New Wildland Fire Start on the Inyo National Forest

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SCPD

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A new start on the Inyo National Forest, Mammoth Ranger District, located two miles southeast of the Town of Mammoth Lakes. It appears to be human caused and is under investigation. The point of origin is near the west shore of the series of lakes called Sherwin Lakes. The name of the incident is "Sherwin." Size as of 1900 Sunday was about 50-60 acres. The fire is burning in heavy fuels of manzanita, jeffrey pine, lodgepole pine, white fir, and western Juniper on a bench overlooking the town. The north facing slope below the bench has significant tree mortality, much of it in the white fir type. A strong southwest breeze pushed the fire to the northeast yesterday afternoon. The fire was spotting prolifically even after sunset. If the wind shifts to a southeast or east direction this fire would threaten the town.

The YMCA camp, located southeast of town was evacuated. I don't have confirmation yet, but I believe Sherwin Creek campground has been evacuated as well. Sherwin Creek road is closed as is the Laurel Lake road.

Resources included two helicopters (Bridgeport Ranger District ship and the call-when-needed helo brought in due to the use of Helicopter 525 on an off Forest assignment), about 7 air tankers, a SEAT (single engine air tanker), air attack (Air Attack 15 from the Sierra National Forest), lead plane (Lead Bravo 5 a BLM ship stationed at Fox Field), two CDF hand crews, one water tender (Mammoth Lakes FD WT-3381 filling helo buckets), 3 Forest Service engines, and 1 BLM engine. For the engine crews this is a walk in show, so portable pumps have been set up to pump water out of the lakes and onto the fire. A staging area for ground resources was set up at the Mammoth Motocross area.

Frequencies in use:

Command - 168.125 Tone 3 - Glass Mountain
Tactical - 168.200 NIFC Tac 2
Air-Air Tactics - 166.675 National Air Tactics 1 - pre-assigned to the Inyo
Air to Ground - 170.000 National Air Tactics 4 and Region 5 air to ground
Air to Air AM - 135.975 - being used occasionally for helicopter coordination - pre-assigned to the aircraft dispatched from Bishop

Incident commander is the Fire Management Officer of the Mammoth Ranger District and was a Type 4 organization as of 2300 last night. I would imagine that it will transition to a Type 3 for the day shift today, but that is unconfirmed.

Two helitankers (Type I) have been ordered and will be on the fire at 0800 Monday, one from the San Bernardino NF and one from the Los Padres NF. The Bishop air tanker reload base could not be staffed yesterday because of the lack of qualified personnel to run it. The reload base manager is off on an off-Forest assignment managing the USFS Martin.

Factors complicating the response to this fire include the lack of experienced dispatchers working the fire in the Owens Valley Interagency Communication Center in Bishop, the call-when-needed helicopter having to respond from the Kern Plateau where it was working another fire, lack of a back up qualified air tanker base manager on the Inyo National Forest, hand crews, both Forest Service and CDF, on out of area assignments, two Inyo National Forest engines not staffed for the last 3-4 years, presumably due to a lack of funds, and possibly the 300 vacant positions in fire management in Region 5 that cannot be filled due to a shortage of applicants. The preceding is my opinion based on my own observations and in listening to the listed radio frequencies. It can in no way be consided an official position of the USFS.

One plus, due to the National Fire Plan, is the existence of call-when-needed helicopters, brought in to fill behind when the primary helicopter on a jurisdiction is sent to out of area assignments. The response by the first helicopter was delayed, but at least it was on the Forest and available for diversion to this higher priority incident.
 

SCPD

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Update

Morning estimate of acreage is 250 acres. Sherwin Creek Campground was evacuated yesterday. The fire made a large run downhill toward the Mammoth Motocross track located just a little over a mile from the town last night or early this morning. I stopped listening and fell asleep about 2330 and did not hear the radio traffic during this run.

