West Mims Fire Evening Summary May 8, 2017
Incident: West Mims Fire Wildfire
Current Fire Situation: The fire crossed over Hwy 94 late last night just east of Blitch Road. The initial breach was narrow. With daylight, the heat from yesterday’s activity created the perfect launching pad for early fire advances ahead of northwest winds. By late this afternoon, the fire had consumed an additional 7,000 acres. The estimated contour of the fire along and south of Hwy 94 is a bulge about 5 ½ miles long and 2 to 2 ½ miles deep. At times, the fire was moving with two heads causing some observers to think there were two different fires. It burned with such intensity that it produced 100 to 150 foot flame lengths and crossed the railroad tracks, but will not likely hold on that perimeter. Eight heavy helicopters were dropping water today. Four heavy air tankers were applying retardant on the land ahead of the fire. The vegetation ahead of the fire is so dense that it is only accessible to firefighters on the ground with dozers. Currently, alternate strategies are to make a stand along Road 8 or Road 10 and to look for opportunities to go direct on the flank of the fire . Structure protection efforts in and around St. George are proceeding, and the fire is not moving in that direction at this time. Areas on the east, north and west sides of the fire are holding, with crews doing mop-up and dealing with reburn of pine needles that fall from trees that have not been totally consumed.
Today Charlton County expanded their evacuation to include the entire southern half of the county.
Weather & Expected Fire Behavior: By 9:00pm, a sea breeze from the east will arrive in the fire area. The fire is likely to burn actively late into the night. Green vegetation will still be susceptible to burning, and the fire will likely get another early start tomorrow. Tuesday will be hot and dry again with the sea breezes, though light, creating unpredictable winds. Fuel moistures will drop to as low as 2% allowing for explosive fire growth. The fire is expected to create columns tomorrow that could top out over 25,000 feet. The fire will be fuel-driven and plume-dominated, meaning that when tall columns develop, they could abruptly collapse, sending downburst winds in all directions. Two columns could also develop at the same time. All this extreme fire behavior will create very dangerous conditions for firefighters.
Planned Actions: The objective for tomorrow is to get anchor points established from which firefighters can attack the advancing fire. Firefighters will be working with Charlton County emergency services personnel to facilitate structure protection for areas ahead of or flanking the fire. Eight heavy helicopters and four heavy air tankers will be working tomorrow to support firefighting efforts on the ground. There is an order pending for a Very Large Air Tanker (VLAT), a DC-10 fitted with a retardant delivery system. If the order is filled the VLAT will fly here from Phoenix with a stop in Chattanooga to fuel up and load retardant. Chattanooga is the closest airport that can handle the needs of a plane of this size.
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