Firefighter dies while responding to wildfire in South Dakota

A firefighter that was responding to the High Plains Fire five air miles south of Jewel Cave National Monument in the Black Hills of South Dakota has died.

Custer County Emergency Management reported that on April 17, 2019 Dwayne Hudson, a firefighter with the Argyle Fire Department, experienced a medical emergency while en route as a passenger in one of the vehicles. He was treated by fellow responders and the Custer Ambulance Service on scene and continued to be treated while being transported to Custer Regional Hospital. However, he did not survive.

The High Plains Fire started Wednesday afternoon from a lighting strike and as of Thursday morning had burned approximately 100 acres.

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

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

High Plains Fire burns 100 acres in Black Hills

The fire is southwest of Custer, South Dakota

map high plains fire black hills
Map showing the location of the High Plains Fire. The brown dots represent heat detected by a satellite at 1:46 p.m. MDT April 17, 2019. Click to enlarge.

(UPDATED at 1:10 p.m. MDT April 18, 2019)

Wednesday afternoon a firefighter that was responding to the fire, Dwayne Hudson, experienced a medical emergency while en route and passed away. More details.


(Originally published at 11:18 a.m. MDT April 18, 2019)

A lightning-caused fire has burned 100 acres in the Black Hills National Forest in South Dakota. The High Plains Fire is southwest of Custer near Pass Creek Road five air miles south of Jewel Cave National Monument and Highway 16. It was reported at 12:29 p.m. on April 17 and is being fought by federal, state, and volunteer fire departments.

Erin Considine, a spokesperson for the Great Plains Dispatch Zone, said firefighters expect to have it controlled by 7 p.m. today.

The weather forecast for the fire area Thursday afternoon will not be favorable for the firefighters. It predicts southeast winds of 18 to 21 mph with gusts to 30, humidity in the low 30s, and a high of 53 degrees.

Montana becomes 49th state with some form of presumptive care for firefighters

Montana Governor to sign legislation today

With the passage of Senate Bill 160 Montana becomes the 48th state with some form of presumptive care for firefighters.

The Firefighters Protection Act lists 12 presumptive diseases for which it would be easier for a firefighter to file a workers’ compensation claim if they served a certain number of years:

  • Bladder cancer, 12 years
  • Brain cancer, 10 years
  • Breast cancer, 5 years
  • Myocardial infarction, 10 years
  • colorectal cancer, 10 years
  • Esophageal cancer, 10 years
  • Kidney cancer, 15 years
  • Leukemia, 5 years
  • Mesothelioma or asbestosis, 10 years
  • Multiple myeloma, 15 years
  • Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, 15 years
  • Lung cancer, 4 years

The bill applies to volunteers and local fire departments in Montana, but not to federal firefighters. It is unclear if it affects those employed by the state government.

The federal government has not established a presumptive disease program for their 15,000 wildland firefighters.

At a bill signing ceremony Thursday afternoon Governor Bullock will issue a proclamation ordering flags to be displayed at half-staff in honor of all Montana firefighters who have lost their lives from a job-related illness in the line of duty.

Governor Proclamation Montana firefighters

In a related story from April 12, “British Columbia may expand firefighter occupational disease coverage to wildland firefighters”

After Action Review released for the Carr Fire

IN 2018 the fire burned 229,651 acres at Redding, California, destroyed 1,077 homes, and killed 3 firefighters and 5 civilians

Fire tornado Carr Fire
Fire tornado filmed by the Helicopter Coordinator on the Carr Fire July 26, 2018 near Redding, California.

The National Park Service has released an After Action Review (ARR) for the Carr Fire that burned into Redding, California in July, 2018. Ignited by the mechanical failure of a travel trailer, it started within the Whiskeytown–Shasta–Trinity National Recreation Area (WHIS) on National Park Service-administered lands. The fire covered 229,651 acres, destroyed 1,077 homes, and killed 3 firefighters and 5 civilians. Many of the burned structures were in Redding. It became the 7th largest fire in California recorded history.

The decision to conduct a very brief one-day ARR administered by two facilitators for this very large, complex, and deadly fire rather than a conventional-months long investigation was an interesting choice. The reason given, “Unfortunately, incidents of this complexity are becoming more of the norm than the exception, and there is not a realistic capacity within the Service for each qualifying incident to receive the traditional level of review and analysis.”

No names were used in the report and the process was designed to be non-punitive. The goal was to identify issues, successes, and recommendations  in planning, operations, administration, or management which could be addressed at the local, regional, or national level to improve future incident management.

The report uses dozens of acronyms, very few of them defined, which may not be familiar to the casual reader. A glossary would have been helpful, or defining the acronym the first time they were used.

