Report released for entrapments on Horse Park Fire

Above: photo from the report.

Additional information has been released about the entrapments that occurred on the Horse Park Fire May 27 in a remote area of Southwest Colorado. Earlier we posted two videos that were shot when firefighters hurriedly retreated as the fire advanced, plus information from a “72-hour report”.

Now a 56-page Facilitated Learning Analysis and a 12-minute video are available that break down the incident in even more detail.

To very briefly summarize what happened, while scouting a road for a potential burnout operation, a hotshot crew superintendent and foreman encounter a wall of flames and attempt to retreat. Their truck becomes stuck, forcing them to flee on foot, narrowly escaping the rapidly advancing fire front. Just as they reach safety, they learn that their crew lookout is missing. After nearly 40 agonizing minutes, the lead plane pilot locates her after she ignited an escape fire. It is a compelling story, which is pretty well summed up in this video.

The 56-page report only has one recommendation:Recommendation horse park fire

More information released about near miss on Horse Park Fire

Above: The truck that became stuck as the driver attempted to turn it around. The report describes it as “fire damaged”. Photo from the report.

The U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management have released more details about the near miss that occurred on the Horse Park Fire May 27 in a remote area of Southwest Colorado. The report disclosed that in addition to the two firefighters that had to flee from a stuck truck, a lookout in another location also fled on foot and ignited an escape fire at a potential fire shelter deployment site as the fire approached. According to the information released there were no injuries.

Below is the narrative from the “72 Hour Preliminary Report”:


“Two crew members were scouting a road for a potential burnout operation when their truck became stuck. They were unable to free the truck before the fire began to overtake them. The crewmembers made the decision to abandon the truck and take their gear with them. They fled back down the road and away from the fire. One crew member ran ahead and made it safely back to the other vehicles. The other crew member dropped his pack, keeping his fire shelter and radio with him. An additional crew member came up the road on a UTV to help him escape. The pair drove to the parking area where the other crew members were waiting in the vehicles.

“Meanwhile, the crew lookout was forced to flee from the lookout position by the same advance of the fire. Given the fire behavior, the lookout did not feel it was possible to outpace the fire and make it back to the vehicles, so instead moved down and away from the fire. The lookout dropped their pack, but kept the fire shelter, a tool, and radio. At some point during the escape, the lookout realized that the antennae was no longer attached to the radio and there was no way to communicate with the crew or other resources. After moving a considerable distance down a drainage, the lookout found a grassy spot that appeared suitable to deploy a shelter, and began lighting the fuels in the area. Before deployment was necessary, aerial resources located the lookout, who was picked up and flown back to the parking area to rejoin the crew.

“There were no injuries as a result of this incident. An Interagency FLA team, is in place and reviewing the incident.”

firefighter's burned pack Horse Park Fire
A firefighter’s burned pack. Photo from the report.

Videos recorded during the incident show firefighters hurriedly moving to safety while a radio conversation can be heard referring to the firefighters who escaped and the vehicle that was damaged.

All articles on Wildfire Today about the Horse Park Fire.

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

After action report completed for last year’s wildfires near Hutchinson, Kansas

Above: Wildfires detected by a satellite March 7, 2017 in the Hutchinson, KS and Enid, OK area. NASA.

Reno County in Kansas has completed an after action report (AAR) regarding the wildfires that occurred in March, 2017. One of the largest blazes was north of Hutchinson, which is about 40 air miles northwest of Wichita. While those fires were active, hundreds of thousands of acres were also burning around the Texas/Oklahoma panhandle/Kansas border area.

Before we get into the AAR, one thing to keep in mind about Kansas, which we covered April 2, 2017, is that according to the Wichita Eagle:

The state’s forest service is the smallest and lowest funded of any in the country – which puts people and property in danger. Consider the difference in resources and responses between Kansas and Oklahoma:
–The Kansas Forest Service budget in 2016 was about $3 million, with $1 million dedicated to fire service; Oklahoma’s budget was $15 million, with $8 million for fire service.
–The Kansas Forest Service has three trucks and four employees dedicated to firefighting and fire prevention; Oklahoma has 47 fire engines, 47 bulldozers and 84 firefighters.

The AAR was compiled by Deputy Fire Chief Doug Hanen, with the assistance of Emergency Management Director Adam Weishaar and Sheriff Randy Henderson. The 30-page report concluded that generally the work performed on the fires by numerous agencies was positive and commendable, but there was room for improvement.

