CAL FIRE and contractor cited by OSHA after 2016 dozer rollover fatality

dozer rollover fatality
The dozer that rolled over on the Soberanes Fire in 2016, killing Robert Reagan. CAL FIRE photo.

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.

wildfire dozer
File photo of a dozer in South Dakota.

Victoria’s advanced systems for engine crew protection

Above: Country Fire Authority test of engine burnover protection systems. Screen shot from CFA video.

The Aussies are far ahead of wildland firefighting agencies in the United States when it comes to the protection of personnel during fire engine burnovers and rollovers. Since 1977 Victoria’s Country Fire Authority (CFA) has been creating, evolving, and improving systems to increase the odds of firefighters on an engine surviving if their position is overrun by fire. These efforts were intensified after two engine burnovers in 1983 and 1998 killed a total of 17 firefighters.

During the last 39 years the vehicles have been hardened in various ways. Examples include internal radiant heat curtains and nozzles positioned around the exterior of the truck that spray water as the fire approaches.

We did a quick search on Wildfire Today for “engine burnover” and were surprised at the number of results. Take a moment and at least look at the titles and brief excerpts. These, of course, are just articles on our website. We make no claim that all engine burnovers are included since we started this website in 2008.

On November 21 the CFA posted a video (below) about their crew protection systems. It covers the history of their efforts and several minutes of video recorded during a test when a fire was ignited that burned over three of their engines to evaluate the effectiveness of the designs. The maximum temperature recorded was 728°C (1,342°F)

Below is a screen shot from the CFA video.

engine burnover protection system
Country Fire Authority test of engine burnover protection systems. Screen shot from the CFA video.

What if — in 2006 the five U.S. Forest Service firefighters that were entrapped and killed on the Esperanza Fire, instead of working on an engine similar to the USFS engine farther down this page, had been assigned to one built to CFA standards. Would they have taken refuge in the engine, pulled down the thermal protection shields and turned on the truck protection water spray instead of attempting to survive the fire outside the engine?

One feature of the CFA engines we noticed was a heavy-duty internal roll bar.

Internal roll bar Country Fire Authority engine
Internal roll bar in a Country Fire Authority engine.

We have written before about the need for U.S. wildland firefighting agencies to improve the survivability of engine crews during rollovers. These accidents involving large fire trucks, especially water tenders, are common.

In our opinion it is disgraceful that the outfits employing thousands of firefighters on engines have not taken this step to provide a safer working environment for their personnel.

The photo below is from one of the 34 articles on Wildfire Today tagged “rollover”.

Engine 492 crash Wyoming
On August 8, 2013 Engine 492 from the Medicine Bow-Routt National Forest and Thunder Basin National Grasslands was involved in a rollover accident on Wyoming State Highway 450 southwest of Newcastle, Wyoming. Three firefighters were injured, one seriously.

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

Dozer rollover on the Trailhead Fire

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.

Water tender rolls over en route to Sawmill Fire in northern California

CAL FIRE reports there were no injuries in the rollover

water tender rollover
A U.S. Coast Guard water tender rolled over while en route to the Sawmill Fire. Photo by Kent Porter; used with permission.

(UPDATED at 9:14 a.m. PDT September 27, 2016)

Firefighters have stopped the spread of the Sawmill Fire in northern California that burned 1,541 acres on a south facing slope along Geysers Road 26 miles north of Santa Rosa. Roads connecting geothermal facilities at the top of the ridge served as anchors for burnout operations.

3-D map Sawmill Fire
3-D map of the Sawmill Fire at 11 p.m. PDT September 26, 2016.

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(Originally published at 8:23 a.m. PDT September 26, 2016)

A water tender rolled over while responding to the Sawmill Fire in northern California September 25. CAL FIRE reported that there were no injuries during the accident that occurred on Geysers Road in Sonoma County.

The Sawmill Fire started Sunday and by evening CAL FIRE estimated it had burned 1,500 acres. The fire is off Big Geysers Road 26 air miles north of Santa Rosa and 14 miles southwest of the community of Clear Lake. Sunday night mandatory evacuations were in place for residents in the Geysers.

DC-10 drop sawmill fire
DC-10 drops on the Sawmill Fire, September 25, 2016. Photo by Kent Porter, used with permission.

On September 21 the rollover of a water tender enroute to the Canyon Fire on Vandenberg Air Force Base in southern California resulted in the death of a firefighter.

map sawmill fire
Map of the Sawmill Fire at 11 p.m. PDT September 25, 2016.

Most people do not think of the U.S. Coast Guard as having land-based firefighting apparatus, but the agency’s large training center just west of Petaluma, California has a full fire department.

Articles on Wildfire Today about the rollover of fire apparatus while assigned to a wildland fire are tagged “rollover”.

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”.

Memorial service for two BLM firefighters to be held July 19

Memorial services have been scheduled for Bureau of Land Management wildland firefighters Jacob O’Malley and Will Hawkins who lost their lives July 10 in a single-vehicle accident July 10 on Nevada State Route 140. The services will take place at the Winnemucca Events Complex Exhibit Hall (map) from 1:00 to 4:00 p.m. on Tuesday, July 19, in Winnemucca, Nevada.

The BLM firefighters were returning from duty in the Denio area on their way back to Winnemucca when the accident occurred at about 5:20 p.m. Sunday evening. Jacob, 27, and Will, 22, were killed in the rollover accident. Their coworker, Zachery McElroy, 23, was flown to Renown Medical Center in Reno, where he was treated; he was released Tuesday afternoon. The BLM fire crew was returning from a routine patrol looking for lightning fires in the area when the accident occurred.

The two men both resided in Winnemucca, though Jacob was from Lake Tahoe’s Zephyr Cove and Will was from Reno. The families of Jacob and Will have established private family memorial services in the Lake Tahoe and Reno areas, respectively.

“Everyone is invited to attend the Winnemucca services on Tuesday to honor Jacob and Will – two brave, hardworking firefighters who were dearly loved by their families and coworkers,” said BLM Nevada State Director John Ruhs.

The BLM deployed a Serious Accident Investigation (SAI) team to determine the accident cause and other
information.

Winnemucca Events Complex (map)
1000 Fairgrounds Road
Winnemucca, NV 89445

Jacob O'Malley
Jacob O’Malley. Photo provided by BLM.
Will Hawkins
Will Hawkins. Photo provided by BLM.