You can download the entire 20-page report. All of the recommendations from the ARR are listed below:

  • All wildland fire management units are encouraged to develop a roster of high-quality, relief duty officers from their interagency organizations as part of their pre-season fire preparedness planning.
  • Initiate stakeholder engagement early on all incidents that demonstrate a likelihood to impact multiple jurisdictions. Early, forthright, open dialogue is critical, and was cited on this incident with contributing to the success of the IMTs response to multiple firefighter fatalities and incidents within the incident. Consistency of personnel within unified command representation has value and is a best practice worth striving for.
  • Participation in the cost-share agreement is not a mandatory prerequisite to joining a delegation of authority or leader’s intent letter to an incident management team (IMT). All primary landowners with values at risk in the fire planning area should receive consideration for inclusion in the decision making process. The transfer of DPA among federal agencies is intended to provide efficiency in fire response, but is not intended to replace agency administration on complex, long-duration incidents.
  • A future topic for discussion within the California Wildland Fire Coordinating Group (CWCG) should be the subject of agency DPA versus agency ownership and how that relates to agency administration, agency representation, delegations of authority, and ultimately unified command. When feasible, a single federal IC should be delegated authority to represent all of the affected federal agencies in unified command.
  • The Wildland Fire Decision Support System (WFDSS) needs to be reviewed annually at the unit level to ensure that management requirements and strategic objectives are current and applicable. Consideration should be given to ordering fire behavior analysts (FBAN), long-term analysts (LTAN), and strategic operational planners (SOPL) to help supplement the planning section within any IMT. These positions need to be well integrated with the IMT, and can assist with communicating the long-term plan for an incident to stakeholders and the public alike. The SOPL position, in particular, can be a highly effective position in bridging any gaps or inconsistencies between the agency administrator leader’s intent and operations on the fire.
  • Continue to use the right IMT for the job based on the primary responsibility area, relative risk, and anticipated complexity of an incident. The Organizational Assessment and Relative Risk modules within WFDSS and the Indicators of Incident Complexity located within the IRPG are standardized resources to help objectively determine incident complexity. Complexity and risk assessments, as well as any changes, should be documented by ICs. The CWCG should further address the issue of IMT utilization in complex multi-jurisdictional areas to help ensure efficiency of wildfire engagement statewide.
  • The NPS All-Hazard team and CAL FIRE providing employee support services (ESS) were both considered successes and other units being severely impacted by an event of this magnitude should consider doing the same. Ensure that any IMTs operating within proximity of each other are in strong communication through daily IC calls or meetings to avoid any duplication of effort or confusion to the extent possible in an already chaotic environment.
  • Expectations of the reassignment of resources needs to be communicated to the GACC early on to decrease administrative paperwork and the chasing down of resources out in the field. Local government fire engines that already have some agreement with a federal agency should be mobilized on that agreement first in preference over the secondary mobilization option provided by the Farm Bill. A mechanism for states to pay for Farm Bill engines would represent an efficiency gain.
  • There is an opportunity for the CWCG to include direction on fatality response in the CFMA during the next revision. The California Fire Assistance Agreement (CFAA) covers California local government fire response and also needs to include adequate direction on incident fatality response.
  • Efficiencies need to be built into the dispatch system in regards to contract resources that allow for contract resources to be reassigned by the GACC based upon location, availability, and incident need, and to not cycle back into the Virtual Incident Procurement (VIPR) system for reassignment.
  • In lieu of an established lend-lease program, GACCs, ICs, unit fire program managers, and duty officers, are encouraged to continue strong daily communication to solve short-term resource shortage issues and address immediate life safety threats posed by rapidly escalating incidents. Resource accountability is especially challenging in these situations and must be stressed among the coordinating entities.
  • Agencies need to continue to recognize they have differing policies and objectives. Long-term planning tools, including those available in WFDSS, should be utilized by SOPLs and LTANs and communicated to the unified IC for the respective agency. This unified IC would advocate to incorporate WFDSS and PACE modeling into the long-term strategic decision making process during the incident.
  • A pre-season SOP be developed that articulates that only one incident number be generated corresponding to the jurisdiction of the point of origin of the fire. This is would be incorporated into the LOP/Local AOP which is tiered under the CFMA.
  • It was agreed that the standard procedure should continue having PIO representation from each participating agency. The need for a joint information center should be evaluated on a case-by-case basis on all complex, multi-jurisdictional incidents.
  • Expanded discussions with FIRESCOPE and the county sheriffs within California to address consistency of evacuation procedures and communications between the 58 county law enforcement entities across California.
  • A standard SOP should be implemented, whereby only one incident number is generated according to the ownership of the origin point of the fire. This standard would be incorporated into the LOP/Local AOP which is tiered under the CFMA. This will result in clearer communication and understanding of resources ordered by the fire and from a single dispatch ordering point. In cases where a secondary incident must be created for any reason it must be correctly nested under the parent incident in ROSS and IROC to ensure proper resource statusing and accountability. Incident ownership can be transferred within these systems and should be done as early as possible if need be. Additionally, evaluate and determine best fire management dispatching practices and options for the WHIS program in light of the incident (state vs. federal). Include scenarios revolving around complex DPA and jurisdictional boundary issues in pre-season preparedness planning. Practice how this might look in terms of incident number, accounting information, single ordering point, agency administrator roles, unified command, cost share, and resource statusing and accountability.
  • Continue early engagement with partners when cost share is anticipated to efficiently come to consensus about cost apportionment early in the incident.
  • Move forward with the NPS hiring of positions to implement the interagency BAER plan.
  • Start contracting process early and coordinate use of equipment and resources.

