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Discussion: Dinkey Creek Threatened by Creek Fire

in: Orienteering; General

Sep 6, 2020 5:32 PM # 
For the past several years, NavX Challenge has been holding events at an area east of Fresno called Dinkey Creek on an excellent map by Bill Cusworth. This area is now threatened by a huge fire designated the Creek Fire. The fire started east of Highway 168 near Huntington Lake and has now spread to 45,500 acres. The town of Shaver Lake has been evacuated. As far as I can tell, the mapped area hasn't been touched yet, but if the fire jumps the highway it could be burnt as well.
More than 200 people had to be airlifted from a campground at Mammoth Pool Reservoir by Chinook helicopters when they were trapped by the fire.
Sep 7, 2020 6:03 AM # 
Much of the US West is currently under a Red Flag warning
Sep 7, 2020 9:00 AM # 
We do have a nomination for the most bizarre cause of a wildfire in 2020.
Sep 7, 2020 12:07 PM # 
That happened again?!?!
Sep 7, 2020 2:42 PM # 
Looks like a thick wall of smoke over Oklahoma this morning, but not clear where it came from. Seems too early for yesterday's CA smoke, but I guess it must be from those fires.

Maybe its from the fire in N Utah.
Sep 7, 2020 4:03 PM # 
Colorado seems to have some fires, one of which could be what's causing this smoke.
Sep 7, 2020 4:37 PM # 
Yeah, there are fires all over out there. One west of Yellowstone lake, 3 in Idaho, a couple in Oregon.

Here's a 12-hour .mp4 loop of California yesterday. Except for afternoon clouds over the mountaintops, everything onshore is smoke here. The fire on the east side of L.A. is the "gender-reveal party" one.
Sep 7, 2020 4:40 PM # 
I had to check Wikipedia to see what gender-reveal party is.
It turns out it's not what I was thinking. I had a misconception it's some sort of LGBT party
Sep 7, 2020 5:57 PM # 
As of yesterday, 2020 has already exceeded 2018 for the most acres burned in California in a single year since the early 1930s when accurate records started being kept. Oh and the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th largest fire (by area) in the modern era are currently burning and more fires are expected.
Sep 7, 2020 9:28 PM # 
Are these white pyrocumulus clouds forming over the hotspots today?

The hotspots are visible in the 3.9um band in broad daylight today. That's alot of contrast.
Sep 7, 2020 9:38 PM # 
Looks like it. There has been a lot of discussion and photos on twitter about these formations from these fires. Check out #PyroCB
Sep 7, 2020 10:51 PM # 
Pink Socks:
Eddie, what's your source of the smoke/satellite loops?

I'm in in central WA now and we had clear skies all weekend, but starting at 10am today, the 40mph winds showed up followed by dense smoke a few hours later and several evacuation alerts on our phones. (We're still 15+ miles away from the nearest fire and not in danger; I was just curious to see the images of the the smoke coming in.) We think all of this smoke is from a fire that started yesterday and jumped the Columbia near Bridgeport, WA today.
Sep 7, 2020 11:22 PM # 
washington state
Sep 8, 2020 12:05 AM # 
Pink Socks:
Thanks, Hammer! That's the one. That loop is at least 7h old (so before the winds really picked up here). That fire just kept going south, and then the prevailing winds were westward today, dumping all of that smoke and ash here.
Sep 8, 2020 12:56 AM # 
Eddie can always hack into the Chinese satellites he doesn’t have already bookmarked. That’s on top of all the US ones he has on speed dial.
Sep 8, 2020 6:45 AM # 
The animations here were made from GOES geo satellite images. Go to the GOES image viewer page. You can get to this from any NOAA local forecast page by clicking on the satellite image at the bottom. There are a variety of full-US images and animations here, with the most recent images at the links. Use the "North America" pulldown to select a page with close-ups of a particular region. For example, the Pacific Northwest - all channels page. The animations here fine, but they're reduced-res. I pulled the higher res individual images to make the animations posted here.

