Above: Air Tanker 02, a BAe-146, makes a drop on the Mill Creek Fire. Screen shot from the Joel Reichenberger video below.
(Originally published t 9:34 a.m. MDT July 2, 2017)
The Mill Creek Fire in Colorado started Saturday when a tree fell on a bulldozer that was working in the area, according to a spokesperson from the West Routt Fire Protection District. The dozer was destroyed as the blaze spread northwest of Pilot Knob near Routt County Road 80.
The fire is 13 miles northeast of Hayden and 20 miles northwest of Steamboat Springs.
As of Saturday night 116 acres had burned. Steamboat Today reported that two hotshot crews will be assigned on Sunday.
Both a private contractor and the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE) were issued citations by California’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) related to a fatality when a dozer rolled over. Robert Reagan, 35, of Friant, California, was killed while fighting the Soberanes Fire south of Monterey, California July 26, 2016.
Minutes after Mr. Reagan began operating the piece of equipment for Czirban Concrete Construction on contract to CAL FIRE, it rolled over. Not wearing a seat belt, he was thrown from the cab and was killed when the dozer rolled onto him.
According to KQED news, Cal/OSHA issued five citations to Czirban totaling $20,000. The largest was $13,500 for not wearing a seat belt.
Czirban had not secured workers’ compensation insurance for Mr. Reagan as required, and had been cited eight times in four years by the Contractors State License Board, several times because of worker’s compensation issues.
Below is an excerpt from an article at KQED in which they point out a number of problems related to contractors working on wildfires:
Cal/OSHA also issued two citations to Cal Fire, one for failing to report a serious injury within eight hours and another for failing to maintain an effective injury and illness prevention program.
“The employer failed to ensure a supervisor was in the immediate area during all bulldozer activities,” Cal/OSHA compliance officer Kelly Tatum wrote in the agency’s citation.
Cal Fire, which also faces a wrongful death lawsuit filed on behalf of Reagan’s wife and two young daughters, has appealed the findings.
The Florida Forest Service reported that on Sunday a tractor plow was overrun by a fast-moving fire and was destroyed in Okeechobee County, near NW 144 Ave. and NW 286 Street, 13 miles southwest of Yeehaw Junction. The operator escaped and was not injured.
Above: Dozer rollover at the Trailhead Fire on the Eldorado National Forest in California July 2, 2016. Photo from the report.
A report has been released by the Wildland Fire Lessons Learned Center about a dozer rollover that occurred July 2, 2016 at the Trailhead Fire on the Eldorado National Forest in California. You can read the entire report, but here’s a brief summary.
After getting unstuck from being high centered on a large stump, a dozer operator found himself off the ridge where he was building an indirect fireline, and was on a steep slope. Again he got stuck and was not able to backup, this time due to the slope which in places exceeded an 80 percent incline. At various times he was advised by two Resource Advisors, the Structure Group Supervisor, and the owner of the dozer to stay put. In the meantime another dozer with a winch was en route to assist.
Ignoring the advice, the operator continued down the slope and got into a heated argument with the owner, who then left the area. Determined to get the dozer back up to the ridge top, the operator began building a road and creating pads where he could work to push over trees that were in his way, including a 30-DBH cedar which missed by 50 feet the two Resources Advisors who had to run to get out of the way.
The incident-within-an-incident finally came to an end, at least temporarily, when the dozer rolled over onto its side. The operator escaped with only a scratch, after which the dozer continued to roll over onto its top in the creek bottom.
The report did not include information about how the dozer was eventually extracted, or what repercussions, if any, befell the operator and the contractor.
The bulldozer operator was working on a call-when-needed basis overnight when the fatal accident occurred, according to information posted on CAL FIRE’s website. The dozer was one of 60 assigned to the fire in Monterey County.
Officials have not yet released the name of the operator who was killed. California’s other major blaze, the Sand fire, killed a man this week outside of Los Angeles.
UPDATE April 17, 2017: KQED reports that the name of the dozer operator that was killed was Robert Reagan.
Check back with wildfiretoday.com for more on this story.
Thanks and a tip of the hat go out to Chris and Daniel.
Dozers are commonly used on vegetation fires, but it is unusual to see them at a structure fire. In the video above, Los Angeles County Fire Department used a dozer to assist firefighters during the overhaul or mop up stage of a structure fire in Lancaster, California Thursday night. Apparently there was a large quantity of material inside the commercial building that would have been difficult to completely extinguish without spreading out the burning debris. It looks like they were using foam or a wetting agent in the water to achieve greater penetration.