More details emerge about the fire shelter deployment on the King Fire

An article in Vertical Magazine, a publication for the civilian helicopter industry, adds more details about the incident that occurred on the King Fire east of Placerville, California where 12 firefighters deployed their fire shelters in front of advancing flames.

On September 15 we live blogged about the deployment while listening to the radio traffic, and the Arizona Republic interviewed the crew boss for an article published on September 29. The story in Vertical, published on September 30 and written by Dan Megna after interviewing the crew boss and the helicopter pilot, recounts what happened, with more details about the aviation side of the story. It, like the first article, is worth your time. It cleared up a few questions I had, such as who programmed the GPS coordinates into the helicopter’s navigation system (it was not a “Command Staff” person), the handoff from the Bell 205 to the Helicopter Coordinator for directing the crew to safety, and specifics about the extraction of the crew from the landing zone.

Below is an excerpt from the Vertical article:

…Within minutes of [dozer] 1642 arriving and beginning work to access the flames, the atmosphere over the fire began to change, and very quickly. Light breezes turned to hot upslope winds as the inversion layer lifted, allowing the smoke to billow up out of the trees.

The clearing visibility through the trees now revealed a much different — and far more menacing — scenario. Fleming and the dozer operator immediately determined they would be unable to hold what was now apparently a large front of fire.

The dozer operator quickly began to back the machine back up the hill, and Fleming ordered his crew back to the designated “safe zone.”

As Fleming began walking up the hill to join his crew, he heard the sound of the dozer accelerating to what he believed to be full throttle, and the tractor’s track squealing to grab traction.

“I turned around to look, and saw sustained independent crown fire [fire jumping tree to tree in 100-foot-plus tall timber] coming right behind him,” Fleming said…

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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.

One thought on “More details emerge about the fire shelter deployment on the King Fire”

  1. It is my understanding that Dan Megna is planning a follow-up article that, at least in part, will talk more about the coordinate snafu and USNG coordinates.

    Here is an online map I produced for the King Fire. This map displays a USNG grid.,Fires,MODIS_thermal,Wind_1-2_hrs_ago&coord=usng&label=on&q=

    If you click on “Hybrid” then you can turn off all the overlays.
    Then zoom in on the red and green paddles at the bottom of the map. Click those paddles for more info.


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