Investigation report – firefighter entrapment on Ridge Top Fire

Ridge Top Fire
Ridge Top Fire entrapment site
Ridge Top Fire entrapment site. BLM photo. (Click to enlarge)

The Bureau of Land Management has released the investigation report about a firefighter being entrapped and suffering first and second degree burns while working on the Ridge Top Fire on the Fort Hall Indian Reservation near Blackfoot, Idaho on July 28, 2012.

You can read the entire report, but here is a summary. The firefighter was referred to as a “Dozer Swamper” (DZSW1) who was was utilizing an All-Terrain Vehicle (ATV) to scout fireline and coordinate dozer activities. The DZSW1 was on the ATV going down a dozer line to tie in with another dozer when the fire activity increased adjacent to some unburned vegetation. The DZSW1 was heard on the radio saying “I need to get out of the smoke”. The DZSW1 attempted to turn around on the ATV and escape back up the dozer line but is unable to make the turn due to thick smoke and dozer berms, and then tried to escape down the dozer line on the ATV. The ATV then “became inoperable due to undetermined reasons”.

From the report:

DZSW1 recognizes imminent entrapment, takes a deep breath, curls up on the ATV and is hit by the first blast of radiant heat. DZSW1 recognizes the first blast has passed and drags the ATV uphill away from the dozer berm. DZSW1 considers deploying fire shelter but is concerned about exposure by standing up. DZSW1 crouches low and under the ATV and prepares for another heat blast. DZSW1 is able to start the ATV and proceeds down the dozer line to East Cemetery Road and turns north towards the safety zone.

DZSW1 ties in with an engine crew. His injuries are assessed and a paramedic is sent from the helibase who assumes care of the patient. DZSW1 is transported by ground ambulance to Bingham Memorial Hospital in Blackfoot, Idaho and about three hours later begins a ground ambulance trip to the University of Utah Burn Center in Salt Lake City, approximately 190 miles away. DZSW1 was released from the Burn Center the next day.

Below is a photo showing some melted plastic on the All Terrain Vehicle that the firefighter was using at the time of the entrapment.

 

Ridge Top Fire
Ridge Top Fire, damage on the ATV. BLM photo.

 

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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.