CASE STUDY SUMMARY_DANKO

I chose to do my case study on the 2013 Yarnell Hill Fire. I remembered hearing news stories about the fire, so I decided to look into it when it came up in a list of the most devastating wildfires in US history.

The wildfire was started on June 28th of 2013, with the official cause being lightning. The initial reports did not view the fire as an immediate threat, so suppression efforts were put off until the next day. Unfortunately, the circumstances were prime for massive wildfires. The area was (and had been) in extreme drought for a significant period of time (figure 1 shows the drought conditions days before the blaze), the weather was hot, and the relative humidity was low. The terrain was made up of grasses, and low shrubbery, also known for strong fires.  Sometime during the blaze, a thunderstorm system with microburst ended up drastically changing wind speed and direction. This is when major tragedy struck. On June 30th, 19 firefighters from the granite mountain hotshots were killed after a sequence of miscommunication and poor planning. Their deaths made the wildfire one of the deadliest wildfires, with the most firefighter deaths in one event since 9/11.

The town was relatively unprepared, with many houses up against brush or other fuel materials. Additionally, the population was primarily elderly and low income, which could have impacted their abilities to retrofit their homes. By the time the fire was contained, over 8,000 acres had burned, and over 100 residences were damaged or destroyed. Arizona did have a disaster relief plan, which was credited with the organization of aid to the community. However, the fire was not deemed a disaster by FEMA, limiting federal funding. Media coverage surrounding the firefighters’ deaths played a large role in the recovery of the community, as public donations and help came pouring in.

 

Overall, a rapid change in weather conditions, drought,  and bad communication turned a wildfire into a tragedy that reached national levels.

 

Granite Mountain Hotshot Memorial Video

On This Day: Remembering the Yarnell Hill Wildfire | News | National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI)

Figure 1: Drought map days before the fire https://www.ncei.noaa.gov/news/remembering-the-yarnell-hill-wildfire

 

Two Colorado Fires Burn Nearly 4,500 Acres

Two fires burning near Las Animas, Colorado, were cause for concern this past week. The fires, whose origins were unknown,  were burning in a primarily agricultural area, so a majority of the damage was to grassland. 2 houses were destroyed in the blaze, and a national historic site was threatened. Residents of nearby towns were forced to evacuate, with the community opening a temporary shelter for evacuees. In addition, 15 agencies from across the state were assigned to contain the fires. The Fort Lyon Fire burned  2,926 acres between April 12th and April 17th. The Bent’s Fort Fire burned 1,648 acres in the same period of time. The spread of the fires was aided by windy conditions.

 

 

 

Video of Las Animas Fire Aftermath

 

https://coloradosun.com/2022/04/13/las-animas-fires

UPDATE: Fort Lyon River Fire 50% contained; Bent’s Fort Fire up to 25% contained

https://www.fox21news.com/news/bents-fort-fire-over-1000-acres/

https://www.fox21news.com/weather/latest-on-las-animas-area-fire/

Prescription Fire turns Wild in New Mexico

Hermits Peak wildfire declared in Santa Fe National Forest | KOB 4

On April 6th a prescription fire in the Hermits Peak wilderness, New Mexico under went operations.  Unfortunately due to increasing strong winds and built up dry fuel, the fire has turned wild spreading outside the initial set boundaries for the project.  This is still a current fire burning 7,381 acres of land and it continues to spread east of Highway 518.  Las Dispensas, Pendaries Village, San Ignacio, Las Tusas, Lone Pine Mesa, Canoncito, La Canada, Manuelitas, Lower Canyon Road in Gallinas Canyon and La Tewa, Chavez, County A3, Southwest Sapello, and Southern Tierra Monte-Canyon have all been told to evacuate as the fire is currently only 46% contained.  There is currently over 520 firefighter staff working to fully contain this fire.

Firefighters gain ground on the Hermits Peak Fire

https://inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/8049/

 

Wildfire McBride Burns through New Mexico

Just before noon on Tuesday, April 12, the McBride Fire started in Ruidoso, New Mexico. Since then, the fire has covered 5,736 acres in the Gavilan Canyon and is at 0% containment, according to updates on the evening of Thursday, April 14. Mandatory evacuations are in effect, causing as many as 4,500 people to leave their homes, and over 200 buildings have been burnt so far. A video of already burnt areas shows the destruction left in the wake of the fire. Even unburnt areas are being affected, as power outages and server failures strike Ruidoso. Despite evacuations, two deaths have been reported so far–an older couple were caught up in the flames in the midst of their evacuation.

The cause of the McBride fire is still under investigation, but it is far from over. This as-yet uncontained fire, coupled with the red flag warnings across 10 western states due to humidity levels of down to 4% and 40-60mph winds, poses a serious risk to New Mexico and the surrounding regions.

