Leaders Failing to Prevent/Mitigate Fires

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Aimless
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Re: Leaders Failing to Prevent/Mitigate Fires

Post by Aimless » September 11th, 2020, 8:20 pm

For a bit of perspective, a quote from Inciweb (https://inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/7001/) (emphasis mine):

The Beachie Creek Fire originated in the Opal Creek Wilderness approximately 2 miles south of Jawbone Flats and 6 miles north of Detroit, Oregon. Prior to the historic windstorm that arrived in the area on Monday, September 7th, the Beachie Creek Fire was estimated to be 469 acres. The fire grew overnight to over 131,000 acres driven by high winds and extremely dry fuels.

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Charley
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Re: Leaders Failing to Prevent/Mitigate Fires

Post by Charley » September 12th, 2020, 8:06 am

Aimless wrote:
September 11th, 2020, 8:20 pm
The Beachie Creek Fire originated in the Opal Creek Wilderness approximately 2 miles south of Jawbone Flats and 6 miles north of Detroit, Oregon. Prior to the historic windstorm that arrived in the area on Monday, September 7th, the Beachie Creek Fire was estimated to be 469 acres. The fire grew overnight to over 131,000 acres driven by high winds and extremely dry fuels.
Exactly. I still can't imagine why, with exactly this wind driven fire spreading predicted days before, it took the the Willamette NF until Tuesday the 8th and the MHNF until 6pm that day to enact their Forest closure.

Webfoot
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Re: Leaders Failing to Prevent/Mitigate Fires

Post by Webfoot » September 12th, 2020, 8:35 am

There is also arson.

https://www.koin.com/news/wildfires/fir ... n-corbett/
KOIN 6 News Staff
Posted: Sep 11, 2020 / 06:12 PM PDT / Updated: Sep 11, 2020 / 09:17 PM PDT

Fireworks found near a small brush fire in Corbett, Sept. 11, 2020. (Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Deputies in Multnomah County said they were at a loss for words Friday when they found fireworks near the site of a small brush fire in Corbett.

Neighbors in the 1700 block of NE Brower Road reported hearing pops and seeing six-foot flames in the woods at about 4 p.m. They used a shovel and water to extinguish the fire.

Deputies and firefighters arrived and found fireworks about 100-150 yards off the road, according to the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office.

Corbett Fire crews stayed in the area. Deputies said they’re performing high-visibility patrols in rural Multnomah County.

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drm
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Re: Leaders Failing to Prevent/Mitigate Fires

Post by drm » September 12th, 2020, 10:35 am

I was camped on Mt Adams on Labor Day weekend and somebody asked me if there was a campfire ban, because they saw many such fires in the Killen Creek area. I said I didn't know but assumed so. In fact there was not such a ban and since then I did ask a ranger I know by email but did not get a response (they are rather busy now).

I can only guess why there weren't more closures in place. The last outdoor weekend of the year, people sick and tired of COVID-related closures, etc. I'm sure there will be an after-the-fact review of procedures given the known likelihood of a major wind event. As it turned out the closures wouldn't have prevented a lot of the carnage, but that they didn't know that ahead of time.

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Re: Leaders Failing to Prevent/Mitigate Fires

Post by kepPNW » September 12th, 2020, 11:06 am

drm wrote:
September 12th, 2020, 10:35 am
I was camped on Mt Adams on Labor Day weekend and somebody asked me if there was a campfire ban, because they saw many such fires in the Killen Creek area. I said I didn't know but assumed so. In fact there was not such a ban and since then I did ask a ranger I know by email but did not get a response (they are rather busy now).
I was in the Norway Pass area, saw campfires as well, and asked them myself on Monday (9/7) when I saw what I surely hoped was a neglected website saying there was no ban. :(

They responded on Tuesday (9/8) saying they were "working on it." Ugh! On Wednesday (9/9), as the winds were dying down, they actually issued the ban.

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drm
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Re: Leaders Failing to Prevent/Mitigate Fires

Post by drm » September 12th, 2020, 1:22 pm

Yeah Karl, I saw the history. I would add that people who really insist that it isn't a camping trip without a fire will often ignore such rules and insist that they, in fact, are careful, so it's okay. And you need to be proactive to know since they can't realistically put up signs at every entry point on short notice.

As to why, I would point out that back in the spring, Gifford Pinchot NF was the first area to mostly open up, a week or two ahead of most national forests, far ahead of our regional national parks. A few state parks opened up earlier if I remember right. Maybe GPNF just has an attitude that is more resistant to such forest-wide orders.

