ROLLA – A new wildfire was burning on Mark Twain National Forest lands near Centerville last Thursday. The Low Gap Fire, estimated at 50 acres, was reported July 4.
The wildfire was burning in heavy fuels created by a 2009 windstorm event. The heavy mass of dead timber left by the wind event creates problems in establishing containment lines. It is not safe for firefighters to work directly with the fire.
Firefighters spent July 4 building containment lines. No structures were immediately threatened.
The fire was being managed by USDA Forest Service’s Eastern Areas Type 2 Incident Management Team, which covers a 20-state area from Missouri to Maine. The management team, under the command of Paul Kollmeyer, assumed management response-bility for the wildfire at 6 a.m. July 5. The team will ensure that firefighting resources are managed effectively, and timely and accurate information and intelligence is provided to the public and cooperators.
The wildfire is well-established in timber blown down by the 2009 “derecho” wind event. A derecho is a widespread and long-lived, violent straight-line windstorm that is associated with a fast-moving band of severe thunder-storms. Such windstorms carry almost hurricane force winds, and can cause significant damage in their path. This derecho knocked down more than 100,000 acres in its path.
Fighting large wildfires safely and effectively in blown down timber requires a different tactical approach. The heavy fuel load created by the Derecho does not allow for traditional equipment, such as small dozers, to work in this fuel type. Firefighters must find – or build – paths through the blown down timber. This path is used as a fireline, from which firefighters will burn out the fuel and create a black line around the wildfire.
On Thursday, there were more than 100 personnel assigned to the incident. Additional resources were ordered and began arriving July 5. They include one hand crew, four engines, one helicopter, and 25 overhead personnel. Two of the engines and a water tender are from the Lesterville Volunteer Fire Department.
North Reynolds County Ambulance Service is providing medical support. Reynolds County Sheriff’s office and Reynolds County Emergency Management are also assisting the incident management team in developing a long term strategy for suppressing the fire.
Missouri and surrounding states continue to experience severe drought. The weather for the next several days is expected to be much of the same; hot and dry with little or no chance of precipitation.
The drought has created extreme fire conditions on the forest and across Missouri. Over the next few weeks the probability of starting a fire is extremely high. The public is strongly advised to honor all burn bans during this fire danger period.
For more information, contact Public Information Officers Bill Paxton (573) 429-5193 or Susan Zorneck Stevens (573) 747-5795 or email [email protected]
For further information on Mark Twain National Forest, visit the forest’s website at: http://www. fs.usda.gov/mtnf