BLM firefighter dies after training

BLMTerry Sonner, a wildland firefighter with the Bureau of Land Management, passed away yesterday, June 10, in Hammett, Idaho.

Below  is a statement from the BLM:

Boise, ID – Terry Sonner, a 33-year old Bureau of Land Management (BLM) firefighter, died yesterday morning after he and his fire crew finished physical training at the Hammett Guard Station. After he collapsed, his crewmembers immediately began medical treatment and called emergency services, but they were not able to revive him.

Sonner, survived by his wife and children, had an extensive wildland firefighting career. He began firefighting in 2001, and over the course of 14 years, he became the Fire Operations Supervisor of the Hammett Guard Station Engine Crew in Hammett, Idaho, for the Boise District BLM. Sonner worked in several BLM Districts, including Twin Falls, Idaho; Elko, Nevada; and Boise, Idaho.

“We have lost an amazing wildland firefighter. He will be greatly missed by his family, friends, and the wildland firefighting community,” said Andy Delmas, Boise BLM Fire Management Officer.

The cause of Sonner’s death is unknown at this time. BLM has appointed a team to assess the circumstances surrounding Sonner’s death, in hopes of preventing future incidents. Funeral services will be announced as soon as they are determined. Sonner’s family does not wish to be contacted; they ask for privacy during this sensitive time. For more information, please call (208) 384-3420.

We send out our sincere condolences to Mr. Sonner’s family, friends, and co-workers.


California firefighter dies during training

Inmate Firefighter Raymond Araujo suffered a heart attack while engaged in a training exercise on the Morongo Indian Reservation near Banning, California on April 13. The 37-year old firefighter succumbed to his injury after being airlifted to a base camp where he was treated by CAL FIRE and Riverside County Fire Department medics.

The incident occurred in Hathaway Canyon on the Morongo Indian Reservation near Banning, California.

Our sincere condolences go out to his family.


China: 5 climbers killed in fire

From ShanghaiDaily:

Five climbers killed in mountain fire in NE China

March 22, 2015

DALIAN, March 22 (Xinhua) — Five mountain climbers have been confirmed dead after a fire in Dahei Mountain in northeastern Chinese city of Dalian Sunday, according to local fire fighters.

The forest fire control center received the fire report at 1:48 p.m. and sent more than 300 fire fighters to the site.

No further information on the climbers is available so far.

The fire was brought under control at 5:50 p.m. The cause of the mountain fire is still under investigation.


Material for exploding target blamed for fatality in Oregon

A preliminary analysis by federal investigators indicates that materials used for exploding targets caused the death of a man on National Forest land near Mt. Hood in Oregon on Thursday, March 19.

A large explosion occurred at about 6:30 a.m. that left a crater 10 feet from U.S. Highway 26 that was more than 10 feet wide and 2 feet deep. The name of the person killed has not been released yet, but Dr. Karen Gunson, Oregon State medical examiner, confirmed the victim died of “blast injuries and body fragmentation.” Investigators have yet to determine if the blast was a homicide, suicide, or accident.

At this point, a spokesperson said, there is no reason to suspect it was a terrorist act.

Exploding targets, sometimes called “binary exploding targets”, are completely inert until two powders are mixed by the shooter. After the ingredients are combined, the compound is illegal to transport and is classified as an explosive by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives and is subject to the regulatory requirements in 27 CFR, Part 555.

The is the second fatality that we are aware of that was apparently caused by an exploding target. Not only have they started numerous vegetation fires, but the devices have previously caused death and injuries. In 2013 a man in Minnesota was killed when shrapnel from the device struck 47-year-old Jeffery Taylor in the abdomen causing him to collapse. He was declared dead before he could be transported to a hospital in a helicopter.

About three years ago Jennifer Plank Greer was struck by shrapnel while she was taking cell phone video of someone who shot at the explosive which was inside a refrigerator. Her hand was blown almost completely off, left hanging only by a portion of skin. Through 16 surgical procedures doctors reattached the hand, but she no longer has the use of her fingers, except for being able to wiggle her thumb.

On October 7, 2012 in Pennsylvania two state Game Commission workers suffered injuries including burns, temporary blindness and hearing damage when an illegal exploding target blew up while the men attempted to put out a fire at a gun range in Pike County.

In October Larry Chambers, National Press Officer for the U.S. Forest Service, told us there was no nationwide USFS policy regulating the use of exploding targets on National Forest Systems (NFS) lands.

There is no national exploding target prohibition by the Forest Service, and the agency fully recognizes hunting and safe target shooting as a valid use of National Forest System lands. The prohibition of exploding targets on some National Forest System lands is not intended to adversely affect the sport of target shooting.

Mr. Chambers said exploding targets are prohibited on NFS lands in USFS regions 1, 2, 4, and 6 (see the map below). California is not included, he said, because they are banned statewide by state law. Some National Forests in Regions 8, 9, and 10 may have local special orders that prohibit the used of exploding targets, Mr. Chamber said.

Some of the regional bans are only temporary, and expire in 2015.

US Forest Service regions map

U. S. Forest Service Regions. USFS map.

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


New videos: long line extraction, spot fires, and battles lost

The Wildland Fire Lessons Learned Center has released a dozen videos in the last month. They can all be seen on their YouTube Channel, but here are three of them.

The first is a recording of a webinar, in which Brian Potter, a research meteorologist with the USDA Forest Service, presented a summary of the state of science behind spot fires. Spotting is one characteristic of “extreme fire behavior,” capable of short range acceleration of fires as well as producing long-distance spot fires that complicate management efforts. The presentation summarizes current knowledge and tools, as well as knowledge gaps

The next, below, was produced by the National Wildfire Coordinating Group, and describes our wildland fire fatality history, and the hard lessons learned.

The third one shows an emergency longline extraction on the Freezeout Ridge Fire,
September 21, 2014. For more information about the incident, see the Freezeout Ridge Facilitated Learning Analysis.