CO: firefighter fatalities, info from CSFCA

This information was just distributed over FireNet. It was released by the Colorado State Fire Chief’s Association today:

It is with a heavy heart that I am writing to you to inform you of the line-of-duty death of three firefighting personnel while serving and protecting the citizens of Colorado.

Fire Chief Terry DeVore and firefighter John Schwartz, Jr. of the Olney Springs Volunteer Fire Department were killed late yesterday afternoon while fighting the Ordway wildland fire. Chief DeVore and firefighter Schwartz were killed in their fire apparatus while trying to cross a bridge over a drainage ditch about a mile west of Ordway. Due to heavy smoke conditions they were apparently unaware that the fire had already damaged or collapsed the bridge.

Gert Marais, 42, of Fort Benton, Montana, a U.S. Forest Service contract pilot was killed when his Single Engine Air Tanker (SEAT) crashed while fighting the wildland fire at Fort Carson. Pilot Marais crashed about 6:20 yesterday evening along Colorado 115 at mile marker 34 near Fort Carson. Marais worked for Aero Applicators, a Sterling company that contracts aerial firefighting services to the U.S. Forest Service.

Both Chief DeVore, 30, and firefighter Schwartz, 38, were volunteers with Olney Springs and worked full-time as correctional officers for the Colorado Department of Corrections at the Arkansas Valley Correctional Facility.

Chief DeVore is survived by his wife Jennifer and four children, ages 10 to 4. Chief DeVore’s father, Bruce, is also a volunteer firefighter with Olney Springs and was also involved in fighting the Ordway fire. Firefighter Schwartz is the father of four boys, ages 4 to 16.

The Local Assistance State Team (LAST) has been dispatched to Ordway to assist the local fire department. A separate team has been made available to Aero Applicators and the U.S. Forest Service.

On behalf of Chief Douglas Forsman, President of the Colorado State Fire Chiefs’ Association, we wish to offer our deepest condolences to the families of Fire Chief Terry DeVore and firefighter John Schwartz, Jr., the members of the Olney Springs Volunteer Fire Department, and the Colorado Department of Corrections. Our deepest condolences are also extended to the family of pilot Gert Marais and the employees of Aero Applicators.

Colorado State Fire Chiefs’ Association
Paul L. Cooke, Executive Director

====================================================

 

The spot weather forecast for the TA25 fire, on which the SEAT crashed, predicts rain later this afternoon and 2-4 inches of heavy wet snow tonight.

This site has photographs of the two firefighters killed in the engine accident.

UPDATE, December 30, 2008
The NTSB has released their report about the air tanker crash. More information is HERE.

CO: More details: 3 firefighters dead

More details are emerging about the three fatalities on wildland fires in Colorado.

Crowley County Coroner Karen Tomky confirmed that the two fatalities on the fire near Ordway, CO were volunteer firefighters Terry Devore, 30, and John Schwartz, 38. Tomky said the two firefighters were in a fire truck “attempting to cross a bridge that had collapsed”. A map of the Ordway area is in our previous post.

The third firefighter was killed in the Single Engine Air Tanker (SEAT) that crashed near Fort Carson along Colorado 115. The pilot was the only person on board. The SEAT, owned by Aero Applicators, was based out of Sterling, CO and was contracted by the state. The county sheriff was quoted as saying:

“He dumped his slurry and they say after that it looked like it pulled up and then it just nosedived into the ground,”

Our thoughts and condolences are with the families and co-workers of these firefighters.

Here is a map of the general area of the fire near Fort Carson, the fire on which the SEAT crashed. The location was determined from the spot weather forecast. They are calling it the TA25 fire.


View Larger Map

More information about the fires from the Rocky Mountain News:

The devastating grass fire in and around Ordway in southeastern Colorado has burned 8,900 acres, or some 14 square miles, but the blaze now is 60 percent contained, a spokesman for Crowley County Fire said this morning.

Firefighters from 35 agencies continue to battle the fire that erupted Tuesday and that has been linked to three deaths.

Winds blowing at 20 mph and gusting much higher than that could be a great help if they blow back on the grassy areas already burned, creating their own natural firebreak, said Crowley County Fire spokesman Chris Sorensen.

