Friday, August 26, 2016

The very persistent Pioneer Fire

Last August I blogged about Fighting wildland fires: Hotshots, helicopters, and whatever else it takes. On August 24th the Associated Press posted an article titled Crews battling 35 large, uncontained wildfires in the west.

One of those was the Pioneer fire here in Idaho. It began back on July 18th, about 8 miles north of Idaho City. As of yesterday it covered 160.5 square miles, which made it the third largest fire listed on Inciweb. It still was only 38% contained. It is located on rough terrain and is hard to reach even with dozers. Resources assigned to fighting it included 1847 people: 45 crews, 13 helicopters, 89 engines, 9 dozers, 36 water tenders, and 7 masticators. There is a large set of photos showing that firefighting effort. 

Much of the firefighting was done the old-fashioned way by crews like the Sawtooth Hotshots.

Airplanes also were involved, ranging from single-engine tankers (possibly an Air Tractor AT-802) up to the gigantic three-engine DC-10 Airtanker. There even was a video showing Canadian CL415 flying boat water bomber that reloaded by scooping water from a reservoir.  

What is a masticator? As shown in a brief YouTube video, it looks like an tracked excavator fitted with a cutting assembly that chews up brush and small trees.

The table shown above lists the fifty largest fires. Only the Range 12 fire in Washington (275.9 square miles) and the Hot Pot fire in Nevada (191.1 square miles) are bigger than the Pioneer fire. The spectacularly quick growing Blue Cut fire in southern California’s San Bernardino National Forest (56.7 square miles) was the 11th biggest, but got lots of publicity because it was not far from Los Angeles.

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