Water tender rollover kills firefighter in Napa County

The accident occurred near the 51,512-acre Nuns Fire.

water tender accident in Napa County
Screen capture from KCRA video of water tender accident in Napa County.

(UPDATE October 17, 2017: the driver that was killed in the water tender accident has been identified as 38-year-old Garrett Paiz, a volunteer firefighter from Missouri. The truck was owned by Red Bluff-based Tehama Transport.)

The wildfires in Northern California have taken another life, adding to the tally of 40 announced fatalities.

KCRA is reporting that a contract firefighter was killed October 16 when a water tender rolled over in Napa County at 6:50 a.m. near the Nuns Fire north of San Francisco.

CAL FIRE confirmed that the operator was assigned to the 51,512-acre Nuns Fire.

The accident occurred on a steep downhill section of Oakville Grade about two miles west of Highway 29.

Fatal rollovers of fire trucks, especially water tenders, is far too common. We have documented more than three dozen similar accidents (tag: rollover).

Our sincere condolences go out to the family, friends, and coworkers of the firefighter whose name has not yet been announced.

Thanks and a tip of the hat go out to David.
Typos or errors, report them HERE.

Man killed during helicopter mulch operation at Brian Head Fire

Monday, Oct. 9 UPDATE: Officials identified the victim as 58-year-old Bryan Burr, of Alpine, Utah. The Salk Lake Tribune newspaper reported Burr was the brother-in-law of Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah.

We have also learned he was the co-owner and president of a charter helicopter service. Visit FireAviation.com to learn more.

*****

Original story: A man was killed Saturday October 7 during Burned Area Emergency Response (BAER) operations on the Brian Head Fire in southwest Utah. The 58-year old crew member on the ground from Alpine, Utah was giving directions to a helicopter dropping straw mulch when he was struck on the head. The pilot saw the injured man and contacted others who called 911.

Brian Head Marshall Jeff Morgan was flown to the remote site off State Route 143 about 1:45 p.m. and determined that the man had died.

Brian Head Fire map
Map showing planned BAER treatments on the Brian Head Fire.

A statement from the Iron County Sheriff’s Office read:

It was determined he likely died as a result of blunt force trauma from falling debris during the airdrop.

It was not clear from the statement if the man was hit by straw mulch or debris from a nearby tree as the straw fell.

The identity of the person killed has not been released.

Since an aircraft was involved in the fatality the National Transportation Safety Board will be investigating the accident.

Map Brian Head Fire Utah
Map of the Brian Head Fire in southwest Utah. The red line was the perimeter at 2:30 a.m. MDT June 29, 2017. The white line was the perimeter 24 hours earlier.

The Brian Head Fire burned over 63,000 acres in late June.  On August 25 BAER teams began dropping 3,200 tons of wheat straw from helicopter nets to cover the soil surface. The additional ground cover increases the germination of seeds dropped earlier and helps absorb raindrop impact lessening water runoff potential.

BAER treatments Brian Head Fire
File photo of a BAER team member on the Brian Head Fire, July 8, 2017. BAER team photo.

Our sincere condolences go out to the family, friends, and coworkers.
Thanks and a tip of the hat go out to Charlie.
Typos or errors, report them HERE.

Roadside memorial for Gary Helming

A roadside memorial is growing for U.S. Forest Service firefighter who was killed in a vehicle accident August 31 in California.

Above: Roadside memorial for Chief Gary Helming who was killed in a vehicle accident near this location August 31, 2017. Photo by John Szalay, September 17, 2017.

(Originally published at 10:38 a.m. MDT September 25, 2017)

Gary Helming, a Battalion Chief with the Los Padres National Forest in southern California, was returning from a wildfire on the Sierra National Forest when a Ford F-350 traveling in the opposite direction suffered a tire failure, crossed the middle of the road, and struck his vehicle head-on. Chief Helming was killed and the other driver, Antonio Avalos of Santa Maria, was airlifted to a hospital.

The accident occurred on Highway 41 just south of state Route 33 in Kings County, California.

Chief Helming had been released the previous evening from the Railroad Fire on the Sierra National Forest.

Roadside memorial Chief Gary Helming
Roadside memorial for Chief Gary Helming who was killed in a vehicle accident at this location August 31, 2017. Photo by John Szalay, September 17, 2017.

