Butte County wildfire gives clues about fire, weather behavior

Bay Area

The still-raging Camp Fire in Butte County is giving up some valuable clues about fire weather and fire behavior.

This wildfire proved to be yet another rewarding mission for San Jose State University’s Fire Weather Lab.

Arriving back on campus on Friday, San Jose State’s Fire Weather Lab crew spent the last 24 hours on the front lines of the Camp Fire.

Its leader is meteorology professor Craig Clements.

“This deployment for us was about understanding how strong wind events in the Sierra Nevada can cause large fires,” San Jose State Associate Professor Craig Clements said.

Clements and students Jackson Yip and Matthew Brewer captured and posted video and still images of the fire.

They used Doppler radar to measure wind velocities and other fire behavior.

“We were able to measure some really unique wind profiles and see how the wind changed to vertical and with the onset of the northeast winds that come off the Sierra that have a very low-level jet that’s really strong, 40 miles an hour just above the surface,” Clements said.

The crew shared several shots of the huge smoke plumes, noting the unusually high rate of spread downwind, destroying everything in its path.

“That area is a complex area of terrain and vegetation,” Clements said. “You have lots of grass fuels and shrubs and gray pines that kind of explode. We saw flame lengths of over 100 feet right next to the road.”

The data collected can help firefighters better understand fire weather behavior and help develop strategies to fight wildfires.



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