Click on any of the single images, which will pop-up in a box. At the bottom of that box is a "download" link. Click on that (or left-click, "view background image"). This is the direct link to the jpeg file. In the URL, delete the filename leaving the rest of the path. This will take you to a directory listing with links to the 5 most recent days worth of individual files at various resolutions, at 5-minute intervals. Click and download the files you want and save for making animations. I use a script with "wget" to automatically download the ones I want. An anonymous ftp might work. I tried sftp and that did not work.

Once you have the files you want you can animate with other tools. I use IDL and my own scripts for cropping out subsections, binning, rescaling and writing animated gifs. For .mp4 I use ffmpeg, which I downloaded and compiled from source on a mac. There may be binaries for download. On a mac you could also use imovie to make animations. In both cases you just need a set of individual images (jpeg, png, etc) to feed to the applications. IDL has an mp4 writer but the built-in video codecs are antiquated and they defer to the ffmpeg libs for the new ones. I'm sure there are lots of other encoding tools out there.

Another good source for high-res color imagery are the MODIS cameras on the Terra and Aqua LEO satellites. Closer to earth than the GOES geo, but only one or two daylight passes so they're not so good for animations.

Here are today's Aqua images covering the west coast. This is a nice one of the northwest. The quicklook images are of a few specific locations at high-res, depending on the particular pass.
Sep 8, 2020 6:57 AM # 
Based off of this (, it looks like a good part of the west southwest map of Dinkey Creek is currently in flames, including the old assembly area and the one used in 2019. I can't believe even many areas with bare rock (a lot of the southwest) are burning... Those places barely even had any scrub and were extremely fast to run on. And this is all based off of relatively old data (between 12-24 hrs old). I guess all we can do now is pray the wind and temperatures will be merciful. I don't think this will ruin the terrain (and obviously there are far greater concerns than just stellar terrain being lost), but it's still so sad to see a place with so many good memories go up in flames like this...
Sep 8, 2020 7:07 AM # 
I like to use the band 7 3.9um imagery (L-band in astronomy NIR) at night to see active hotspots. I think these are inverted (dark is warmer) so that cold clouds look more natural. The hotspots are black at night. Here is tonight's latest image.
Sep 8, 2020 4:05 PM # 
If you're just interested in the daily MODIS geocolor images, the "MODIS Today" links on the wisc quicklooks page are nice browsers for the whole country (as opposed to the selected geographic snapshots on the ql pages). Here are the direct links for the terra and aqua sats:

Terra MODIS Today viewer
Aqua MODIS Today viewer

Here's the highest-res Aqua pass of the pacific NW yesterday. Looks like this is just after the start of the Malden fire on the Palouse. I hope the wheat was already in before this happened.

Adding direct links to the Suomi-NPP and NOAA-20 satellites VIIRS Today viewers. The VIIRS instrument is similar to MODIS, but the resolution of these sats is just under half as good as Terra/Aqua. Its still better than the GOES geo res, and its two more daylight passes each day.

snpp VIIRS Today viewer
noaa-20 VIIRS Today viewer
Sep 8, 2020 4:23 PM # 
Thank you Eddie for sharing what you’re created and the source info!
Sep 8, 2020 7:05 PM # 
Google launches wildfire mapping on Search and Maps

EDIT: Paywall.

or see here:
Sep 8, 2020 9:20 PM # 
Link to a twitter account I follow on wildfire remote sensing. Some good maps on the smoke plume
Sep 9, 2020 10:35 PM # 
Sep 9, 2020 11:32 PM # 
Pink Socks:
+1 eddie and hammer for the sources and info!
Sep 10, 2020 6:08 AM # 
Here's tonight's VIIRS day/night broadband low-light optical (DNB) image. Raw image on the left, and with the same image from 5 days ago subtracted to remove the city lights on the right. Nearly all the bright spots in the right-hand image are actively burning fires. A few fuzzy blobs are cities under diffusing smoke.

