Inventor of the Pulaski inspires musical

PulaskiBelow is an excerpt from an article in the Spokesman-Review:


“One of the best-known stories from the 1910 fire is the tale of “Big Ed” Pulaski, the firefighter who saved his crew by leading them to shelter in an old mine tunnel.

Now, there’s a musical about the unassuming Forest Service ranger from Idaho’s Silver Valley, who became a folk hero for his courage and quick-thinking. The work was commissioned by the Coeur d’Alene Summer Theatre for elementary and middle school audiences. “Living through the Fire” opens this month, with performances in schools from Wallace to Spokane.

Ironically, the show’s timing “had nothing to do with this year’s wildfires,” said Jadd Davis, the theater’s artistic director. “I’ve wanted to do a story about the Big Burn since last year. It’s an iconic piece of the Inland Northwest’s natural history, and there are a lot of interesting characters, including Edward Pulaski.”

“Living through the Fire” tells Pulaski’s story as narrated by his 10-year-old daughter, Elsie. The story starts when a fifth-grader is assigned to read Elsie’s diary for a school project, and flashes back to the summer of 1910, when wildfires burned 3 million acres across the Inland Northwest…”

President Obama’s remarks at Fallen Firefighters service

obama firefighters service

President Obama at the National Fallen Firefighters Memorial Service. Photo credit: NFFF.

On Sunday, October 4, President Obama spoke at the 34th National Fallen Firefighters Memorial Service in Emmitsburg, Maryland. The event honored the 84 firefighters who died in the line of duty in 2014 and three firefighters who died in previous years.

Below is the text of his remarks:


“Thank you.  Craig, thanks for that introduction, but more importantly, thank you for the outstanding work that you and your team do all across the country every single day.  For those of you who know Craig, you know that he is cool under pressure, no doubt because he got his start — started his career as a firefighter.  I want to thank Congressman Steny Hoyer, Fire Administrator Ernest Mitchell, Chief Dennis Compton, and everybody at the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation for bringing us together here today.  And most especially, I want to say how honored I am to be with the families of the fallen, and express the gratitude of the nation for the sacrifices that you and your families have made on behalf of others.

Scripture tells us, “As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.”  Employ it in serving one another.  Every single day, across our country, men and women leave their homes and their families so they might save the lives of people that they’ve never met.  They are good stewards — serving their neighbors, their communities, our nation with courage, and fortitude and strength.  We can never repay them fully for their sacrifices.

But today, we gather to honor 87 brave firefighters who gave their lives in service to us all.  Our prayers are with their families, many of whom honor us with their presence today.  You remember them as moms and dads, siblings and spouses, friends and neighbors.  Today, we remember them and salute them as the heroes that they were.

It’s hard to think of a more selfless profession than firefighting.  There’s a reason why firefighting occupies a special place in our imaginations; why little boys and increasingly little girls say, I want to be a fireman, I want to a firefighter.  They understand instinctually that there’s something special about it.  Imagine what it takes to put on that heavy coat, and that helmet, and override the natural human instinct for self-preservation, and run into danger as others are running away; to literally walk through fire knowing that you might never make it out because you’re trying to save people that are strangers.

And yet, the fallen that we honor today would probably have said that they were just ordinary Americans who were doing work they believed in, carrying on a tradition as old as America itself.  There’s a humility that seems to be part of being a firefighter.  From rural communities to inner cities, those we honor today lived a fundamental principle that binds us all as Americans — that I am my brother’s keeper, I am my sister’s keeper, that we look out for one another, that there’s something bigger than each of us individually that we have to be true to.

We honor men like Michael Garrett of West Virginia.  Mikey, as he was known, started out as a junior firefighter at the age of 16, became an EMT by 18, was on his way to graduating with an associate degree in emergency services.  His mom, Faith, says Mikey was always smiling, always a practical joker — if you turned around, your cell phone would be in the pool.  And he was always the guy you could call on in a pinch.  No matter how busy he was — between school and work and being an EMT instructor himself — he’d be there to help.

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Super moon eclipse photos

super moon eclipse

In case you missed the eclipse on September 27 of the “super moon”, here are a couple of photos Bill Gabbert took. The photo above is before it began, and the lower one is during the middle of the eclipse. The images have not been manipulated in any way, except for cropping.

super moon eclipse

Both photos were shot using a Canon T3i set for daylight white balance with a 400mm lens on a 1.4x tele-converter (35mm equivalent = 896mm). The second one was at f/8, 0.4 sec., ISO 6,400.

Report released for entrapment of firefighters on the Valley Fire

Valley fire entrapment site

Entrapment site of firefighters on the Valley Fire. Photo from the CAL FIRE report. (click to enlarge)

The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE) has released a report for an entrapment with injuries that occurred on the Valley Fire September 12, 2015. The fire burned 76,000 acres 62 miles north of San Francisco.

Four firefighters from a helitack crew that had arrived at the fire via helicopter were on the ground fighting the fire with hand tools when they were surrounded by the fire during initial attack operations and suffered serious burn injuries. Below is an excerpt from the report.


“…FC1 directed FF3, FF4 and FF5 to get into the goat pen, which was clear to bare mineral soil. While in the goat pen they observed the fire behavior changing. There was an increase in the wind speed, and an increased number of spot fires in the pine needle duff and leaf litter surrounding them. FF3 saw fire sheeting and swirling across the dirt driveway on the northwest side of the goat pen; several pines torched on the west side of the steel garage.

