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MikeWhalen
05-05-2016, 12:49 PM
In Canada, we have a zillion square miles of forest, and sometimes conditions are 'just right' to produce a monster, predator-like forest fire that humans are helpless to stop...this fire in Alberta is so hot, that it burned around 1,000 C and the radiated heat was so intense, that the area above it became a 'no fly zone' (thus no water bombers can work)

Back in the early 80's while at University, I got a summer job at 'Federal Fire Research' for the Gov. of Canada. It was a great and exciting job because we basically conducted a bunch of controlled burn fire experiments to try to figure out how to predict what forest fires you could leave alone, and which ones you needed to attack with all your resources (cause there are never enough for the bad fire seasons). I think I posted a few of my pics in a previous thread, I will take a look and if not, will add them to this.
I have been in the middle of a forest fire (thank goodness it was a controlled burn that had safety exits), where it went from 'crawling' slowly to crowning to the top of trees and creating a ceiling of fire that went 105 ft / second...believe me, that is a scary nightmare thing to be in

In any case, Fort McMurry in Alberta has pretty much been destroyed and many folks got out by the skin of their teeth, and this is not over, there is lots of dry forest left to burn....

https://ca.news.yahoo.com/fort-mcmurray-wildfire-burning-hot-050000455.html?nhp=1

"Fort McMurray wildfire burning so hot, only weather can stop it

CBC
CBC
May 5, 2016
The raging wildfire that has forced the evacuation of Fort McMurray, Alta., and engulfed parts of the community is the kind of blaze that firefighters dread, but could become more common, according to experts.

Alternatively described by officials as "catastrophic," a "multi-headed monster" and a "dirty, nasty" fire, the blaze is at least 10,000 hectares in area and has destroyed more than 1,600 structures. It could threaten the entire community, they said.

The wildfire became so intense Tuesday that the heat limited air operations over the affected areas. More than 150 firefighters are battling it on multiple fronts, with hundreds more from other provinces expected to arrive in the coming days.

Temperatures are expected to remain high, with a glimmer of hope on the horizon as a cold front approaches. It could, however, bring lightning with it, possibly starting more fires. It is a nearly impossible situation.

The wildfire is an extreme example of the power of Mother Nature, but offers some interesting lessons about the science of wildfires.

'A perfect storm' of fire

The conditions that preceded the start of this fire were quintessential wildfire conditions: a seemingly endless supply of dry fuel on the forest floor and in the canopy, and intense heat. All that was needed was a spark, and whether it was caused by human error or lightning (an investigation is underway), once the spark was there, the fire became a beast.

"You hate to use the ​cliché, but it really was kind of a perfect storm," says Mike Wotton, a research scientist with the Canadian Forest Service and adjunct professor in the faculty of forestry at UBC in Vancouver.

"There was a mild winter and not a lot of meltwater from the mountain snow pack. Now, a stale air mass has been sitting over Alberta, and it led to very low humidity. Then there was an early, hot spring, and everything got very dry. Then on top of that, it got windy."

The fire, burning between 800 C and 1,000 C, was first spotted when it was about 500 hectares in area (with each hectare about the size of a rugby pitch). It became what's called a crown fire, which occurs when the tops of conifers, which tend to burn more easily than deciduous trees, become engulfed and the flames spread through the canopy.

"That's when you start to see the 100-metre-high flames," said Mike Flannigan, professor of wildland fire at the University of Alberta in Edmonton.

The fire was likely moving at a speed of up to five kilometres per hour and quickly became difficult to manage.

'Like spitting on a campfire'

Many fires in the Boreal forest are extremely unpredictable. The fire front, the area where it's burning most intensely, is so hot, that crews can't attack it from the front.

Sometimes the fire front can be hundreds of metres long, according to Flannigan, so crews have to work at its flanks. Aerial attacks become less effective because they aren't hitting the core of the fire.

For example, on Tuesday, firefighters were unable to fly over the fire front of the Fort McMurray wildfire because it was too hot and too smoky, according to Alberta emergency officials.

"This really shows that once a fire like this is up and running, the only things that are going to stop it is if the weather changes or if it runs out of fuel to burn up," says Flannigan. "With a fire like this, it's burning so hot that air drops are like spitting on a campfire. Water and retardant might slow it down, but probably not much."

Danger of spot fires

The wildfire that has destroyed parts of Fort McMurray managed to cross two rivers and spawned so-called hot spots all around the affected area, and officials said that has put a terrible strain on crews.

The wildfire is burning so intensely at its front that burning sticks, vegetation and embers are belched out of it and carried by the wind, starting brand new fires. If the wind changes direction, it can be disastrous.

During the massive 2011 fire in Slave Lake, Alta., there were examples of spot fires starting in populated areas more than two kilometres from the fire's front.

