Sunday, June 6, 2010

Big Smoke from the Horseshoe Fire

Firefighters contending with the Horseshoe Fire achieved 25% containment when water drops were successful in stopping the fire's advance across the upper South Fork drainage.

Today's huge plume of smoke (the biggest yet seen during this fire) resulted from the fire's run upslope in the southwest portion of the burn, away from Portal and away from South Fork Canyon.

Smoke plume from Portal-Paradise junction
(Photo by Barbara Miller)

Plume of smoke visible from near the Rustler-Barfoot Junction;
old Rattlesnake burn is in the foreground.
(Photos by Narca)

The fire crews are reorganizing today and by the end of the day should have decided what type of crew to leave behind to continue to monitor and to play cat-and-mouse with the Horseshoe Fire, until the monsoon rains come and finally extinguish it. The Type 1 team which has headed the effort until now is needed elsewhere, especially in Alaska and Canada, where warm and dry conditions are creating the worst fire season ever seen in the boreal forest. Just yesterday, 1300 new fires started in Canada! Concern is even being expressed for the survival of the entire boreal forest ecosystem, as global warming continues to create such fire-susceptible conditions in a habitat that is not fire-adapted. The need in Alaska and Canada is much greater, so our Type 1 team is moving on.

One public information officer offered this compliment to the Portal-Rodeo community: she said it was one of the most enjoyable fires she had ever worked, because the community was so completely and intelligently engaged. You've asked great questions, given the firefighters unstinting support, and you haven't panicked.  (Cathy Conti, they don't know how to reach you: thanks for the cake!)

Here is this morning's fire map, showing the fire's advance across upper Log Canyon, connecting with the low-intensity burn which was ignited on the ridge northeast of Log Canyon. The canyon bottom was wet enough that the fire did not connect across it. Apparently the initial assessment of moisture content in the fuel load was much less than what they're finding now, and the fire isn't burning as readily as it was expected to do.

The large gray area to the west is the 1994 Rattlesnake burn, which the Horseshoe Fire is burning into; the current fire is not expected to advance very far into the old burn. Today's big smoke plume, however, must have been within the old burn near Helipad 1 (H-1), if I interpret Buck Wickham's statements rightly. Tomorrow's fire map should clarify that point. The small gray patch to the east is the South Fork Fire, another fire ignited this May, most likely by an illegal immigrant, only 3 weeks before the Horseshoe Fire. Fuels were wetter and conditions cooler during the South Fork Fire, and only 88 acres were burned then. As of this morning, the Horseshoe Fire had burned 2200 acres.

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