From the location of RES2, FF2 observed increased fire behavior advancing toward Helitack A’s location. FF2 communicated the increased fire behavior using the radio; FC1 acknowledged FF2’s observation.

At approximately 1402 hours, the brush covered slope to their east completely torched into a wall of flame. The wall of flame sent a significant wave of radiant heat through the goat pen and onto the firefighters. They could feel their faces burning from the radiant heat and all four firefighters ran to the fence, climbed over, and ran towards the steel garage. At the steel garage Helitack A started to deploy their fire shelters.

“May-Day” was transmitted from FC1 and was heard over the radio. From the location of a third residence (RES3), FC2 could hear FC1 say over the radio, “Four have deployed their shelters, near a barn on the right flank.” FF4 had difficulty opening the fire shelter case from the Chainsaw Pack; the clear plastic covering of the fire shelter was soft and melted. FF4 had to remove the gloves to tear the plastic away from the aluminum shell of the fire shelter. FF3 couldn’t get the fire shelter out of the case because the clear plastic cover was melted to the white plastic protective sleeve. FF3 looked up and saw FF4 at the north side (D) of the steel garage. FF3 dropped the fire shelter on the ground and ran to FF4’s location. FF3 and FF4 shared FF4’s fire shelter and stayed together in a crouched position. FC1 and FF5 deployed their fire shelters on the east side (A) of the steel garage. The heat in front of the steel garage was too intense so they moved to the north side (D) of the steel garage with FF3 and FF4 where the atmosphere seemed to be cooler.

Helitack A huddled together shielding the heat away from their already burned faces and hands; each of them could see the visible burns to one another’s faces and hands. FC1 continued to use the radio requesting bucket drops from C1 on their deployment location to cool the atmosphere. FF5 attempted to drink the water from the hydration pack but the water from the mouth piece was too hot to drink. While crouched in their fire shelters next to the steel garage, Helitack A suddenly heard explosions coming from inside the now burning structure. As a group, Helitack A moved a safe distance from the structure. Helitack A eventually crouched along the dirt driveway, separating the dirt garden and the goat pen.

From the driveways of RES3 and a fourth residence (RES4), FC2 directed C1 to make bucket drops into Helitack A’s location at the top of the ridge. C1 orbiting above and was unable to get near their location at the top of the ridge due to the thick column of smoke convecting straight up into the atmosphere…”



  • FC1 suffered second and third degree burns to the head, face, ears, neck, back, arms, hands, legs and feet and has had several surgeries. FC1 remains in critical condition and is under the continued care of UCD Burn Center.
  • FF4 suffered first and second degree burns to the face, head, ears, arms and hands and is under the continued care of UCD Medical Center.
  • FF5 suffered first and second degree burns to the face, head, ears, arms, foot and hands and is under the continued care of UCD Medical Center.
  • FF3 suffered first and second degree burns to the face, head, ears, arms and hands and is under the continued care of UCD Medical Center.”

The report lists 13 “Safety issues for review and lessons learned”. Here are the first five:

  • “Crews must utilize L.C.E.S [lookouts, communications, escape routes, safety zones] when engaged in firefighting operations.
  • ALL Ten Standard Fire Orders MUST be obeyed at ALL TIMES.
  • Personnel MUST wear ALL CAL FIRE APPROVED PPE when engaged in firefighting operation.
  • Modifying Personal Protective Equipment can alter the protective properties.
  • Practice and prepare for shelter deployment in adverse and extreme conditions.”

Thanks and a tip of the hat go out to John.

Judge rules local agencies need approval before cutting trees on federal land

A judge has ruled that a New Mexico state law authorizing counties to cut and remove trees from federal land without approval of the federal government is unconstitutional. In a September 30 ruling, Chief U.S. District Judge Christina Armijo wrote that the law passed in 2001 by the legislature and a resolution approved by the Otero County Board of County Commissioners in 2011 violated the supremacy clause of the U.S. constitution. Armijo ruled Congress, not the state or the county, has sole authority to control federal lands.

The 2001 law stipulated that if a county declared a “disaster” as a result of the federal government’s land management actions or inactions, the county “may take such actions as are necessary to clear and thin undergrowth and to remove or log fire-damaged trees within the area of the disaster.” The tree cutting could be done after “consulting with the state forester and the regional United States forester”, but the county would not be bound by the opinion of the U.S. Forest Service.

Otero County did in fact declare a “disaster” in 2011 and developed a plan to cut and remove trees on 69,000 acres (108 square miles) of land on the Lincoln National Forest east of Alamogordo, New Mexico. They publicly announced their intentions and the U.S. Forest Service stated their opposition.

A confrontation appeared likely between federal employees and the county’s contractors attempting to cut trees on National Forest land. The possibility arose of conflicts between armed federal law enforcement officers and the county sheriff.

The Supervisor of the Lincoln National Forest, Robert Trujillo, was told by a Deputy Sheriff that Otero County Sheriff Benny House did not recognize Forest Service authority or jurisdiction, and that Sheriff House stated that he would arrest Forest Service law enforcement officers on kidnapping charges if they arrested anyone implementing Otero County’s project.

Now that the state law and the county resolution have been determined to violate federal law and the U.S. constitution, the conflict could be over. Unless — Otero County decides to cut the trees in spite of the Judge’s ruling, or they appeal the decision.