More information, firefighter death on Panther fire

We offer our sympathies to the family and co-workers of Chief Daniel Packer of the East Pierce County Fire and Rescue of Lake Tapps, Washington.


Firefighter’s body recovered, identified


By Record Searchlight staff
Originally published 08:13 a.m., July 28, 2008
Updated 08:13 a.m., July 28, 2008

The remains of a firefighter who died battling the Panther Fire have been retrieved and the Washington man’s identity has been confirmed, a Siskiyou County Sheriff’s dispatcher said this morning.

Daniel Bruce Packer, 49, of Lake Tapps, Wash., died while working on the blaze about 15 miles south of Happy Camp in southwestern Siskiyou County. The U.S. Forest Service reported the death Saturday, but the fire’s intensity and limited visibility kept crews from recovering or positively identifying Packer’s body until Sunday, sheriff’s dispatcher Dennis Moser said today.

A Forest Service ground team lead by a Siskiyou County sheriff’s deputy was able to reach the site by 6 p.m. Sunday, sheriff’s spokeswoman Susan Gravenkamp said that evening. A ground team was expected to carry Packer’s body from the fire area to the nearest road, a job estimated to take three hours, she said Sunday.

An autopsy will be scheduled for early this week.

From King5:

Flags at fire stations throughout the state are flying at half staff after a prominent fire chief from Washington died Saturday while scouting a Northern California blaze, fire officials have confirmed.


Siskiyou County Sheriff’s Department spokeswoman Susan Gravenkamp said Sunday that investigators believed 49-year-old Daniel Packer of Lake Tapps, Wash., chief of East Pierce County Fire and Rescue in a 142-square-mile area with a population of 72,000 east of Tacoma, died over the weekend.

The identity was confirmed by Mike Brown, executive director of the Washington State Fire Chiefs, of which Packer was the immediate past president, and by Spokane, Wash., Assistant Fire Chief Brian Schaeffer, a colleague on the board of the state group.

Packer was working as a division supervisor on the 250-acre Panther Fire in the Siskiyou Mountains, part of the Siskiyou Complex of fires covering 54,000 acres, more than 8.4 square miles, according to a news release and death notice issued by Schaeffer.

“He was overrun by the fire when the wind shifted unexpectedly,” Schaeffer wrote.
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Another firefighter managed to flee on foot, Davida Carnahan, a spokeswoman for the Klamath National Forest, told the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. It was unclear whether the surviving firefighter was injured, but he declined medical attention, she said.

“We’ve pulled the crews off of that fire because of the impact it has had mentally and emotionally when they lose one of their own,” Carnahan said. “We have not been able to retrieve the remains, because the fire is too unstable to get in there.”

Klamath National Forest spokesman Duane Lyons said a U.S. Forest Service team would arrive Monday to investigate the cause of his death.

In his work with the chiefs association, Packer was especially involved in state emergency mobilization and incident management team planning, Schaeffer added.

“He was a veteran wildland firefighter,” McCallion said. “Dan took that experience and helped develop our own wildland firefighting team.”

Packer is survived by his wife, four daughters and two grandchildren.

HERE is a link to a video report from King5.


UPDATE @ 8:30 p.m. PT July 28:

HERE are a few more details, including the fact that he deployed his fire shelter.

UPDATE @ 7:55 p.m. PT July 29

HERE is another story, including information that a crew that had been in the same area the day before and had a close call, had decided they would not return the following day because they deemed it unsafe.

Telegraph fire update

UPDATE @ 5:40 p.m., PT July 28

HERE is a link to a map that is on the CalFire site. The colors on the map are confusing, in that they don’t match the legend. A CalFire update at 3:15 p.m. today doubled the number of residences that are threatened.

4,000 residences in the communities of Midpines, Briceburg, Mariposa, Greenley Hill, Coulterville, Bear Valley, and Mt. Bullion Camp

The CalFire site also has information about evacuations.

The map below is derived from satellite imagery, updated today. Click on it to see a larger version.


7:48 a.m. PT, July 28

The Telegraph fire, north of Mariposa and west of Yosemite National Park in California, is threatening 2,000 residences in the communities of Midpines, Briceburg, Mariposa, Greenley Hill, Coulterville, Bear Valley, and Mt. Bullion Camp.

The fire, about 8 miles west of one of the west entrances to Yosemite, El Portal, has destroyed 12 residences and 27 outbuildings. According to the 6:30 a.m. update this morning, it is 26,130 acres and is 10% contained.

The resources on the fire include:

  • 2,543 Personnel
  • 268 Fire Engines
  • 46 Hand Crews
  • 39 Dozers
  • 30 Watertenders
  • 12 Airtankers
  • 12 Helicopters

The map below shows heat, in red, orange, and black, detected by satellites last night, with the red areas being the most recently burned. The yellow lines are the latest perimeters uploaded by the incident management teams. Click on the map to see a larger version.

Telegraph fire, 8 miles west of Yosemite

Update@ 2:00 p.m. PT, July 27:

In a July 27 12:30 PM PT update, CalFire now says the fire is 18,150 acres and is 0% contained. The fire has destroyed 8 residences and 7 outbuildings. It is burning in the Merced River drainage, on both sides of the river, with a rapid rate of spread in multiple directions. There are accessibility problems due to steep and rocky terrain.

