Emergency vehicle visibility study

In August a report titled “Emergency Vehicle Visibility and Conspicuity Study” was released by the United States Fire Administration in partnership with the International Fire Service Training Association. The entire 45-page study can be downloaded, but here is an excerpt from a summary by Firehouse.

The report from the feds suggests that a lot more could be done to improve passive vehicle visibility and conspicuity. Best practices in emergency vehicle visibility, including cutting edge international efforts, are detailed in the study. Retroreflective striping, chevrons, high-visibility paint, built-in passive lighting and other reflectors for law enforcement patrol vehicles, fire apparatus, ambulances, EMS vehicles and motorcycles are all covered in the report.

Active warning systems, like lights and sirens, are part of a separate federal study and are not included in the August USFA report.

Tutterow is hoping the report catches news media attention and it gains some much needed publicity. He’s also hoping it lasts more than one news cycle.

“Drivers today have too many distractions,” Tutterow said. “They have cell phones, they’re texting, they’re using GPS navigation systems, and they’re using sound systems. They are paying attention to everything but what is in front of them.”

That’s why Tutterow subscribes to a sort of “in-your-face” approach when it comes to retroreflective material and visibility aids.

“I’m not sure that there is such a thing as overkill when it comes to retroreflective material,” he said.

The yellow and red chevron stripping on the backs of apparatus is an example of how something relatively simple and cost effective can have a dramatic affect on responder safety. New apparatus, to be National Fire Protection Association compliant, must have at least 50 percent of the rear body covered with chevron stripping. Tutterow’s hoping emergency responders will see the value and retrofit existing response vehicles to the standard.

Thanks Dick

Medical treatment of the firefighters with cyanide exposure on the Station fire

Today we received the following information about the treatment being given to the firefighters that were exposed to Cyanide on September 1 on the Station fire near Los Angeles. We know and trust the person supplying the information and believe that they are trying to educate firefighters that may encounter similar circumstances.

Most of the federal land management agencies have appropriately modernized their protocols for the treatment of firefighters’ burn injuries. It is becoming apparent that they need to take similar action for HAZMAT exposure.


Re: Cyanide Injuries of Firefighters on the Station Fire, Angeles National Forest

We as wildland firefighters rarely, if ever, deal with cyanide exposure injuries that we are aware of. Likewise, most physicians rarely deal with or treat these types of injuries. As such, I am forwarding the following information at the specific request of “others” to be shared widely within the wildland fire family. I was asked to do some research on behalf of some injured firefighters and support of their families. Nothing less… nothing more. Some concerns were brought forward that their Standard of Care might be/have been less than the evolving best care consensus standard. This is a collaborative community effort.

A large group of firefighters was reportedly exposed to cyanide, with media reports stating that one of the exposed firefighters suffered respiratory arrest. All but the most injured firefighter have been treated and released to the “home unit”. In all cases, the home unit DOES NOT have a full service hospital specializing in cyanide poisoning or extended followup care and observation, but rather is a Reservation facility located on Tribal lands in an adjacent state.

A non profit 501(c)3 exists that is comprised of experts from fire service organizations, firefighters, and physicians to protect firefighters and EMS responders from acute and chronic cyanide exposure. It is called the Cyanide Poisoning Treatment Coalition (CPTC).

The CPTC was formed to address the early recognition and proper treatment for firefighter and EMS personnel exposed to cyanide injuries.

Here are some links to more information about the CPTC:

Homepage: http://www.firesmoke.org/

About the CPTC

Participating Organizations

Board of Directors

24-Hour Contact Info: Executive Director, CPTC – (888) 517-5554.

Biography of the Executive Director of the CPTC: Co-Founder and Former Executive Director of the People’s Burn Foundation and the To Hell and Back burn prevention and recovery educational series.

I apologize for the blunt response, but it has been a busy day for many and I’m done taking phone calls for the night or trying to return them. They have a 24-hour access phone number and experts on staff to assist.

/s/ Wildland Firefighter Foundation Supporter and Researcher.

Let’s be careful out there

Fire conditions are heating up in Alaska, the northwest, and northern California. Remember what Sgt. Phil Esterhaus, played by Michael Conrad, used to tell his Hill Street Blues cops as they left the briefing to begin their shift, as seen in this 11-second video.

Ok, maybe not EVERYBODY remembers Hill Street Blues. It was a television series, a police drama, that ran for 146 episodes in prime time between 1981 and 1987. The show received a total of 98 Emmy Award nominations during its run and won four Emmy awards for Outstanding Drama Series.

Reruns are still being shown on the American Life TV network. You can also watch 57 episodes of the show online at Hulu.com.


Lessons learned from the Redrock-Trailer1 fire norovirus incident

Dozens of people became sick at the Redrock and Trailer 1 fires 25 miles north of Reno, Nevada around July 19. Tests on some of them revealed that they had been infected with the Norovirus. The Medical Unit Leaders, Chris Graves and Diana Ludwig (trainee) prepared a lessons learned document, which is now on our Documents page, titled “Redrock-Trailer fires: Norovirus Lessons Learned”.


