Understanding fire hazard: What is fuel moisture?

If you live in an area with high wildfire hazard, understanding the factors that raise or lower fire risk on any given day can help you live in better harmony with your surroundings. In the Sacramento Valley and the Sierra Nevada foothills this week, hot and windy conditions have prompted a red flag warning for … Read more

Fire Stories: An Interview with Firefighting Veteran Jim Klump

Today we are sharing an interview with firefighting veteran Jim Klump, who is something of a legend in the wildland fire world. Jim worked as a firefighter, smokejumper, helicopter crew superintendent and district fire management officer over the course of a U.S. Forest Service career that spanned four decades. Jim was part of the first … Read more

Forest Management Lessons From the Dixie Fire: A Conversation With Forest Service Biologist Danny Cluck

What did the 2021 Dixie Fire teach us about our public lands and how they are managed? What are we doing well, and what could we do better? In reflecting on the lessons learned from the Dixie Fire, The Lookout spoke with Danny Cluck, a biologist with U.S. Forest Service working in the Modoc, Lassen, Plumas … Read more

Exploring the Conditions that Led to the Camp Fire, Five Years Later

The fire exploded across Paradise, reducing thousands of homes to ashes within a few hours and killing 85 people who couldn’t escape the flames. At its peak, the Camp Fire, which ignited five years ago this week, on Nov. 8, 2018, spread as far as 80 football fields every minute. The Camp Fire started in … Read more

Will Harling on Fires in the Klamath

Will Harling and I are sort of like brothers from different mothers. Both of us were raised up by the long-haired wolves, timber fallers, mechanics, railroaders, gold miners, and other outlaws who populate the hillbilly sticks of far Northern California. First opening day fishing trip with the grown-ups, Mill Creek, California, 1985. Not surprisingly, as … Read more

Anvil Fire – 9/24/2023

Rain is coming, but will high winds spread the fire farther north before it begins in earnest? We take a quick look at IR mapping from the evening of 9/23/2023 and assess current fire spread and tactics. We also watch footage of a very low drop from a DC-10 airtanker on the NE corner of … Read more

Anvil Fire and NW California Fires – 9/23/2023

Rain is coming! In today’s video, we look at weather satellites, assess the current lay of the Anvil and SRF Complex Fires, and talk about lighting large prescribed fires out ahead of weather systems. Also, we interview Rachel Smith, Klamath National Forest Supervisor. We couldn’t get a video interview, so had to use a puppet. … Read more

Anvil Fire and NW California Fires – 9/22/2023

The Anvil Fire has been active, with drier, windier conditions over the past couple days. This fire has been burning for nearly a month just inland of Port Orford, Oregon. It spread slowly for the first several weeks, but over the past week, it has seen major growth in most directions. We look at the … Read more

Anvil Fire and NW California Fires – 9/21/2023

Strong winds have pushed the Anvil Fire around a bit in the past couple days. This fire has been burning for about 3 weeks just inland of Port Orford, Oregon. It spread slowly for the first two weeks, but in the past several days, it has seen major growth. We look at the geography of … Read more

Anvil Fire and NW California Fires – 9/17/2023

The Anvil Fire has been burning for about 3 weeks just inland of Port Orford, Oregon. It spread slowly for the first two weeks, but in the past several days, it has seen major growth. We look at the geography of the fire, and review detailed maps of its recent movements. We also look at … Read more

Anvil Fire and NW California Fires – 9/16/2023

The Anvil Fire has been burning for about 3 weeks just inland of Port Orford, Oregon. It spread slowly for the first two weeks, but in the past several days, it has seen major growth. We look at the geography of the fire, and review detailed maps of its recent movements. We also look at … Read more

Anvil Fire – 9/15/2023

The Anvil Fire has been burning for about 3 weeks just inland of Port Orford, Oregon. It spread slowly for the first two weeks, but in the past several days, it has seen major growth. We look at the geography of the fire, and review detailed maps of its recent movements.   ” Thanks always … Read more

Complexities of Indirect Firefighting – NW California Fires, 9/14/2023

In mid-August, 2023, lightning ignited many fires across NW California. Several became large, but most have stayed fairly small by modern standards. Rain knocked most of these fires down over the first few days of September, but even before then, the majority of the fire effects on these fires were low-moderate severity and ecologically beneficial. … Read more

NW California Fires – 9/13/2023 Infrared Interpretation

Not much new spread to report this morning on NW Ca. fires. After the rains 2 weeks ago, technical specialists on the incident management teams in NW California said we shouldn’t expect things to dry out enough to burn until right about now. In addition to relatively mild conditions, one factor affecting the lack of … Read more

