50th anniversary of the Loop Fire commemorated

Above: Hundreds of firefighters from municipal and wildland departments attended the 50th anniversary memorial for the Loop Fire tragedy in Sylmar Tuesday. Present were the Los Angeles County Fire Department, Los Angeles Fire Department, US Forest Service, CAL FIRE, and many other agencies.

November 1 marked the 50th anniversary of the day that 12 wildland firefighters perished on the Loop Fire. The El Cariso Hotshots were constructing fireline on the Angeles National Forest in southern California in 1966 when the fire blew up below them.

Yesterday hundreds of people attended a commemoration event held at El Cariso Regional Park in Sylmar, California. Having been on the crew four years after the disaster, from 1970 through 1972, I wish I could have been there. But Stuart Palley, an accomplished fire photographer, was, and he took these excellent photos and wrote the captions. Thanks Stuart for allowing us to use them here.

Loop Fire memorial
Gordon King, former crew supervisor for the El Cariso Hotshots, unexpectedly stepped forward to deliver remarks at the 50th anniversary ceremony of the 1966 Loop Fire tragedy. While speaking Gordon was overwhelmed by emotion and Cal Fire Riverside chief John Hawkins, left, and Angeles National Forest fire chief Robert Garcia, right, jumped forward to support and encourage King.
Loop Fire memorial
Sand Fire Burn area and El Cariso Hotshots memorial 50th Anniversary ceremony held at El Cariso Park in Sylmar, CA Tuesday November 1st, 2016. In attendance was CAL FIRE Chief Ken Pimlott, USFS Fire and Aviation Director Shawna Legarza, and current and former El Cariso Hotshots. The memorial ceremony honored the 50th anniversary of the El Cariso Hotshots burn over at the Loop Fire in 1966 in the hills above the memorial park.
Loop Fire memorial
Current El Cariso crew during the Pledge of Allegiance and opening prayer for the 50th anniversary ceremony for the Loop Fire tragedy. A flyover of LA County helicopters also occurred.

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Helping a family deal with a line of duty firefighter fatality

This is a wonderful story about how after the 2004 line of duty death of a wildland firefighter, the family was immeasurably helped by the firefighter’s crew, the agency, and the Wildland Firefighter Foundation (who produced this video in 2016). And it continued for more than a decade.

Water tender rollover kills Ventura County fighter

The vehicle was en route to the Canyon Fire.

Above: Fatal water render rollover, September 21, 2016. Screenshot from KEYT video.

This morning the rollover of a water tender enroute to the Canyon Fire on Vandenberg Air Force Base resulted in the death of a firefighter. Ventura County Fire Department reported that Fire Engineer Ryan Osler, a passenger in the truck, lost his life in a line of duty vehicle accident while assigned to the fire. The driver of the truck self-extracted and was transported to a local hospital with minor injuries.

The water tender had designations indicating that it was a California Office of Emergency Services apparatus. OES vehicles are often farmed out to local fire departments, such as Ventura County FD.

KYET reported the accident occurred at about 6:20 a.m. on state Route 246 at Purisima Road in Lompoc which is near the fire burning on the military base on the southern California coast.

Unfortunately rollovers of fire vehicles, especially water tenders, happen far too often.

Our sincere condolences go out to the family, coworkers, and friends of Engineer Osler.

ryan osler

Articles on Wildfire Today tagged “rollover”.

Charges filed after crash that killed two firefighters

Nine firefighters traveling in a second crew carrier were stopped 30 miles down the highway, restrained with zip ties, and questioned individually.

Michael Allen Johnson
Michael Allen Johnson. Anoka County jail photo.

(Originally published at 7:22 a.m. MDT August 29. Updated at 2:52 p.m August 30, 2016)

The driver of the crew carrier that crashed August 27 near Blaine, Minnesota killing two firefighters has been charged with a crime. Michael Allen Johnson, 28, was arrested the day of the accident and booked into Anoka County jail. He was charged with two counts of criminal vehicular homicide operating a motor vehicle in a grossly negligent manner.

The two deceased firefighters were identified Sunday by the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community as James F. Shelifoe, Jr., 23, of Baraga Michigan, and Alan J. Swartz, 25, of Baraga, Michigan.

Monday evening WLUC reported more information about Mr. Johnson based on a copy of the criminal complaint. Here are some of the key points according to their article and an AP report:

  • The crash occurred at approximately 3 p.m. CST on Saturday, August 27.
  • Mr. Johnson said he woke up on Friday, August 26th, at approximately 11:00 a.m. and had not slept since then at the time of the crash, aside from a forty-five minute nap during the early morning hours of August 27th.
  • He said he had used marijuana hours before the crash.
  • He admitted to having used cocaine two days earlier. (Blood tests are pending.)
  • Officers stated that Mr. Johnson appeared impaired and was acting combative at the scene of the accident.
  • He told investigators he fell asleep while driving and woke up to a passenger yelling. He veered off the right side of the road, overcorrected to the left, and struck the cable barrier between the southbound and northbound lanes of the freeway.