John Szalay took the above photos September 17, 2017 of the memorial that has developed near the accident site. He said it is on State Route 41 less than two miles south of State Route 33. There are large turnouts on both sides of the road in case others would like to stop and pay their respects, he said.

Chief Helming started out as a seasonal firefighter and spent 22 years with the U.S. Forest Service. During his career, he also worked with the Bureau of Land Management and the National Park Service but returned to the USFS in 2013. He was stationed in Santa Maria as Battalion Chief with the Los Padres National Forest. His wife, Andrea, has served as Air Tanker Base Manager for the agency at Santa Maria. They have three children.

On January 21, 2015 Chief Helming was honored by the Santa Maria Elks Lodge as Outstanding Firefighter of the Year for Los Padres National Forest’s Santa Lucia Ranger District.

Gary Helming
Chief Gary Helming, February 4, 2015. USFS photo.

Thanks and a tip of the hat go out to John.
Typos or errors, report them HERE.

USFS Battalion Chief killed in vehicle accident

He was returning from an assignment on the Sierra National Forest in California.

A firefighter was killed August 31, 2017 in a vehicle accident in California. Gary Helming, a Battalion Chief with the Los Padres National Forest in southern California, was returning from a wildfire on the Sierra National Forest.

According to the U.S. Fire Administration a Ford F-350 traveling in the opposite direction suffered a tire failure, crossed the middle of the road, and struck Chief Helming’s vehicle head-on.

The accident occurred on Highway 41 just south of state Route 33 in Kings County, California.

Our sincere condolences go out to Chief Helming’s family, friends, and coworkers.

Thanks and a tip of the hat go out to Allen and LM.
Typos or errors, report them HERE.

Updated: Firefighter dies in tree felling accident in Lolo National Forest in Montana

(Updated at 9:47 a.m. MDT August 4, 2017)

Missoula County Sheriff T.J. McDermott announced that a wildland firefighter was killed Wednesday August 2 on the Lolo Peak Fire in the Lolo National Forest in Western Montana. The Sheriff said Brent M. Witham, 29, of Mentone, California, died in a “tree felling” accident. Dispatchers said the man was given CPR after being struck by a falling tree, but rescuers were unable to save his life.

Brent Witham
Brent Witham, screenshot from the 2016 Vista Grande IHC Crew Video.

He was a member of the Vista Grande Hotshots, based in Idyllwild, California according to Lolo Peak fire information officer Mark Struble.

Our sincere condolences go out to Mr. Witham’s friends, family, and coworkers.

Map of the perimeter Lolo Peak Fire
Map of the perimeter of the Lolo Peak Fire, at 2 a.m. MDT August 3, 2017.

Two weeks ago another firefighter was killed by a falling tree on the Lolo National Forest. Trenton Johnson 19, died June 19 while helping to suppress the Florence Fire, a small fire near Florence Lake northeast of Seeley Lake.

Between 1990 and 2014 18 firefighters were killed on wildland fires by hazardous trees, which was 4 percent of the 440 firefighter deaths in the stats for that period kept by the National Interagency Fire Center.

Started July 15 by lightning, the Lolo Peak Fire has burned 6,542 acres 8 miles southwest of Lolo, Montana south of US Highway 12.

This article was updated August 4 to include the name and photo of the firefighter after it was released by the Sheriff.

Services for Trenton Johnson, July 22

A public memorial service to celebrate the life of Trenton M. Johnson will be held in Missoula, Montana Saturday July 22:

3 p.m until 5 p.m.
Fort Missoula Regional Park Bella Vista Pavilion
3501 South Avenue West
Missoula, MT 5980

(This is a change. The gathering at the church earlier in the afternoon is for family and close friends.)

Mr. Johnson was killed July 19 while working on a wildfire in western Montana. He was struck by a falling tree while helping to suppress the Florence Fire, a small fire near Florence Lake on the Lolo National Forest northeast of Seeley Lake.

Below is the link for donations to benefit both the Wildland Firefighter Foundation and the Trenton Johnson Lacrosse Scholarship.

http://bit.ly/2uHnSzr

More information is on a Facebook page established in his honor.