California: firefighter dies in Mendocino County

From the MercuryNews.com:

UKIAH, Calif.—A volunteer firefighter has died after collapsing while battling a blaze in Mendocino County.

The Anderson Valley Fire Department says 63-year-old Robert Roland died at the Ukiah Valley Medical Center on Thursday morning.

The cause of death has not yet been determined, but department volunteer Dawn Ballantine says Roland’s death was likely heart-related.

Ballantine says the all-volunteer squad of 41 firefighters is battling a 550-acre blaze, one of hundreds started by recent lightning storms.

 

A sad day for his family, and his extended family of firefighters.

California: Two dozer rollovers

Two dozer operators rolled their dozers on Tuesday. One was wearing a seat belt and one was not.

A private contractor assigned to the Cold fire in Plumas County suffered a fractured skull, a dislocated shoulder and injuries to one ear when the bulldozer he was operating rolled over, said Dave Olson, a fire information officer for the Canyon Complex of fires on Plumas National Forest.

The employee of Oilar Agricultural Services, based in MacArthur, was flown to Enloe Medical Facility in Chico, where he was in stable condition Wednesday with no life-threatening injuries, Olson said.

In Siskiyou County, a contract operator was digging a fire line between the Alps Complex fire and the Ironside fire when his bulldozer rolled 80 feet down an embankment, said Alexis West, a fire information officer on the complex of fires burning on Shasta-Trinity National Forest.

The operator was wearing a seat belt, which probably saved his life, West said. He was taken to a Redding hospital, where he was treated for arm and shoulder injuries.

He was conscious and alert in Mercy Medical Center on Wednesday morning, West said.

From the Sacramento Bee

Current map of Basin Complex

Click on the map to see a larger version.


An update from the U.S. Forest Service today:

  • A local Red Flag warning has been issued for today into this evening because of low humidity, strong winds and high temperatures. Extreme fire activity can be expected
  • Ridge top winds 15 – 20 mph gusting to 25 mph. Winds on the fire’s west side expecting gusts up to 30 – 35 mph.
  • The fire was very active yesterday and last night. The fire continued backing down the slope toward portions of Highway 1.
  • The fire continues to actively move on the northwest and southern boundaries. It continues to back into the Big Sur drainage around Manuel Peak and most of Pico Blanco Pike.
  • Flames and smoke are visible from Highway 1 with the increased fire activity due to low humidity, warm temperatures and heavy fuels.

Piute fire update

The Piute fire is about 30 miles east of Bakersfield and 7 miles southeast of Lake Isabella. As of 0900 it is 14,523 acres and 15% contained. From Kern County this morning:

The fire has been slowly progressing in an easterly direction towards Kelso Creek. Yesterday, air operations made significant water and retardant drops on the fire. Firefighters continue constructing and securing hand line, mopping up and providing structure protection along the S flank of the fire. On the W flank, crews have completed hand line and dozer line construction from Brown Meadow to the Liebel Peak area and are continuing S toward King Solomon Ridge today.

Hotshot crews are scouting the N flank of the fire in Erskine Creek, looking for opportunities to establish an anchor point and begin fire line construction. Firefighters continue to construct hand line into Landers Meadow, tying in with the existing dozer line. A contingency line north of Claraville has been completed. Firefighters continue their work securing Erskine Creek Road and providing structure protection along Piute Mountain Road, Rocky Point, Valley View and Erskine Creek.

Here is a grab from the web cam.

The latest map:

Picture of Air Tanker 910 dropping on the Piute fire, courtesy of AFP

Fire Mapper grounded for 3 weeks

The “Fire Mapper” aircraft operated by the U.S. Forest Service’s Pacific Southwest Region has been providing some excellent images of fires for several years. Check them out HERE. But it has engine problems and will be out of service for the next three weeks. You would think that with the situation in California, that there would be a way to get the aircraft back in the air in less than three weeks.

The Piper Navajo “Fire Mapper”, N70Z

Chief Mountain Hot Shots remember MacDonald

There is an excellent article in the Great Falls Tribune about Michael MacDonald, the member of the Chief Mountain Hot Shots who died June 29 in the mid-air collision between two medical helicopters at Flagstaff, AZ. Here is a brief excerpt, but go to the site and read the whole article.

“We’ve had a good string of luck for 17 years, and finally our tragedy has struck,” said St. Goddard, who said firefighting is the seventh-most dangerous job in America, according to statistics he’s seen.

Maurice St. Goddard, a friend of MacDonald’s since sixth grade, remembers working beside him the day before his death, while fighting a huge fire on the edge of the Grand Canyon.

“We were working hard to get a (clear fire) line to the top of the ridge and tie it into another line,” Maurice St. Goddard said. “He really pulled me up — he told me never to quit.”

Maurice St. Goddard said MacDonald drew pictures of horses on his leather gloves and made up a story about how the Blackfeet Tribe had stolen the horses from the Spanish and driven them across the Grand Canyon. The tall tale made his weary crew laugh.

“We were tired, but after we had achieved our objective, (MacDonald) was just skiing down the mountain (on broken rock), having fun, and the firefighters in front of him were trying to get out of his way,” Maurice St. Goddard said.

On the day of MacDonald’s death, the Hot Shots dug more line through the morning, and then managed to take a break for a hot lunch that was flown in.

“I was sitting all alone, and Mike came and joined me,” said Kayla LaPier, the only female on the squad, a basketball cheerleader whom MacDonald recruited to join the Hot Shots crew. “There were flames all over and he said, ‘Sit back and enjoy the show.’”

MacDonald was like a big brother to her, LaPier said.

“He took care of me, and he taught me things I didn’t know,” she said. “He was always there to listen to me and to keep my spirits up.”

“We had dug line all day and cleared brush, then we had lunch and Mike left,” said Jess Racine, with tears running down his face. “After lunch, we jumped a hot spot and knocked it out. Then we got a call, and they told us Mike had been in a helicopter crash.”

The funeral services will be at the Browning High School, 112 1st Ave. SW, Browning, MT July 5 at 2:00 pm.

The lineup for participating fire apparatus will be at noon. Fire agencies wishing to send a vehicle should contact Dustin at 406-450-4273 or Mike at 406-868-8626

Click HERE for a map of the area.