Orders made for this fire:

A Type II incident management team
4 helicopters - the two Type II's that worked the fire yesterday plus the two Type I's I mentioned above.
7 engines
5 hand crews
4 heavy air tankers
2 single engine air tankers - 1 based at Bishop

I've already taken one roll of 35mm film from my roof, where I spent about 8 hours yesterday watching the fire and monitoring the . My wife took some digital shots and I may post them tonight. The first wave of some monsoonal moisture is predicted to arrive today and give us some scattered thunderhead buildup.
 
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SCPD

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I'm not sure if the Type II team is ordering a "National Incident Radio Support Cache" for its use on this incident. If they did, the fire will shift to the NIFC cache frequencies sometime today.

Just in at this moment, 128.475 is the new "Victor" frequency for this fire. This is the central California initial attack secondary air to air frequency.

I've been called to help staff the evacuation center at the High School in Mammoth. I'm a member of the Mammoth Lakes Citizen Emergency Response Team (CERT). Most of those there are from the YMCA camp. I don't know when I will be back and able to update this site.
 

Progline

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Wasn't there a helibase at Independence? I think that was copter 525, but my recollection is so shaky as it's been years. I will assume that this is the on-call copter that is out of town.
 

SCPD

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I have a very short break from my duties working in the Public Information unit of the Type II Incident Management team.

Helicopter 525 is the primary helicopter for the Inyo National Forest and it is based in Independence. It was off-Forest on a fire assignment somewhere and was at the time the Sherwin Fire started. Full time primary helicopters in California have a 5xx number that starts in the north and increases in number as you move south. The call-when-needed ship, which is identified by the last three of the tail or FAA number, was working a fire on the Kern Plateau, on the south end of the Inyo National Forest. It was diverted almost immediately to head north, but there was an hour travel time, and more for the chase truck that carries the bucket.

Air tankers had to reload and return from Fresno. The Bishop Airport has an on call reload base, however the person qualified to manage it was on an off-Forest fire assignment also. This doubled the turnaround time for the 8 air tankers that were working the fire in the initial attack phase on Sunday afternoon.

Today we have some monsoonal moisture moving in and humidity is up. This allows fire crews to work closer to the fire and in areas that may be too hazardous to work when the fire is more active. A significant gain from this mornings 5% containment estimate is expected. Now 295 people on the fire at last count this morning.

The fire burned to the northeast and was wind driven the first day and night. Strong southwest winds continued on the fire during day shift yesterday but the fire did not experience significant growth. The fire has not been a threat to the town up to this point and is not anticipated to become so.
 

MCIAD

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Arriving somewhere, but not here . . .
Hey exSmokey - if you folks can manage to NOT put out the fire for another 10 days, I might get to come up as INCM. The COML for the Type-II team is from my Dept. and A+ to work for. If you are in camp, stop by the Comm. Shack and tell Rich I said hi.

10 days more, and I will be free and clear (I hope) of my job responcibilities here that are keeping from joining a team somewhere as INCM. Not too worried 'bout it. The season is still young and there is still LOTS of brush to burn.

Keep safe . . .
 

JayMojave

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Hello Exsmokey:

Hope all the fire fighters can put out that fire. But at the same time the scanner is interesting to listen to. I'll bet a lot of channels are buzzing with traffic. I am located too far south, and the darn earth is curved too much to hear any of the Fire activity on the radio.

If I was retired I would drive up there and give ya all a hand doing something, at work I make coffee and get donuts, something about not being around heavy machinery.

Good luck

Jay in the Mojave
 

MCIAD

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Arriving somewhere, but not here . . .
Perhaps not . . .

I hope I am not stealing exSmokey's thunder, but the crews are making terrific progress with this one. It is over 57% contained, with "only" 347 acres burned so far. That is very impressive, especially since it is an all handcrew and air show from what I have heard.
 

JayMojave

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Hello MCIAD:

I didn't take your post as stealing anyone’s thunder, hope I didn't come across like that. But that of a supportive post. I have helped as a volunteer at times evacuating folks from fire and flood emergencies. Our local radio club at the time was a real help to the community.

