Reno helicopter disabled

In February the Washoe County sheriff’s office (Reno, NV area) unveiled a helicopter they had just finished outfitting for firefighting. Now due to a rotor strike it will be out of service for much of the fire season.

Initially reported as a main rotor “bird strike”, it turns out that the rotor struck the ground when taking off during training on April 3. The helicopter will need to have a full overhaul of the drive train at a cost of approximately $143,000. If they can find parts.

I’m not sure how you would mistake a main rotor striking the ground for a “bird strike”. Somebody has some explaining to do.

File photo of the helicopter in it’s better days, courtesy of RGJ.com.

Fire roundup

Santa Anita Fire, Sierra Madre, California
This fire appears to mostly wrapped up. All evacuated areas, including the Chantry Flats area, have been re-opened without restrictions. They are calling it 93% contained.

Apache Fire, San Bernardino NF, California
This 700 acre fire in the San Jacinto Wilderness is visible from many areas, including Palm Springs. Aviation operations yesterday were hampered by very strong winds and a low ceiling caused by a marine layer. Some crews are hiking 10 miles to get to the fire, which is 5% contained. It is burning around patches of snow and has started to back down the massive slope thousands of feet above Palm Springs.

X Fire, Kaibab NF, Arizona
The winds yesterday were much weaker than the 40 MPH gusts predicted and the firefighters have stopped the spread for now at 2,030 acres. They canceled the incoming Type 2 Incident management team.

Trigo Fire, Cibola NF, 25 miles southeast of Albuquerque, New Mexico
This 2-week old fire came to life again yesterday and pushed by 30 MPH winds with gusts up to 50 MPH, grew substantially, causing more evacuations. Today’s weather should be similar, with winds of 34 and gusts to 48; the relative humidity will be 9%. .

Previously the fire was 4,800 acres, but it more than doubled in size yesterday with the current acreage at 11,368. The map below shows that the fire has now burned outside the national forest. Evacuations are taking place in in the Torreon and Tajique areas, affecting 400-500 residents.

The New Mexico Incident Management Team was released on April 29, and a Type 3 IMT (Gesser) assumed command at 0600. Yesterday they ordered a Type 1 IMT.

The map below, updated last night, shows in red the heat detected by satellites within the last 24 hours. The yellow area is the fire perimeter as reported today on GEOMAC. Click on it to see a larger version.

The map below shows the fire perimeter as reported today on GEOMAC.

Minn.: Firefighter dies on the way to a grass fire

 

PINE CITY, Minn. — Pine City firefighter Jeremy Jylka, 34, died Tuesday afternoon en route to a grass fire.

According to the Pine City Sheriff’s Office, Jylka collapsed while riding in the fire truck on the way to a fire between Hinckley and Pine City. Jylka stopped breathing and another firefighter started to perform CPR.

Jylka, 34, was pronounced dead at Kanabec Hospital. He joined the fire department in 2007 and is survived by his wife, Kelly and their 4-year-old daughter, Anica.

 

From MyFox Twin Cities

 

 

Fires in CA and AZ

Santa Anita fire near Sierra Madre, California:
It is now 584 acres and is 88% contained. All of the mandatory evacuation orders have been lifted. Here is an interesting quote from the Sierra Madre mayor:

“Early this morning the flames had raced to within a couple feet of our homes in the canyon and those brave firefighters … formed a perimeter with their bodies and their fire engines. It was a barricade of steel and water and human flesh and blood and they stopped the fire dead in its tracks.”

Just to be clear, there has been very little, if any, blood shed on the fire. They are reporting four minor injuries.

 

X fire:
This fire is just south of Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona. It started at noon yesterday, Tuesday, and quickly grew to 2,000 acres. The name of the fire came from the nearby Ten-X campground. The name alone makes this fire interesting.

Local media is reporting that it started from a campfire and that two individuals are being questioned. There is a red flag warning today for winds at 15-20 with gusts up to 40, and an 8% relative humidity. These southwest winds could push the fire into the national park. Reinarz’s Type 2 Incident Management Team should arrive today.

Click on the map of the X fire below to see a larger version. The map shows heat detected last night (the red and orange areas) by satellites. The green area on the map is the Kaibab National Forest, and the gray area north of the fire is Grand Canyon National Park.

Ellreese Daniels pleads guilty to two misdemeanors

At the federal district court today in Spokane, Washington, Ellreese Daniels plead guilty to two misdemeanor charges of making false statements to investigators. The federal prosecutors dropped the four federal felony charges of involuntary manslaughter related to the deaths of the four firefighters on the Thirtymile fire near Winthrop, Washington in 2001.

In addition to the four involuntary manslaughter charges, Daniels had been charged with seven counts of making false statements to investigators, a federal misdemeanor.

Daniels could have faced as much as six years in prison for each of the four manslaughter charges. Now he faces up to a year in prison and a $100,000 fine for each of the two remaining misdemeanors, although the standard range is much less.

Sentencing was set for July 23 August 18. Yesterday in an email, Daniels’ attorney, Tina Hunt, said she expected there to be a “contested sentencing hearing”.

I have mixed feelings about the plea agreement. The procedure today means that Daniels will not have to serve lengthy jail time for the felony charges, he will not have a felony conviction on his record, he probably will not lose his job with the US Forest Service, and he will not lose his retirement.

His attorney said that the defense had a strong case. This is also indicated by the fact that the federal prosecutors dropped all of the felony charges and five of the seven misdemeanor charges in return for the guilty pleas on the two misdemeanors.

If I had been in Daniels’ shoes, I may have done the same thing. I can’t imagine what it must have felt like to be facing those four felony charges, serious prison time, and the loss of the job and his retirement.

Looking at the larger picture, and from a selfish perspective, this is a mixed blessing for the fire community. It would have been better for firefighters if all of the charges had been dropped, or if they had been thrown out or defeated in court.

But perhaps the next over-zealous prosecutor seeking to to beef up their resume will be less inclined to throw around ridiculous felony charges when someone makes an honest mistake on a fire.

The International Association of Wildland Fire documented with their survey the fact that many firefighters were very concerned about the harmful effects these charges would have on the fire community. In the survey, 36% said they would make themselves less available for fire assignments because of the charges that were filed against Daniels.

Making an honest mistake on a fire should not have the potential to ruin your life and the life of your family.

Photo of Ellreese Daniels courtesy of the Spokesman-Review