However, the winds are swirling right now, and it’s not clear which direction they’re going to settle on. If they continue to blow out of the north and northeast, as they did Tuesday, they could spread the fire even farther.

Firefighters also are hoping that the 40 percent chance of thunderstorms this afternoon will come to fruition and that the rains will help douse the fire.

“We will certainly take any cooperation the weather will provide,” Sorensen said. The National Weather Service says Ordway has a slight chance of showers between noon and 2 p.m. today then an chance of showers and thunderstorms after 3 p.m. The high temperature should be about 61, some 20 degrees warmer than Tuesday’s high.

Rain is likely again overnight, then snow likely after 4 a.m. Thursday, with a total chance of precipitation at 70 percent.

The fire has burned mostly short-grass prairie, plus some crop lands both east and west of Ordway.

Within the city limits of Ordway, four structures have burned, but fire officials don’t know the extent of their damage, and say the city itself is not a major worry.

The evacuation order for all 1,100 Ordway residents remains in effect, “for their safety and for the safety of the firefighting effort,” Sorenson said.

[…]

The fire at Fort Carson had forced some evacuations late Tuesday and a shelter was set up at a special events center on base, Capt. Gregory Dorman said. The fire had burned about 9,000 acres by late Tuesday and was about 50 percent contained, officials said.

On Tuesday, much of the state was under a National Weather Service red flag warning, signifying high fire danger. Gov. Bill Ritter declared a state of emergency, freeing up state resources to help fight the fire. The Federal Emergency Management Agency on Tuesday night Humidity was low in Ordway on Tuesday and temperatures were in the 80s.

CO: 3 dead on 2 fires; SEAT crashes

From the Rocky Mountain News:

Originally published 09:24 p.m., April 15, 2008
Updated 12:43 a.m., April 16, 2008

Wildfires in warm, windy weather burned into the southeast Colorado town of Ordway and on an Army post Tuesday. A firefighting pilot and two other people died.

All 1,100 residents of Ordway were told to leave, and authorities were not allowing anyone into to the city, said Chris Sorensen, acting spokesman for the Crowley County fire department.

Sorensen said the county coroner confirmed two of the deaths but did not provide any details as to how the people died or where they were found. KRDO Channel 13 in Colorado Springs reported that the two were firefighters and said they were crossing a bridge while riding in a firetruck. The bridge collapsed, trapping the two men underneath. Sorensen said he could not confirm that early this morning.

The pilot died when a crop-duster-type tanker crashed about 6:20 p.m. along Colorado 115 at mile marker 34 near Fort Carson, said Michael Fergus, a spokesman for the Federal Aviation Administration’s northwest region.

No passenger was aboard the plane. The downed aircraft and a second plane involved in the firefighting efforts flew from a base in Sterling, Fergus said.

The FAA believes that the plane was a contract service aircraft to the U.S. Forest Service, Fergus said. But a Forest Service spokesperson could not be reached late Tuesday to confirm it. Fergus said the second plane returned safely to the Sterling base.

The fire at Fort Carson had forced some evacuations late Tuesday and a shelter was set up at a special events center on base, Capt. Gregory Dorman said. The fire had burned about 9,000 acres by late Tuesday and was about 50 percent contained, officials said.

Much of the state was under a National Weather Service red flag warning, signifying high fire danger. Gov. Bill Ritter declared a state of emergency, freeing up state resources to help fight the fire. The Federal Emergency Management Agency on Tuesday night authorized the use of federal funds to help with firefighting costs.

Weather an obstacle

On the southeastern plains near Ordway, winds were gusting to 50 mph, humidity was low and temperatures reached into the 80s. Dry conditions on the plains and in some mountain valleys contrasted with deep snow at higher elevations.

Ordway, Colorado is 46 miles East of Pueblo, Colorado and 76 miles southeast of Colorado Springs.

