CALFIRE’s Mike Mohler Indicates Paradigm Shift in the Wind for Wildland Fires in California Following Historical Disasters

January 29th, 2019

Mike MohlerIn this episode (# 57) we talk with Mike Mohler, Deputy Director of Communications for CALFIRE. In his current role, as well as his prior position as Battalion Chief at Southern Region, Mike has worked many of California’s biggest wildfire disasters, historical ones at that.  He talks about why there is no longer a “fire season” and how wildfires really are different from those just a few years ago. He discusses the challenges fire agencies have with the numerous factors contributing to year-round fires including fuels, drought, tree mortality, climate change and wildland-urban interface. He also addresses wildland management, the importance of Firewise communities, local government and community engagement, defensible space and thinking completely differently in order to mitigate future deadly mega-fires, and so much more.

As mentioned, Mike Mohler is currently the Deputy Director, Communications, California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. Mohler began his fire service career in 1991, as a reserve firefighter in Orange County, assigned to the heavy equipment and crew division. 

While working as a reserve, he attended the Santa Ana College fire science program and worked full time as a firefighter for Boeing’s Aeronautics and Missile Systems Division in Anaheim. Mike began his career with CAL FIRE in the San Bernardino Unit as a Firefighter I in June 2000. 

In May 2001, Mike promoted to Firefighter II in the Riverside Unit and in 2005, he promoted to Fire Apparatus Engineer. In 2010, Chief Mohler promoted to Fire Captain in the San Diego Unit.  In 2015, he promoted to Battalion Chief at Southern Region, where he worked for the next 3 years supervising the Southern Region information and communications programs. Mike was vital in continuing to build the Department’s nontraditional media exposure with projects such as Netflix’s Fire Chasers and Extreme Weather with National Geographic which has showcased our department worldwide.

Chief Mohler participates on several statewide cadres and working groups, including S-420, CIMCI and AAIMS.  He holds several qualifications, including Advanced All Hazard Incident Commander from the University of Texas A&M, and has been assigned to a CAL FIRE Incident Management Team for over 11 years. He currently holds a seat on FEMA’s advisory committee for response to large scale incidents. In addition to his Departmental assignments, Chief Mohler has also served as an Honor Guard member for over 17 years, honoring our fallen and supporting their families. Mike is currently enrolled in American Military University’s Emergency and Disaster Management program.

Links

FIRE SAFE COUNCIL

CALFIRE

Camp Fire on InciWeb

Thomas Fire on CalFire

Woolsey Fire on CalFire

Tubbs Fire on CalFire

 

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Podcast Episode 51: Yosemite National Park After the Ferguson Fire

October 1st, 2018

Yosemite National Park Rangers Scott Gediman and Jamie Richards

 

According to the national Park Service, Yosemite National Park was first protected in 1864 and is best known for its waterfalls, but within its nearly 1,200 square miles, you can find deep valleys, grand meadows, ancient giant sequoias and a vast wilderness area. Recently, Yosemite is also known for its wildfires, the Rim Fire in 2013 and the Ferguson Fire in July and August of 2018.

In this episode of All Hazards, Park Rangers Scott Gediman and Jamie Richards talk about how the Ferguson Fire impacted the park, challenged them as rangers and as public affairs officers, and how they fought perceptions that the entire park was closed when in fact it was open.

Links

Experience Yosemite National Park in Virtual Reality with President Obama

NPS YouTube: YosemiteNationalPark

Mr. President Goes to Yosemite

Cal OES News

 

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Captain Pace Stokes Takes the Helm on the Ghost Ship Fire

September 19th, 2017

Captain Pace Stokes, Alameda County Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Services, sat down with Shawn Boyd at the Alameda County Emergency Operations Center in Dublin, California. Their recording session took place on day-1 of Urban Shield. For this year’s exercise Capt. Stokes was the deputy incident commander, where he said this was the first year that CERT was actively involved in the exercise and that there was a competitive element to their training. Capt. Stokes also talks about what helps him manage a large-scale training exercise like Urban Shield (there were 63 sites across five counties involved,) and about the ghost ship warehouse fire that killed 36 people on December 2, 2016 in Oakland.

