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.

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Author: Bill Gabbert

After working full time in wildland fire for 33 years, he continues to learn, and strives to be a Student of Fire.