Two thousand five hundred firefighters are battling the Wallow Fire, less than half the number you might expect for a fire of this magnitude. When you under man an incident of this size you are acceding to the will of the fire and asking more from the personnel on the ground than they can safely deliver. Granted not a lot can be done against gale force winds but when you have only ordered up eight (8) bulldozers for a 300,000 acre fire burning for more than a week it suggests something is wrong.
I was talking with a retired Cal Fire Captain days ago about this fire and we were discussing the eventual perimeter. I was thinking this would run to the high desert and he contended they were probably building dozer “freeways” upwind somewhere to halt the progress at that point! Of course you are right I said. Of course, of course.
At that time we assumed there were dozers en route, we were wrong. Eight bulldozers over 600 square miles is a joke. It’s not like there are demands on fire resources throughout the region, this IS the big show. They could have used eight bulldozers in Nutrioso and still been short by a few. There can be no dozer containment lines of substance over 300,000 acres with the equivalent of a dozer strike team.
I got word last night from a friend in Arizona that was listening to the fire briefing on local TV. The incident commander apparently stated to the crowd that he was not up to speed on what is happening on the left flank. Apparently one or more of the three Indian reservations with local jurisdiction are doing there own thing on that flank. If true this is nothing short of amazing. Such an admission is bad for firefighter safety and morale in general.
You cannot fight a battle when you don’t know who you command. This is dangerous as well as a disservice to the forest and inhabitants therein.
Evacuated residents of Alpine and Nutrioso are not being told what has happened to their properties. There is no reason for this. Why put residents through this kind of stress when there are command personnel (div. sups.) on the ground in both communities. I have commenters with local interests asking on my blog if anyone knows the status of their home or the homes of their parents of friends. Come on, someone with a map and a radio do some damage assessment and give the folks a break.
I want to be clear, my criticisms are not pointed at the firefighters on the ground or in the air.
Here are some maps and images. Not much news is coming out of the incident base so I will continue to cover this fire through webcams, satellites and hearsay.
Update: In fairness to the Incident Commander (I’m trying) he was assigned to the fire with his team on June 5. The fire is split up between numerous teams and it is possible he was not brought up to speed on the entire fire. Even so as IC he should be up to speed in full before addressing the community. On this we should all agree.
Bill at Wildland Fire asks and answers the question, “Where are the VLAT’s? (very. large. air. tankers.)
Image, Google Earth