Jeff Warner PHOTOGRAPHIC, Golden, Colorado, USA

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Indian Gulch Wildfire, Day 4

Pretty quiet here on the east side of the fire, but about 2:00 they had the fire make a run at the SW corner of the fire area. They hit it with 3 different aircraft, and were able to slow it down by evening. The east side of the fire is all but out, including the hotspot near Golden Gate Canyon from last night (left glow in last night's images). Less and less to shoot, fortunately. Looks like we dodged a bullet with this fire, as long as they keep progressing with containment.

***Many thanks to all the fire, police, and emergency crews of all sorts who remain vigilant to protect all of us.***

Here's a few from today, likely my last post on the subject.

From the first set of switchbacks on Lookout at 1:50 pm.

Note how the burnt area from Sunday/Monday (top of hill) only looks slightly darker than the fresh fuel below. 

From Colorow Rd., note the Mtn. Ridge subdivision at right of image (greyish patch).

Hillside behind the helicopter was slurry-bombed (reddish patch, behind helicopter) earlier in the day to try to prevent the fire from running down to Hwy. 6 below, which is below this view.

Ah, tranquility up near Ralston Reservoir..., wait; except for the rather large helicopters flying over! This aircraft (Sikorsky S-61, I rode in one as a kid over the SF Bay) hovers over lakes and snorks water out at a very high rate.

I think that's all, folks!

Indian Gulch Fire, Night 3

Well, on the one hand, (luckily for me) the 39 degree temperature and 40+ mph gusts down here in town kept me from hiking to the top of any mountains tonight. On the other hand, the 40+ mph gusts that were supposed to quit 30 minutes ago haven't yet let up. At all. I drove up Lookout to see if there were any visible hotspots (nothing significant), and the east flank of Galbraith (where all the smoke is coming from) is fairly dark from this angle. I moved to Pine Ridge Rd. (on the north side) and found a couple of hotspots, the lower of which is what the helicopter was apparently working on earlier in the day. The distressing part is that it is only 1/3 mile from the end of Mesa View Way, but it is currently confined to the west side of the ridge and doesn't appear to be moving too fast. Although it was fortunately a slow day for pictures, if you want to see the entire set, check out the Indian Gulch Wildfire Day 3 slideshow on the main website.

The SuperHuey was back for Day 3, and they also had an A-Star AS350-B3 (my baby!) and two SEAT aircraft.

Checking RH (relative humidity) at the top of Mesa View Way.

Despite the choking acrid smoke, the kids still wanted to shoot hoops. It smells around here!

Looking south from Pine Ridge Rd., the left hotspot is about 1/3 mile from the top of Mesa View Way in Mountain Ridge.

I know it's hard to see, but at center left in the sky is a meteorite. Luckily I saw it occur, otherwise I probably never would have noticed looking at the file. Click on the image for an 800-pixel file, it might be easier to see.

Ample traffic continues on Lookout Mtn. Road, in the background.

One of the bigger flareups I saw tonight; this active zone is in a dense spot of trees below a ridgeline I flew over many times en route to saying 'hi' to the neighborhood.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Indian Gulch Fire, Night 2

This afternoon at about 3 pm, the winds reached their peak for the day, and the smoke got very thick here in the Mtn. Ridge subdivision. Tate was home sick, so I was a captive audience until Heidi got home. I got to the top of North Table Mountain at about 10:20 pm, and the active part of the fire appears to be ~2 miles northwest. Winds were absolutely howling up there, and I frequently had to stabilize the tripod to prevent it from blowing over. There are still some hotspots on the ridgeline above the subdivision, but things look pretty good at the moment. Winds are forecast from the northwest tomorrow, so we'll have to continue to cross fingers and toes that it doesn't work it's way back. If you want to see more images from today, please see the Indian Gulch Wildfire Day 1 slideshow on my website.

About 2:30 pm, before the smoke engulfed the neighborhood.

Mtn. Ridge subdivision on the left; note the burnt summit of Mt. Galbraith, with numerous hotspots (probably tree stumps burning). Note the satellite above Mt. Galbraith.

Some of you who hike or mtn. bike North Table might recognize this rather unique 'feature'. The arc of light is an emergency vehicle traveling up Golden Gate Canyon Rd., and note Orion and the Pleaiades.

Several flareups in Golden Gate Canyon (top of Mesa View Way at left of image).

The North Table Abyss. Kind of freaky in the dark! OK, maybe not 'kind of' freaky, REALLY freaky!

Highway 93, Mesa Meadows, with the north part of Mtn. Ridge at left center of image.

Mesa View Way and White Ash Drive.

North Golden.

Looking north along the west edge of North Table.

Large flareup in Golden Gate Canyon. The line is an emergency vehicle heading toward the house (lights) just above, a property I've flown over countless times in the past en route to Central City.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Indian Gulch Wildfire at Night

Wanting to get a better feel for where the fire actually was, after dark I headed up Lookout Mountain to see what I could see. As of midnight, the fire hasn't crested the ridge to the east flank of Mt. Galbraith, but is burning pretty vigorously to the west of the summit of Galbraith. After shooting some pics on the switchbacks, I headed up to Windy Saddle and hiked to the top of Mt. Zion, where a Highlands Rescue fire crew was stationed to observe the fire overnight. We saw numerous trees go up in spectacular fashion, and in the hour+ that I was up there, they said the RH (relative humidity) had dropped 8% (to 20%). They didn't seem to concerned about the fire heading down toward our subdivision, but tomorrow's winds will prove a challenge to get this fire in any way contained. I left the top of Zion at midnight. If you are interested in seeing more images from today, please see the Indian Gulch Wildfire Day 1 slideshow on my main website.

Never seen so much traffic on Lookout at night! This was at about 9:15 pm.

Closeup of the active zone.

My first camera setup area, I kept stepping on something, and finally turned on my headlamp to look down and see what the heck it was. Hopefully the mountain lion is satiated and long gone!

From the top of Mt. Zion (above the "M") at 9:40 pm, a high overcast still obscuring the moon, which was behind me. Our Mtn. Ridge subdivision is at the right edge of the image (behind the silhouetted tree).

A tree flares spectacularly.

Highland Wildland Fire crew, hunkered down for the night.

One of the crew checks the weather forecast on his smartphone. What did we do without them?

Finally the moon appeared to shed some light on the hills below. 11:40 pm, time for me to go...

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Indian Gulch Wildfire Heli Ops

After spending the weekend up in the mountains for Reade's 12th Birthday ski party, we came home to find a wildfire burning the hillside adjacent to our subdivision. When I quit taking pics at about 6:30, the fireline was perhaps 3/4 mile away, and the winds shifted so the smoke was now in the air. A Bell 212 was working the fire from a pond a few hundred yards behind the subdivision; a few images are below. If want to see more helicopter images, you can find them in the Indian Gulch Wildfire Day 1 slideshow at

275 gallon Bambi Bucket, 2200 pounds of cool breeze.

Pilot sits on the left in this SuperHuey, a bit unusual for helicopters, but not so much for longlining.

Mt. Zion in the background.