Emergency and disaster management briefing for April 7, 2021: NIOSH issued a safety advisory on fading odorants in natural gas and propane; Utah’s governor declared a state of emergency for drought conditions amid an early start to the wildfire season; helicopters rescued crew members from the sea after receiving a distress call from a Dutch ship; Sonoma County has filed criminal charges against PG&E for the 2019 wildfire; Wisconsin declared a state of emergency amid multiple wildfires; hikers were evacuated in Iceland after another fissure began spewing lava from the Fagradaljsfall volcano; the NPS noted that a wildfire has shut the North Unit of the Theodore Roosevelt National Park; and an Antarctica resupply ship with 109 people on board caught fire just days after it began its return journey to Australia.
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- A safety advisory has been issued by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) for fire departments regarding fading odorants in natural gas and propane. The NIOSH advisory was issued after an incident in 2019 and following an investigation that found faded odorants did not alert firefighters to the presence of a propane leak. The firefighters entered the building, unaware of the leak, which ignited and caused an explosion that killed one firefighter and hospitalized six others.
- The Governor of Utah declared a state of emergency citing moderate drought conditions statewide, with 90% of the state being under extreme drought conditions. Officials are asking residents to follow precautions to help prevent wildfires, including following local and state laws with regard to target practice. So far, all of Utah’s 13 wildfires in 2021 have been human-caused, and fire officials are pursuing charges for individuals involved in activities that sparked the fires.
- A distress call from the Dutch cargo ship, Eemslift Hendrika, led to the evacuation of its crew by helicopter off the coast of Norway. All 12 crew members were rescued when they jumped into the sea on Tuesday after the ship lost power in its main engine Monday night. Maritime authorities are working to stabilize the ship and prevent it from crashing into shore amid heavy seas — including 49-foot waves — and strong winds.
- Sonoma County charged Pacific Gas & Electric for the wildfire in 2019 that injured six firefighters. A total of 33 charges were filed by the county’s district attorney for the Kincade Fire, which scorched a total of 120 square miles (76,800 acres) and destroyed a total of 374 structures. The company acknowledged that transmission lines ignited the blaze, but deny that they committed any crimes in relation to the wildfire.
- Wisconsin has battled more than 320 wildfires so far in 2021, prompting the governor to declare a state of emergency. The declaration directs state agencies to lead wildfire efforts, including prevention, response, and recovery, and deployed the National Guard to assist in fighting wildfires. The state’s wildfire season lasts until May, and to date, the wildfires have scorched a total of at least 1,400 acres.
- A new fissure opened in the Fagradljsfall volcano in Iceland, prompting the evacuation of hundreds of hikers. Lava spewed from the new fissure, and experts believe the eruption may be moving north. There was no immediate danger to inhabited areas from the new fissure eruption, and officials said it did not affect the nearby Keflavik Airport.
- The Horse Pasture Fire has now consumed at least 5,000 acres in the Theodore Roosevelt National Forest, after it grew amid extremely high winds and dangerously dry conditions in the area. According to the National Park Service (NPS), the fire has shut down the park’s North Unit and threatens some homes and park structures, including CCC campgrounds and other park infrastructure. Firefighters achieved about 45% containment of the wildfire once winds died down on Monday night into Tuesday.
- An Antarctica resupply vessel caught fire just days after it began its return journey to Australia.The ship, the MPV Everest — an ice class multi-purpose construction vessel — had just completed its drop of a year’s worth of supplies to Antarctica research facilities when the port-side engine room erupted in fire. There were a total of 109 people on board, the majority of whom were researchers returning from year-long or more expeditions, but no one was injured. The ship had already encountered difficulties due to thick sea ice surrounding Antarctica. The helicopter had to fly 75 miles each way and airlift the 8,500 pounds of supplies to the research facilities.