Smokejumper dies one month after off duty injury in Alabama

A smokejumper based in Oregon passed away December 19 after being injured in an accident in Birmingham, Alabama on November 22. Ray Fernandez Rubio, 52, was staying overnight in Birmingham before returning home when, according to AL.com and Jefferson County Chief Deputy Coroner Bill Yates, he was injured in a fall while walking from a restaurant back to his hotel.

Below is an excerpt from their article:

It was just before midnight when Rubio was walking alone in the 2100 block of 11thAvenue South. Friends have said he had completed his most recent smokejumping assignment and was about to return to Oregon.

Authorities said he fell over a concrete railing into a parking garage that was one story below ground level. Yates said Rubio fell 12 to 15 feet, suffering a head injury and a broken knee. It wasn’t immediately clear how he was found, but he was taken to Grandview Medical Center because UAB Hospital was on trauma diversion.

Rubio, a husband and father, remained in the Intensive Care Unit until he died at 5:45 p.m. Monday. Yates said forestry officials have had a support team in Alabama to help Rubio’s family during his hospital stay.

On December 2 Adam C. Rondeau, a Public Affairs Specialist with the U.S. Forest Service’s Southern Region, said that at the time of the injury, “[Mr. Rubio] was in travel status and staying overnight in Birmingham, Alabama, before returning home to Oregon.”

A GoFundMe account was set up for him that has raised over $33,000.

Our sincere condolences go out to Mr. Rubio’s family and his coworkers at the Redmond, Oregon smokejumper base.

Smokejumper seriously injured in Alabama

Ray Rubio
Ray Rubio. Photo from GoFundMe page.

A firefighter was seriously injured while on a fire assignment in Alabama.

Just before Thanksgiving Ray Rubio, a Redmond, Oregon smokejumper, was staying overnight in Birmingham before returning home when an accident occurred.

A GoFundMe page set up to help pay for his medical expenses posted the following on November 29:

There have been many rumors regarding the number and type of injuries sustained in the accident. Ray has very serious head injuries and a broken kneecap. Ray remains in intensive care and remains on life support. Every morning Ray gets a CT scan. The CT scan today shows that Ray’s head injuries are no longer swelling and have stabilized (the same as yesterday). Right now, Ray’s family and many friends are here for him. He is loved and cared for. I realize that Ray’s situation is vague and it is hard not knowing. Please be patient with the limited information.

The amount of help pouring in has been amazing! As we look into the future and the long road ahead for Ray and Julie and Family; we will strive to reach the highest funding goal possible. Keep spreading the word and raising awareness.

The incident occurred November 22.

After serving in the U.S. Army in the 82nd Airborne, Mr. Rubio has worked for the federal government for 25 years and began jumping at Redmond in 1995.

According to Adam C. Rondeau, a Public Affairs Specialist with the U.S. Forest Service’s Southern Region, at the time of the injury, “[Mr. Rubio] was in travel status and staying overnight in Birmingham, Alabama, before returning home to Oregon.”

Mr. Rondeau went on to say, “The exact cause of his injuries is still under investigation”.

An article at KTVZ, a central Oregon TV station, said he “suffered a serious head injury and a broken kneecap in a fall”.

We hope Mr. Rubio has a speedy, complete recovery.

19 firefighters injured while performing in a Tijuana parade

You can’t make this stuff up.

While performing a stunt on top of a ladder truck during a parade in Tijuana, Mexico, 19 firefighters fell and were injured November 20.

The truck was moving very slowly while firefighters were doing handstands on top of other firefighters. When the truck suddenly stopped, they all fell, with most of them going all the way to the ground. There is one report that first, a firefighter lost his balance at the front of the truck, and the driver hit the brakes so as not to run him over. But very rough Google automatic translations leave some of the details in question.

Below is an excerpt from LaJornada, translated by Google:

Tijuana, 20 November.- The Sunday morning accident was recorded during the parade on November 20 in Tijuana, in which 19 members of the Fire Department were injured.

Firefighters were performing stunts aboard one of its units-above boulevard Paseo de los Heroes, at the height of the Glorieta Independence- when the truck stopped making them off balance.
According to the office manager of the Ministry of Public Security official Jose Luis Lopez, the injured are being treated, none seriously injured, however, two of them have possible fractures collarbone and leg, while others already they were discharged.

When I worked for the U.S. Forest Service, forms that had to be completed after every accident had one section that asked: “How could this accident have been prevented?” Well, I have some ideas about this one.

Report released for burn injuries on Tokewanna Fire

On July 29 a member of the Great Basin Smokejumpers was injured while scouting fireline on the Tokewanna Fire near Mountain View in southwest Wyoming. The firefighter sustained burn injuries to the hands, calves, knees, elbows, cheeks, nose and ears. He was transported by air ambulance to the Salt Lake Burn Center where he was admitted.

The fire started at about 1500 on July 28. The overhead structure worked through the night and began transitioning to replacement personnel after smokejumpers arrived at approximately 1252 on July 29. The person that was later burned became the new Division Supervisor (DIVS) on Division W at 1300. Official transition to the new Incident Commander occurred at 1505.

map burn injury report
Illustration from the report.

