Arizona flags flown at half-staff for fallen firefighter

The Bureau of Indian Affairs provided more information this afternoon about Anthony Polk who was killed when his engine rolled over while working on the Montezuma fire in Arizona yesterday, June 9.

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Fallen Firefighter is Escorted Home

Engine Boss Anthony Polk, 31, who died Friday, June 8 on the Montezuma Fire, “devoted his life to assuring the safety of others before himself,” said Keeny Escalanti Sr., Quechan Tribal President in Yuma, AZ. Anthony was a member of the Quechan/San Carolos Apache Indian Tribe and provided Fiduciary Trust services to the Quechan and Cocopah Indian tribes.

A graduate of San Pasqual High School, Anthony lived in Yuma most of his life surrounded by an extensive family. While in school, Anthony was a member of the athletic club. After graduating, he attended the Fort Yuma Academy for Firefighters.

His training, experience and dedication led him to a full-time position with the Fort Yuma Agency where he became a leader of the Prescribed Fire Operations/Fuels Program. He was a Firing Boss and Incident Commander Type 4 as well as an Engine Boss, and training to be a Fire Investigator and a Burn Boss. He worked with several organizations including U.S. Customs and Border Protection, BLM, BOR, FWS, and local fire departments. His responsibility was to all five tribes along the Colorado River regarding the fuels program.

He served 10 years with the Bureau of Indian Affairs and will be remembered as a teacher among his co-workers and as a dedicated firefighter in the community, said Agency Superintendent Irene Herder.

During one incident near home in 2010, Anthony was a firefighter among many who saved seven homes near the Arizona border along the Colorado River from a large brushfire. Local fire department officials said at the time, they requested assistance from BIA and BLM crews who coordinated the use of brush trucks in the rough terrain.

“Where the fire originated from, it spread to the west and we got in there with units from BIA and BLM and were able to save four or five trailers which had two families that lived in them,” Steve Taylor, Winterhaven Fire Department Chief was quoted in a May 6, 2010 issue of the Yuma Sun. This picture of Anthony, shared by his home unit, was taken on that fire two years ago.

Drexel Heights Fire Department personnel lined Ajo Highway on Friday, saluting a fallen comrade as his body was taken from the fireline to Tucson.

Today, by order of Gov. Jan Brewer, all state flags are flown at half-staff until sunset in honor of a firefighter killed in the line of duty. His body, which is being escorted to Yuma this afternoon, should arrive home by then.

He is survived by a five-year-old daughter, his mother, Ramona Villa, grandmother, Lucinda Polk and numerous relatives and friends.

 

Firefighter killed in vehicle accident in Arizona

UPDATE at 12:18 a.m. MDT, June 9, 2012.

The Bureau of Indian Affairs has identified the firefighter that was killed in Friday’s vehicle accident as Engine Boss Anthony Polk, 31, of Yuma, Arizona.

We extend out sincere condolences to Mr. Polk’s family, friends, coworkers, and the BIA.

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UPDATE at 9:29 a.m. MT, June 9, 2012

The incident management team has released some additional information about the fatal accident on Friday in which one firefighter was killed. The deceased was an employee of the Bureau of Indian Affairs and was one of three firefighters on a Type 6 engine when it rolled over. The firefighter was pronounced dead at the scene while the driver and another passenger were transported to the Sells hospital and later released. The accident happened on Federal Route 19, near milepost 22.

They expect to release the firefighter’s name later Saturday morning.

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A firefighter working on a fire in Arizona was killed Friday morning in a vehicle accident. An engine crew that was driving to their assignment on the Montezuma fire was involved in a rollover. The accident occurred at 8:30 a.m. a spokesperson for the fire told Wildfire Today. One firefighter was killed and two suffered minor injuries. No other details are available at this time.

The Montezuma fire has burned about 1,700 acres in the Baboquivari Mountain Range on Tribal land 20 miles southeast of Sells, Arizona and is being managed by the Bureau of Indian Affairs. It is in steep terrain with heavy brush, making it difficult for crews to directly suppress the fire. According to a report from the scene, helicopters and fixed wing aircraft have been the only means of suppression.

Our sincere condolences go out to the family, friends, and coworkers of the firefighters involved.

Predator drone used on Monument fire in Arizona

Predator B drone image Monument fire
Predator B drone image of Monument fire provided by the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol.

While the Monument fire was burning in southern Arizona the U. S. Customs and Border Protection provided images collected by their Predator B unmanned aerial vehicle to the incident management team suppressing the fire. Here is an excerpt from a June 18 article in the Tucson Citizen:

The remotely piloted Predator B Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS), launched from the National Air Security Operations Center-Sierra Vista (NASOC-SV), has been providing streaming video and Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) mapping of areas affected by the fires in Arizona. The real-time video stream, known as Big Pipe, is a video distribution system that CBP provides to federal, state and local law enforcement agencies so responders have access to real-time video and still imagery. The images can be viewed anywhere there is an internet connection, including smart-phones.

