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EDM Wednesday Briefing: Utah Sees Early Start to 2021 Wildfire Season

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Emergency and disaster management briefing for March 31, 2021: A Delta charter flight made an emergency landing after striking a flock of birds on takeoff; volcanic experts note the eruption of Fagradalsfjall may be historic if it changes its classification to a shield volcano; Utah sees an early start to the 2021 wildfire season with the East Myton Complex Fire; heavy rainfall events prompted TVA to begin spilling water from 18 of its 29 dams; San Diego is under a wind advisory that has increased wildfire threats; the early earthquake warning system, ShakeAlert, is set to roll out in Washington state on May 4; California is set to use its emergency fund to hire 1,400 seasonal firefighters; and the FDA announces a recall of Sabra Classic Hummus due to its potential contamination with salmonella.

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1. A Delta charter flight carrying the Utah Jazz basketball team made an emergency landing at Salt Lake City Airport (SLC) on Tuesday afternoon. The flight departed SLC around 1:15 p.m. and during takeoff, the aircraft, a Boeing 757-200, struck a flock of birds, which damaged the left engine and the nose cone. Pilots declared an emergency, shut down the left engine and safely returned to the airport approximately 15 minutes after takeoff.

2. The Fagradalsfjall volcano in Iceland continues to erupt, although it currently poses no threat to populated areas. Experts noted that depending on how long the eruption continues, it may birth into a shield volcano, the same as Mauna Loa. Currently, Fagradalsfjall is classified as a tuya, which is a flat-topped volcano with extremely steep slopes. This type of classification is reserved for volcanoes that erupt through thick ice sheets or glaciers that help to quickly cool the lava.

3. A large wildfire has already erupted in Myton, Utah, and prompted the evacuation of nearby homes. The wildfire began on Monday as two separate fires before merging into one blaze named the East Myton Complex Fire. The fire has already scorched at least 2,700 acres and was only 25% contained as of Tuesday. The blaze is believed to be human-caused, and reports show that 80% of the state’s wildfires in 2020 were started by humans.

4. Heavy rainfall across Tennessee and other nearby states has prompted dams to operate spillways to release water. Currently, 18 of the 29 dams operated by the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) are spilling water in an effort to reduce pool levels, which are currently at or above summer levels. The dams hold back water during heavy rain events to help prevent downstream flooding in areas along the Tennessee River and its tributaries.

5. Santa Ana winds are forecast to push hot, dry air into the San Diego area this week, increasing the threat for wildfires. Winds are set to increase Wednesday in the foothills and mountains of San Diego. The National Weather Service (NSW) has issued a wind advisory until 3 p.m. on Wednesday, with winds of 20-30 mph, gusts up to 55 mph, and low relative humidity of 5-10%.

6. Washington state is set to rollout the new ShakeAlert earthquake early warning system on May 4. They are the last West Coast state to roll out the early warning system operated by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) in conjunction with the Pacific Northwest Seismic Network. The system does not predict earthquakes, but detects them at their earliest stages, enabling the system to send out early alerts and save lives. The system may also be used by partner organizations to enact additional life-saving processes, including slowing trains to prevent derailment, stopping elevators at the closest floor, opening firehouse doors, and starting hospital generators.

7. As the 2021 wildfire season approaches, California is set to hire at least 1,400 seasonal firefighters. Monies to hire the firefighters are from the state’s emergency fund, and the additional manpower will cost more than $80 million. The use of the emergency fund allows the hiring to occur in enough time to ensure the firefighters are properly trained for the upcoming wildfire season.

8. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has announced a recall for Sabra Classic Hummus due to its potential contamination by salmonella. The recall includes approximately 2,100 cases of the product which was distributed to 16 states and has a “best before” date of April 26. The voluntary recall is limited to the 10-ounce Classic Hummus, which was manufactured on February 10 between 6 p.m. and midnight.


Kimberly Arsenault serves as an intern at the Cleveland/Bradley County Emergency Management Agency where she works on plan revisions and special projects. Previously, Kimberly spent 15 years in commercial and business aviation. Her positions included station manager at the former Midwest Express Airlines, as well as corporate flight attendant, inflight manager, and charter flight coordinator. Kimberly currently holds a master's degree in emergency and disaster management from American Public University.

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