72-hour report for the Token Adams fatality

Token Adams
Token Adams, USFS photo

The 72-hour Preliminary Information Report for the fatality of Engine Captain Token Adams has been released. If you followed the search for Mr. Adams, who was missing for a week before his body was found on September 6, there is not much new in the report except for the mechanism of injury.

Preliminary analysis indicates Captain Adams was thrown from his ATV as he negotiated over a slight rise and then the ATV flipped onto Captain Adams resulting in fatal injuries.

When the search began, he was last seen on an all terrain vehicle attempting to find a reported fire.

The report below was issued by the Washington office of the U.S. Forest Service.


Date: September 13, 2013

Subject: 72 Hour Preliminary Information Report, Schoolhouse Mesa Fire Accident

Number and Type of Injuries: One fatality              Name: Token Adams

On the afternoon of August 30th, 41 year old US Forest Service Engine Captain Token Adams was killed in an all-terrain vehicle (ATV) accident while searching for a lightning caused fire. A Learning Review Team has been assigned to the incident and the review is underway.


Late in the afternoon of August 29th a crew member aboard a military aircraft reported a possible wildland fire. The location of the reported fire was estimated to be in Cebolitta Canyon on the Jemez Ranger district, Santa Fe National Forest, in the vicinity of an older fire that crews had believed to be no longer active.

At approximately 0900 on August 30th, three firefighters (Token Adams among them) responded to the general location of the reported smoke. Each of the firefighters brought an ATV. After a briefing concerning the search strategy they each separately began scouting the area. Their first mission was to confirm that the older fire was no longer active and a possible source of the smoke report. This mission was completed and the three met back at their trucks around 1030. Their second mission was to broaden their search area to locate the new fire. They discussed the broader search area and each left separately on their ATVs. Each communicated with each other periodically by two way radio to coordinate the search. Communications were also made with a lookout who was working on a nearby lookout tower and the Santa Fe Interagency Dispatch office.

At 1344, Captain Adams communicated by radio with other firefighters concerning the status of the search. After this time, calls to Captain Adams went unanswered. At about 1500 the new fire was located by one of the firefighters and he called, via radio, to Captain Adams and the third firefighter to respond to the new fire. With no response from Captain Adams, suppression on the new fire was halted and all efforts were then directed towards contacting and locating Captain Adams. Within three hours a formal Search and Rescue operation was ordered which involved numerous, volunteers, state, federal and local government personnel. His body and the ATV were found on September 6th.

Preliminary analysis indicates Captain Adams was thrown from his ATV as he negotiated over a slight rise and then the ATV flipped onto Captain Adams resulting in fatal injuries. Captain Adams was known to be a skilled ATV rider, he was properly trained and certified as an ATV operator, and he was wearing all appropriate personal protective equipment.

/s/ Liz Agpaoa,
Learning Review Team Leader”

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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.

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