You say handcrew and air show, what other fire fighting efforts are there? You being a professional would know. Maybe Bulldozers and such?

Jay in the Mojave
 

SCPD

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The phones have finally started slowing down and I found a spare laptop to use. I am the CERT team leader for staffing the information line for the Sherwin Fire. MCAID, thanks for updating everyone. I have the IAP (Incident Action Plan) Comm Plan in front of me and we have the following frequencies in use:

166.6125 Command - NIFC Command 4
166.725 Division A Tac - NIFC Tac 5
166.775 Division B Tac - NIFC Tac 6
168.250 Division Y Tac - NIFC Tac 7
173.9125 Division Z Tac - R5 Tac 4

171.1375 Air to Ground - NIFC Air Tactics 7
154.265 Structure Group Tac - White 2
168.0125 Fixed Wing Air to Air FM
128.475 Rotory Wing Air to Air FM "Victor"

Resources on the fire:

5 Helicopters
18 Crews
5 Dozers
31 Engines
1 Water Tender
1 Camp Crew
41 Overhead Personnel
625 People Total

Agencies working the incident:

U.S. Forest Service
Bureau of Land Management
National Park Service
Cal Fire
L.A. County
Mammoth Lakes PD
Mammoth Lakes FD
Caltrans
Long Valley Fire (Crowley Lake Area)
Mono County Sheriff Department
Mammoth Lakes CERT (Community Emergency Response Team)

Prior to retirement I was a qualified Public Information Officer. Attending briefings, talking with folks about fire, and being around a significant incident were things I had been quite used to doing, but a few cobwebs had formed and needed to be swept out as I've been going along. It is interesting how well known the CERT program is among the incident command team personnel. If we had more members we could have picked up additional duties. Got to go.
 
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SCPD

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The CERT participation in this fire ended at noon on Thursday 8/7. Two of the CERT members who were with me the most requested that one of the Incident Management Team PIOs give them a tour of the Incident Base. I went along and it was old home week for me. I met some people from other National Forests that I had come across during my career. A couple of them were retired and still working incidents. I found out how retirees get called out and will be taking steps to go out on incidents as well. Fire is in my blood and I was really in the groove working on this fire, as happy as the proverbial bug in a rug. As my wife says, "you can take the ranger out of the forest, but you can't take the forest out of the ranger."

Micheal, I stopped by in the comm unit and Rich was not in at the time. I'm going to go back this afternoon and see if I can find him. I need to go over there anyway to pick up a copy of some information that one of the incident team members said he would get me. I did leave a note with your name and Rich's on it and told them to pass along your greetings to him.

I came across some information that the old BLM air net of 167.950 is called "Air Tactics 5", 166.6875 is Air Tactics 6, and 171.1375 is Air Tactics 7. This results in there being 7 each of tactics, command, logistics, and air tactics frequencies. I'm going to hunt around a bit to find out if all the UHF logistics and linking frequencies have changed due to the new NTIA direction in their 1/08 "Redbook." I will submit changes to the database and will change the Wiki site to reflect the changes to Air Tactics and any I find out about to the UHF logistics frequencies.
 

SCPD

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Michael, I finally met up with Rich. I also met another Ventura Co FD employee named Ron. Rich and I spoke for about 20 minutes. He explained the process of how frequencies are assigned to incidents. I got some good frequency information with most of the change being in the UHF list for the National Interagency Radio Support Cache. Since the list is confidential and for my use as a retired USFS employee I cannot share it.

I may get back into incident management as a retiree. I'm going to visit with dispatch and the Inyo's fire management officer about what it takes to get on a list of available personnel for the resource and communications unit, as well as the PIO staff. When you are retired they pay you using the AD pay rates, which stands for Administratively Determined, or emergency hires. I found that I was able to function quite nicely when I was working for the PIO once I swept out a lot of the "cobwebs" that resided in my brain from my years of retirement. I would like to make some money doing what I know best.
 
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