Compare to tonight's band 7 3.9um GOES geo image. A big chunk of the Oregon Cascades is burning right now. News says 500 square miles - about 1/4 the area of the state of Delaware. And that's just for Oregon.
Sep 10, 2020 6:49 AM # 
Yurets. We do it differently in Australia... start fires at gender reveals that is.
Sep 10, 2020 8:50 PM # 
Excellent article in Washington Post.
Sep 11, 2020 4:16 AM # 
I feel like it would be hard to understand if I weren’t living in it, but the air quality is really, really bad here (San Francisco).

For the last two weeks, anytime I’ve considered going outside I’ve had to check the air quality (and now is the worst it’s been).

And I know I’m not even in the worst of it.
Sep 11, 2020 8:35 AM # 
Coincidence that this is happening the northern summer following some of Australia's worst fires in history?
Sep 11, 2020 8:58 AM # 
Once a fire goes through a forest area in California how long is it before that burned area is susceptible to another fire? One year? Five years? Ten years?
Fires are known to be part of nature's cycle but is there a way for humans to help that cycle along and at the same time make human's population and property safer from fire?
Of course I'm asking about prescribed burns. Could communities / counties make themselves safer by burning off the brush in a regular cycle before they become the tinder boxes of large fires? Or are the California amounts of brush and the size of fires just too large to have area burns make a difference?
Sep 11, 2020 4:57 PM # 
Here is a well written article.
Sep 11, 2020 8:33 PM # 
Here is a take from a non-scientist that briefly touches upon prescribed burns.
Sep 11, 2020 9:35 PM # 
Whenever there is a fire there will always be the debate in the public. Climate change vs. suppression and naturally started vs human vs arson. It is isn't either or. It is both. Fires are more intense because of historic suppression AND because of unprecedented warming and drying. More people working, living and playing in the wildland means more ignitions and more damage to infrastructure. Fire science is very complex but is built on a very simple fact. If fuels get drier, it's easier for a fire to start and for a fire to spread. Simple. The vapour pressure deficit is a measure of the
difference (deficit) in how much moisture *could* be in the air vs. how much is *actually* there. The higher the deficit the faster the fuels dry out. The drier the fuels the easier it is to ignite and the faster the rate of spread (in part). The VPD in California in August was the highest it had been in at least 40 years.

Below is a link to an excellent peer reviewed paper on the need for a re-think of fuels mgmt in the western states in light of increasing dry fuels from climate change. It won't be cheap to implement and there will be trade-offs for the public. For example, the scale of the fuels reduction needed can not be completely done by thinning (not clear cutting) and will require prescribed burns. As the paper says it means the public will be exposed to even more smoke if we want to manage fuels. What will the public prefer? And another big question... who pays?

In a somewhat related theme (and in Canadian context) I am the lead scientist in the Canada Wildfire Network research area on peat fires. Canada has the world's largest peat reserves and these are ecosystems that traditionally didn't burn very deeply. Now because of more intense summer droughts fire is burning more often and deeper into peatlands. Peat is 50% carbon and so these fires can burn down into the ground for weeks, months and years. *Note that there are some cases in places like Alberta where this is because of fire suppression as the fuel load is greater and that leads to drier peat, but we are also seeing greater burn severity in areas where Canada doesn't fight fires (they let them burn) so that fire suppression control on the more intense fires is absent.

Two of my colleagues (also named Mike) that I work with a lot wrote a great op-ed for the Globe and Mail about the need to learn to live with fire. Because it is only going to get worse and and the cost to society is only going to get higher.
Sep 12, 2020 11:29 AM # 
Sounds a very familiar debate from the other side of the Pacific.
Sep 12, 2020 12:45 PM # 
Thanks Hammer. Great synthesis!
Sep 13, 2020 9:36 PM # 
Gord asked a really good question; “Once a fire goes through a forest area in California how long is it before that burned area is susceptible to another fire?”

This twitter thread compares the fire footprint of some of the current wildfires to the recent fire history of that region
Sep 13, 2020 10:43 PM # 
A related article on NPR this morning about slow vegetation recovery after these very intense fires and possible species composition change in those areas:

I remember this fire, which threatened O-maps near Lake George and Manitou Lake west of Colorado springs 18 years ago. The cause was arson. According to the Wiki page on the 2002 Hayman Fire, this had been the largest fire in in the state's history until it was surpassed last month by the Pine Gulch fire. The current Cameron Peak fire west of Fort Collins is only 4% contained and may beat both of those records.

