Montana firefighter charged with arson

Firestone Flats Fire

Firestone Flats Fire. Inciweb photo.

A firefighter in Montana is being charged with arson after admitting to starting multiple wildfires. One of the largest was the Firestone Flats Fire that burned 1,570 acres 25 miles north of Missoula, Montana in July and August of 2013.

Below is an excerpt from the Lake County Leader:

Phillip “Cody” Haynes, a wildland firefighter for the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes, told investigators he had started seven forest fires in the past three years, according to Lake County Prosecutor Steve Eschenbacher.
Haynes, who was charged with felony arson, appeared before District Court Judge Deborah K. Christopher March 19 for arraignment where Haynes requested legal counsel. Haynes is to be arraigned March 26.

Haynes did not admit to the alleged crimes until a CSKT fire investigator, two other CSKT firemen and a Lake County sheriff’s detective convinced him to confess.
According to court documents, Haynes took responsibility for setting several fires last year: the South Finley fire on July 28, the Saddle Mountain Fire on Aug. 18, the Hammer Fire on Aug. 25, as well as the Arlee Pines fire on July 17, 2013, and the Firestone Fire in July 2013.

On August 1, 2013 the following resources were assigned to the fire: Bob Fry’s, Western Montana Incident Management Team, 384 firefighters and support personnel, 3 Hotshot Crews, 6 other Hand Crews,19 Engines, 2 Helicopters, 12 pieces of Heavy Equipment, 7 Water Tenders, and 2 Heavy Air Tankers were available.

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


“The death of a forest”

They don’t make films like this anymore. It was part of the 1960’s television series “True Adventure” with host Bill Burrud. This episode features Chuck Hartley on the Angeles National Forest. Chuck went on to a long firefighting career in the U.S. Forest Service, much of it on the Angeles.

My favorite line is:

It’s a story of Chuck Hartley, a forest, and a fire. A combination that spells a life and death struggle as we’ll see, when we go out on the fireline to watch the death of a forest.

Did you notice any other interesting lines?


Research links wildfire smoke with cardiac arrest in men

smoke prescribed fire firefighter

A firefighter is enveloped in smoke while working on a prescribed fire in Hot Springs, SD, March 30, 2013. Photo by Bill Gabbert.

Researchers in Australia have found a link between smoke from bushfires and cardiac arrest in men over 35 in the population of metropolitan Melbourne. We would like to see a study done of wildland firefighters who breathe far more smoke than the residents of Melbourne.

Below is an excerpt from

Men over 35 have an increased risk of cardiac arrest if exposed to poor quality air from bushfires, a new study has found.

Monash University research using data from Ambulance Victoria’s Victorian Ambulance Cardiac Arrest Registry (VACAR) investigated the links between out-of-hospital cardiac arrests and bushfire smoke exposure in metropolitan Melbourne during the 2006-07 bushfire season.

The study, published in the latest edition of Environmental Health Perspectives, found an association between exposure to forest fire smoke and an increase in the rate of out-of-hospital cardiac arrests.

Monash University researchers led by Dr Martine Dennekamp, Department of Epidemiology and Preventive Medicine, saw greater increases in the number of men over 35 years old experiencing cardiac arrests but did not see a significant association in women over 35.

Dr Dennekamp said exposure to smoke from forest fires was a significant health issue in many countries, and it was important to raise community awareness.

“The problem is likely to get worse in the future, as we can expect fires to become both more frequent and more severe,” Dr Dennekamp said.

The state and federal governments not only employ the most wildland firefighters in the United States, but they would also be the ones to fund research like this. One would think they would have a disincentive to discover environmental conditions on the job that adversely affect the health of their employees. Don’t ask the question if you don’t want to know the answer, right? Mitigating the hazard of smoke for firefighters on a wildfire would be extremely difficult. But the least these employers should do is determine exactly the nature and scope of the hazard, and support their employees, and former employees, who suffer from life threatening diseases caused by their jobs.

There have been some papers written and some research has been completed on wildfire smoke, but what is needed is a thorough long term study on wildland firefighters conducted by epidemiologists. Something we first called for in 2010.

A very well known and respected Hotshot Superintendent advised me to frequently complete a CA-1 accident form after breathing lots of smoke on a fire. If you don’t, perhaps 10, 20, or 30 years later it might be hard to convince your employer that one or more of the following conditions were caused by your job: leukemia, testicular cancer, lung cancer, brain cancer, bladder cancer, ureter cancer, colorectal cancer, and non-Hodgkins’s lymphoma. All of those are recognized by the British Columbia government as an occupational hazard for firefighters; they are called presumptive cancers. But the United States government does not.

Other articles on Wildfire Today tagged cancer and firefighter health.


Students develop device to suppress a fire using sound

Two students at George Mason University have developed a device that can put out a fire using sound. So far they have only tried it on burning rubbing alcohol in a skillet, so the usefulness on solid fuels is still in question.

However, in an article in the Washington Post, they mention forest fires:

Although the students originally envisioned their device as a tool to attack kitchen fires and to eliminate the toxic monoammonium phosphate used in commercial fire extinguishers, they can see more uses: in confined areas in space, or wide areas outdoors, such as forest fires. Not having to use water or foam would be a bonus in many situations.

Kenneth E. Isman, a clinical professor in the University of Maryland’s fire-protection engineering department, was quoted in the article:

The project also would have to address different types of fires — solid combustibles such as wood, paper or metals, or electrical equipment — and keep a fire from reigniting.

“One of the problems with sound waves is that they do not cool the fuel,” Isman said. “So even if you get the fire out, it will rekindle if you don’t either take away the fuel or cool it.”

DARPA has also experimented with suppressing fire using sound. The video below is only nine seconds long.

DARPA summarized their results:

IFS Phase II was completed in December 2011. IFS performers succeeded in demonstrating the ability to suppress, extinguish and manipulate small flames locally using electric and acoustic suppression techniques. However, it was not clear from the research how to effectively scale these approaches to the levels required for defense applications.

Remarking on the overall impact of the IFS program, Matthew Goodman, DARPA program manager, said, “We have shown that the physics of combustion still has surprises in store for us. Perhaps these results will spur new ideas and applications in combustion research.”

We have run across many out-of-the-box ideas for suppressing fires, including, an electric wand, a truck that puts out fires without water, a fire extinguisher bomb, dropping water in containers that when empty weigh 100 pounds, a disposable air tanker, a truck that dispenses dry chemical to suppress wildfires, a shoulder-fired rocket that launches a fire hose and nozzle into a structure, and suppressing a fire with directional explosives.

Meanwhile, wildland firefighters still put out fires with sharpened pieces of metal attached to the end of sticks.

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


USFS engine and two ATVs stolen in Oregon

(UPDATED at 5:37 p.m. MDT, March 25)

USFS stolen engine

The U.S. Forest Service is offering a $5,000 reward for help in finding the thieves who stole an engine, two ATV’s, 10 chainsaws and other equipment late Thursday night from a USFS facility in Cave Junction, Oregon. The engine, damaged, was found, but the value of the stolen and damaged machinery is more than $122,000.


(Originally published at 12:05 a.m., March 25, 2015)

stolen USFS engine

A U.S. Forest Service engine and two ATVs were stolen recently from a USFS facility in Cave Junction, Oregon. The engine was found Friday morning, stuck, and missing much of its compliment of firefighting and medical equipment.

The ATVs are still missing.

Thanks and a tip of the hat go out to Perry and Ken.