In the video above the reporter says:

Two hours after the crash a second Beartown truck carrying nine more firefighters was stopped in Bloomington. Their hands restrained behind their backs they sat along a curb, individually questioned, and left on their way.

Bloomington is about 30 miles from Blaine, Minnesota where the crash occurred.

crash scene firefighters
The crash scene. From the WCCO video.

ABC News reported that a witness saw the truck drive past him at about 80 to 90 mph in a 70 mph zone shortly before the crash, according to the complaint.

The passenger compartment on the crew carrier separated from the truck’s chassis when the vehicle rolled.

Seven firefighters in the crew carrier were injured, including Mr. Johnson. All are expected to recover. The Minnesota State Patrol said in a statement:

The truck was southbound on I-35W near 95th Avenue. The truck left the roadway for an unknown reason, struck the median cable barriers, and rolled. A total of nine people were in the vehicle.

There were 11 other firefighters in two other vehicles traveling in the convoy but the truck that crashed had become separated from the other two. All are part of the Beartown Fire Crew from the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community in the upper Peninsula of Michigan. The firefighters were en route to the Box Canyon Fire in Utah.

Two wildland firefighters killed in Minnesota vehicle accident

(Originally published at 10:17 p.m. MDT August 27, 2017. Updated at 11:05 p.m. MDT August 28, 2016)

(UPDATE: the driver of the firefighters’ truck has been charged with a crime.)

Two firefighters with a Type 2 hand crew were killed in a traffic accident Saturday August 27 near Blaine, Minnesota. The Minnesota Incident Command System verified that the firefighters were part of the Beartown Fire Crew from the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community in the upper Peninsula of Michigan that was en route to the Box Canyon Fire in Utah.

The Keweenaw Bay Indian Community confirmed the tragic accident:

The Keweenaw Bay Indian Community learned this evening that our Beartown Firefighting crew was involved in a tragic traffic accident. Two of our fire fighters were killed and several others were severely injured. Our hearts are broken and our prayers are with the family members and those injured.

The seven other firefighters in the crew carrier that were injured in the crash are expected to recover.

The two deceased firefighters were identified Sunday by the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community as James F. Shelifoe, Jr., 23, of Baraga Michigan, and Alan J. Swartz, 25, of Baraga, Michigan.

The Minnesota State Patrol said in a statement:

The truck was southbound on I-35W near 95th Avenue. The truck left the roadway for an unknown reason, struck the median cable barriers, and rolled. A total of nine people were in the vehicle.

There were 11 other firefighters en route to the same fire. They were traveling in a convoy but had become separated.

According to Minnesota Department of Transportation, that section of the Interstate was closed in both directions for about four hours after the accident.

The Keweenaw Bay Indian Community in cooperation with the Bureau of Indian Affairs manages the Beartown Firefighters Type 2 hand crew. It is based out of Baraga, Michigan and is available for dispatch locally as well as nation-wide.

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

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

Photos of ribbons being collected to honor fallen firefighter

Justin Beebe
Justin Beebe. USFS photo.

Photos are being collected of purple ribbons honoring Justin Beebe, the wildland firefighter killed by a falling tree August 13 while fighting the Strawberry Fire in eastern Nevada. The photos will be collected and then posted together on social media as a way to show Justin’s family respect, and honor his life.

If you would like to participate, take a photo of a purple ribbon on anything — a tree, utility pole, sign, fire truck — and Tweet it with the hashtag #rememberjustinbeebe. If there’s a clue in the photo about where in the world the photo was taken, that would be a bonus.

Below are examples.

remember justin beebe

justin bebee

 

I just ordered 100 yards of purple ribbon and should have it by mid-afternoon on Friday. If anyone in the Hot Springs, SD area wants some, send me a message.

The memorial service honoring Justin will be held at 11:00 a.m., Saturday, August 20 at Ogren Park at Allegiance Field, 700 Cregg Lane, Missoula (map). The public is invited to the memorial to pay their respects.

Justin is from Bellows Falls, Vermont and is a member of the Lolo Hotshots.

Additional information may be found at justinbeebememorial.blogspot.com. Condolences may be sent to justinbeebememorial@gmail.com.

On August 17 Justin was flown in a U.S. Forest Service aircraft from Las Vegas to Missoula accompanied by fellow Hotshot crewmembers and a USFS Honor Guard. From the Missoula airport he was escorted to a funeral home in Missoula where he will rest until the Memorial Service on Saturday.

The Memorial service in Vermont will be on Saturday, August 27 at 1 p.m. at the Bellows Falls Union High School auditorium. The address is 406 Union High School Road, Westminster, VT 05158 (map).