Google maps Cheesman Lake/2002 Hayman fire scar
Sep 14, 2020 6:18 AM # 
Here are a couple more .mp4 animations of the GOES geocolor data. These cover the last 4 days, daylight hours only. The north pacific loop shows the smoke blowing offshore last week and then curling around to blow back in. Today the smoke looks really bad in CA, OR, WA, ID, MT and southern B.C. Good that the wind calmed down a bit, but that just left the smoke to settle in place. Looks like its getting trapped in the valleys.

North Pacific GOES geocolor loop, last 4 days (20 mins/step):

West coast GOES geocolor loop, last 4 days (15 mins/step):

Here's tonight's particle count map from the PurpleAir air quality monitors website that Mike posted in an earlier thread:

Sep 14, 2020 4:53 PM # 
Can anyone else on the US east coast smell smoke this morning? I caught a whiff last night but wasn't sure. It's breezy today as a cool front moves in and it does smell smoky here in Baltimore right now. Can't rule out a local source though (or my imagination). Here's a jpeg snapshot of the current NOAA HVRR integrated smoke map.

Here the link to the experimental NOAA HVRR smoke product page (thanks Mike):

Today the vertically integrated map matches the visible smoke in the geocolor imagery fairly well. Some days match better than others. Seems like smoke would be difficult to isolate spectrally from the earth imaging data. It's grey, and it's temperature varies.
Sep 14, 2020 5:00 PM # 
Another good source for air quality and smoke that is integrated with wildfire is here:
Sep 14, 2020 5:05 PM # 
Oh yeah, that's a nice map. Can you smell anything in Hamilton?
Sep 14, 2020 5:47 PM # 
Great (and yet catastrophically shocking) imagery from Pierre Markuse

Sep 14, 2020 6:28 PM # 
I have all the windows open today. This morning there was a gusty breeze, lower humidity and a smoky smell. Then around noon the wind stopped for an hour, the humidity jumped up and I could no longer smell smoke. After another hour the breeze came back up, the humidity dropped sharply and I can smell smoke again. Still don't know if this is local or from the fires out west. The smoke is clearly overhead here in the satellite imagery.

Nice image. Says it's data from the European Sentinel EOS.
Sep 15, 2020 4:09 AM # 
This might betray my lack of knowledge...but how does what’s happening now compare to the volcanic eruptions that creates the 1816 year with no summer? Any concern of something like that? Or is it still much smaller? Or different because fires and volcanos are different?
Sep 15, 2020 4:24 AM # 
If there isn't a better qualified to answer that question orienteer than me soon to visit this thread, I'll think of something unpleasant to promise to eat, but I'm fairly certain that worry is groundless, as forest fires at ground level aren't going to project massive quantities of sulfate aerosols into the upper atmosphere. I don't think they would even produce massive quantities of sulfate aerosols in their immediate surroundings - surely someone would have mentioned if forest fires smelled like rotten eggs.
Sep 15, 2020 5:22 AM # 
Yes, it's mostly about the height the material gets to (and its volume) - anything that doesn't get into the stratosphere (essentially, above cloud level) will get rained out of the atmosphere within a few weeks. This was also why Mt. St. Helens didn't have any significant global climate impact - the ash didn't get high enough. The area covered by even the largest wildfire smoke plume is also only a small proportion of the Earth's surface area.

For volcanic eruptions, the climatic impact will also generally be larger if the eruption is in the tropics, since upper atmosphere winds will tend to spread it away from the equator (and being near the equator also allows the ash to spread over both hemispheres). The three volcanoes of the last 100 years with major global climate impacts (Pinatubo 1991, El Chichon 1982, Agung 1963) were all tropical.

Pinatubo's estimated to have produced about 11 cubic kilometres of material. Tambora (the one responsible for the 1816 cooling) was about 40 cubic kilometres.