Barely Moving – NW California Fires 9/12/2023

Over the past 3 weeks, lightning has ignited many fires in NW California and Western Oregon and several have become large. Rain knocked most of these fires down over the first few days of September, and since then, though conditions have been slowly drying, there has been very little active fire spread. This video looks … Read more

Thoughts on Urban Fires and How We Assess Risk

Our most destructive fires often occur in places most people don’t think of as being ‘wildlands’, but people from Paradise, Santa Rosa, Boulder County, and Lahaina have learned the hard way, living in an urban environment doesn’t mean your place isn’t at risk of burning down. This video talks about the difference between wildfires and … Read more

Firing Operations During the 2021 Dixie Fire

This article was written as the million-acre Dixie Fire neared its conclusion, in September 2021. Many bad things happened during the two months of action during this firefight, and much of the fire’s growth was affected by fire put on the ground during firefighting. Firing operations are one of the main tools firefighters have at … Read more

Weighing the Costs: Fire Suppression vs. Prescribed Fire

Firefighting is often far more expensive, and more dangerous to firefighters, than prescribed burning, but officials in California have done little to invest in substantively expanding the use of prescribed fire. To illustrate the difference in cost between fire suppression and preemptive forest management practices, we took a look at how much our government has … Read more

The Challenges of Managing Fire in the Wilderness

When fires burn with primarily ecologically beneficial effects in wilderness areas, fire managers face difficult questions: when do we let these fires burn, and when do we send in resources to try to stop them? The Hancock Fire in northwest California offers a lens through which we can explore this puzzle. The fire ignited in … Read more

Where is the heat? NW California and Oregon Fires 9/4/2023

Over the past 3 weeks, lightning has ignited many fires in NW California and Western Oregon and several have become large. Rain knocked most of these fires down over the first few days of September, and also prevented mapping using aerial infrared. New mapping was available on the morning of 9/4, and this video looks … Read more

Understanding Fire Effects

Over the past 3 weeks, lightning ignited many fires in NW California and Western Oregon and several have become large. This video uses satellite imagery from 8/31/2023 to evaluate how hot the fires burned in different areas. We discuss factors affecting differences in fire severity and what burn patterns can tell us about past land … Read more

NW California and Oregon Fires 8/31/2023

Today’s Livestream aired at 8 am. Today’s Lookout livestream provides an overview of the largest fires burning in Northern California and Oregon. We talk about how the North winds have influenced fire behavior, look at firing operations, and learn how the fires have behaved over the past 24 hours. Zeke takes a look at the … Read more

NW California Fire Model Runs for 8/29/2023

Predicting Wildfire Spread Predicting wildfire spread is a difficult task, and current approaches often fall short in reliably describing fire behavior during severe conditions. We covered our experimental use of the Pyrecast fire spread forecasting models in depth with this article on 8/27. Since we ran the model 2 days ago, the large-scale weather forecast … Read more

NW California and Oregon Fires 8/29/2023

Today’s Livestream aired at 8am. Lightning has ignited many fires in Western Oregon and several have become large. This video provides an overview of the largest fires, the Tyee Ridge Complex, the Chilcoot Fire east of Roseburg and Glide, the Lookout Fire, near MacKenzie Bridge, and the Camp Creek Fire, in Portland’s water supply, the … Read more

Modeling Fire Behavior for NW California Fires

We use many different tools and models to evaluate upcoming threats of major fire spread or conditions which could allow rapid growth on new starts. I’m working as an evaluator on a project which is building new fire behavior forecasting tools for the California Energy Commission. This work is being supervised by the Spatial Informatics … Read more

Northwest California Wildfires — 8/25/2023

Almost two weeks into a regional lightning bust across the Klamath and Siskiyou Mountains, the passage of Tropical Storm Hilary and subsequent wet lightning storms have kept things in slow motion on some fires, while others have dodged the rains and made major wind-driven runs. Several large fires are now established on the landscape, and … Read more

Fighting Large Fires in NW California–8/23/2023

About 10 days into a regional lightning bust across the Klamath and Siskiyou Mountains, the fires on the Smith River, near Gasquet, east of Crescent City, have emerged as the largest and most complex. This video talks about how large fires are fought, using the Smith River Fires and smaller fires in the Klamath Mountains … Read more

Dry Lightning

Let’s talk lightning! At least once a decade in California, a few hours of abundant and widespread ‘dry lightning’ (no rain) turn an average wildfire season into an exceptional one. Thousands of wildfires start, some in remote areas, and many will burn until fall rains come. Unlike human-caused fires, which grow quickly when they ignite … Read more