 


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Ellreese Daniel's trial begins May 5

Posted on Wildlandfire.com was this letter from the Forest Supervisor of the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest about the upcoming trial:

Okanogan-Wenatchee Employees:

The trial of our employee Ellreese Daniels is scheduled to begin May 5. He was indicted by a grand jury on four counts of involuntary manslaughter and seven counts of making false statements based on actions in his role as crew boss during the Thirtymile tragedy in 2001. I struggle with the reality of criminal charges against one of our own employees. I was not here in 2001, but today I feel the anxiety and fears of the firefighting community. I am also deeply saddened at the loss families experienced. Yet, in the midst of this swirl of strong emotion, we must go on.

I intend to support Ellreese by ensuring I do not interfere with a fair and speedy trial. All we can do for the families, employees and the American public is cooperate with the defense and prosecution by providing knowledgeable witnesses to testify honestly and truthfully. Then, let the justice system work based on the facts of the case. In the end, the judge and jury will decide the outcome of the trial.

This case will likely generate national media interest. If you want to speak with the media, then it is critical that you emphasize to them that you are speaking for yourself, as an individual, on you own time, not for the Forest Service or in any official capacity. It is your choice as an individual, representing your personal views to speak to a reporter. I offer this thought though. Ask yourself, “How will my comments influence the ability of the court to provide a fair and speedy trial”? If you are asked to comment as a Forest Service employee, please refer that request to Glen Sachet (503-808-2790) in the Regional Office.

Some of you will testify as witnesses for the defense or prosecution, or you will know someone who is testifying. The emotions of the tragedy may return. Don’t hesitate to talk with your line or staff officer, union representative, or contact the Employee Assistance Program for help.

I plan on attending as much of the trial as possible. When I’m not there, my representative will be. I will wear my uniform proudly in support of all employees and the Agency. I have identified a few employees that will serve a variety of roles in an official capacity at the trial, including keeping you informed of the proceedings. Others interested in attending can do so on their own time, not in an official capacity, with the use of leave pre-approved by their supervisor.

Maureen Hanson, Bobbie Scopa and I will be holding meetings at HQ and the Districts next week to discuss the upcoming trial and answer employee questions.

Finally, this has been and will continue to be a very emotional time. Please be sensitive and understanding of the feelings of others around you, and take extra care of yourselves.

Sincerely,

Becki

Fire in Connecticut

You don’t often hear about wildland fires in Connecticut, and you would not have heard about this one-acre fire near Wilton, except the report I saw included a photo of a fire boat. OK, most people would not call this a boat…. it’s an amphibious ATV outfitted with a pump and hose.


These amphibious ATVs can be useful for suppressing fires in cattails. Cattails grow in water, and when they are cured out, burn like brush. It’s next to impossible to stop a cattail fire when it’s moving above the water… unless you can get out ahead of it with a boat or ATV like this and drive back and forth knocking down the cattails so they are mostly underwater. Cattails don’t spot very often, so a fairly narrow line can stop the fire.

The tricky part is being out in front of a fast-moving fire in a boat, pushing through cattails and hoping the motor does not stall or you get stuck.

Fire Near Albuquerque

KOB.com has some information about a new fire southeast of Albuquerque, and east of Belen. It is the Trigo fire, and is reported to be about 100 acres; normally not national news, but it’s slow this week and the fire is well documented with a live camera, video footage, and still photos.

The above image is from a “live” camera at the Albuquerque airport. It normally is pointed to the west, but I think they turned it to the east to capture images from this fire. This should be a live feed from the camera’s site, showing the latest image when you refresh this page.


Check out the video footage and the other photos at the KOB.com site.

From KOB.com:

“A wildfire that began Tuesday morning on the western slope of the Manzano Mountains east of Belen had jumped from about 10 acres at noon to roughly 100 acres by 2:00.

Arlene Perea of the Mountainair Ranger District says the biggest problem facing firefighters is the strong wind, which is whipping the flames and has grounded air tankers that were dropping fire retardant on the fire.

Perea says that four hotshot crews are en route to the so-called trigo Fire and two more have been ordered. An inmate work crew and two fire engines also are being marshaled.

Dan Ware of the state forestry division says the Trigo Fire is burning near Capilla Peak. He says that no structures are currently threatened but there are communications towers in the area.

Ware says that the fire is burning in rugged terrain about eight or nine miles north of where the Ojo Peak Fire consumed nearly 7,000 acres last November.”