All articles on Wildfire Today tagged “Carr Fire”.

State Foresters concerned about Administration’s desire to reduce funding for state and private forestry programs

After reviewing President Donald Trump’s Fiscal Year (FY) 2020 budget request, the National Association of State Foresters will expand its efforts within the Beltway to illustrate the long-term and far-reaching benefits of actively managed forests and the urgent need to invest in their health and resiliency.

Pleasant Valley Prescribed Fire South Dakota
Pleasant Valley prescribed fire, South Dakota, March, 2016. Photo by Bill Gabbert.

(Press release from the National Association of State Foresters)

WASHINGTON – The nation’s 59 state and territorial foresters were disconcerted this week by a presidential budget request for FY20 that asks for significant funding cuts to state and private forestry programs, which support much-needed management on nearly two-thirds of the nation’s forests.

When President Trump’s executive order to promote forest management nationwide was released in December, we were eager to work alongside the men and women of the USDA Forest Service to address the nation’s most pressing forest threats,” said Lisa Allen, NASF president and Missouri state forester. “But the president’s budget would eliminate or cut all but one Forest Service State and Private Forestry program and reduce investments in state and family forests to just 2.5 percent of the overall Forest Service budget.”

Per the president’s budget request for FY20, funding for the Forest Stewardship program, the Forest Health Management Program on Cooperative Lands, and the State and Volunteer Fire Assistance programs would be cut by a combined $29.65 million from FY19 enacted levels. Funding for the Landscape Scale Restoration, Forest Legacy, and Urban and Community Forestry programs would be eliminated.

“More than once the Trump administration has stated its support for rural America and its commitment to managing federal forests in partnership with state forestry agencies. Now, with this budget proposal, we see a direct contradiction,” said Jay Farrell, NASF executive director. “What we know for sure is that more work needs to be done throughout the Beltway to show all the benefits forests provide – better water quality, stronger industry, healthier families, and more – every day, for every American. Because without essential investments today in our forests, we simply won’t have them tomorrow.”


More information at Wildfire Today about how the Administration’s proposed federal budget for fiscal year 2020 which begins October 1, 2019 would affect wildland fire.

Researcher finds that Native Americans ignited more fires than lightning

Data was collected in the Southern Sierra Nevada Mountains in California

A California professor’s dissertation has won a prestigious award for her work that determined fires 1,500 years ago in the Sequoia National Forest in Southern California were predominantly ignited by Native Americans rather than by lightning. Until the last 100 years or so most forests in the Western United States had far fewer trees per acre than today. Suppressing fires caused by lightning, arson, and accidents has resulted in overstocked forests that can lead to very large wildfires that threaten lives and property and are very difficult to control.

Prescribed fires can over time lead to stand densities that replicate the pre-Columbian condition, but in modern times the practice has not been widely used in the Western United States at landscape scale.

Professor Anna Klimaszewski-Patterson
Professor Anna Klimaszewski-Patterson. (Photo courtesy of Anna Klimaszewski-Patterson)

“We should be taking Native American practices into account,” said Anna Klimaszewski-Patterson, a Sacramento State assistant professor of geography, whose dissertation on the subject recently won the J. Warren Nystrom award from the American Association of Geographers (AAG).

“After all, they are stakeholders who have been here a heck of a lot longer than we have,” she said. “We should probably be looking at their traditions and incorporating them” into forest management.

Klimaszewski-Patterson uses paleoecology – the study of past ecosystems – as well as environmental archaeology and predictive landscape modeling in her current work, which is funded by the National Science Foundation. She won the Nystrom award after presenting her paper at the AAG’s annual meeting in Washington, D.C., earlier this month.

Using computer models and pollen and charcoal records to track changes in the forest over time, she has found that forest composition dating back 1,500 years likely was the result of deliberate burning by Native Americans, rather than natural phenomena such as lightning strikes. Those forests featured wide open spaces, resembling parks.

More information about the research.