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Re: Leaders Failing to Prevent/Mitigate Fires

Post by Aimless » September 12th, 2020, 2:18 pm

Just by checking info posted on their websites, Willamette NF placed a ban on all campfires effective August 29, 2020 at 12:01 a.m. and on Sept 3 it set the fire danger level to Extreme for the entire forest, while Mt. Hood NF placed a ban on all campfires effective August 4, 2020 to remain in effect until September 30th, 2020.

On Tuesday I saw on KOIN news a story describing how campers in Mt Hood NF campgrounds were warned on Labor Day Monday of the impending danger from high winds and told they should go home early rather than wait to the end of the day to leave. Most complied. A camper interviewed on camera said the warnings were graphic enough that it "spooked" him.

A blanket accusation that people in authority disregarded or played down the danger described in the weather forecast just doesn't fit the facts. Each NF jurisdiction is under separate authority and National Forests are only a part of the complex web of jurisdictions that must be coordinated to respond to the threat, as it was understood at the beginning of Labor Day weekend. I can easily imagine the amount of blowback there would have been had the public been told that all outdoor recreational areas were closed for Labor Day weekend, because of a forecast regarding Monday night's anticipated weather.

Further, even though the forecasts were fairly extreme and not in great doubt among meteorologists, I don't think that even the fire experts could quite imagine the speed and extent of what happened overnight. One clear indicator is that on Monday night a fire command post was set up in anticipation of the Beachie fire's sudden growth. Authorities do not place command posts in an area of danger. It was located in Mill City. It was overrun by flames by Tuesday morning.

It's easy to seek people to blame when systems fail catastrophically, but the truth is that experts are guided by history and learned experience. This conflagration far exceeded anything within Oregon's history. Even if they'd imagined this possibility, as experts they are trained not to substitute imagination for knowledge and careful estimates based on past experience. Yes, there were failures. The real question for me is whether any other system would have performed better. Just imagining what decisions would have been better, using hindsight, is not evidence that such decisions were available to foresight, which is much cloudier and full of uncertainty.

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retired jerry
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Re: Leaders Failing to Prevent/Mitigate Fires

Post by retired jerry » September 12th, 2020, 2:32 pm

one model is to, when a catastrophe happens, find someone to blame, move on...

another model is to after each catastrophe, review what happened, ask "is there anything we could do different next time?"

I haven't made a fire for months, just too warm. Long days mean I go to sleep before it gets dark. A fire isn't as much fun when it's still light.

Days are getting shorter now. I like to make a fire for something to do a couple hours before going to sleep. Maybe next trip in a month or so.

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Charley
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Re: Leaders Failing to Prevent/Mitigate Fires

Post by Charley » September 12th, 2020, 5:05 pm

Aimless wrote:
September 12th, 2020, 2:18 pm
On Tuesday I saw on KOIN news a story describing how campers in Mt Hood NF campgrounds were warned on Labor Day Monday of the impending danger from high winds and told they should go home early rather than wait to the end of the day to leave. Most complied. A camper interviewed on camera said the warnings were graphic enough that it "spooked" him.
I'm glad to hear that! I wonder if that was a Forest-wide or region-wide warning.
Aimless wrote:
September 12th, 2020, 2:18 pm
A blanket accusation that people in authority disregarded or played down the danger described in the weather forecast just doesn't fit the facts.
I have never claimed that anyone "disregarded or played down the danger." I have claimed that there should have been more proactive measures, including earlier forest closures, and de-powering of electrical lines. They may have regarded it, but the actions clearly did not meet the need.
Aimless wrote:
September 12th, 2020, 2:18 pm
Each NF jurisdiction is under separate authority and National Forests are only a part of the complex web of jurisdictions that must be coordinated to respond to the threat, as it was understood at the beginning of Labor Day weekend.
And I can't help, after reading your sentence, about the abrupt resignation of the State Fire Marshal, right in the middle of this, as reported today by the Oregonian:
https://www.oregonlive.com/pacific-nort ... fires.html
I do wonder how well the different elements of the government work together to prepare for these events. I'm apparently not the only person who is dismayed by our state's performance.
Aimless wrote:
September 12th, 2020, 2:18 pm
I can easily imagine the amount of blowback there would have been had the public been told that all outdoor recreational areas were closed for Labor Day weekend, because of a forecast regarding Monday night's anticipated weather.
It's true that blowback to restrictive orders may very well be behind the timing of closures that were ultimately put into play a day after the crisis began.
Aimless wrote:
September 12th, 2020, 2:18 pm
Further, even though the forecasts were fairly extreme and not in great doubt among meteorologists, I don't think that even the fire experts could quite imagine the speed and extent of what happened overnight. One clear indicator is that on Monday night a fire command post was set up in anticipation of the Beachie fire's sudden growth. Authorities do not place command posts in an area of danger. It was located in Mill City. It was overrun by flames by Tuesday morning.
As I've said before, the technical expertise needed to effectively plan this kind of thing is not something I can claim. I'm just a trombone player. However, I cannot accept that our government would put these people in harm's way, and that we should just accept it. We've been seeing fires move faster for years. When will our institutions adapt to that fire behavior? Are the firefighter's lives not worth the effort of that adaptation?
Aimless wrote:
September 12th, 2020, 2:18 pm
It's easy to seek people to blame when systems fail catastrophically, but the truth is that experts are guided by history and learned experience. This conflagration far exceeded anything within Oregon's history. Even if they'd imagined this possibility, as experts they are trained not to substitute imagination for knowledge and careful estimates based on past experience. Yes, there were failures. The real question for me is whether any other system would have performed better. Just imagining what decisions would have been better, using hindsight, is not evidence that such decisions were available to foresight, which is much cloudier and full of uncertainty.
Maybe you're right, and the recent years of seeing fires spread this fast in the urban/wildland interface of California is not sufficient evidence of the danger to our local leaders. Maybe seeing the entire community of Paradise destroyed is not sufficient evidence of the danger.