 

Thanks B.Morgan

Schultz fire, one day too early

In June the Schultz fire, started by an abandoned campfire, burned 15,000 acres north of Flagstaff, Arizona. As far as I know, the culprits have not yet been found but there was a reward offered by a local brewery of free beer for life for anyone with information leading to the campers who left the fire burning.

At a public meeting this week the Forest Supervisor of the Coconino National Forest discussed the fire restrictions which were not in place when the fire started. Here is an excerpt from the Arizona Daily Sun:

One question prompted the most audience applause Wednesday night at Coconino High: Why weren’t any fire restrictions in place before the fire began?

The Schultz Fire began this past summer after other major wildfires had already prompted evacuations, including the Hardy Fire and a fire in Spring Valley.

Coconino National Forest Supervisor Earl Stewart responded:

“Trying to come up with criterion as to when it’s best to close the forest is really, really difficult,” he said.

The agency has not opted to use certain dates of the year to set or remove fire restrictions, because sometimes those dates don’t match what’s been happening with the weather, he said.

Also, Stewart doesn’t want to close the forest to public access when it isn’t necessary, he said.

The Coconino tries to match its fire-restriction decisions to three other forests so that the public isn’t confused about what the rules are in various places, he said.

The decisions about whether to implement fire restrictions across these forests are made in Monday-morning phone calls during the spring and summer.

The Schultz fire started on a Sunday after a Saturday wildfire forced the evacuation of parts of southeast Flagstaff.

So it occurred before the Monday meeting used to discuss fire restrictions or closures.

“The reality was, in this case, the Schultz fire was 24 hours too early,” Stewart said. “We had not gotten into those discussions.”

Turn in Schultz fire suspects, get free beer for life

Yep, that is what someone posted on the Flagstaff Brewing Company’s Twitter account:

free beer for life 2 whoever turns in the schultz campers w/ the 5 foot campfire @ 930 am on sunday. Our peaks mean more than $ & words.
about 14 hours ago [about 11:30 pm June 24] via Twitter for iPhone

We talked to Jeff Thorsett of Flagstaff Brewing Company to see if it was really true. The company sells their beer in 1/2 gallon containers, and he said if a tip results in the arrest and conviction of the person who started the fire, they will give the tipster 1/2 gallon of beer each week for the rest of their lives. Now THAT’S a REWARD!

Investigators have determined that the Schultz fire started from an abandoned campfire on June 20 at Schultz Tank and Elden Trail north of Flagstaff, AZ. In addition to “free beer for life” from the brewing company, the U.S. Forest Service is offering a more conventional $2,500 reward. USFS officials request that anyone having information concerning the abandoned campfire call the Coconino NF Supervisors’ Office at (928) 527-3508.

Description of the Schultz fire’s ICP

It can be enlightning to see wildland firefighting described through the eyes of someone else. The Arizona Daily Sun has an article describing the Incident Command Post at the 14,800-acre Schultz fire north of Flagstaff, Arizona which burned about 5,000 acres in the first 8 hours. It is a well written story and is worth reading, but I could not help but notice two minor errors in this excerpt. Can you find them?

When the Schultz fire exploded into a raging wildfire Sunday afternoon and garnered the highest level of firefighting priority in the nation, hundreds of firefighters rushed to northern Arizona to battle the fast-moving blaze.

Behind that initial attack, and in just a matter of 24 hours, a mini-city of support assembled at Cromer Elementary School.

Welcome to ICC, or incident command center, where firefighters can eat scrambled eggs with green chili, reload on sunscreen and bug repellent, get a medical checkup, take a shower and shave, fill up on cookies and ice cream, check out the fire-tracking maps and then find a cot to crash on.

The command center serves as a base camp for the personnel — more than 950 strong (including up to 800 firefighters) — assigned to the Schultz fire. That total includes “overhead” or supervisory workers who support the firefighting effort mostly from the ground.

“There’s a tremendous amount of infrastructure to put in place,” said Troy Waskey, who is on staff with recreation, lands and minerals at the Tonto National Forest. “That’s the beauty of the ICC structure: You can put a team in place with the resources that are needed within 24 hours.”

AN ACTION PLAN

Run as tightly as a military operation, the world of wildfire fighting is full of acronyms and abbreviations, specific uniform requirements, and lots of rules and orders, many spelled out daily in the IAP, or incident action plan, passed out in booklet form to all concerned personnel during the morning briefing.