Wildfire briefing, February 7, 2014

Pioneer smokejumper laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery

Casey Walden smokejumper
Gen. George W. Casey Jr., former chief of staff of the Army, talks to Lt. Col.
Roger Walden during a recognition ceremony at the Pentagon on March 25,
2010. (U.S. Army photo)

During World War II, a time when segregation was still a part of everyday life, a group of 17 brave men took the plunge to serve their country and become the first all African-American paratrooper unit known as the Triple Nickles.

The battalion’s original goal – to join the fight in Europe – was thwarted when military leaders in Europe feared racial tensions would disrupt operations. At about the same time, the U.S. Forest Service asked the military for help to minimize damage caused by balloon bombs launched by the Japanese across the Pacific Ocean with the intent to start forest fires in the western U.S. during World War II.

In the end, few of the incendiary devices reached U.S. soil, but the Triple Nickles were instrumental in helping the Forest Service fight naturally-caused fires. They became history’s first military smokejumpers who answered 36 fire calls and made more than 1,200 jumps that summer of 1945.

On Jan. 6, Lt. Col. Roger S. Walden, who passed away on Sept. 17, 2013, was remembered and given full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery.

Walden holds a special place in U.S. Forest Service history. He will be remembered for his bravery, sacrifice and groundbreaking achievements in wildland firefighting. During a time of war and social prejudices, the commitment to serve his country through wildland firefighting was challenging and unique.

Casey Walden laid to rest
The body of Lt. Col. Roger Walden is unloaded from a caisson at Arlington
National Cemetery. (Photo by Donna Sinclair)

California PUC approves new rules to reduce fire hazards from power poles

Yesterday the California Public Utilities Commission approved dozens of new rules aimed at strengthening overhead power and communications poles.

San Diego Gas and Electric, SDG&E, whose power lines started three huge fires in southern California in 2007, agreed in 2009 to pay $686 million to insurance companies that paid claims to their customers for the Witch Creek, Guejito and Rice Canyon fires.

The PUC told us the new rules can be found here.

Yarnell Hill Fire survivor takes new job

Brendan McDonough is the lone surviving member of the Granite Mountain Hotshot crew. He was serving as a lookout in another location when the other 19 men on the crew were killed as they were overrun by the Yarnell Hill Fire on June 30, 2014 in Arizona.

Brendan McDonough
Brendan McDonough, surviving member of the Granite Mountain Hotshots on the Yarnell Hill Fire. Photo courtesy of Brendan’s father, who placed the photo on his Facebook page.

Since that day he has been on a leave of absence from the Prescott Fire Department, but he now has a new job working for the Wildland Firefighter Foundation. He will be conducting fundraising and helping to raise awareness of how firefighters deal with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Below is an excerpt from KPHO:

McDonough says he is battling PTSD manifested in dreams.

Acting Prescott Fire Chief Eric Kriwer says McDonough left his city job in good standing, and McDonough says he still has strong bonds with department personnel and continues to live in Prescott.

Pete Wertheim, City of Prescott communications and public affairs manager, told CBS 5 News, “Brendan was a seasonal wildland firefighter and he left in good standing with the City. The City appreciates Brendan and his service to the community and we wish for him nothing but the best in his future endeavors.”


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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.