Summary: Lots of good news to report today: the fire only grew to 20,800 acres, containment increased to 75%, and personnel reduced to 1730 people. For theMessage 1 of 84 , Aug 5View SourceSummary:
Lots of good news to report today: the fire only grew to 20,800 acres, containment increased to 75%, and personnel reduced to 1730 people. For the past few days, they haven't mentioned using the enormous retardant dropping DC-10 (VLAT), which is a good thing. Unless there is a serious change in the weather, this fire is just a few days from being completely contained. Tonight's update says that many of the fire personnel have been shifted from fighting the fire to working on rehabilitating the fire breaks (reducing potential erosion, and reducing likelihood of new roads being carved into the forest... basically smoothing out the battle lines).
When a big fire reaches over 70% containment, there are a lot of interesting crux moves, and the fire crews make important tactical maneuvers that can take the fire from 70% containment to 100% containment in just a few days. This fire has been very stubborn... it burned uncontrolled for weeks, but it will be contained very quickly this week.
Despite what I wrote yesterday, based on a better understanding of where they will be back-burning on the South Edge, I anticipate a smaller and shorter pulse of smoke production over the next 2 or 3 days, with a big reduction in smoke by week's end. Then, for the next few weeks, there will be a low (and dwindling) level of smoke produced until late August or early September... something that you will be able to smell while visiting the JMT sections near VVR or MTR, but probably not enough to block views dramatically, and probably not a problem for people with respiratory problems.
Today's map shows that they started the back-burning along the steep hot chaparral slopes west of Huntington Lake. This is hot difficult work. I think yesterday I overestimated the amount of land that they will need to back-burn... about 1000 acres rather than the 2000-3000 acres that I had guessed yesterday. If true, there will probably be a smaller/shorter (2-3 days) pulse of smoke the next few days, rather than a big pulse until the end of the week as I had guessed yesterday.
The east edge is nearly completely contained. It looks like there was a bit of a battle with the fire at one location along this line. If they haven't already done so, I would guess they will work very hard tonight to have this edge completely contained by tomorrow morning. This is a huge accomplishment, as this edge was very stubborn during the whole course of the fire, and there will be a big reduction in smoke produced in this area.
Like I said yesterday, I think they will let the fire burn up into the high-elevation sub-alpine forest in the Kaiser Wilderness. It will skunk around through 3000 more acres of forest before reaching the rocky alpine zone where it will run out of fuel to burn. How long this will take depends on the type of forest vegetation and whether they actively suppress the fire in that region, but I imagine it will take at least a week or two. They will probably call this fire 100% contained by the end of this week, even though there will still be forest burning in the Wilderness Area for another week or two after that.
--- In email@example.com, "Chris" <cehauser1@...> wrote:
> John Ladd asked me to do daily Aspen Fire updates while he is on a trip:
> Today, the fire broke above the 20,000-acre level, they have reached 70% containment, and have reduced staffing down to about 1800 firefighters. With big fires like these, once they reach about 70% containment, the fire is usually contained quite quickly... in this case they are still anticipating having it contained by Saturday, Aug 10. However, even after the fire is 100% contained, there will still be small interior patches that will continue to burn within the contained perimeter for several weeks, and also I anticipate the Southeast edge will continue to burn for a while too (see below). If all goes well, I'd guess fire will burn about 25,000 acres in total.
> With all the smoke pollution impacting the hikers on the JMT, it will be nice to see this stubborn fire finally put out. However, don't expect the smoke pollution to dwindle over the coming week... the total production of low-level smoke will probably remain very high for the rest of the week as the firefighters conduct back-burns. Also, as the heat from the main fire declines, the smoke will not loft into the upper atmosphere... it will continue to stay close to the ground where it affects people. After the fire is fully contained in about a week, the smoke will begin to decline, but smoke production will continue for several more weeks, as interior patches and the Southeast edge continues to burn. I'd guess that all smoke production will be gone by early September.
> South Edge:
> Today firefighters started back-burning on the S edge (due west of Huntington Lake). Based on the topography (which dictates where they can bulldoze fire breaks), I anticipate that they are going to back burn about 2000-3000 acres to contain that portion of the fire. This might produce a lot of low-level smoke, which will exacerbate the smoke pollution. Also, some of this area is really low elevation (as low as 2500 feet) so there is a lot of hot-burning chaparral... let's hope a hot chaparral fire doesn't jump this line, or all bets are off. Recent winds have been from the SE, so it looks like the wind is in the firefighters favor along this line.
> East Edge:
> Although higher in elevation (about 5000-6000 feet), there is still a significant amount of hot-burning shrubs among the fire-resistant conifer trees (lots of Red Fir, I was told). A week ago, the fire jumped the first firebreak along this East edge, and the fire management team had to pull back and create a secondary fire break about 2-3 miles to the east of their first fire break, which led to at least another week of burning (and another 4000+ acres burned) along this edge. The fire is just now reaching their secondary fire break along this edge, and it looks like they are succeeding in catching the fire on this edge. They haven't said if they will back-burn along this east edge, but I think they will need to back-burn about 1000 acres in this area tomorrow. The map shows several spot fires along this line, so there is a slight chance the fire might jump this east line (again), which would be a real problem.
> Southeast Edge:
> Originally, the fire management team was hoping to keep the fire from burning into the Kaiser Wilderness, by stopping it at a road running parallel to the north edge of the Wilderness. However, it jumped that road and is now burning south into the Wilderness. Since fire management folks usually try to avoid using bulldozers in the Wilderness Areas, it looks like they will rely on the bare rocky alpine ridge running through the Kaiser Wilderness to contain the fire. If this happens, they will probably allow the fire to burn through 3000-4000 acres of high-elevation sub-alpine forest, before it burns itself out along the edge of the bare alpine area. In other areas, this fire has burned into areas that didn't otherwise look burnable from aerial photos, so it might burn up to about 9,000 feet where the sub-alpine forest ends at the bare alpine zone. On a blog, someone mentioned that this fire had an unusually high elevation range (2,500 feet to 9,000 feet).
> In summary, at 70% containment, the end is near. However, heavy smoke will remain a concern for another week (until full containment). Depending on how long it takes for the back-burn areas, and the Wilderness Area, to burn out, smoke levels might remain high for several additional days after full containment, then the smoke will dwindle for several weeks after that. I anticipate no smoke problems by early September. If all goes well this week, this fire will burn about 25,000 acres.
... Chris - Thanks for the great reports, John Curran Ladd 1616 Castro Street San Francisco, CA 94114-3707 415-648-9279Message 84 of 84 , Aug 10View SourceOn Sat, Aug 10, 2013 at 9:11 PM, Chris <cehauser1@...> wrote:
This morning they posted what they are saying is the final fire update for the Aspen Fire. For that reason, I'll call this report my final report too. (Also, I'm leaving for my JMT hike this Friday, so the timing is good.)
John Curran Ladd1616 Castro Street
San Francisco, CA 94114-3707