Another complicating factor is that the latest fire started close to and moved into Fort McMurray, forcing the evacuation of about 88,000 people. The "wildland-urban interface," as Flannigan called it, is fraught with danger.

"Wildland firefighters are trained to fight wildfire, and municipal firefighters are trained to fight structural fires. Now, you have both types, creating a very dangerous hybrid fire, and it's entering an area with propane tanks, gas stations and other potentially explosive things."

'The new normal' for wildfires

According to Natural Resources Canada, the mean number of wildfires each year in Canada for the last 25 years has been about 8,300. An average of about 2.3 million hectares burns each year, but recent years have seen more destructive fires in terms of area covered.

In 2014, for example, more than 5,100 forest fires burned over 4.5 million hectares. Last year, nearly four million hectares had been scorched by around 6,700 fires by early September, and fire season continues from late April to late September, depending on the region.

"Climate change models and research all point to the idea that fire season is going to be longer in the coming years, and the fires will be more severe," says David Andison, adjunct professor with the faculty of forestry at UBC.

"It will really just be the new normal."

Many agencies have started taking an approach that focuses only on wildfires that could threaten urban centres or important infrastructure. Only three per cent of wildfires in the boreal forest grow to be more than 200 hectares, but that three per cent accounts for 97 per cent of the area burned each year, according to Natural Resources Canada.

It's not just a resources problem, but rather a new approach to fire management. Wildfires are a key part of the ecological cycle and provide an opportunity for new growth and the evolution of ecosystems. Instead of trying to suppress every fire, an assessment is made, and if it can burn without any damage to populated areas, it will be left alone.

"As tragic as this is in terms of property damage, and costs and stress, fire is still a natural process in the forest and the outcome of this will be a young, vibrant forest ecosystem," says Andison. "

here are some pretty good pics...

https://ca.news.yahoo.com/photos/photos-wildfire-rages-causes-evacuations-1421179332640822/people-gather-for-gas-that-1462377417618.html

and why it traveled so quickly

https://ca.news.yahoo.com/video/fort-mcmurray-wildfire-why-fire-173601766.html?nhp=1

Mike

MikeWhalen
05-05-2016, 08:22 PM
I was never in a big crazy fire like the ones in Alberta, but I did get to do 5 'burns'-where after doing all the meticulous research about the area's flora and fauna, we would lite it up and film/study it from all sides...I got to be one of the guys 'inside' the burn area and only once had to run for my life.
Anyway, found a few pics from back in the day, all were sites several hundred miles north of my hometown, the Soo.

btw, any dead wood or trees you see had occurred naturally, I remember one burn was in an area where thousands of miles of forest was dead because some new kind of pine beetle had showed up and was killing everything...it was a spooky erie sight to be in that dead forest, dead evergreen trees standing like skeletons as far as the eye could see...and the powers that be were desperate to know how much danger there was in it all going up in a nightmare burn...not much, we discovered that most of the ground was wet and boggy so while the tree's would go up like a matchstick, the real fire danger of tons of fine fuel on the ground did not exist


standard pic they took of the students, this was at a 'slow' burn that posed no danger to others...the flames were about 2ce as high as my head but of course, dropped momentarily when the damn pic was taken
9162

9163

this is before the burn and I am setting one of several dozen weather balloons...we were the 'feds', about a dozen scientific researches, and we were backed up by a couple of hundred provincial fire fighters who were tasked to our burn...most of those guys were local Native Indians and they really knew the bush
9164


taking a wee post lunch snooze...I think we were waiting for the provincial guys to show up...we could not do the burn till the choppers and firefighters were there to stop any wildfire erupting
9165

Mike

J Man
05-06-2016, 01:54 AM
Just brutal...I have a few friends that live out there. Luckily they are safe!

Baltimore1937
05-06-2016, 02:28 AM
There must have been serious forest fires around western Washington in pioneer times. I remember seeing an old photo of somebody, with the background consisting of a vast dead forest, presumably from a fire. That area is now suburbs near Bellingham.

MJost
05-06-2016, 12:28 PM
That shiny white skin reflecting the sun could have been the fire hazard!!! Haha

MJost

George Chandler
05-06-2016, 02:40 PM
Hi Mike,

Being a fire researcher did you notice some of the unusual footage of the aftermath? Usually you see either the neighborhoods completely burned with chimneys still standing (which some parts showed), or half burned standing structures and combinations there of. Did you see the neighborhood that had the gas line fires burning in the background (at least that's they way it appeared) and the houses didn't appear burned but were in rubble piles like a tornado had gone through? There wasn't much in the way of burn evidence but the houses were completely leveled with the fires burning among the rubble piles in the background. There was another one where there was more evidence of the houses being almost completely burned and there was a car in the drive way that was on it's side in the front driveway and the fuel tank was intact. No other vehicles looked like that as the destruction was being recorded.