And then there's the 1808 event, where the climatic signal is known but nobody knows for sure where the responsible volcano was (most likely somewhere in the tropical South Pacific).
Sep 15, 2020 8:54 AM # 
I did smell smoke in Michigan yesterday but thought it was local.
Sep 15, 2020 11:49 AM # 
It probably is. The aerosol models I've seen have a plume extending east roughly along the US-Canada border as far east as Ontario, but most or all of the eastern end of the plume would be far above ground level. (They also show comparable aerosol loads over parts of interior South America - mostly further south than the Amazon this year - and southern Africa; the mid-latitude fires get the headlines but something like 45% of average global fire emissions are from savanna fires in Africa).
Sep 15, 2020 2:36 PM # 
It must've been a local source I was smelling. Local news reported this morning that the smoke layer is at 2000-3000 feet. I didn't smell anything in the afternoon and evening. I guess we wouldn't get any mixing from that height to ground level, at least not in the current conditions? The original forecast was for 0% sky cover yesterday and today, but the sky has been steel-grey sunshine since noon yesterday. There were only 2 stars visible last night - Vega and Jupiter. No Saturn, Deneb, Altair or anything else overhead.

From the satellite this morning it looks like the entire NE US, southern Ontario and NS are under this layer today.
Sep 15, 2020 2:42 PM # 
Noticeably hazy grey up in the sky yesterday in Boston, a little less so far today.
Sep 15, 2020 8:49 PM # 
The Post is reporting the smoke at 20,000-30,000 feet (jet stream), not 2000-3000 feet. I probably just heard it wrong, sorry about that.
Sep 17, 2020 12:59 AM # 
excellent article in the Conversation about wildfire, air quality and health
Sep 17, 2020 6:01 AM # 
Ran across an interesting image in a Reuters infographic tonight. The Reuters article is about Cal Fire's aerial firefighting techniques, with descriptions of the aircraft and neat animated flight tracks.

There's an image taken by one of the Planet Labs commercial imaging sats showing red fire retardant dropped by plane along a road in Henry Coe State Park near San Jose. Henry Coe was the site of the 2011 US Rogaine champs, with a map made by Vlad and Get Lost!! Here's the photo, taken on Aug 29 (Reuters/Planet Labs):

This is just north of the NW corner of the 2011 Rogaine map, near control 90 and the water stop cup (Get Lost!!):

Here's a link to the location in google maps, and a snapshot of the same:

This was part of the burst of lightning-caused fires at the end of Aug that also burned parts of Big Basin. See the other AP thread. Here is today's Aqua/MODIS geocolor image covering the area. Its the brown, mostly burned hill mass SE of the bay area at the bottom left of the image. Are there any other O-maps on this ridge?

Of note, the 5 latest Planet Labs imaging sats were lost in a Rocket Lab Electron launch failure on July 4 of this year. The cause was a faulty electrical connector. Uniquely, the Electron rocket uses battery powered fuel turbopumps.
Sep 17, 2020 6:39 AM # 
North of Henry Coe is Joseph D Grant County Park, site of many national and local events. As far as I've been able to determine, only the northern end of the North Joe Grant Park map was burned. This map has only been used a few times, notably for the 2004 Long Course Championships. I'm not sure even the Blue course made it into the area burned this year.
Sep 17, 2020 12:56 PM # 
I remember that corner of the map. Very thick, low growing manzanita on steep hillsides. Tough section for bushwacking.
Sep 18, 2020 1:53 AM # 
fuel mgmt vs climate change discussed in the context of Big Basin SP in this WAPO article.
Sep 18, 2020 9:07 AM # 
When there is a fire in a Florida state park, state forest or national forest we usually get a year to three of pretty good 'clean' orienteering until the brush grows back in or the grasses get long and matted. I remember orienteering in Queensland AU in a park where the best bit of running was through a tract where the ashes from a recent brush fire were still fresh on the ground.
Does California have any experience going back in orienteering in these burned forests? Have Texas orienteers been back to Bastrop SP since the fire there? What is it like?

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