Links

Alameda County Sheriff

Alameda County OES

Urban Shield

Cal OES Video Blog on Urban Shield and CERT

 

 

 

 

 

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Lake Tahoe’s Angora Fire Commemorated with 10 Year Anniversary

June 27th, 2017

In this episode we travel to South Lake Tahoe to talk with Chief Tim Alameda of the Lake Valley Fire District. We caught up with him days before they commemorated the 10th anniversary of the Angora Fire.

According to an article in the Lake Tahoe News published September 13, 2016, "Alameda was a division chief and the fire marshal for North Tahoe Fire Protection District prior to joining the LVFD in 2016.

Alameda got his start as a firefighter reserve in Meyers in the 1980s. At that time is was a joint program between Lake Valley and South Lake Tahoe fire departments.

Starting in 1984 he spent 27 years with Reno Fire Department. He went from a rank and file firefighter to the chief.

In 2011, Alameda retired from Reno. North Tahoe recruited him to be a fire marshal. He took this job seriously – spending many a day walking around his jurisdiction, into businesses and talking to people. He was seeing where the hazards were, listened to concerns and helped educate people.

He rose to division chief and then took over Meeks Bay.

Those in the fire community call Alameda a true professional, forward thinker and good with personnel. Until the ink is dry, people were hesitant to go on the record about Alameda. The same goes for his current boss, Mike Schwartz.

Wildland fires are something Alameda is well aware of. He was president in 2015 of the Lake Tahoe Basin Fire Chief’s Association. The wildland urban interface is a constant issue for fire agencies when it comes to protecting the community from a blaze that starts in the forest.

While he didn’t lose a structure during the Angora Fire, a house he and his dad built on Boulder Mountain was destroyed.

Those 254 houses that burned in 2007 were part of that wildland urban interface.

As a kid, he spent many summer days fishing at Angora Lakes or hunting grouse in the area."

To read the entire article click here.

Links

Angora Fire Data

The Angora Fire 10 Years Later: What have we learned? Field Trip & Symposium

Angora Fire Lessons Learned

Angora Fire Restoration Project

 

 

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From WWII to the Northridge Earthquake: Retired LA Battalion Chief Remembers Moments of His Storied Career

September 20th, 2016


Retired Los Angeles City Fire Battalion Chief Larry Schneider's long and storied career began during World War II. He didn't retire until 2007, just shy of his 80th birthday; he says he could have performed his job well for another five years but felt it was time for him to settle down.

We met Mr. Schneider at his home in the hills of LA and spent a wonderful afternoon talking with him about everything from the early days of his career to the Northridge Earthquake.  Take some time to listen to his stories and then check out the links below for some really great photos from his past.


Click here for the story of how Larry Schneider's life was saved, and the great photos of the scene and his hero afterward.



Click here for historical photos of Schneider and his station.


Photo: Photos:Los Angeles Fire Department Historical Archive


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Saving Fire Stations, Lives and Guitars After the Northridge Earthquake: Fire Chief Jim Hone

August 9th, 2016

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In this episode retired Santa Monica fire chief Jim Hone reflects on the Northridge Earthquake and the challenges that kept hitting them, one after another. Whether it was the need to evacuate a major hospital, an incident command that had no power, major delays in mutual aid, or his own fire station that was on the verge of burning down, Hone and others kept their eye on the ball in order to stay in front of it. 

Hone joined the Santa Monica Fire Department in January of 1980, and served as chief beginning in 2003 until he retired in 2010.

Prior to serving as fire chief, Hone worked as a firefighter and paramedic, fire captain, chief of the Support Services Division and fire marshal. During his career he responded to six federal disasters to help locals and coordinate FEMA USAR resources including the 1995 bombing of the Federal Building in Oklahoma City and the World Trade Center attacks in New York City on September 11th, 2001.

