Fire Situation Report – August 31, 2011

Fire Situation Report – August 31, 2011

Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry

Forestry Services

PROTECTION AREA STATISTICS* for Time Period 0800 thru 0800, 08/30/11 thru 08/31/11

NE Area – 1 fire burned 3 acres (Cause: Debris Burning)

EC Area – 0 fires

SE Area – 9 fires burned 41.2 acres (Causes: 3-Incendiary; 2-Lightning; 4-Equipment)

* Protection Area Statistics do not reflect local fire department’s fire run information.  Statistics are for the ODAFF-Forestry Services’ eighteen county Fire Protection Area in eastern Oklahoma unless otherwise noted in the Discussion section of this report.

Statewide Discussion:   Initial attack was moderate across Oklahoma.  Some light rain showers fell generally in eastern Oklahoma.  Five requests for assistance were received from outside of the Protection Area yesterday:

63rd Street (Oklahoma County) – Two Oklahoma Army National Guard helicopters were dispatched to assist the Oklahoma City Fire Department.  This fire is burning in a heavily populated interface area.  Numerous structures have been lost.  Erratic fire behavior caused by extreme weather conditions and forested terrain hampered suppression efforts.  Two National Guard helicopters have been dispatched this morning to continue assisting in the control efforts on this wildfire.  An Oklahoma Highway Patrol fixed-wing aircraft with an Oklahoma Forestry Services Operations Chief aboard will map the fire this morning to determine acreage burned.  The cause of the fire is under investigation.

Highway 9 West (Pottawatomie County) – An Oklahoma Army National Guard UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter equipped with a 660-gallon bucket was dispatched yesterday morning to assist the Tecumseh Fire Department on this wildfire that occurred three miles west of Tecumseh near Highway 9.  Six structures were lost to this wildfire that burned an estimated 250 acres.  An electrical short is suspected to be the fire’s cause.

Crowder (Pittsburg County) – Six firefighters from the Forestry Services East Central Area equipped with three Type 3 Dozers and three Type 6 Engines were dispatched to control this wildfire that burned two miles northwest of Crowder.  Numerous fire departments were committed to this wildfire that burned 320 acres in steep, rocky terrain.  The fire’s cause has been listed as incendiary.

Two other requests for aerial assistance, one request each from Seminole Fire Department and Rush Springs Fire Department, were unable to be filled as all available aircraft were committed to other incidents.  No reports have been received as to the cause or size of these wildfires.

A Red Flag Warning is in effect for today from Noon to 9 p.m. for the following counties: Harper, Woods, Alfalfa, Grant, Garfield, Major, Woodward, Ellis, Roger Mills, Dewey, Custer, Washita, Blaine, Kingfisher, Logan, Oklahoma, Canadian, Caddo, Beckham, Grady, Cleveland, McClain, Stephens, Comanche, Kiowa, Greer, Harmon, Jackson, Tillman, Cotton, and Jefferson.  In and near this area expect relative humidity to range from 10-20% with south-southwest winds sustained at 15-25 mph with higher gusts and temperatures of 100-110 degrees.  For more information concerning the Red Flag Warning, visit the National Weather Service’s Norman Forecast Office website at:  http://www.srh.noaa.gov/oun/

Fire danger this afternoon in the remainder of the state will be very high to extreme.  Relative humidity is expected to drop into the upper teens to mid-20% range with winds generally out of the south sustained from 10-15 mph with higher gusts.  Temperatures are expected to climb into the low 100s.  Any fire that starts today will burn very intensely and exhibit moderate to rapid rates of spread.  Expect erratic fire behavior, moderate to long range spotting and sustained crown fires in forested areas.

SPECIAL NOTE TO FIREFIGHTERS:  Today will be another challenging day of firefighting in Oklahoma.  Exceptionally dry wildland fuels combined with today’s forecast fire weather will cause any fire to be highly resistant to control.  Extreme fire behavior, rapid rates of spread and moderate to long range spotting should be expected.  Running crown fires in Eastern Redcedar and hardwood trees is common with the on-going drought and today’s fire weather.  Direct attack at the head of the fire may be impossible today. 

The highest probability of success and safest suppression today will be to employ a combination of direct and indirect tactics.  Begin suppression from a good anchor point, suppress the flanks of the fire from the black, and look for a favorable change in fuels and/or terrain for an opportunity to stop the head of the fire.  If direct attack on the flanks of the fire is not possible due to fire behavior or terrain, utilize natural fuel breaks such as roads for containment lines.  In the fire environment that is present today, one key to fire control is to put extra effort into mop up following fire knock down to prevent “flare-ups” and possible loss of fire control.

Also consider point protection on structures and improvements in advance of the fire utilizing “bump and run” tactics.  Triage the structure, make it as safe as possible before the flaming front arrives, and leave the area.  Return after the passage of the flaming front and evaluate the structure for possible ignitions.  Look for areas where wind-blown embers can accumulate and extinguish any smoldering ignition sources.   More structures are destroyed by the accumulation of wind-blown embers in voids in the construction than are destroyed by actual flame impingement of the flaming front or radiant heat on the structure

When attempting to set backfires, make sure that the firing operation is far enough in advance of the fire’s head to prevent the fire from spotting across your control line.  Utilize wildland engines to support the firing operation by patrolling the control line and catching any spot fires.

If responding to mutual aid requests, be sure to check in at the Incident Command Post or Staging Area.  Ask for a briefing on the current situation, your assignment, communications info, and the name of your fireline supervisor.  Accountability and organization is the most efficient method of firefighting.  Do not free lance on any fire placing yourself, your resources and others in danger.

Competition for resources will be high today if multiple large fires occur.  County Wildland Task Forces should prepare for possible mobilization today and the next few days. 

SPECIAL NOTE TO THE PUBLIC:  A Governor’s Burn Ban remains in effect for 61 counties.  County Burn Bans are in effect for several counties.  For the most current Burn Ban information click on the following link:

http://www.forestry.ok.gov/burn-ban-information

Report any suspicious wildland fire activity on the Arson Tip Line:  1-866-662-7766 (1-866-NO ARSON).

Prepared by:  Mark Goeller, Ass’t Director, Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry - Forestry Services