Engine rollover on Hauser Road

There were two minor injuries among the three-person crew

Above: photo from the report.

(Originally published at 4:40 p.m. November 27, 2017)

An engine carrying three wildland firefighters slid off a muddy road September 12, 2017 and rolled over two-and-a-half times when they were returning from a smoke check. Considering the violent accident, the injuries were minor — a laceration on one person and a broken rib on another.

The report released by the Wildland Fire Lessons Learned Center does not specify where the the rollover occurred, except that the crew was returning to Montrose, Colorado, an investigator came from Grand Junction, and it also mentioned a couple of landmarks, if true, that are known only to locals, such as Hauser Road.

The truck was a U.S. Forest Service Ford F-550 configured as a Type 6 engine which sustained major damage. The roof partially collapsed, crushing some of the side windows:

…the crew barely had enough room to crawl out the opening with metal scraping against their backs and stomachs.

The damage to the truck and the injuries to the firefighters might have been worse if the truck had not had the “Rear Cab Protection Rack (headache rack)”, a structure behind the cab. But apparently it did not have a full cab roll bar. (UPDATE November 30, 2017: the report lists the headache rack under “What went well”, but does not elaborate. These structures are designed to hold lights and to prevent cargo from sliding forward through the rear window, but should not be expected to provide serious protection during a rollover. We added the next photo that was included in the report, which offered no caption or explanation. It is unknown if it shows the engine involved in the rollover.)

Headache Rack
Headache rack, intended to provide a location to install lights, and to prevent cargo from sliding forward through the rear window.
fire engine accident rollover colorado
Photo from the report.

Below is an excerpt from the report; it begins as the truck was sliding on the muddy road:

Engine 36’s passenger-side front wheel slid toward the edge. Everyone braced for the expected bump into the lip of the road. However nothing was there to slow the engine’s slide to the right and the front wheel went off the road, followed by the rest of Engine 36.

The engine violently rolled two-and-a-half times down the embankment, gaining speed with each rotation. “When will this end!” the Engine Captain thought to himself as glass shattered, metal crumpled and screeched, and the world spun end over end.

Engine 36 came to rest on its roof, braced against large trunks of oak brush. Everything in the cab came to a stop. A muffled and intermittently eerie buzzing came from the horn. Water hissed. As the crew steadied themselves, calling out to check the status of each other, a loud “pop” from the roof was heard.

As they felt the vehicle’s cab start to give a little bit, the decision was made to exit as quickly as possible. The curtain airbags were still partially inflated. Captain 36 had to deflate them with his personal knife. Exiting out the passenger side window, the crew barely had enough room to crawl out the opening with metal scraping against their backs and stomachs.

There has been an epidemic of wildland fire engine rollovers. This is the 48th article on Wildfire Today tagged “rollover”.

We still stand behind what we wrote in a 2015 article about the many firefighter fatalities from rollovers:

The wildland fire agencies should fund research conducted by engineers to determine how to prevent the passenger compartments in their fire engines from collapsing in accidents.

Colorado is a developing a system for relaying data to wildland firefighters

Above: screenshot from the video below.

The Colorado Division of Fire Prevention and Control is working on a system that could assist wildland firefighters on the ground by reporting their location as well as displaying current maps and real time aerial video of the fire.

Time-lapse of prescribed fire in southwest Colorado

The video shows a time-lapse of a prescribed fire in Lone Mesa State Park in the Groundhog Reservoir area. (map)

MD-87 drops on the Tenderfoot 2 Fire

(Originally published September 25, 2017 on FireAviation.com)

Jeff Wilson sent us the excellent photo above taken September 19 of an MD-87 dropping on the Tenderfoot 2 Fire east of Dillon, Colorado. Thanks Jeff!

The fire was reported above Dillon Reservoir at 5 p.m. MDT September 18 and burned 21 acres on a steep slope before firefighters contained it, aided by two large air tankers and two helicopters dropping water and retardant September 18 and 19.

Resources working on the fire included Lake Dillon Fire-Rescue crews, one U.S. Forest Service engine crew, a 20-person hand crew from Rifle, and a 22-person initial-attack hand crew from the Upper Colorado River Fire Management Unit.

The fire was caused by sparks from a blown insulator cap on a power line that subsequently ignited nearby grasses.

MD-87 air tanker drops Tenderfoot 2 Fire
An MD-87 air tanker drops on the Tenderfoot 2 Fire September 18, 2017. Inciweb photo.

Jeff Wilson runs a professional photography studio out of Dillon, Colorado.

Winter Valley Fire closes Highway 40 in Colorado

By Thursday night the Winter Valley Fire had burned 5,200 acres.

(UPDATED at 3:11 p.m. MDT September 22, 2017)

U.S. Highway 40 that was closed by the Winter Valley Fire in northwest Colorado has opened, according to the Bureau of Land Management.


Winter Valley Fire map
Map showing the perimeter of the Winter Valley Fire at 6:55 p.m. MDT September 21, 2017. BLM.

(Originally published at 11:28 a.m. MDT September 22, 2017)

A fire that was reported around noon Thursday just southeast of Elk Springs, Colorado spread quickly during the afternoon pushed by very strong winds gusting up to 50 mph. During the afternoon and night the wind was out of the south and southwest as the fire crossed Highway 40 and marched 10 miles to Cross Mountain to come within 15 miles of Maybell, Colorado.

The Calico weather station northwest of Elk Springs where these wind readings were recorded detected a major shift in conditions Friday morning. At 7 a.m. the wind had calmed to a slight breeze from the west and the relative humidity that had plummeted to 14 percent on Thursday had risen by 9:53 a.m. to 79 percent. The station also measured 0.02″ of precipitation at that time. A weather station in Dinosaur National Monument about 30 miles to the northwest of the fire recorded 0.15″ of precipitation Friday morning.

At about 9 p.m. on Thursday the Bureau of Land Management reported that the fire had burned 5,200 acres and was actively burning on Cross Mountain.

The incident closed U.S. Highway 40 in both directions after 2 p.m. from Maybell to Elk Springs, according to the Colorado State Patrol.

A BLM spokesperson said about 25 to 30 residences in the Deerlodge area were threatened by the fire and evacuations took place Thursday.

map winter valley fire
The brown and red dots represent heat detected by a satellite as late as 2:47 a.m. (the red dots) September 22, 2017. The brown dots were detected at 2:30 p.m. September 21. However, the fire is many times larger than shown here because the light fuels in the area burn quickly and can cool before the next satellite overpass, which happens about twice a day.

The fire, in BLM jurisdiction, is being managed by a Type 3 Incident Management Team. The agency reports that about half a dozen gas wells were within the perimeter of the blaze. A Federal Aviation Administration tower was also threatened.

U.S. Highway 40 photo
Photo from Google Maps in the general area where the Winter Valley Fire crossed U.S. Highway 40.

About 150 personnel, including two Hotshot crews, are assigned or en route to the fire Friday.

Maybell, Colorado
Downtown Maybell, Colorado, about 15 miles northeast of the fire. Photo from Google Maps.

Arrowhead Hotshots on the Peekaboo Fire

(Originally published at 3 p.m. MDT July 18, 2017)

The Arrowhead Hotshots sent us these photos that were taken during their assignment on the Peekaboo Fire in northwest Colorado near Maybell. (Thanks guys!)

Arrowhead, first established in 1981, is a National Park Service crew based in Kings Canyon National Park in California.

Arrowhead Hotshots Peekaboo Fire

Arrowhead Hotshots Peekaboo Fire