The Sacramento District Review – August 2012

In this Month’s Issue:
Wildland Firefighting: Detection and Attack
Wildland Firefighting Resources: Crews and Engines
Join us for Smokey Bear’s 68th Birthday Party!!!
Evening Lecture Series
The Ranger’s Report
Slash Pit Schedule
The Sacramento District Review is a monthly newsletter prepared by the Sacramento Ranger District of the Lincoln National Forest.


Wildland Firefighting: Detection and Attack

-Caleb Finch

Fire manager Caleb Finch de- scribes wildland firefighting strategy

When a wildfire starts, there are some crucial steps in determining the best suppression strategy for the incident.  Detecting fire starts as quickly as possible is critical because timely detection of fires enables suppression resources to begin initial attack when a fire is smaller and less complex, which keeps suppression costs down.

Fire starts can be detected by fire lookouts in towers, calls from the public, ground patrols, and use of aircraft patrolling large areas.

The fire lookout tower is usually located on a high vantage point to maximize viewing distance and range. From this vantage point lookouts can see even small traces of smoke, determine the location of the smoke by using a device known as an Osborne Fire Finder (there is an Osborne Fire Finder visitors can check out at the Sacramento Ranger Station), and notify fire managers so fire suppression resources can be mobilized quickly.

On the Sacramento Ranger District, there are two fully staffed lookout towers and four that are staffed intermittently as needed. Air attack planes are positioned at Alamogordo Air Tanker Base during high fire activity and as needed during the fire season.

Air tanker dropping slurry on fire

Initial Attack (IA) is a planned response to a wildfire given the potential for the fire to grow or to threaten life, property, or other values at risk.

Once initial attack resources arrive on the fire, an incident commander is designated to lead decisions made for suppression of the fire. Radio communications are established for all resources on the fire, escape routes and safety zones are established, and fire size-up information is gathered and reported to the fire dispatch center.

The fire size-up includes:  the location, either a legal description or latitude and longitude; fire size in acres; the type (s) of fuels burning as well as adjacent fuels; fire behavior, such as creeping, running, spotting, or torching; terrain and slope; current weather conditions, including wind, temperature, and relative humidity; and an assessment of hazards and values at risk, particularly threats to life and property.

The objective of initial attack is to contain the fire as quickly as possible and protect property that may be at risk, while providing for firefighter and public safety as the top priority. National firefighting resources suppress 98.5 percent of all new wildfire starts during initial attack each year.

The incident commander will call the fire “contained” when a containment line has been completed around the fire, any associated spot fires have been extinguished, and the fire is not expected to spread beyond the containment line.

Wofford Lookout, built in 1933 by the Civilian Conservation Core

Extended Attack
When a wildfire cannot be contained by initial attack forces within the first 12-24 hours, or if more firefighting resources are en route or have been ordered by the incident commander, the fire will go into what is called extended attack. Fires that go into extended attack are generally more complex and require more resources than initial attack incidents.

When a wildfire grows in complexity, or extreme weather conditions such as high winds are a factor, additional fire managers, crews, equipment, and other resources may be ordered as part of an Incident Management Team (IMT) under the Incident Command System. These teams are either Type 1, 2, or 3, with Type 1 IMTs handling the most complex fire incidents and managing the largest number of overhead and resources.

Wildfire Prevention
Over 90% of the acres burned in wildfires each year are caused by human activities, not lightning. Fire managers in all land managing agencies now take a proactive approach by working to prevent human-caused fire starts through fire prevention and education programs.


Wildland Firefighting Resources: Crews and Engines

-Caleb Finch

Sacramento Hotshot crew from the early 1990’s

The Sacramento Ranger District hosts a strong fire and fuels program with a wide range of wildland firefighting resources.  The district currently has two Type 6 engines, two Type 3 engines and the Sacramento Hotshots.

During the fire season, March through September, the engines and hotshot crew are staffed seven days a week and often work 14-day assignments.

The work of a firefighter is difficult and inherently dangerous. The daily duties for members on these crews are arduous or physically demanding, so firefighters must be in top physical shape.  Firefighters carry packs and equipment weighing between 40 and 120 pounds, work days are long, and firefighters often eat and sleep near the fire they are working on, often without access to public restrooms, showers or laundry facilities.

During fire season, fire crews and/or the engines may travel to other states and regions to help suppress large fires. Below are descriptions of some wildland firefighting resources.

Engine crews are usually assigned to initial attack and extended attack of wildland fires on local or “home” forest units. They also provide firefighting support for other agencies across the United States.