I just wonder how long until we learn the necessary lessons. How many more lives and communities? I cannot accept that this is the best we can do. Just as with other traumas of this very traumatic year, I think we should expect more of our government. I understand that our leaders are human, and I know, of course, they don't want this to happen. I just believe that these people and communities on the edge of our forests deserve better than this.

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BurnsideBob
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Re: Leaders Failing to Prevent/Mitigate Fires

Post by BurnsideBob » September 12th, 2020, 8:31 pm

The NWS, in its forecast discussion, was warning of an historic east wind event as early as Sept 1 or 2. The previous 50 forecast discussions are available, but that only got me to this one from 2:58 PM Mon Sept 7:

Area Forecast Discussion
Issued by NWS Portland, OR

Home | Current Version | Previous Version | Text Only | Print | Product List | Glossary Off
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000
FXUS66 KPQR 072205
AFDPQR

Area Forecast Discussion
National Weather Service Portland OR
258 PM PDT Mon Sep 7 2020

.SYNOPSIS...A unusually potent east wind event is ramping up this
afternoon. East winds will likely peak later tonight
and early Tuesday morning. Extreme fire danger and locally damaging
winds are likely. Warm and dry weather appears likely through the
end of the week.


The foehn wind event we just experienced is similar to those that produced the Camp Fire that burned Paradise, CA in 2018 and the Berkeley/Oakland Hills Firestorm of 1991, which burned 3200 houses and apartment units overnight. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oakland_firestorm_of_1991

Under these conditions a single fire start, like the 2018 Camp Fire or our own 2020 Beachie Creek Fire, overwhelms all fire fighting resources. The weather forecasters and the USFS fire control people are well aware of the dangers but they don't determine USFS's public policy.

So, IMOP, there is no truly effective course of action when Mother Nature asserts fires shall roll.

And this leaves authorities with tinkering around the edges. :(

Agencies like the USFS and BLM could ban people from the woods under red flag conditions, and you can imagine how well that will go over with the public. Un-elected bureaucrats telling me I can't use my reservation to go camping/hiking/boating/whatever? :o :shock:

County governments could have better public alert systems that are coordinated with one identified absolutely official clearing site to which twitter, facebook, etc. point, so no spoofed evac level 3's are possible (there were several). Public announcements, especially regarding evac levels, should be clearly time stamped and clearly identify affected areas--both Clackamas and Marion Counties (I live in Marion County on the Marion/Clackamas county line) have issued evac notices that either mis-stated evac area boundaries or failed to state that the issued level 3 evac notice extended to the county line, not all the way along State Hwy 213 to Lyons. Looking at you Clackamas Co. :?

Maybe it is me being under a level 2 evac order for 5 days, smoke so dense I can't see the end of my driveway for 4 days, or the ash that drifts like powder snow, but I'm getting testy!! At least my power is back on after being off for 3 days.

BurnsideBob

Due to poor public communications, the Wilhoit Fire, 4 miles from my place, wasn't a known. But it did do this:
V3pano2Smoke.jpg
Smoke from the Wilhoit Fire from my house, Tues.
I keep making protein shakes but they always turn out like margaritas.

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