Report issued on firefighter burned during pump operations in Alaska

The Alaska Division of Forestry has issued a Factual Report about the accident on July 9th in which Todd Wanner of the Idaho City Hot Shots received burns while working around a portable pump. The full report is on our Documents page, but here are some excerpts:


At approximately 1857 hours (ADST) on July 9th, 2009 while supporting a water pumping operation, a member of the Idaho City IHC was burned while working on the Logging Slash Fire in interior Alaska. The Idaho City IHC Crew Member was assigned the operation of a Mark 3 pump to support a water pumping function utilizing a folda-tank and Mark 3 pump. During a routine check of the fuel supply the crew member opened the Jerry can (fuel tank); flammable liquid and vapors spewed from the container and were ignited. The resulting flash fire burned the crew member. Investigation reveals the jerry can, during set-up of the pump, was placed in close proximity to the Mark 3 exhaust (muffler). During the interval that the pump was running the exhaust did impinge upon the jerry can preheating the gasoline. Upon opening the bung of the jerry can; volatile gasoline vapors and liquid escaped and were ignited by the muffler/hot components of the Mark 3 pump. Portable fire extinguishers were used to extinguish the fuel can, pump and other burning objects that had been ignited by the flash fire.

A designated medivac helicopter from an adjacent fire was dispatched while medical personnel on scene began treatment of the injured crew member and prepared him for transport. The injured crew member was rapidly transported to a Fairbanks hospital and after an evaluation by physicians, was then transferred to a Seattle burn center. The crew member spent several days in the intensive care unit of the burn center where his condition rapidly improved and was released from the hospital on 07/22/2009. He continues to convalesce and is expected to make a full recovery.

Causal Factors and Findings

  • Placement of the jerry can in close proximity to Mark 3 muffler and in an angled alignment with the exhaust.
  • Size/shape of fuel containment dyke may have been a contributing factor in the placement of the jerry can next to the muffler. The investigation team recommends additional research regarding whether the fuel containment dyke does readily lend itself to safe and practical set-up / operation while adhering to containment standards.
  • Briefing IC-IHC received regarding very strict spill prevention and reporting may have been interpreted to include all incidents.


  • Educate all wildland suppression agencies and organizations of the Burn Injury Criteria that is present in Chapter 7 of the 2009 Interagency Standards for Fire and Fire Aviation Operations.
  • Update NWCG S-211 course to include more information regarding the proper use of spill containment devices and importance of keeping the jerry can away from muffler side of pumps
  • Place a label near fuel line port of jerry can stating “Do Not Place Can Near Exhaust”
  • All training should emphasize the proper use of PPE including eye and hand protection during all fueling operations
  • All training should address the utilization of Crew Resource Management during any emergency
  • All wildland fire suppression organizations/agencies should develop a “Safety Gram” to emphasize the dangers of placing fuel containers too close to mufflers or other sources of ignition

A slide from the S-211 pumps course. Note the placement of the fuel can next to the pump.

Changes in helicopter contracting and management

Tom Harbour, the Director of Fire and Aviation Management for the U.S. Forest Service, sent a memo dated yesterday to the Regional Foresters. It covers some changes that will be made in the contracting and management of helicopters used on fires.

Usually initiatives like this are the result of a specific incident or accident. The federal fire agencies are more likely to enhance safety after fatalities occur rather than being proactive to prevent them. Of course the memo does not identify what precipitated these changes, but one has to wonder if the accident on August 8 last year that involved the Type 1 helicopter and the deaths of 9 firefighters on a fire in northern California had anything to do with it. As far as we know those accident reports, USFS and NTSB, have not been made public.

Date: July 7, 2009

To: Regional Foresters

This memo is to inform you of the operational safety enhancements in the Aviation program for 2009. The key actions are in progress and listed below:

  • Multiple contract changes are being made to the national helicopter contracts.
    • Aircraft will be weighed with FS maintenance inspectors present to verify weight submitted with contract bid.
    • More stringent standards for seating and restraint systems.
    • Contract scope now contains active safety management requirements.
    • A copy of the performance charts submitted for bid will be onboard each helicopter to allow the helicopter manager to verify the correct performance charts are being used.
    • Increased number of vendor training pilots will be allowed to accompany less experienced pilots during incident operations to provide tactical training and increased oversight.
  • Contract compliance inspection teams will be dispatched during field operations.The Department of the Interior Aviation Management Directorate is a partner in this initiative and will enhance capability and the number of teams that can be deployed.
  • As helicopters are activated for early use, compliance teams will be dispatched to conduct spot inspections and weight verification.
  • Performance planning charts for all contract helicopters will be available via the web to allow helicopter managers to ensure the accuracy of load calculation allowable payloads.
  • Continue to utilize more Exclusive Use (EU) helicopters and minimize use of Call-When-Needed aircraft.EU helicopter managers are generally better trained and more experienced and provide safer and more efficient operations.
  • Independent contractors will be hired to develop an Operational Risk Management (ORM) risk/benefit analysis process.
  • A formal risk assessment of Type I helicopter passenger transport has been completed by a professional aviation safety consultant. Assessments of Type 2 and 3 operations are planned.
  • Formal program reviews for the seven national Type 2 helicopters will be completed this season.

Regional Foresters

These items are critical for the continued safety and success of our aviation program and are underway. If you have any questions please contact Karyn Wood, Assistant Director for Operations.

(signed by Tom Harbour)