CAL FIRE engine rolls over — three firefighters injured

CAL FIRE engine rollover

The CAL FIRE engine that rolled over August 13, 2015 near Browns Valley, CA. Photos credit: CAL FIRE.

The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE) has released a “Green Sheet”, a preliminary report on the rollover of one of their fire engines that occurred August 13, 2015 near Browns Valley, California about 50 miles north of Sacramento (map).

The accident involved two pieces of firefighting apparatus from CAL FIRE, but only the engine was damaged. Three firefighters received minor injuries.

The engine and a dozer transport truck were dispatched to the same fire. The dozer transport stopped on Marysville Road before turning left onto Bayberry Lane. With its turn signal on, it began to turn left but stopped again as the driver saw the engine approaching and attempting to pass. The driver of the engine swerved to avoid a collision and went off the shoulder of the road at approximately 45 to 50 mph. The engine then slid along the gravel shoulder for about 100 feet before rolling over and coming to rest 197 feet from where it left the pavement.

CAL FIRE engine rolloverOn September 5, 2015 near Napa another CAL FIRE engine rolled over, injuring two firefighters.

Related articles on Wildfire Today:

Our commentary about the frequency of fire engine rollovers.
Articles tagged Rollover.

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

Preliminary data indicates there have been 18 megafires this year

Okanogan Complex of fires

Structure protection on the Okanogan Complex of fires, August 21, 2015. InciWeb photo.

The National Interagency Fire Center has officially adopted the definition of a megafire (that we have been using for years) as a fire that burned at least 100,000 acres. Their preliminary data for 2015 shows 18 megafires —  so far. This includes complexes (counted as 1) and individual fires. According to NIFC this ties the record that was set in 2006, for most megafires in one fire season.

However their data for 2006 is different from the information we received from the U.S. Forest Service last May:

Fires larger than 100,000 acres (megafires)
2005 – 10
2006 – 15
2007 – 13
2008 – 5
2009 – 12
2010 – 3
2011 – 14
2012 – 14
2013 – 8
2014 – 4

100000+ acre fires megafire

This graphic is unusual, in that the megafires are in groups of three years. If you click on the image to see a larger version, you’ll see the three-year groups across the bottom.

While the number of megafires has increased since 1983, the number of wildland firefighters working for the five federal land management agencies has decreased by 17.5 percent in the last four years according to testimony by USFS Chief Thomas Tidwell before the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources in 2011 and 2015:

Federal wildland firefighters
2011 – 16,000
2015 – 13,200

Scientist discovers method for reducing cheatgrass

Ann Kennedy

Ann Kennedy, a soil scientist with the Agricultural Research Service. ARS photo.

A soil scientist working for the Agriculture Research Service has discovered a naturally occurring bacteria that could kill cheatgrass, or at least reduce the amount of the non-native species.

Cheatgrass out-competes native grasses by establishing a deep root system that grows early in the summer robbing the moisture that is needed by other species. It then dies in a thick mass that becomes fuel for large, intense wildfires. The invasion of cheatgrass over large swaths of the West is one of the reasons we have more large fires.

Below is an excerpt from an article in the New York Times about the work being done by Ann Kennedy of the Agricultural Research Service.


“…Dr. Kennedy’s hunt for a cheatgrass killer has been nearly 30 years in the making. In 1986, she was investigating yellowed wheat in the Palouse country of eastern Washington State when she found some bacteria that appeared to inhibit the number of shoots that the wheat sent skyward, but not the wheat plant’s overall yield; the plant just made bigger kernels. Dr. Kennedy wondered if a bacterium could be used to frustrate weeds instead.

With help from undergraduates at Washington State University, where she is an adjunct professor, Dr. Kennedy tested 25,000 bacteria she took from nearby farm fields. Her goal was to find ones that satisfied a wish list of ideal attributes such as hindering cheatgrass while not affecting wheat. She likened the search to picky online dating.

The researcher finally settled on two strains of Pseudomonas fluorescens, a huge species of bacteria that is present throughout the natural world. Most of its strains perform beneficial functions in the environment.

In long-term field trials around the inland Pacific Northwest, including Hanford Reach National Monument in Washington State, Dr. Kennedy’s bacteria reduced the amount of cheatgrass in test plots by about half within three years of a single application.

“We get it down to near zero weeds within about five or six years,” Dr. Kennedy said, as other plants recover and grow more competitive. The bacteria also dispatch two other invasive plants, medusahead and jointed goatgrass. The latest findings will be published within the next year, she said…”

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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