A firefighter’s point of view

Brandon Eubanks, a firefighter with the U.S. Air Force Academy, attached a video camera to his helmet while working on the Black Forest Fire, providing an interesting view into the world of a wildland firefighter.

The Department of Defense, even though they rarely fight wildland fires, does a much better job of providing photos and video of their firerfighting activities than the federal land management agencies.

They also produced the news clip below that features the military’s participation in the firefighting effort on the Black Forest Fire.

Photos provided by the Department of Defense of military helicopters working on the fire are at Fire Aviation.

Perhaps if the public knew more about what wildland firefighters actually do, they would be more prone to support their efforts in various meaningful ways. There is no doubt that this concept has occurred to the Department of Defense.

(UPDATE June 14, 2013: if you liked these videos, check out one we posted today  produced by the Colorado Springs Fire Department which gives the viewer a close-up look at how one of their engine crews protected a residence as the flames approached.)

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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.

5 thoughts on “A firefighter’s point of view”

  1. Overly cautious? Firefighter safety? My understanding is that a lot of the duff is thick. Duff that is smoldering might barely be smoking but some air movement (wind) can easily bring it to life. Granted, you shouldn’t get much of a flame front but a wind gust can loft fine embers and firebrands into the canopy and whoosh, you have a crown-fire. I am certain there were/are crown fires within this burn due to the winds/gusts/direction changes. There was a reburn when a major wind shift occurred. Some homes that survived the initial onslaught burned down the next day during the reburn. This suggests to me that some areas did not crown the first time but maybe did during the reburn. And, when one of those wooden houses torches all bets are off as to what the resulting heat and embers/firebrands might ignite and how far off. Spot fires.

    I suspect after last year’s nearby Waldo Canyon Fire (within days of being a year ago) that people in the Black Forest area were seriously jarred awake. I’d guess there was defensible space on a lot of properties but it appears they were off on their judgement as to what was appropriate defensible space for their environment. Think about it. How did most of these structures ignite? Not by a fire creeping through the duff coming up against a relatively fire safe yard. Wind-blown stuff.

    So, if observed fire behavior and weather/fuel conditions suggest, “Watch out!”, that warrants a large window of safety for people on the ground particularly when they are somewhere well within the perimeter of an existing burn that has potential for reburn. I’m sure this fire is capable of transforming simple and easy vehicle escape routes into dead ends in a matter of minutes.

    That’s my guess. It looks like a pretty simple ground assault to me until I look at the BIG picture.

  2. Yep, agreed. That was the point of me making that “disclaimer”. Not trying to judge because I’m not there. Just offering a viewpoint that given the evidence before us, it looks potentially concerning. Not meant as a criticism as I’m not there. Fully understand the situation they are in and are dealing with though, and respect the operational decisions that are being made.

    Agreeing with a point you made in one of your other stories though – many of the photos and videos are showing minimal crown consumption, so it again brings the whole concept of defensible space concept to the forefront.

    Thanks for the great job of reporting Bill, for those of us not in Colorado.

  3. Bizarre how there’s almost no crown consumption in most photos. Not to back-seat firefight, but wondering whether the buckets in the first video were really needed given the fire behaviour and the crews on the ground, with water…. what is the phrase? Transfering risk?

    Stay safe everyone.


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