Below is an excerpt from the Factual Report that was completed September 15, 2016:

“Between 15:30 and 15:45 the DIVS was scouting fireline and reached the highest point of where the fire had progressed on the ridge. At this location a flare up occurred downhill from the DIVS on the other side of a large stringer of lodgepole pine which had been heavily treated with retardant (Reference Materials photos 2-5). The DIVS stated, “I heard something I didn’t like and determined I needed to leave.” He retreated to his predetermined safety zone, which was the black and opted to continue downhill rapidly. While retreating he experienced an extreme pulse of radiant heat coming from the right accompanied by smoke and blowing ash. Because of the pulse of radiant heat, he used his helmet to shield the right side of his face. In recounting this he expressed “I wish I had my gloves on, but prior to the event I was away from the fire edge using a GPS and taking notes in my notepad.” The radiant heat caused burns to the DIVS’s hands, calves, knees, elbows, cheeks, nose and ears.”

Also from the report:

Summary

Three key findings were brought out during this investigation:

  • Timely recognition and reporting of burn injuries is critical
  • The absence of PPE can contribute to the severity of injuries
  • Firefighters were unable to contact the air ambulance utilizing pre-established radio frequencies

Lessons Learned from the Interviewees:

When asked if there were any lessons learned or best practices the interviewees would take away from the incident the following was captured:

  • Recognize your own limitations and don’t expect to have all of the answers or information on a rapidly emerging fire.
  • Time of day and incident complexity were not optimal for transferring command, but in this case it was a better option than continuing to utilize fatigued resources.
  • Sometimes you just need to safely engage to ensure you are not transferring risk to someone else later.
  • Make the time to tie-in with your overhead to assure face-to-face interactions occur during transition.
  • Participation with district resources in pre-season scenario based training alleviated tension while coordinating a real life medical incident at the dispatch center.
  • Frequency sharing with local EMS will help facilitate efficient medevac procedures.
  • Continue to encourage EMS certifications among line firefighters and/or identify ways to improve access to Advanced Life Support on emerging incidents.”

Making a withdrawal from the Bank of Experience

This article first appeared on Fire Aviation.

Sully, the movie about the Miracle on the Hudson that opened today has so far received pretty good reviews. As you may know, it is about the aircraft that struck a flock of geese at 3,200 feet about 100 seconds after taking off from La Guardia airport near New York City.

Captain Chesley Sullenberger
Captain Chesley Sullenberger. Photo by Ingrid Taylar.

Chesley B. Sullenberger III was the pilot in command. After both engines went silent he said to his First Officer whose turn it was to take off on that flight, “My aircraft”.

Captain Sullenberger, now often called “Sully”, was selected for a cadet glider program while attending the Air Force Academy. By the end of that year he was an instructor pilot. When he graduated in 1973 he received the Outstanding Cadet in Airmanship award, as the class “top flyer”. He went on to fly F-4 Phantoms in the Air Force and served as a member of an aircraft accident investigation board in the Air Force. After he became a commercial pilot for US Airways he occasionally assisted the NTSB on accident investigations and taught courses on Crew Resource Management.

When the geese hit the engines January 15, 2009, Sully felt the impact, but more disturbing was the the sensation after the engines quit of slightly moving forward in his harness as the aircraft suddenly went from accelerating to slowing — at low altitude over New York City when they were supposed to be climbing.

US Airways did not have a checklist for the loss of both engines in an Airbus A320 at low altitude. The First Officer, Jeffery Skiles, went through the checklist for restarting the engines, but of course had no success. Sully evaluated their options — returning to La Guardia, diverting to Teterboro airport, or the third choice, a water landing in the Hudson River. Based on his experience, and drawing on his background as a glider pilot, he determined that it was impossible to make it to either airport. He lowered the nose and headed toward the river.

Passing 900 feet above the George Washington Bridge he pointed the aircraft so it would come to rest near a boat he spotted, thinking that it could help pull the passengers out of the very cold water on that winter day. Working with his First Officer, they made the only non-fatal water landing of a large commercial aircraft in recent history.

Airbus Hudson river
US Airways Flight 1549 in the Hudson River. Photo by Greg L.

As the 150 passengers and four other crew members climbed out onto the wings and waited for rescue by ferry boats, Sully walked through the passenger compartment as it took on water to make sure everyone was off, then grabbed the maintenance log book and was the last one to exit the aircraft.

In a  recent interview Katie Couric conducted with Sully director Clint Eastwood and actors Tom Hanks and Aaron Eckhart, she recalled something Sully, who at the time had 19,663 flight hours, told her not long after the successful water landing:

For 42 years I’ve been making small regular deposits in this bank of experience, education, and training. On January 15 the balance was sufficient so I could make a very large withdrawal.

In the last few decades wildland firefighters have used another name for the “bank of experience”, their “slide file” —  memories of the situations they have been in over the course of their careers, good experiences and bad ones, all of which left data from which they can extrapolate solutions to new situations.

There is of course no substitute for an account balance in a bank of experience or a slide file. You can acquire incremental bits of it from books and training. But you can’t write a check and easily transfer it to someone else, not entirely, anyway. It has to be earned and learned, organically.

And here’s hoping you don’t have to “make a very large withdrawal”, on the ground or in the air.