Small Wildfire along Arkansas River

This past Sunday, firefighters were battling a small wildfire along the Arkansas River in Pueblo, which burned about 20 acres of grassy/wooded land. This forced evacuations of surrounding neighborhoods and an animal shelter in Pueblo, and because of the efforts of those battling the fire, no structures were damaged. The fire was occurring in a rural section in the western part of Pueblo City, and had reached the other side of the river at one spot. Firefighters were able to stop the fire from reaching 15 homes in a rural neighborhood when a shift in wind direction allowed them to eliminate hot spots. There were wind speeds of up to 40 mph which makes it more difficult to contain the fire and the cause of the fire is unknown at this time. Injuries or damage from this fire is currently unknown at this time as well.

https://www.usnews.com/news/best-states/colorado/articles/2022-04-10/firefighters-battle-small-wildfire-in-rural-area-of-pueblo

New Mexico Blaze

Saturday, April 9, 2022, two prescribed burns got out of hand in the area of Albuquerque, New Mexico. The strong winds and hot and dry weather created a fuel funnel aiding the burns. One of the fires, in the southeastern New Mexico area, burned 3 square miles of mostly grassland along the Pecos River. Six emergency crews assisted with containing the blaze and managed to secure 50% of its perimeter. 

In northern New Mexico, the second blaze occurred at the base of a peak in the Santa Fe National Forest. No structural damages have been reported but emergency responders are working to keep the fire out of a municipal watershed. As of late Friday night, the fire burned 350 acres and was burning towards a wilderness area.

https://www.usnews.com/news/best-states/new-mexico/articles/2022-04-09/heat-wind-hit-new-mexico-as-crews-battle-blazes

Evacuation of Southern Nebraska Counties

A wildfire has emerged, fueled by the extremely dry conditions and strong winds, in the Southern area of Nebraska. The small village of Edison, Nebraska was issued a mandatory evacuation Thursday night and included approximately 130 people from the Furnas County community. The evacuation order later expanded to Stamford and Harland County. The six-mile-long fire was combated with the help of 27 emergency response departments. Unfortunately, a car crash left one fatality and one critically injured among the volunteer firefighters. 

https://www.usnews.com/news/us/articles/2022-04-08/wildfire-forces-evacuation-of-nebraska-village-nearby-area

Tennessee Wildfire Causes Evacuations for Many

There are multiple wildfires burning throughout parts of Tennessee and North Carolina. Near the Great Smoky Mountains National Park located in Sevier County, Tennessee, a wildfire has been actively burning. It has impacted more than 3,700 acres of land causing major destruction. Firefighters and civilians have suffered slight injuries as results of the fire. Due to it, around 11,000 homes have been evacuated since Wednesday and it has been advised to continue to evacuate as It is still not safe. This is a nightmare for residents however, officials are working their fullest in order for everyone to return back safely to their homes. As of now, it is important to stay safe and continue to follow these protocols and receive alerts on the situation.

https://www.cnn.com/2022/03/31/weather/tennessee-brush-fire-evacuations/index.html.

Crews Battle Wind-Driven Wildfires in Western North Carolina

Wind-driven wildfires in and around Great Smoky Mountains National Park have burned hundreds of acres in western North Carolina and forced the evacuation of several homes. Crews from the National Park Service, North Carolina Forest Service, Bryson City Fire Department and Bureau of Indian Affairs were working to contain what they are calling the Thomas Divide Complex Fire. The blaze consists of two separate fires — the 140-acre Stone Pile Fire and the 170-acre Cooper Creek Fire. Officials said both fires were started from power lines knocked down by high winds and were estimated to be 10% contained as of late Saturday night.

https://www.usnews.com/news/best-states/north-carolina/articles/2022-03-27/crews-battle-wind-driven-wildfires-in-western-north-carolina

NCAR Fire near Boulder, Colorado Prompts Evacuations

At around 2pm Saturday, a wildfire ignited near the National Center for Atmospheric Research, southwest of Boulder, Colorado (Referred to as the NCAR fire, due to the location of ignition). The cause of this fire remains under investigation, but it forced the evacuation of 8,000 homes and 19,000 people, and the closure of multiple roads and highways in western Boulder and the surrounding area (Boulder emergency authorities are using ArcGIS online to create and continuously update and evacuation map of the area that allows residents to check the evacuation status of their homes and roads). This fire was fueled by thick brush and fanned by strong winds, causing 123 acres to be burned by Saturday evening, with 0% containment.  High humidity overnight caused the fire to calm, but air tankers were expected to drop fire retardant in some remaining uncontained areas on Sunday morning. As of 4:30pm Sunday, the fire has grown to nearly 190 acres and is at 35% containment, but at 5pm, all evacuations in Boulder were lifted. So far, no buildings or structures have been damaged and no injuries have been reported. Mike Smith, a wildland fire specialist for Boulder Fire Rescue said in a conference Sunday morning “We’re feeling good, but we’re a little nervous about the upcoming [fire] season”, based on the multiple other fires that have occurred in the Boulder area this past year.

https://abcnews.go.com/US/wildfire-boulder-colorado-officials-nervous-fire-season/story?id=83701471

https://www.cnn.com/2022/03/26/us/boulder-colorado-wildfire-evacuations/index.html

NCAR Fire: All Evacuations Lifted, Containment Stands At Around 35%