Hotshot crews and other hand crews are a diverse but cohesive 20 member group of seasonal and professional career firefighters. Hotshot crews have more training and experience than other hand crews and are usually ordered for larger fires or those burning in difficult terrain.

Helicopter crews usually work in concert with their helicopters and are trained for quick, aggressive response to wildland fires in remote areas. Helicopter crews consist of flight crews, helitack crews, and/or rappellers and usually work in concert with their helicopters for quick, aggressive response to wildland fires in remote areas.

Smokejumpers are specialized firefighters who parachute into remote areas for immediate initial attack on remote lightning strikes or wildland fires. They must be in outstanding physical condition and have at least one year of prior firefighting experience.

“Remember to be gentle with yourself and others. We are all children of chance and none can say why some fields will blossom while others lay brown beneath the August sun.

Care for those around you. Look past your differences. Their dreams are no less than yours, their choices no more easily made. And give, give in any way you can, of whatever you possess.

To give is to love. To withhold is to wither. Care less for your harvest than for how it is shared and your life will have meaning and your heart will have peace.”

-Kent Nerburn


Join us for Smokey Bear’s 68th Birthday Party!!!

Sacramento Ranger Station
Saturday, August 11th

Activities will include:

-Meet Smokey
-Sign the BIG birthday card to Smokey
-Sing to Smokey & cut the birthday cake at 10:30
-Coloring contest
-Wildfire prevention giveaways


Evening Lecture Series

Our Evening Lecture Series had a great crowd on July 12th for a presentation on Feral Hogs.

The August Lecture Series topic is “Mapping our Railroad History.”  Come and join us for a historical journey of the railroads within the Sacramento Mountains.  Learn about the origins, how we use railroads today, and how you can help in adding to our knowledge.

Please join us at the Sacramento Ranger District from 6:00 – 7:00 p.m. at the district office, #4 Lost Lodge Road in Cloudcroft on August 9th.

Upcoming Lecture Series dates:  September 13th* – Lifecycles of the Forest

*The September lecture will start at 5:30 pm.


The Ranger’s Report

James Duran, District Ranger

As the monsoon season visited the Sacramento Ranger District, it was exciting to witness the differences throughout the district. With precipitation came increases in fuel moistures which allows for climatic conditions that make fire suppression more effective.

Throughout the month of July, there were several fires on the Sacramento Ranger District. Many of you reading this article probably did not know about some of these fires, and that is common. The vast majority of fire starts on or near national forest system lands are suppressed immediately without threats to life or property. This is due to the expertise offered by our wildland firefighters.

Wildland fire is a unique type of fire due to the environment in which it occurs as well as the type of equipment available in non-urban areas. Around the Sacramento Ranger District, the urban firefighting expertise as well as the specialized equipment is located at local volunteer firefighter departments.

Suppressing wildland fires takes a unique type of firefighter. Our local fire leadership are highly skilled and have years of tactical training in order to properly understand the elements of wildfire, fuel types, fire weather, fire safety and the organizational structure of the Incident Command System (ICS).

This expertise and knowledge is what allows for effective communication, effective tactical decision making, and safety of firefighters. The system which the Forest Service uses is highly efficient when natural disaster scenarios such as a wildfire occur.

The ICS synchronizes well with local firewise programs that proactively reduce hazards to private property at the homeowner level and helps implement local emergency evacuation plans with communities who have developed a plan for managing disaster situations.

Managing lands under jurisdiction of the federal government, State of New Mexico, local municipalities, and private landowners prior to fire, during a fire or after a fire is a coordinated effort that includes all federal, state and local managers.

If you have ideas or solutions that you believe may assist this group effort, I encourage you to stop in and share your thoughts and offer assistance.

If you would like to write a letter to James Duran, Sacramento District Ranger, please mail it to: P.O. Box 288, Cloudcroft, NM 88317.


Slash Pit Schedule

The slash pit is open to private landowners only. No contractors or commercial projects are allowed.  The slash pit takes vegetation only, no construction materials, plastic, glass, rubber, metal,   paper or trash.

Please use caution when entering and exiting the slash pit.  Unload materials safely and leave room for others to unload.

Public access is dependent upon the fuel load in the pit, weather conditions, fire restrictions/closures, and USDA Forest Service thinning and logging projects.

The slash pit is scheduled to be open August 18th and 25th from 9:30 am – 12:30 pm.

For information on the slash pit, please contact the Sacramento Ranger District at (575) 682-2551 or come by the office at 4 Lost Lodge Road off Highway 130, in Cloudcroft.

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