Here are some of the highlights of the review:

  • There is a need for smaller fire apparatus that can get into areas not accessible by 6-by-6 military surplus engines.
  • A Polaris side-by-side UTV  holding 75 gallons was very useful for mop up, especially in wet areas. They hope to obtain at least one more.
  • On days with a Red Flag Warning, they will now immediately dispatch at least three brush engines.
  • In order to help manage the span of control, the Hutchinson Fire Department will organize resources into Task Forces comprised of three brush engines, one water tender, and a Task Force Leader.
  • The firefighters in Reno County for the last two years have increasingly used backfire and burnout tactics, and more engines are carrying drip torches.
  • The Hutchinson Fire Department became the first fully-paid department in Kansas to have all of their firefighters red carded. This will enable them to send resources out of the state, for example, to Colorado or California.
  • The Kansas State Incident Management Team provided assistance for a day, but they “seemed overwhelmed by a moving event,” were “inexperienced…in essential positions”, and lacked accountability. At the end of the day the Team left. The state has since reorganized the program, placing teams under the Kansas Department of Emergency Management enabling them to respond nationwide instead of just in Kansas.
  • Toward the end of the fire siege a Type 2 Incident Management Team was called in. The difference between that team and the previous State Team was “night and day”. Local officials learned a lot from the Type 2 Team, especially how to re-populate areas following an evacuation and in dealing with victims following an incident.
  • There are opportunities for better and more timely communication and coordination with the public and the media.
  • The report suggests better guidelines for managing length of first responders’ shifts on wildfires and their rehabilitation in order to reduce exhaustion.

After Action Review of the Chimney Tops 2 Fire

Chimney Tops 2 fire AAR report

An After Action Review has been released for the Chimney Tops 2 Fire that spread from Great Smoky Mountains National Park into the city of Gatlinburg, Tennessee a little over a year ago killing 14 people, forcing 14,000 to evacuate, destroying or damaging 2,500 structures, and burning 17,000 acres. The AAR, completed by ABS Group, was commissioned by Gatlinburg and Sevier County.

You can download the large pdf file (2.8 MB) HERE.

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

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.

Report released — tree falls on engine

The incident occurred October 18 on the Nuns Fire in Northern California

Above: photo from the report.

(Originally published at 10:28 a.m. MST November 22, 2017)

A report has been released about a near miss that occurred October 18 on the Nuns Fire between Santa Rosa and Napa, California. According to the Wildland Fire Lessons Learned Center’s summary of the incident there were no injuries on the five-person crew but the truck sustained major damage from a falling tree.

Data from the National Interagency Fire Center shows that between 1990 and 2014 18 firefighters were killed by hazardous trees.

Below is an excerpt from the report about the incident on the Nuns Fire:


On the Nuns Fire on the morning of October 18 at approximately 1145, during mop up operations, a large (60-inch DBH) fire-weakened, green Douglas fir tree fell from upslope, at a 90 degree angle, and landed across the hood of an engine that was parked on the road below with two people inside.

The five-person engine crew had been assigned to evaluate and identify hazards for the MM Division Supervisor.

In addition to patrolling, as the engine crew moved through the burned area, they were also mopping up hotspots along the roadside.

The crew had scouted the road to the end and were working their way back, suppressing hotspots.

The Engine Boss stopped the engine directly below a large green tree with fire and smoke coming from its base—which was obscured by unburned brush. One crewmember dragged hose from the live reel toward the base of the tree while another crewmember helped with hose deployment from the back of the engine. Another crewmember stood on the road as a lookout behind the engine.

The Engine Boss and Engine Boss Trainee remained in the engine’s front seats writing intel information for the Division Supervisor that had been gathered from their scouting mission.

The Engine Boss would later explain:

Intel for the Division Supervisor had not been passed forward and he (the Division Supervisor) had not sent anyone into the area for three days. We knew there were hazard trees in there and had received a good briefing. You just don’t look at a green tree with smoke at the base with green stuff all around it and think to yourself that this thing’s coming down any second. That’s just another smoke for the rest of the crew to knock out. We had knocked out half a dozen smokes before going down that road.

Approximately 90 seconds after assessing the base of the tree and spraying it with water, crewmembers outside of the engine began yelling that the tree was starting to fall. Crewmembers on the road moved quickly down the road. The Engine Boss didn’t put the engine into reverse because he couldn’t see if any of the crew was behind the engine. He attempted to move forward, but the tree had already fallen and hit a large oak tree across the road from the engine.

Oak Tree Reduces Impact onto Engine

The full impact of the falling tree split the large oak in half. The oak tree was located approximately 40 feet in front of the engine. The oak reduced the impact and possibly the location of impact to the engine. Ultimately, the 60-inch wide and 120-foot tall fir landed across the hood of the engine.

The impact caused major damage to the engine, impaling a branch in the hood and shattering the windshield. While all crewmembers were stunned, everyone was physically OK.

Afterwards, one of the crewmembers said: “We were making the area safe for someone, we were doing our job.”

The engine crew was on their eighth day on this fire and had been assigned to four different Divisions. The crew was frustrated by lack of assignment continuity. The area that the crew was working in appeared to have had chainsaw work prior to their assignment.

A brief defusing was conducted at ICP [Incident Command post] by PEER staff assigned to the incident.