroids large-enough may break into pieces and “train” down on the way in. Depending on methane content, it’s possible that survivors of the Wisconsin fires were right: “The Air itself was on fire..” many survivors claimed.
All this matters in modern times because Earth is – by some estimates – overdue to another cataclysmic impact strike. Should it happen?
Well, there’s a national incident command that would respond. But how big might such an impact be?
Speculative Geology Lesson
Science has come to agree that the Ice Age was likely triggered by a modest asteroid impact with Earth. That would account for a sudden global cold snap and animals dying suddenly, particularly in northern climes.
But, as Randall Carlson, and a few others have suggested, the arrival of a methane intensive impact object could also been the source of enough instant heating of the atmosphere to create the kind of massive run-offs from the melting of the Ice flows that caused the Grand Canyon and much of the coulee structure in the Pacific Northwest:
Something to think about.
Particularly when you remember that Halloween is less than 60-days out. And Halloween, remember, is the largest, most widely-celebrated – holiday in the world. Dwarfs things like Christmas.
For a simple reason: Recently buried were thrown out of the ground and there were so many dead and injured…well, you can see the picture. Rising dead and all that.
That’s why, on days like this, it’s interesting to stitch together parts of the past and look at them in present context. What would happen IF?
Coming to Visit?
In families of emergency responders of all sorts, plans are made, but subject to instant changes and cancellations. You learn to make plans – and back-ups. And back-up back-up’s.
Fall – almost to winter – is a deadly time for wildfires. Like the 1991 Oakland-Berkeley Hills fire – fanned by 65 MPH winds. Started on October 6th.
But even that didn’t compare with the October 20, 2007 start of the California Fires:
The October 2007 California wildfires, also known as the Fall 2007 California firestorm, were a series of about thirty wildfires (17 of which became major wildfires) that began igniting across Southern California on October 20. At least 1,500 homes were destroyed and approximately 972,147 acres (about 3,934 km2, or 1,520 mi2) of land was burned from Santa Barbara County to the U.S.–Mexico border, surpassing the October 2003 California wildfires in scope, which were estimated to have burned 800,000 acres (3,200 km2). The wildfires killed a total of 14 people, with nine of them dying directly from the fires; 160 others were injured, including at least 124 firefighters.“
“So G – When is wildland fire season over?”
“Dad, it’s over when it’s over.”
Wildland firefighting isn’t for everyone. On average, there’s a serious injury every 11-days on fire lines this time of year. On the White River Fire up in Oregon, the morning briefing made crew directions abundantly clear: Stay hydrated, calibrated on the fire, and don’t lose focus on situational awareness.
Write when you get rich. Oh, and keep an eye on the BBQ.