What would cause that? Would they take down the houses with an excavator as a fire break..I can't see that as it would be too risky? A water bomber drop dead on the vehicle that missed the neighbors boat? A fire tornado??

I've seen quite a few fires and nothing like what aftermath showed from this one.

George

MikeWhalen
05-06-2016, 03:19 PM
Mjost-hey, quit picking on the Irish guy!
:)

Hi George...I did not see the vids you are talking about, but I am familiar with some of the phenomena you describe and I wonder if they might explain it...

...I know this was a super hot fire (+1000 degree's last i heard), so hot that it cause 'air inversions' over top of it so that planes and choppers could not fly through it...that is some very powerful stuff when the fire can kill a water bomber trying to fly over it!

-I also know that between the wind and the heat, it can create its own little micro atmosphere and actually create fire storms that wreak a unique havoc...they feed on themselves, they can produce mini fire tornado's and every other damn scary thing Hollywood dreams of-this would explain a few of the scenes you describe I think

-a lesser point, but the radiated heat from any fire, never mind a monster fire, can be a very formidable physical effect...I have been up against a towering wall of fire and its like it had its own battering ram on my flesh, exposed flesh 10 feet away simple could not take the heat...now I had a pre made escape route so there was no damage, but I bet the radiated heat from the core of the fire would do some amazing damage as it went through the neighborhood, even if the fire did not get within 5-10 ft of it

anyway, those are a few of my thoughts, hopefully others will have some idea's

Mike

MikeWhalen
05-06-2016, 06:03 PM
modern gizmo's...this poor guy had an indoor security camera in his house and was literally able to watch it burn down as he, the last moments, drove his family though burning embers to escape

http://www.metronews.ca/news/edmonton/2016/05/05/man-watches-house-burn-on-security-cam.html

Mike

Heber
05-06-2016, 08:16 PM
modern gizmo's...this poor guy had an indoor security camera in his house and was literally able to watch it burn down as he, the last moments, drove his family though burning embers to escape

http://www.metronews.ca/news/edmonton/2016/05/05/man-watches-house-burn-on-security-cam.html

Mike

It is scary how quickly that house turned into a furnace. I am impressed by the calm, sensitive coverage of the local TV station CBC and the courage of the people of Fort McMurray.

George Chandler
05-07-2016, 12:23 AM
Mjost-hey, quit picking on the Irish guy!
:)

Hi George...I did not see the vids you are talking about, but I am familiar with some of the phenomena you describe and I wonder if they might explain it...

...I know this was a super hot fire (+1000 degree's last i heard), so hot that it cause 'air inversions' over top of it so that planes and choppers could not fly through it...that is some very powerful stuff when the fire can kill a water bomber trying to fly over it!

-I also know that between the wind and the heat, it can create its own little micro atmosphere and actually create fire storms that wreak a unique havoc...they feed on themselves, they can produce mini fire tornado's and every other damn scary thing Hollywood dreams of-this would explain a few of the scenes you describe I think

-a lesser point, but the radiated heat from any fire, never mind a monster fire, can be a very formidable physical effect...I have been up against a towering wall of fire and its like it had its own battering ram on my flesh, exposed flesh 10 feet away simple could not take the heat...now I had a pre made escape route so there was no damage, but I bet the radiated heat from the core of the fire would do some amazing damage as it went through the neighborhood, even if the fire did not get within 5-10 ft of it

anyway, those are a few of my thoughts, hopefully others will have some idea's

Mike

When I was a student I got the chance to participate in a forest fire investigation (tag along) - it was really interesting to see the different techniques used to locate the point of origin, tracing the behavior from the air and on the ground etc.

George

MikeWhalen
05-07-2016, 02:16 AM
it is fascinating George
...when I was working for fed. fire research, the guys showed me a tree that was the ignition point of a huge forest fire...it had been hit by lightning and there was a 'cork screw' scar running down the bottom 20 ft of the tree (top half had been blown apart)
-it looked like someone had taken a potato peeler and peeled very carefully a slow 1/4 inch spiral down the wood...apparently that is the normal path a lightning bolt takes down to the earth

M

rms2
05-07-2016, 03:37 PM
When I was 8 years old we moved to California, and I grew up there, both in Northern and Southern California. I've seen a lot of fires in the summer. My youngest brother is Deputy Chief of a fire department in Northern California and has been a firefighter since Moses was a small child.

Sorry to see the rough time the people in Alberta are having right now.

MikeWhalen
05-07-2016, 04:14 PM
following up a previous question about big fires like this, I found this little diagram

http://news.nationalpost.com/news/graphics/extreme-behaviour-how-an-intense-fire-such-as-the-one-in-fort-mcmurray-can-create-its-own-weather-conditions

Mike

George Chandler
05-07-2016, 04:24 PM
They're predicting it to double in size today with the winds.

Arbogan
05-08-2016, 03:13 PM
And they say global warming doesn't exist. This is an absolutely scary development.