As of their 12:30 update, the fire had not spread a great deal over the previous 12 hours, however, as of 2:00 p.m., satellite photos show a large plume of smoke from the fire being pushed by a wind out of the south. This would indicate that additional acres are most likely being consumed on the north side of the fire, east and southeast of Coulterville. This corresponds with the thermal imagery in the map below.


A fire that started Friday afternoon in Mariposa County in California is now well over 16,000 acres and growing. CalFire reported that acreage figure Saturday night, but at the rate it is spreading, it is probably much larger now. CalFire said that 2,000 residences are threatened in the communities of Midpines, Mariposa, Greeley Hill, Coulterville, Bear Valley, and Mt. Bullion Camp.

The fire is about 8 miles west of El Portal, one of two entrances into the west side of Yosemite National Park. Electricity was turned off in a large area, including the park, to protect firefighters working near the lines.

There have been no recorded fires in the area for over 100 years, so the fuel loading is very heavy. CalFire is planning a large burnout ahead of the fire in an attempt to slow it down. A spokeswoman said the cause of the fire was “definitely target shooting,” but she would not elaborate.

Some excellent photos are at GoldRushCam.

HERE is a link to a web camera in Yosemite from Turtleback Dome looking west. Turtleback is about 12 miles southeast of El Portal. It is pretty hazy there, but there appears to be smoke in the distance. The site also provides air quality information and shows a large increase in particulate matter over the last 48 hours in the park.

The map below shows heat, in red, orange, and black, detected by satellites, with the red areas being the most recently burned. The yellow line is the latest perimeter uploaded by the incident management team. The green areas are national forest, and the purple is Yosemite National Park. Click on the map to see a larger version.

A third firefighter death in northern California

An unidentified firefighter died Saturday while working on the Panther fire south of Happy Camp on the Klamath National Forest in northern California. There has been no official release of the person’s name at this time.

This follows the death of Andrew Palmer, a National Park Service firefighter who died on Friday, struck by a falling tree, and Robert Roland, a volunteer with the Anderson Valley Fire Department who collapsed on the fireline due to a heart attack on July 3 and died a few hours later.

NPS firefighter killed in California

Andrew Palmer, a National Park Service firefighter, was killed Friday when he was struck by a falling tree while fighting a fire on the Shasta-Trinity National Forest in northern California. We extend our deepest sympathies to his family and co-workers.

A Port Angeles, Wash., firefighter was killed Friday afternoon fighting a fire in northern California. Andrew Palmer, 18, was an Olympic National Park Service firefighter assigned to the Iron Complex of fires on the Shasta-Trinity National Forest.


Mike Odle, of the Shasta-Trinity National Forest, said Palmer “suffered injuries from what sounds like an incident with a tree.” Investigators are looking into the circumstances surrounding Palmer’s death

.Palmer was transported by a U.S. Coast Guard helicopter to a hospital in Redding, Calif., to be treated for multiple injuries. He was pronounced dead while en route to the hospital 50 miles away, Odle said.”

Andy was a dedicated and energetic firefighter who loved his job. We are all very sad, and our thoughts are with his family and the rest of the firefighters on this fire,” said Olympic National Park superintendent Karen Gustin.

A fund will be established by the Wildland Firefighter Foundation in Andrew’s name. The foundation is online at and can be contacted by calling 877-336-2950.

A few more details are at the Seattle PI



Wildfire news, July 25, 2008

Stanislaus National Forest: 55 vacant fire positions

According to a story in the Union Democrat, the Stanislaus National Forest in California has 55 vacant permanent wildland fire positions. Here is an excerpt from the article:

The Stanislaus National Forest’s firefighting force has started this season short dozens of positions, even as they face a long fire season which has already strained resources statewide. The forest is down 55 permanent positions and several temporary spots, said Bob Shindelar, deputy fire chief for the Stanislaus National Forest.

It’s a shortage federal firefighting forces are facing statewide and nationally, and stems from problems with agency policy and its ability to retain firefighters, according to a firefighters advocacy group called the Federal Wildland Fire Service Association.

The Stanislaus is seeing the consequences locally, Shindelar said.

The Stanislaus should have 12 engines staffed seven days a week, he said. This year, the forest has 10 engines, only four of which are staffed the entire week. There are also two unstaffed water tenders, which should have firefighters on them full-time.


The Arctic may benefit from wildland fires (?)

There is a lot of information and many different opinions about global warming, it’s causes, and effects. Now there is a school of thought that smoke from massive wildland fires may protect or delay the ice in the Arctic from melting.

ScienceDaily (July 26, 2008) — The Arctic may get some temporary relief from global warming if the annual North American wildfire season intensifies, according to a new study by researchers at the University of Colorado and NOAA. 

Smoke transported to the Arctic from northern forest fires may cool the surface for several weeks to months at a time, according to the most detailed analysis yet of how smoke influences the Arctic climate relative to the amount of snow and ice cover.

“Smoke in the atmosphere temporarily reduces the amount of solar radiation reaching the surface. This transitory effect could partly offset some of the warming caused by the buildup of greenhouse gases and other pollutants,” said Robert Stone, an atmospheric scientist with the university and NOAA Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES) and lead author of the study, which recently appeared in the Journal of Geophysical Research.

The rest of the article is HERE.