Notable projects he worked on include the replacement Fire Station 2, and the development of the Urban Search and Rescue and Hazardous Materials Response Teams. Hone served six years in the U.S. Air Force as a fire protection crash rescue specialist before joining the SMFD.
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Overcoming Major Medical Challenges at Stadium Shelter for 2007 San Diego Fire Siege

July 12th, 2016

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More than 350,000 households were evacuated at the height of the siege, meaning the evacuation could have included more than 900,000 people. Qualcomm Stadium, home of the NFL’s San Diego Chargers, became the evacuation center for thousands of people. It was a brilliant move but not without its many challenges, including how to treat the many who suffered from health and medical problems.  

Dr. James Dunford was the chief medical doctor there, the medical incident commander if you will, and his job was to manage both patients and staff and the makeshift hospital established inside Qualcomm Stadium. In this podcast, he talks about how the tremendous community response aided in the overall success of patient treatment, including pharmacy cooperation, voluntary medical staff, and the success of ICS/HICS. 

Watch the interview here:

Links/Resources

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The Erskine Fire: Beyond the Lines

June 28th, 2016

ErskineFirePeople_1_.jpgAs of this publishing, crews continue to get a handle on the Erskine Fire in the Lake Isabella area of Kern County. 
But as they do there are still concerns and challenges facing them -- hot, dry and windy weather; difficult terrain; safety for everyone involved including the public; and much more. At this point the response phase of the attack is slowly gearing down, and the recovery phase is gearing up. 

Members of the Cal OES public information team were on the ground talking with leaders of the Kern County Fire Department, as well as Kern County Environmental Health about what they're seeing and what may lay ahead down that long road to recovery.  Chief Information Officer Brad Alexander hosts this edition of the All Hazards podcast.

LINKS

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Chargers’ Stadium Became Home to Thousands of Fire Evacuees

June 14th, 2016

Qualcomm.jpgIn late October 2007, Southern California experienced an unusually severe fire weather event characterized by intense, dry, gusty Santa Ana winds. This weather event drove a series of destructive wildfires that took a devastating toll on people, property, natural resources, and infrastructure. During this siege, 17 people lost their lives, 10 were killed by the fires outright, three were killed while evacuating, and 140 firefighters and an unknown number of civilians were injured. A total of 3,069 homes and other buildings were destroyed, and hundreds more were damaged. 

More than 350,000 households were evacuated at the height of the siege, meaning the evacuation could have included more than 900,000 people. Bob Kanaski was put in charge of the evacuation center at Qualcomm Stadium, home of the NFL’s San Diego Chargers. It was a brilliant move but not without its many challenges. Mr. Kanaski talks about those and how he and his team were able to meet them head-on and win.

Links/Resources

Take a look at the video version of this podcast here:

Read the complete Cal FIRE report on the 2007 California Fire Siege:
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Easter Quake Took Lives, Rattled Nerves, Challenged New Fire Chief

May 3rd, 2016

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At 3:40 in the afternoon on Easter Sunday, April 4, 2010, the Baja California earthquake struck, registering a 7.2 magnitude on the moment magnitude scale. It's epicenter was 16 miles south of Guadalupe Victoria, Baja California, Mexico. It's said to have lasted about a minute and a half. The strongest shaking was felt in the ejido of Alberto Oviedo Mota, in the municipality of Mexicali, Calexico, and Guadalupe Victoria. Most of the damage in this earthquake occurred in the twin cities of Mexicali and Calexico on the Mexico–United States border. Four people were killed and 100 people were injured.

Imperial County, California, immediately activated its emergency operations center while first responders rolled into action. Leading the charge was the relatively new fire chief Tony Rouhotas, Jr.; he was also the OES coordinator. Chief Rouhotas was suddenly facing the kind of situation he'd never dealt with before -- a large earthquake that damaged buildings and injured people both in his county as well as in his neighboring Mexicali. Despite being south of the border his agency had an international agreement with them to provide mutual aid. The challenges he faced and the decisions he had to make were immense but he stepped up to the plate and swung for the fences. What he learned during and after that disaster paid dividends for him, and it can for you too. Take a listen. 



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