USA–– UPDATE: The Sheridan County Sheriff’s Office has issued a mandatory evacuation for anyone living in the west and south area of the Metcalf Wildlife Area, which is 9 miles north of Hays Springs, because of a third fire in that area.
* * * UPDATE: Ronni Davis, 64, died Wednesday night during a fire evacuation process for the West Ash Creek Fire, according to the Dawes County Attorney’s Office.
Chadron dispatch received a call at 10:17 p.m. that a neighbor discovered Davis having difficulty breathing when they went to check on her during the evacuation. The Chadron ambulance and the Dawes County Sheriff responded to her home and attempted resuscitation and transported her to the Chadron Community Hospital. She was pronounced dead there.
A preliminary investigation indicates Davis likely died of natural causes from a cardio-pulmonary event.
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CHADRON, Neb. A pair of rapidly growing wildfires forced authorities to evacuate about 150 Dawes County residents, close Chadron State Park and cancel classes in Chadron Thursday.
Combined, the fires have burned an estimated 25,000 acres, said Beth Hermanson, fire information officer for the Rocky Mountain interagency incident management team. The team has been called in to relieve exhausted local firefighters.
We’re looking at zero percent containment right now, she said. We’ve got a lot of work to do.
The fires were estimated at only 1,300 acres as of Wednesday, but grew quickly as hot winds propelled flames through dry timber and grasslands.
Hot, windy weather forecast for Thursday is not expected to help control efforts, Hermanson said.
One fire, dubbed the West Ash fire, is burning an area south of Chadron, stretching from U.S. Highway 385 to West Ash Road. Most of the area lies within U.S. Forest Service land, but private lands also were affected, Hermanson said.
That fire forced the evacuation and closure of Chadron State Park Wednesday night, said Cyd Janssen, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Forest Service. The park remained closed Thursday.
The second fire, called the Douthit fire, was burning between Harrison and Crawford in timber, rough canyons and inaccessible areas. Janssen said it was threatening the main railroad line into Crawford but had not forced the line to shut down.
Both Chadron State College and Chadron Public Schools canceled Thursday and Friday classes because of uncertainty over the wildfires.
The campus is in no imminent danger, but when we’re dealing with something as uncertain as wildfires we want to be extremely cautious, said Dale Grant, the college’s vice president for administration and finance.
Chadron State freshman Yadira Gurrola was among the students who chose to leave campus Thursday morning.
Our RA (resident assistant) knocked on our door at 5:30 a.m. telling us classes were cancelled, and there was a pre-evacuation, Gurrola said.
The pre-evacuation was an effort to get as many students out of Chadron as possible so there would be fewer students to worry about in case there were to be mandatory evacuation, she said.
Gurrola said that before she left at about 9:30 a.m. Central time she and her roommate had opened the windows of their dorm room.
We can’t see part of the hills and it’s all smoky, she said. All the smoke made our eyes burn and it was kind of hard to breathe.
College officials said the campus would remain open and students living in the residence halls are not required to leave. But they encouraged students planning to go home for the Labor Day weekend to leave as soon as possible.
Gurrola said she couldn’t take her usual route on U.S. 385 to her hometown of Scottsbluff because of the fire.
Hermanson said the fire jumped U.S. 385 during the night. As of Thursday morning, the highway was reduced to one-lane traffic in a stretch south of Chadron.
Some county roads have been closed in the area of the Douthit fire, Janssen said.
She said about 150 residents from 102 rural homes were evacuated during the night. In addition, residents on the east side of the West Ash fire were notified about a potential evacuation.
No towns in the area were in danger as of Thursday morning, Hermanson said.
Both fires were started by lightning from a Tuesday afternoon thunderstorm and were burning on public and privately owned land.
One building near the Box Butte and Dawes County line, northeast of Hemingford, received minor damage. Siding melted after the fire reached within 30 feet of the house. Entire pastures and haystacks were lost in the fires. When the Fourmile Canyon Fire erupted west of Boulder in 2010, smoke from the wildfire poured into parts of the city including a site housing scientists from the University of Colorado Boulder’s Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Read more at: http://phys.org/news/2012-08-evidence-heat-trapping-effects-wildfire-particles.html#jCpWithin 24 hours, a few researchers at the David Skaggs Research Center had opened up a particle sampling port on the roof of the building and started pulling in smoky air for analysis by two custom instruments inside. They became the first scientists to directly measure and quantify some unique heat-trapping effects of wildfire smoke particles.
Read more at: http://phys.org/news/2012-08-evidence-heat-trapping-effects-wildfire-particles.html#jCpWhen the Fourmile Canyon Fire erupted west of Boulder in 2010, smoke from the wildfire poured into parts of the city including a site housing scientists from the University of Colorado Boulder’s Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Within 24 hours, a few researchers at the David Skaggs Research Center had opened up a particle sampling port on the roof of the building and started pulling in smoky air for analysis by two custom instruments inside. They became the first scientists to directly measure and quantify some unique heat-trapping effects of wildfire smoke particles. “For the first time we were able to measure these warming effects minute-by-minute as the fire progressed,” said CIRES scientist Dan Lack, lead author of the study published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The researchers also were able to record a phenomenon called the “lensing effect,” in which oils from the fire coat the soot particles and create a lens that focuses more light onto the particles. This can change the “radiative balance” in an area, sometimes leading to greater warming of the air and cooling of the surface. While scientists had previously predicted such an effect and demonstrated it in laboratory experiments, the Boulder researchers were one of the first to directly measure the effect during an actual wildfire. Lack and his colleagues found that lensing increased the warming effect of soot by 50 to 70 percent. “When the fire erupted on Labor Day, so many researchers came in to work to turn on instruments and start sampling that we practically had traffic jams on the road into the lab,” Lack said. “I think we all realized that although this was an unfortunate event, it might be the best opportunity to collect some unique data. It turned out to be the best dataset, perfectly suited to the new instrument we had developed.” The instrument called a spectrophotometer can capture exquisite detail about all particles in the air, including characteristics that might affect the smoke particles’ tendency to absorb sunlight and warm their surroundings. While researchers know that overall, wildfire smoke can cause this lensing effect, the details have been difficult to quantify, in part because of sparse observations of particles from real-world fires. Once the researchers began studying the data they collected during the fire, it became obvious that the soot from the wildfire was different in several key ways from soot produced by other sourcesdiesel engines, for example. “When vegetation burns, it is not as efficient as a diesel engine, and that means some of the burning vegetation ends up as oils,” Lack said. In the smoke plume, the oils coated the soot particles and that microscopic sheen acted like a magnifying glass, focusing more light onto the soot particles and magnifying the warming of the surrounding air. The researchers also discovered that the oils coating the soot were brown, and that dark coloration allowed further absorption of light, and therefore further warming the atmosphere around the smoke plume. The additional warming effects mean greater heating of the atmosphere enveloped in dark smoke from a wildfire, and understanding that heating effect is important for understanding climate change, Lack said. The extra heating also can affect cloud formation, air turbulence, winds and even rainfall. The discovery was made possible by state-of-the-art instruments developed by CIRES, NOAA and other scientists, Lack said. The instruments can capture fine-scale details about particles sent airborne by the fire, including their composition, shape, size, color and ability to absorb and reflect sunlight of various wavelengths. “With such well-directed measurements, we can look at the warming effects of soot, the magnifying coating and the brown oils and see a much clearer, yet still smoky picture of the effect of forest fires on climate,” Lack said. CIRES is a cooperative institute of CU-Boulder and NOAA.